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Using snow sampling for mineral prospecting

  • Health and safety
  • Land-use planning
  • Permitting processes / policy integration
  • Reporting official statistics
  • Socio-economic and environmental impact assessments

Challenge the practice is addressing: To test unconventional sampling methods with extremely low environmental impact.

Concrete practice to achieve the expected goal: To sample snow at a depth of 50 cm or less on foot or via skies, snowshoes or snowmobiles. In surface geochemistry, the samples taken from the top layers of the soil and plants are analysed in the laboratory. The ions are released with very weak chemical extractions methods which then permits to determine the chemical element or hydrocarbon concentration of the samples. When the surface is covered with snow, the flow of gasses continues, and the ions and hydrocarbon compounds accumulate to the base layer of snow. This is why very small amounts of metals or other elements and hydrocarbons can be analysed not only in samples of plant tissues and soil horizons, but also in snow samples. The surface geochemistry approach thus permits to discover blind deposits even deep in the bedrock or beneath a thick cover of sediments.

Expected impact/goal of the practice: For a company, it is a cost-saving sampling method in that land access and the permitting processes are simpler. For communities, it has an extremely low environmental impact. The sampling method is also fast and allows for broader geographic coverage than other areas. For northern European conditions, winter exploration activity enabled by snow sampling may speed up the exploration process.

Who is the target user group of the practice/intervention or implementing the practice/intervention? Industry

D5.5 A Practical Toolkit addressed to Mineral Exploration and Mining Companies (p. 13-14)
Data item type
Practice base
Practice type
Report / document
Learning relevance
Guidelines / guidance document
Metalliferous minerals
Extractive life-cycle
System change potential
Lower costs and environmental impacts during prospecting