CD-ROM offers years' worth of mapping

by by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 03/97) - Imagine throwing away piles of maps taking up valuable storage space in government offices.

And then replacing them with new technology -- maps stored on CDs that can be printed on command.

"Probably, in a couple of years, this will be the norm -- giving geological mapping information on CDs or having them accessible on a web page," says Carolyn Relf, chief geologist with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in Yellowknife.

"The CDs are largely of interest to exploration companies, and we get a fair number of requests from universities, anyone interested in land use, roads, conservation," Relf explains.

The new CD, produced by the GNWT and federal government, features four years of geological mapping and five NWT projects.

It was funded under the 1991-96 Canada/NWT Economic Development Agreement as a Mineral Initiatives project, which has since lapsed.

The CD-ROM is currently available through DIAND's geological mapping division in Yellowknife.

It was first introduced at the November Geoscience Forum in Yellowknife.

One of the featured maps is the Geology, Mineral Potential and Geologic Settings of the Anialik River Volcanic Belt, an area at the top end of the Slave province, about 80 kilometres east of Kugluktuk.

Rocks found in the area range in age from 2.7 billion to 3 billion years old. "Rocks found there are similar to rocks in the Yellowknife area," Relf says.

There are now five district geologists working for Relf at DIAND. In summer, they travel to the far reaches of the NWT to collect samples for their mapping projects. The maps are then presented in draft form for comment at the Geoscience Forum in November and published in January.

The data maps featured on the CD display rock ages right on the map. "A lot of times, government mapping does end up with claims being staked," says Relf.

To be fair to everyone, if there is an important mineral discovery, DIAND would issue a national press release, says Relf. Then the exploration companies would vy for claims amongst themselves.

"The next push is for the Keewatin region," says Relf.

Using customized software called Field Log, from the Geological Survey of Canada, geologists at DIAND are able to use a portable laptop computer with them in the field.

Their maps are used when developing a protected area strategy, so that's something the geologists keep in mind when they are mapping, says Relf.

Last April, DIAND officially formed a minerals resources directorate. It includes a geology, mineral policy division and mining recording section.

At the recent Geoscience forum in November, delegates were asked what they wanted most from the new agency. The resounding answer back was "Maps -- fill in the white bits," says Relf.

"DIAND will probably get more into mapping as the GNWT role is reducing," notes Relf.

There are still some hurdles to overcome with offering maps on a web site, but DIAND is reportedly looking into it.