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Laurentian University celebrates a $114-million day

Largest investment in school's history to improve mineral exploration research 

Laurentian University had a $114-million day Tuesday, in what its president, Dominic Giroux, has called a historic moment for the university.

The day started with a $10-million donation to support Laurentian University’s Department of Earth Sciences and its Mineral Exploration Research Centre from David Harquail, the CEO of Franco-Nevada Corporation, through his family's Midas Touch Foundation.

In honour of Harquail's donation university's board of governors renamed the Department of Earth Sciences to the Harquail School of Earth Sciences.
Harquail's donation will help Laurentian improve its mineral development research.

“It's very tough for mining companies to do anything that's long-term or scientific. They need to have immediate results for the low cash that they have available,” Harquail told

Later in the day Laurentian announced an additional $104 million in funding to fund the ambitious Metal Earth research project.

The seven-year initiative will see a team of more than 100 professionals and students compare data about the planet’s crust, a first-of-its-kind experiment in Canada to use geoscience to produce 4D images of the Earth — from the surface where we live to the mantle beneath our feet.

The funding included $49.2 million from the federal government's Canada First Research Excellence Fund and an additional $55 million from 22 partners from academia, industry and government.

The Conservative government established the Canada First Research Excellence Fund in 2014, said Giroux, with the purpose to elevate Canadian Universities to world-class status for specific areas of research.

Giroux said 51 universities applied to the fund in 2015 – and the 13 recipients, all announced Tuesday – received a total of $900 million to support various research specialties.

“This is quite major,” Giroux said. “Only 16 universities have been successful through CFREF (the Canada First Research Excellence Fund) since the inception of the program.”

With the funding Laurentian will recruit a research chair in exploration targeting, and will fill an additional three faculty positions in Precambrian geology, Earth systems and modelling. 

The funding will also allow graduate students to further our understanding of the Earth's geological evolution and how to best identify areas that have rich mineral deposits.

“The potential rewards are enormous,” said Harold Gibson, director of Laurentian's Mineral Exploration Research Centre and the lead scientist for Metal Earth.

“If we can identify the key attributes that define metal endowment it will allow exploration companies and government policy makers to quickly assess areas.”

Gibson said that while the research is risky, it has the potential to greatly improve the techniques mining companies and government entities use to discover new mineral deposits.

Each new mine discovery in Ontario would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the province's economy, along with hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, he said.