The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin underlying most of Alberta contains vast mineral wealth. The geological strata not only contain oil sands, oil, natural gas and coal deposits, but also a large variety of metallic and industrial minerals.
In addition, the Canadian Shield in the northeast corner of the province consists of igneous and metamorphic rocks of Precambrian age. These are similar to those in other regions of Canada where important deposits of metallic minerals have been found.
Brine-hosted metallic and industrial minerals are metallic and industrial minerals that are solid substances or elements extracted or recovered from soluble components naturally dissolved in groundwater. Rock-hosted metallic and industrial minerals are metallic and industrial minerals other than brine-hosted metallic and industrial minerals.
Development of metallic and industrial mineral resources in Alberta has long been overshadowed by a focus on oil, natural gas, oil sands and coal. Although the province has more than 40 known kinds of metallic and industrial minerals, only a few are currently being produced. Potential exists for new discoveries and the production of many other types of minerals, including:
- base metals
- rare earth elements
Much of this potential has yet to be defined. Only limited exploration and development of mineral resources other than oil, natural gas and coal has taken place. The Government of Alberta has attempted to remedy this deficiency and broaden the province's economic base in several ways:
- by working to develop a modern Minerals Strategy, Alberta will be well-positioned to capitalize on its resource potential, and encourage investment and innovation
- by providing tenure and royalty regulations that encourage mining development
- by providing extensive support services such as geological mapping and geophysical research
- by producing geoscience data, maps, reports and assessments through the Canada-Alberta Partnership on Minerals
This web page is intended for:
- individual prospectors
- prospecting/mining associations
- companies actively involved or interested in exploring for and developing metallic and industrial minerals in Alberta
The information provides a general explanation of the steps involved in metallic and industrial mineral development. The acts and regulations that apply to this activity represent the final authorities for any administrative or regulatory procedures.
The following facts are not listed in order
Commodities mined in Alberta include: oil sands; coal; limestone; salt; shale; dimension stone; ammonite shell; sandstone; sand and gravel.
The Banff Springs Hotel exterior is Rundle stone, a brown sandstone, still quarried near Canmore for use in construction and landscaping.
Paskapoo sandstone from the Glenbow quarry near Calgary was used in construction on the top four stories of the Alberta Legislature Building, which began in 1907 and finished in 1912.
November 2008, 51 kimberlite bodies (the volcanic rock type most likely to contain economic deposits of diamonds) were discovered in Alberta. Of these areas, the Buffalo Head Hills area in north-central Alberta has the highest diamond content results to date. 28 of the 41 Buffalo Head Hills bodies contain diamond. At least three of these kimberlites (kimberlites K14, K91 and K252) contain estimated diamond grades of > 12 carats per hundred tonnes (cpht). The Buffalo Head Hills kimberlite K252 has the highest estimated diamond grades in Alberta with a preliminary mini-bulk (22.8 t) sample grade of 55 cpht. The biggest diamond found to date in the Ashton K14 complex, at Buffalo Hills, north of Edmonton is 1.3 carats. The diamond is a single crystal, of silvery grey appearance with many dark inclusions making it an industrial grade diamond.
In 1958, the first diamond in Alberta was reportedly found in fluvial gravels near Evansburg, east of Edson. Solution mining of salt occurs in Alberta. Water is injected into salt formations to recover the brine. Brine is water saturated or nearly saturated with salt (usually NaCl – sodium chloride – table salt -- but could be other salts). “Saturated” in this context means water containing as much dissolved salt as it can hold. At 15.5 °C (288.65 K, 60 °F) saturated brine is 26.4% salt (sodium chloride) by weight). At 0 °C (273.15 K, 32 °F) brine can only hold 26.3% salt.
