Laurentian Exploration and Research: MERC looks to the future – by Norm Tollinsky (Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal – May 2015)

The Mineral Exploration Research Centre (MERC) has committed itself to an ambitious, five-year business plan. The mineral exploration research arm of Laurentian University’s Department of Earth Sciences, MERC boasts a global reputation as a centre of excellence for research focused on Precambrian ore deposits.

The five-year business plan will help guide MERC’s growth and allow it to play an even more important role in the global search for mineral deposits.

Completed in November 2014, the business plan sets six key strategic directions, including a greater focus on Precambrian shields around the world, the establishment of a science advisory council, the hiring of research associates to assist with project management, and the recruitment of more corporate members.

With increased financial resources from courses, workshops and membership dues, MERC will allocate $20,000 annually for pre-research investigation and establish a one-year operating reserve to offset shortfalls due to cyclical downturns in the mining industry.

This year, MERC’s research expenditures are expected to exceed $2 million for the second year in a row. Seven workshops and field trips are also scheduled for the current year.

Most projects focus on the Canadian Shield, which covers large parts of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. The research is carried out by the Department of Earth Sciences’ 66 graduate students under the supervision of 15 faculty.

MERC currently has 11 members across three different tiers. Foundation members include the Goodman School of Mines, the Ontario Geological Survey and Teck Resources. Tier one members include Detour Gold, KGHM International, Ivanhoe Mines and Gold Fields Canada. At the tier two level are Cliffs Natural Resources, Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, Northern Superior Resources and Wallbridge Mining.

Membership entitles companies to a seat on the MERC advisory board, which meets three times per year to provide MERC director Harold Gibson and assistant director John Ayer with advice on overall research themes, new technologies and concepts to aid in the search for mineral deposits.

Ivanhoe Mines, which has several advanced exploration projects in Africa, joined MERC following a speaking engagement by executive chairman Robert Friedland at Laurentian University last year. The objective is to enlist MERC and Laurentian’s Department of Earth Sciences to provide graduate level academic opportunities to students at the University of Limpopo through a series of modular courses.

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