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Slave Volcanogenic Massive Sulphides (VMS)

Slave Volcanogenic Massive Sulphides (VMS)

Pillow lava rocks


The Slave Geological Province lies between Great Slave Lake and Coronation Gulf, and is well known for its world-class gold and diamond deposits.  The Slave province also has base-metals (combinations  of zinc, lead, and copper) and precious metals (gold and silver) deposits known as volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits (VMS). These VMS deposits are associated with ancient volcanoes (volcanic belts) over 2.6 billion years old and are now perserved as bedrock of the Canadian Shield. The aim of this project is to further assess the VMS deposit potential of the Slave Province in the NWT and provide area specific drift prospecting tools for these deposits.

Map of Slave Geoogical Province with VMS deposits


The project considers all volcanic belts within the Slave Province of the NWT. Areas with complex geology, known VMS deposits, and areas that have excellent bedrock exposures have been targeted for mapping.

Geologist standing on red-coloured bedrock


VMS deposits have high economical potential. The Slave Province is known to contain such deposits, but due to generally poor infrastructure these have been relatively under-explored. Renewed mineral industry exploration of these deposits began in the late 2000’s, but this has been focussed almost entirely in Nunavut, even though deposits are known in the NWT and the same geology exists in the NWT. New bedrock geology maps are valuable insights into the geology of an area and serve as legacy data for the future.

Geologic map of the Sharrie Lake volcanic rocks


This project maps the bedrock at 1:20000 scale or better,  and targets areas burned by forest fires in the last 15 years. These fires remove extensive lichen from the bedrock allowing for detailed geology maps. This is complimented with high-precision uranium-lead zircon dating and geochemistry of rocks with VMS deposits and those without. These studies will help ascertain if there is an age relationship between VMS belts and non-VMS hosting belt. The project is focussed on providing new bedrock geology maps for well-exposed volcanic belts that contain hallmark indications that they may contain VMS deposits.

Rock hammer and sulphide mineralization


Preliminary field investigations began in 2011, and bedrock mapping began the following year at Sharrie Lake, east of Yellowknife. In 2013 and 2014 bedrock mapping continued at Sharrie Lake and in the Snare River and Indin Lake areas, north of Yellowknife. Geochemical studies, regional age dating, and further preliminary field investigations has been ongoing since 2012. The extensive forest fires in 2014 exposed bedrock in the volcanic belt areas, which will greatly increase the ability to map these areas. The surficial sediment sampling related to VMS exposures will begin during the 2016 field work focused on the Grenville Lake and Indin Lake areas.

Exposed bedrock and vegetation

Partners and Support

  • NTGS: Philippe X. Normandeau, Luke Ootes (now BCGS) and Valerie Jackson
  • Carleton University: Brian Cousens
  • University of Toronto: Mike Hamilton
  • Other Acknowledgements: Steven Piercey (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Jan Peter (Geological Survey of Canada), Kirsti Medig (Simon Fraser University), David Knowlton (University of Calgary), Harold Gibson (Laurentian University), Michelle DeWolfe (Mount Royal), Lou Covello


Slave craton; VMS mineralization; volcanic belts; Archean tectonics; bedrock mapping; CA-ID-TIMS U-Pb zircon dating; major and trace element geochemistry; Nd isotope geochemistry; zircon Hf isotope geochemistry; Yellowknife Supergroup; Banting Group; Kam Group