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Who we are

MERC is the exploration geoscience centre focused on Precambrian ore systems research, education, and exploration methodology and targeting.

To conduct and promote cutting-edge, field-based, collaborative research on mineral deposits and their environments, and to educate and train highly qualified personnel (HQP) for careers in the minerals industry, academia or government.

MERC is a semi-autonomous research centre at Laurentian University (LU) that was established by the LU Senate in 1997, it is affiliated with the Harquail School of Earth Sciences, and comprises an internationally recognized group of researchers from academia, industry and government. MERC has >75 faculty, research scientists, and graduate students working on mineral deposits, Precambrian geology, and exploration methodology and targeting, all housed within offices and labs of the Willet Green Miller Mines and Minerals Research Centre on the LU campus. MERC is governed by an Advisory Board comprised of industry, government and academic leaders. 



MERC research projects are supported by Canadian and international mining companies, the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Geological Survey of Canada, provincial and territorial geological surveys and other agencies. The research projects are global, and address fundamental ore deposit problems and technology and method development that aid exploration in Precambrian and younger terrains. Over the last ten years, MERC’s annual research funding has exceeded $1 M. MERC provides modular courses, short courses and workshops aimed at graduate and undergraduate students from across Canada and globally, and for professional development. 



MERC is recognized as a centre of excellence in magmatic Ni-Cu-(PGE) deposits and Precambrian geology with major strengths in Cu-Zn-(Au)-(Ag) VMS deposits, ‘orogenic’ lode Au deposits, rare-metal pegmatites, MVT Pb-Zn deposits, and sediment-hosted Au and U deposits.

Our faculty includes four internationally-recognized economic geologists (plus one vacancy), nine geologists with specialties in ancillary areas who regularly and in some cases exclusively apply their work to ore deposits, and four part-time faculty who also work on ore deposits, the largest concentration of ore deposit geology faculty in Canada by a wide margin. Three of our faculty hold federally- established Research Chairs in Mineral Exploration, Exploration Geophysics, and Precambrian Geology, and many have received national and international awards for excellence in teaching and/or research. Our students are equally strong, many holding prestigious NSERC Alexander Graham Bell, NSERC Postgraduate M/D, and NSERC Industry Postgraduate Scholarships, and Society of Economic Geologists fellowships and scholarships.

MERC researchers attract more than $2m in research funding annually. We played an major role in several major CAMIRO and NSERC-CRD projects, including Cape Smith Ni-Cu-(PGE) (1994-1996), Thompson Ni-Cu-(PGE) (1997-2001), Ontario PGE (2001-2005), and Flin Flon VMS (2004-present), and several major government/industry programs, including Discover Abitibi (2001-2005) and Targeted Geoscience Initiative (1998-present). MERC also managed the very successful $8m Ontario Mineral Exploration Technology Program (2001-2005) for the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, and is presently serving as the Secretariat for the CMIC Exploration Footprints Program.

HES-MERC researchers are presently working in most Canadian Provinces/Territories, Australia, Brazil, China, Finland, Mexico, Morocco, Oman, Peru, and Russia. Large scale thematic projects have recently initiated on gold mineralization in the Abitibi Subprovince and low sulfide PGE mineralization in the Sudbury Igneous Complex Footwall.




Resources that aid research and that are available to our members include:

  • The John Gammon Mines Library of the Ontario Geological Survey
  • Four state of the art Laboratory Facilities within the Willet Green Miller centre:

    The Geo-Fingerprinting Lab is joint LU-OGL trace element and isotopic geochemical laboratory that houses a state-of-the-art Quadrupole Laser Ablation ICP-MS Thermo Electron X Series II for trace element and isotope analysis. Utilizing a fully automated in situ analysis via ArF excimer laser ablation (Resonetic Resolution M-50 193 nm probe) permitting analysis of trace elements at ppb level. The facility can also perform U/Pb zircon dating on 25 micron spot sizes. Zircon can be prepared for analysis mounting and mapped with SEM based cathodoluminescence in the LU Central Analytical Facility. 

