Baffin Island (Nunavut, Canada) is located in the remote arctic where geological exposure is high, terrain is expansive, and field seasons are short. Metacarbonates in the Lake Harbour Group, southern Baffin Island, are considered to be prospective for sapphire (corundum), lapis lazuli (lazurite), and spinel gem deposits. This research is an investigation of the hyperspectral signature of rocks from the Beluga sapphire occurrence near Kimmirut, Nunavut.

Thirty-five rock and thin section offcut samples from the Beluga corundum occurrence were studied in a laboratory setting using high spatial resolution imaging spectroscopy in the shortwave infrared region (SWIR, ∼975 to 2500 nm). Analysis of hyperspectral imagery successfully reproduced mineralogical and textural information relevant to gem mineralization previously assessed through thin section petrography and scanning electron microscopy. Scapolite, phlogopite, and muscovite from these rocks are shown to have distinct spectral responses from the host marble that is dominated by calcite. Furthermore, spectrally distinct prehnite and zeolite, both locally associated with corundum mineralization, are readily distinguishable.

From the perspective of regional exploration, the small footprint of colored gemstone deposits in combination with their unique mineralogical makeup, unusual settings, and unfamiliarity to most geoscientists has resulted in very few discoveries in this remote but otherwise fertile area. These factors, in combination with the unique spectral responses observed from hand samples and thin section offcuts, provide a positive case for mapping and exploration of gem corundum targets by high spatial resolution hyperspectral imaging as part of regional surveys.

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