Ammolite or ammonite shell was named the official gemstone of the City of Lethbridge in 2007, it is unique to Alberta. It is the fossilized and mineralized remains of ammonite, a group of marine molluscs that became extinct approximately 65 million years ago. Ammonites are members of the cephalopod class, which includes nautilus, squid, octopus and cuttlefish. Ammonite shells first generated interest among Alberta mineral collectors in the 1970s when the iridescent red and green coloured stones became popular.
Alberta is the cement manufacturing hub for the Prairie provinces. There are two major plants, one near Exshaw (west of Calgary) and the other in Edmonton.
In Alberta, salt is recovered by solution mining. Water is pumped down wells to dissolve the salt and the resulting salt brine is pumped to the surface.
Alberta has hundreds of sand and gravel pits of various sizes. Some sand and gravel is washed for placer minerals, such as gold and platinum, before being used for construction, fill and cement manufacturing.
Communities that have a significant dependence on mining for their livelihood include Fort McMurray; Hinton; Edson; Forestburg; Hanna; and Grande Cache.
Licence and regulations
A placer minerals licence is required to produce provincially owned gold and other placer minerals from sand and gravel deposits, learn more with the placer mining tool kit. Placer mining is legislated under the Metallic and Industrial Minerals Regulation and the Metallic and Industrial Minerals Royalty Regulation. It is regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator, depending on the type of mineral, mining activities and reclamation are subject to approval through Environment and Protected Areas. Environmental management is an important part of developing, running and closing down a mine. Mining companies develop and carry out plans to minimize impacts on air, land, water and wildlife. Companies use a variety of techniques to reclaim mined lands.
Prospecting and geophysical surveys
Prospecting for Crown minerals using hand tools is permitted throughout Alberta without a licence, permit or regulatory approval, as long as there is no surface disturbance. Prospecting on privately owned land or land under lease is permitted without any departmental approval. However, the prospector must obtain consent from the landowner or leaseholder before starting to prospect.
Unoccupied public lands may be explored without restriction. But as a safety precaution, prospectors working in remote areas should inform the local forestry office of their location.
When prospecting, the prospector can use a vehicle on existing roads, trails and cutlines. If the work is on public land, the prospector can live on the land in a tent, trailer or other shelter for up to 14 days. For periods longer than 14 days, approval should be obtained from the Land Administration Division. If the land is privately owned or under lease, the prospector must make arrangements with the landowner or leaseholder.
Exploration approval is not needed for aerial surveys or ground geophysical and geochemical surveys, providing they do not disturb the land or vegetation cover.
The prospector or company must obtain the appropriate approvals and permits if:
- mechanized exploration equipment will be used
- the land surface will be disturbed
Samples up to 20 kg in size may be taken for assay and testing purposes, but larger samples must be authorized the Department of Energy and Minerals. The licensee does not need to hold the mineral rights for an area to apply for an exploration approval.
These approvals and permits are required under the Metallic and Industrial Minerals Exploration Regulation. Exploration approvals and permits are issued by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas.
For more information contact Alberta Environment and Protected Areas directly at 780-427-3570.
Mineral rights acquisition
Mineral exploration rights
A prospector or company must apply for a rock-hosted minerals permit for rock-hosted mineral exploration rights to a specific area where the province owns the minerals. The application must contain a land description based on the legal land survey system in Alberta (township, range, meridian). It must also be accompanied by a fee of $625. The maximum area covered by a permit is 9216 ha (1 township). Apply through our Electronic Transfer System (ETS) for the right to explore for Alberta-owned metallic and industrial minerals in a specific location. A permit is equivalent to a mineral claim in most other Canadian jurisdictions.
Any person or company may hold more than 1 permit at the same time. The term of a rock-hosted minerals permit runs indefinitely with assessment reports due every 2 years.
A permit holder needs to do assessment work on the land so that the permit remains valid and in good standing with the Crown. During each 2-year period, the following needs to be spent assessing the property for the minerals listed in the application:
- $7/ha during the first 2 years (assessment period 1)
- $13/ha during assessment periods 2 and 3
- $20/ha for all remaining assessment periods
A permit holder may spend more than the required amount per year in assessment work. They can then apply to have the additional amount transferred to any remaining period of the permit.
