Learn about metallic minerals and how the Ontario Geological Survey identifies areas for mineral exploration.
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A mineral is a solid, naturally occurring combination of inorganic substances. Metallic minerals are minerals which contain one or more metallic elements.
Metallic minerals occur in rare, naturally formed concentrations known as mineral deposits. These deposits can consist of a variety of metallic minerals containing valuable metals that are used in various aspects of our daily lives such as:
- nickel (pentlandite)
- copper (chalcopyrite)
- zinc (sphalerite)
- lead (galena)
- gold (occurs as a native element or as a minor constituent within other minerals)
Metallic minerals must be broken apart and chemically processed to extract the useful metal from the mineral.
Ontario is a leading producer of metals such as platinum group metals, nickel, cobalt, gold, copper, silver and zinc. To date, the total value of all metal production in Ontario is estimated at $534 billion dollars. During 2018, mineral exploration companies spent $583 million dollars exploring for mineral deposits in Ontario.
Metals such as nickel, copper and zinc are fundamentally important to modern society since they are used for an endless variety of purposes.
Ontario Geological Survey
The Ontario Geological Survey does not conduct mineral exploration or prospecting, but does describe and promote areas with high mineral potential for the discovery of metallic minerals by:
- conducting multidisciplinary geoscience studies to inventory areas with high mineral potential
- producing maps, reports and recommendations on mineral potential for the purpose of marketing Ontario’s incredible mineral wealth and attracting mineral investment dollars to the province
- understanding the earth processes that contributed to the formation of mineral deposits in Ontario
Geological maps illustrate the geology of Ontario and, therefore, also infer the geological environments where mineral deposits may occur. Geological maps produced by the Ontario Geological Survey are used by mineral exploration companies to identify areas worthy of mineral exploration. Land-use planners use these same geological maps to help in their decision-making processes as well. Geology and mineral deposits are linked by the process that forms a rock and the history the rock experienced after it was formed. Specific mineral deposits, containing specific metals, occur in predictable types of geological environments. The deposit-forming process is an integral part of the rock history.
Mineral deposits may only be a few hundred square metres in area. However, effective and ongoing mineral exploration requires access to large areas of land in order to find these relatively small mineral deposits; this is comparable to finding a “needle in a haystack”. Land with high mineral potential must remain accessible for exploration so that new deposits of metallic minerals can be discovered and developed; however, the same land is commonly required for a variety of other competing land uses as well.
Ontario Geological Survey maps identify areas with high mineral potential to attract mineral investment and to provide data for informed land-use planning and resource development so that large areas of land remain accessible for the discovery of future mineral resources.