    The Solid Phase Section of the LU Central Analytical Facility contains 1) a JEOL JSM-6400 scanning electron microscope equipped with a Oxford Instruments INCA EDS system, 2) a Cambridge S-250 scanning electron microscope with electron backscatter diffraction and cathodoluminescence detectors, 3) an Enraf Nonius Diffractus X-ray generator used for single grain work with Gandolfi and Debye-Scherrer cameras, and 4) a Philips PW-1710 Powder X-ray diffractometer used for mineral identification often in conjunction with Rietveld Analysis.

    Fluid Inclusion laboratory

    The Ontario Geoscience Labs is a state-of-the-art major and trace element laboratory operated by the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, which MERC researchers utilize under a special access agreement.The facility has extensive analytical equipment including full sample preparation facilities, multiple AAS, ICP-OES, and ICP-MS instruments, an XRF spectrometer, excellent SEM facilities, Cameca X50 and Cameca SX100 electron probe microanalyzers, and complete petrographic and image analysis facilities. For a complete listing of the analytical facilities within the Geolabs please refer to www.mndm.gov.on.ca/mndm/mines/labs.

  • Teaching and research laboratories, and access to research petrographic microscopes, video conference/teaching facilities, and the MIRACO 4-D Virtual Realty Laboratory.


Additional Resources



Laurentian University (LU) is one of Canada’s leading mineral exploration, mining, and environmental research and education centres. Located in Sudbury, the world’s largest exploration/mining/service/education cluster, it has designated mineral resource science and engineering as a top priority in its Institutional Strategic Research Plan, and has established a School of Mines. Research at LU covers the entire range of the mining cycle from mineral exploration, deposit evaluation, and aboriginal engagement through mine development and operation to mine closure, environmental monitoring, and occupational safety and health. Teaching and basic research is done within the academic units and applied research is focused through several semi-autonomous research centres, including the Mineral Exploration Research Centre (MERC), Centre in Mining Materials Research (CIMMR), Geomechanics Research Centre (GRC), Laurentian University Mining Automation Laboratory (LUMAL), Centre in Environmental Monitoring (CEM), Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCo), and Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI).


Harquail School of Earth Sciences and Mineral Exploration Research Centre

The Harquail School of Earth Sciences (HES) has emerged as one of the strongest and most innovative in Canada, offering a complete range of exploration-related programs, including BSc in Earth Science with Environmental and Co-Op options, thesis-based MSc in Mineral Exploration, coursework-based Applied MSc in Mineral Exploration, and thesis-based PhD in Mineral Exploration and Precambrian Geology. The MSc and PhD degrees have Mapping School options with the Ontario Geological Survey. We offer one of the strongest BSc in Geology programs in Canada, with full-term courses in both Mineralogy and Optical Mineralogy, two courses each in Geochemistry, Igneous Petrology/Petrography, Metamorphic Petrology/Petrography, Sedimentary Petrology/Petrography, and Ore Deposits, three courses in Field Geology, and large numbers of in-course field trips. Since its inception in 1996, MERC has trained more than 150 MSc students, Applied MSc students, PhD students, and post-doctoral fellows, most of whom are now employed in industry.

HES and MERC are housed, together with the Ontario Geological Survey (OGS), the Ontario Geoscience Laboratories (OGL), and the Mining Division of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines (MNDM), in Willet Green Miller Mines and Minerals Research Centre (WGMC) on the Laurentian University campus, which was designed from the ground up as a geoscience building. We have comprehensive mineralogical analytical and characterization facilities, we maintain one of the top laser- ablation ICP-MS laboratories in the world (with a wide range of applications to mineral exploration), and have a special agreement providing access to the outstanding mineral and whole-rock geochemical analytical facilities in the Ontario Geoscience Laboratories. Close proximity to world-class ore deposits at Sudbury (Ni-Cu-PGE), Kidd Creek (Cu-Zn), Timmins-Kirkland Lake (Au), Rouyn-Noranda (Cu-Zn), and Val d'Or (Au) permits a level of field- based instruction and research that can be duplicated only with great difficulty and cost elsewhere. The close interaction of MERC with major national and international mining companies and numerous junior exploration companies, has resulted in collaborative research projects that provide our undergraduate and graduate students with unparalleled opportunities to obtain hands-on training in mineral exploration.