Gathering data
Geoscientists building Eastern Arctic geological database

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Feb 14/00) - It could be said the Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office is between a lot of rock and a hard place.

The Iqaluit-based geoscience office has undertaken the huge task of building a geological database of the vast Eastern Arctic landmass.

While this may seem daunting, there is an upside. The geology of the East is relatively unknown, which means there's lots to study and discover.

David Scott, Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Centre's chief geologist, will be leading the project.

The centre's original employee, Scott was previously based in Ottawa at the Geological Survey of Canada. His specialty is geochronology -- figuring out how old rocks are.

Asked where the geoscience centre will focus its attentions, Scott said, "We sat down and identified areas of high interest, areas with mineral potential, areas with questions. It will be several careers before we get there."

In Canadian terms, Nunavut is the farthest behind when it comes to geoscience data and detailed knowledge of the land mass. Some preliminary work was done in the 1950s and '60s by the Geological Survey of Canada.

"There is detailed work only in selected areas," he said.

"There's a patchwork quilt of information and part of our task is to pull it all together."

Among the centre's first initiatives is a program that will involve mapping and examining three areas in Nunavut: Gold and base metal potential of Archean greenstones of the Prince Albert Group located north of Baker Lake and west of Repulse Bay; the zinc, gold and nickel-copper potential paleoproterozoic sedimentary rocks of the Piling Group in the central Baffin Island area; and the zinc potential of ordovician sedimentary rocks on the Arctic Islands near Polaris mine.

Field work in these three areas is expected to begin this year.

The office will also work with the GSC and the Polar Continental Shelf Project on mapping work in the Committee Bay Belt area.

"If we can offer an advantage, geoscience for example, companies will come and spend exploration dollars here."

But it is not all about finding mineral deposits that may become operating mines or about helping existing mining companies expand reserves, added Scott.

There are different users out there for the data the office will collect, he said.

As well as resource and exploration companies and individual prospectors, there are people interested in information that will help determine where to put land-use sites. Others are seeking local stone for carvers, said Scott.

"We're not just dealing with the mining industry. There's a full spectrum of people who want to use this information."

The ultimate goal is to build the information base which includes an effort to incorporate traditional knowledge, said Scott.

Another use of the data will be the climate link, he added.

"The geological record gives us a rear view of where climate has been. Geologic record gives clues as to where climate is going," he said. Climate change has a big impact on transportation in the North, he added.

As for staff, the geoscience office is interviewing for four research scientists. The plan is to have them in Iqaluit this spring in time for the 2000 field season. As well, there are plans to hire students. The centre is looking for funding to support two summer students who will work in geographic information systems.

The office currently has four staff: Scott, office manager Kitty Markwell, GIS technologist Celine Gilbert and GIS technician Katheryn Parlee.

The office is co-managed by the Nunavut Government's Department of Sustainable Development, Natural Resources Canada through the GSC, and the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

These three entities, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., have programs, responsibilities and interests associated with the office which has funding to March 31, 2003.