A complex orebodies approach: Lessons from the Izok Lake corridor project

9 February 2022
Izok Lake and High Lake in north-west Canada on the border of Nunavut and Northwest Territories, are remote, beautiful – and contain two exceptionally high–grade mineral deposits.

The mining company MMG is the latest in a line of custodians of those resources, and they commissioned The University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) to undertake an assessment study of the area.

Project leader, SMI’s Associate Professor Steven Micklethwaite said the site is a classic complex orebody.

“The challenges include energy supply, remoteness, climate change, infrastructure, difficulty accessing the deposit, a complicated mix of ores, impacts on local community, and the need to protect the waterways, groundwater and wildlife,” he said.

“The project was technically and logistically complex, so we assembled the breadth and depth of expertise to match, gathering more than 30 SMI researchers, collaborators from the University of British Columbia and a team from MMG.

“The project team focused first on understanding the challenges and then investigated innovative options to address them and move the project toward a sustainable and economically viable future.

“Industry understands the need to be super careful in an environment like this - potentially there are significant benefits for the local communities, but there is also a lot of complexity with the environmental, social, governance and technical challenges.”

Dr Micklethwaite highlighted the input and leadership from MMG as a crucial factor in the success of the project.

“This was genuinely a client-driven initiative - MMG appointed a very experienced project manager who engaged with the researchers and me and funnelled information back and forth.

“There was a team of people at MMG doing their own assessments, absorbing information from us, giving us feedback then doing economic valuations.

“As a result, the final report offers practical solutions and recommendations to MMG, that can be implemented immediately.  

“There is a lot to be learned from the complex orebodies approach and ensuring projects become more sustainable from the moment of discovery until well after the mine has closed.

“If we can get this right, then it could be something that really sets a standard for the whole of the industry.

“We need good, sustainable, well-regulated mining and the complex orebodies approach is one way to do it right,” Dr Micklethwaite said.

Photo credit: Broughton Island, Nunavut, by Petr

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Media: Gillian Ievers 0438 121757, g.ievers@uq.edu.au