When you think of Alberta’s resources, oil is top of mind.
Turns out, though, Alberta’s geology hides more than just oil and gas—word is getting out that gold, lithium, iron, rare-earth elements, zinc, nickel, and even diamonds can be found in them thar hills.
But before you quit your day job and buy a prospector’s pick axe, it is important to note that “all that glitters is not gold” rings true when looking at Alberta’s resource map. Just because trace amounts of a mineral are found in the rocks does not always, as with Alberta’s energy deposits, translate to reserves that are economically recoverable.
More interest in mineral resources
With this in mind, the first step of exploration is to determine what’s in the ground and whether it can be developed. To help your investigation, the AER’s Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) branch publishes the Alberta Interactive Minerals Map that shows which minerals have been discovered in our province and where they are located; but be warned, you may need a Ph.D. in geology to interpret it.
Fortunately, Alberta is home to world-class geologists who produce maps and reports that reveal what’s below the surface—data that’s available to the public and used by the AER, industry, and government to manage and develop Alberta’s resources.
Dean Rokosh, AGS advisor, energy & mineral resources, notes that there’s more interest in the “non-energy minerals.”
“Even though the information on the maps has not changed in the past 10 years or more, we are starting to get more questions about mineral potential here in Alberta.”
This is not surprising given the recent downturn in production of oil and the need for companies to diversify their portfolios. What is surprising, however, is the interest in one soft, silver-white metal dissolved in brines between 2700 and 4000 metres beneath the surface.
Lithium: ticket to prosperity?
This mineral is lithium, which is used in everything from antidepressant medication to batteries that power pacemakers, cell phones, and even trendy electric cars, such as the Tesla.
“We are seeing some really positive results for lithium values that show potential mineral deposits higher than we thought in the Fox Creek, Leduc, and Swan Hills areas in west-central Alberta,” Rokosh says.
He also notes that lithium levels being found in the province compare to many places around the world where it’s being actively mined, and adds that the values are significant enough that mining companies have recently snapped up a number of mineral leases for lithium exploration from the Government of Alberta.