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Lake sediment geochemistry has been used in Canada since the 1970s for mineral exploration and resource evaluation in glaciated regions of Appalachia, the Canadian Shield and the western Cordillera which are of low to moderate relief. Geochemical signatures of bedrock and mineralization within a lake’s catchment basin are commonly reflected in the chemical constituents of the organic-rich Holocene sediment which has been transported from source by a combination of mechanical and hydromorphic processes. Lake sediment geochemical surveys have been used successfully to discover base metal, Au, Mo, W, Sb, Sn, U, and REE mineralization. The scale of such surveys determines the size and density of lake sediment sampling. In regional surveys, large lithological targets such as greenstone belts or chemically distinctive intrusives can be identified by low density (c. 1 per 10–15 km2) sampling of relatively larger lakes. Smaller targets such as mineralized areas require higher density (c. 1 per 4–5 km2) sampling using a greater number of smaller lakes. Regional surveys are typically helicopter-borne, and employ a tubular grab sampler which permits rapid reconnaissance-scale coverage of large areas. Centre-basin profundal lake sediment, or gyttja, is an ideal sample medium because of its homogeneity and abundance of fine-grained organic matter, which complexes with many trace elements. Multi-element analytical techniques in common use include inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry (ICP-ES), ICP mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Reliablility of data is assessed by analysis of known standards, site duplicates and sample splits. PC statistical software packages facilitate the interpretation of geochemical data, and desktop GIS packages aid in further interpretation and generation of multi-layer maps.

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