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Collaborative Exploration of the Mount Fairplay Porphyry Target: Training Undergraduate Students While Searching for Ore

Ruth, Daniel; Schlosser, Kenneth; Tkach, Melania; Friehauf, Kurt; and McLeod, Rob, 2012, Collaborative exploration of the Mount Fairplay porphyry target - training undergraduate students while searching for ore [abs]: Mineral Exploration Roundup 2012 (23-26 January, 2012 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada).

In collaboration with Full Metal Minerals Inc., three undergraduate students and their economic geology professor geologically mapped and sampled the Mt. Fairplay porphyry target (70 km NE of Tok, Alaska).  Students working with high-precision GPS equipment, in predominantly soliflucted rubble crop, distinguished six mappable units, collected 150 samples for assay, and made 20 thin sections for petrographic characterization in the lab.  Where firm bedrock did not crop out, contacts were defined by upslope limits of boulders dispersed by mass flow.

Field mapping delineated a basement core including a very coarse-grained, granitoid augen gneiss, an anorthosite stock, and unconstrained intrusions of hornblende biotite syenite and biotite quartz monzonite.  Biotite megacrysts (> 2 cm) occur locally within the hornblende biotite syenite.  Students panned the stream that drains from the anorthosite, and ongoing microscopy of the panning concentrate aims to identify the potential for ilmenite within the anorthosite.  Two suites of volcanic rocks were deposited on the basement core.  An early felsic volcanic suite consists of flow-banded porphyritic latites, porphyritic quartz latites, and rhyolitic tuff breccias.  The felsic units are strongly sericitically altered and contain minor disseminated pyrite.  A suite of andesitic pyroclastic rocks dominates higher elevations and are only weakly propylitically altered by actinolite-chlorite assemblages.  Geochemical study and continued petrographic analysis of samples are ongoing.

In addition to mapping and sampling the porphyry prospect, the students developed an objective, quantitative system for assessing vectors for zinc mineralization in phyllytic schist, and logged all available drill cores from a prospect to determine proximity to the mineralization center.  Students further assisted company exploration geologists in helicopter-supported soil sampling of grassroots targets. 

This "joint venture" project between academia and industry represents a novel model for positive interaction in which young students receive practical hands-on training, education, and exposure to geology field experience - specifically in the methods of mineral exploration - in return for field support.  Mineral exploration companies benefit from low-cost, supervised data collection and establishing favorable ties with young geologists likely to pursue careers in exploration.  The entire mineral exploration industry benefits by attracting motivated young geologists into the field.