Slave Province Surficial Materials and Permafrost Study

Slave Province Surficial Materials and Permafrost Study

Northspan Hornet Reverse Circulation (RC) drill. Credit: Aurora Geoscience


The Slave Province is a geological formation that lies between Great Slave Lake and Coronation Gulf. The area contains some of the oldest known igneous and metamorphic rocks on Earth, and has a long history of mining. This project examines the surface sediment deposited during a number of past glaciations, as well as permafrost. Minerals of economic interest are found within the surface sediment and can be used to locate economic mineral deposits in the underlying bedrock. This project will improve our understanding of glacial sediments, stimulate exploration of diamond and metals in the Slave Province, and will determine permafrost conditions to inform future infrastructure development.

Northspan Hornet Reverse Circulation (RC) drill transported to the study area on the ice road. Credit: Aurora Geoscience.


The study area is approximately 150 x 100 km and is centered in the Lac de Gras Region of the Slave Geological Province, about 300 km northeast of Yellowknife.

Northspan Hornet Reverse Circulation (RC) drill. Credit: Aurora Geoscience


The Slave Province has excellent potential for new mineral deposits. Locating these deposits is hindered by complex glacial sediments that lay on top of the bedrock, so a better understanding of these sediments is of economic interest. Permafrost can pose a major challenge to infrastructure development in the region. This study will also produce a regional permafrost dataset. This permafrost study is unprecedented in size and depth and will establish the NWT as a world leader in permafrost studies.

RC drill in winter


Standard and innovative methods have been used to examine the mineral potential, glacial history and permafrost conditions of the surficial sediment. A combination of reverse-circulation (RC) drilling and core drilling was used to collect samples of the sediment Field mapping of surficial sediments and hand sampling was carried out. Permafrost temperatures will be monitored using sensors installed in the ground.

Permafrost features known as ice wedge polygons. Credit: Stephan Gruber.


The first stage of this project began in 2014 and will run until end of fiscal year 2015/2016. The initial data will be available in spring 2016, and more in depth analyses will follow as Northwest Territories Geological Survey publications and scientific articles. Planning is currently underway for the second stage of the project, which could involve several additional years of field mapping based on the aquisition of new remote sensing data in the region.

Surveying surface conditions for permafrost studies. Credit: Stephan Gruber.

Partners and Support

This project has been made possible by generous support from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency's (CanNor) Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) program.



Project partners:

•             Dominion Diamond Ekati Corp.

•             Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.

•             North Arrow Minerals Inc.

•             Peregrine Diamonds Ltd.

•             New Nadina Explorations Limited

•             Arctic Star Exploration Corp.

•             The Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization (CAMIRO)

Collaborators include:

•             Martin Ross, University of Waterloo

•             Brent Ward, Simon Fraser University

•             Don Cummings, Carleton University

•             Stephan Gruber, Carleton University

•             Peter Winterburn, University of British Columbia


Slave Geological Province, Permafrost, Quaternary Geology, Glacial Geology, Mineral Potential, Glacial Attrition, Glaciofluvial Corridors, Drift Prospection Sampling, Glacial Dispersal Train, Kimberlite Indicator Minerals, 3D Till Sampling, Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development, SINED, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor