Pick axes and a diamondDiamond Geology and Exploration

Investigating the nature and origin of The Exeter Lake esker and its application in mineral exploration; a preliminary report.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 8:40am to 9:00am Theatre One
(Student abstract)


G.S. Bilak (Presenting)
Carleton University
D. Cummings
Carleton University
B. Elliott
Northwest Territories Geological Survey

Eskers are long ridges of glaciofluvial sand and gravel frequently sampled during mineral exploration campaigns. Sampling of the 700 km long Exeter Lake esker by Chuck Fipke and Stu Blusson in the 1980s led directly to the discovery of the Lac De Gras kimberlite field and establishment of the diamond industry in the Northwest Territories. Despite their significant role in mineral exploration, the details surrounding eskers formation remain controversial (e.g. long-conduit vs. short-conduit models).  In my coming research I will use a combination of geomorphological and provenance data to gain insight into the nature of the Exeter Lake esker and the origin of its sediment to help further define the parameters surrounding esker formation and their application in the mining industry.

The geomorphology of the esker will be characterized in ArcMap using (1) the new Arctic DEM (2 m resolution), supplemented by (2) aerial imagery (3) GoPro footage of the entire esker collected during a low-level fly-over, (4) ground observations and short foot traverses made at regularly spaced intervals, and (5) locally collected drone footage. Morpho-sedimentary building block elements of the esker system will be identified and interpreted.

Esker provenance will be studied using two sample suites. The first suite (112 samples) was collected at coarsely spaced intervals (15-20 km) along the entire length of the esker and contains pared till and esker-ridge samples from both the pebble and finer fractions.  These samples will be used to ascertain whether dispersal trains—such as those emanating from the Dubawnt Supergroup—extend the entire length of the esker, considerably overshooting the till dispersal trains from which they were sourced, or whether they are more local in scale. Mud fractions (<63 microns) will be analyzed geochemically; this fraction has never been analyzed previously in similar studies, but could be more indicative of subglacial stream length.  Zircon grains from the sand fraction will be analyzed using uranium-lead dating and correlated to diversely aged rock units along the esker system. Finally, the lithology of the pebbles will be analyzed and compared against previously mapped bedrock lithologies along the esker transect.

The second suite (62 samples) was collected at closely spaced intervals (300-600 m) from various geomorphological expressions of the greater esker system near the edge of the Lac de Gras kimberlite indicator mineral (KIM) plume, as defined in the KIDD database.  KIM concentrations from the samples will be compared with one another, and if the KIM train in the esker considerably overshoots that in the till, a long-conduit model may be more likely. Additionally, by comparing multiple expressions of the esker system any bias in the concentration of KIMs should be detected.

Due to the novel approach and large dataset this study has the potential to provide considerable insight into the nature of esker systems and how they are deposited. With this knowledge, mining and exploration companies will be able reassess their esker datasets backed by a scientifically robust exploration model.