Metal Earth

✦ Canadian gold deposits superposed on a basement map of the Superior Province. Note the association with certain types of crust. Map courtesy of John Ayer and Phil Thurston from original figure by Percival (Percival, J.A., 2007, Geology and metallogeny of the Superior Province, Canada, in Goodfellow,W.D., ed., Mineral Deposits of Canada:A Synthesis of Major Deposit-Types, District Metallogeny, the Evolution of Geological Provinces, and Exploration Methods: Geological Association of Canada, Mineral Deposits Division, Special Publication No. 5, p. 903-928


Metal Earth is a Canadian $104 million applied R&D program led by Laurentian University. With funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and federal/provincial/industry partners, this initiative will be a strategic consortium of outstanding Canadian researchers from academia and allied Canadian and international research centres, government, and industry. Metal Earth will transform our understanding of the genesis of base and precious metal deposits during Earth’s evolution. It will make Canada a world leader in metal endowment research and world-class innovator through open source delivery of new knowledge and the implementation of new technology.

Keys to Understanding Our Planet

Metal Earth is initially focussing on the Precambrian era to answer fundamental questions related to how secular changes in Earth’s evolution have resulted in differential metal endowment in space and in time. Research is seeking to determine the geological, geochemical, and geophysical differences between metal endowed, less endowed, and the more common barren areas that appear geologically equivalent.

Defining the key characteristics that differentiate endowed versus less endowed crust will transform our understanding of the processes responsible for Earth’s differential base and precious metal endowment.

Research is seeking to answer fundamental questions including:

  • Current metal endowment models emphasize modern geodynamic environments and processes.
  • Precambrian geodynamic environments and processes are controversial. If they differed from those operating today, what are the processes that resulted in early Earth’s metal endowment and how can they be recognized?
  • Can we recognize subtle differences in the mantle, the subcontinental lithospheric mantle, the crust and in the deep crustal structures between endowed and less endowed areas, which may explain metal endowment localization?

Through this new knowledge, Metal Earth is transforming our understanding of Earth’s evolution and the fundamental processes that govern metal enrichment through time, as well as increasing our understanding of the evolution of our planet’s hydrosphere and atmosphere. It is aiding government to assess Canada’s resource potential and to develop strategies for Far North growth and sustainability.

Along with Graham Pearson (U Alberta) and Richard Walker (U Maryland) our (Shirey and Carlson) role is to use our expertise in general mantle-crust igneous processes, Hadean-Archean mantle-crust evolution, and novel isotopic techniques to trace the mantle to crust pathways that might explain these enormous crustal differences in base and precious metal content.

  • Why do different large crustal terranes such as the Abitibi Belt have higher ore deposit concentrations compared to other terranes such as the Wabigoon Belt despite having the same basic crustal architecture and overall average composition?
  • Were these differences inherited from mantle source regions with basically different metal chemistry or was their some difference in large-scale geodynamic process that was a major factor?