At the end of each 2-year period, a report on the assessment work done during that time must be submitted to the Department by the work period due date of the permit or group. If more time is needed an Intent to File can be submitted to the Department in the 30 days prior to the work period due date. If an Intent to File is accepted the assessment report must be submitted no later than 60 days after the work period due date. The report must:
- describe the work results
- contain an itemized statement of expenditures
- be certified by either a professional:
- or verified and signed by the prospector
The information that should be included in the assessment report is specified in the regulation. The assessment report is kept confidential for 1 year. After that, it is posted to our Metallic and industrial mineral assessment report searches web page.
If the assessment work and report are satisfactory, the next 2-year term of the permit is continued. If the permittee does not fully carry out the assessment work, or the report is unsatisfactory:
- the permit may be cancelled
- the size of the permit area may be reduced
- the mineral assessment appointee may pay an amount equal to 2 times the remaining expenditure amount
For the purpose of filing assessment work, the regulation allows contiguous permits to be grouped and a single report submitted for the block of permits up to a total area of 18,432 ha’s. Expenditures may then be assigned to any permits within the group. Once assigned to a permit, however, the assessment expenditures may not be transferred.
There may be circumstances where a permit holder is unable to work on a permit or permits to meet the assessment requirements. The regulation allows a permit holder to pay to the Minister an amount equivalent to 2 times the assessment expenditure that would be required to continue holding the permit. The payment in-lieu cannot be applied to the first work period or two consecutive work periods.
Allowable assessment work
The kinds of work that may be submitted to the Department as assessment work include:
- stripping and trenching
- geological survey
- geochemical survey
- geophysical survey
- transporting drill core to core storage facility
- reclamation of disturbed sites
- assay and analytical work
Mineral assessment reports, prepared by companies and individuals to keep their rock-hosted mineral permits in good standing, are also accessible.
Rock-hosted minerals leases
A permit holder must meet the terms and conditions of the rock-hosted minerals permit. Then they may apply for a rock-hosted minerals lease for all or part of the location.
Under certain circumstances, a lease may be granted without exploration work having been done, if the Department agrees the work was not needed. This lease gives the leaseholder the exclusive right to recover the Crown’s rock-hosted metallic and industrial minerals within the specified location.
It must also be accompanied by a fee of $625 and the first years rental ($3.50/ha) will be requested at a later date. The lease is valid for 15 years. It can be renewed if the property is in production or if the Department has approved a development plan for the lease. Apply through our Electronic Transfer System (ETS) for Crown mineral rights to develop and produce rock-hosted minerals.
Brine-hosted minerals lease
Brine-hosted minerals leases are issued as a part of a posting. The initial term of a brine-hosted lease is 10 years and the lessee can apply for continuation.
The Department publishes a map that shows availability of metallic and industrial mineral rights in Alberta.
The interactive map is normally updated every day at around 4:00 am Mountain Standard Time (MST). It is recommended as a more accurate and comprehensive source map when selecting lands for the purpose of applying for metallic and industrial mineral rights.
The interactive map allows the user to:
- customize their view of the map
- obtain text reports on agreements and restrictions
- print results
Before companies proceed with exploration and development, they should be made aware of any environmental concerns in their area of interest. All applications for metallic mineral rights are referred to relevant departments for review. The departments will assess potential or existing environmental concerns on the land outlined in the application.
The applicant is advised of any concerns identified by the departments. The name of the appropriate government person to contact for more information is also provided. If the applicant considers the identified environmental concerns to be too serious to warrant further mineral exploration or development, the applicant may cancel the agreement.
The Alberta government developed the Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes. It responds to the increased pressures on public lands and the need to co-ordinate the multiple uses of resources along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
The policy, revised in 1984, provides broad direction for the management and use of public land and resources. It also provides a framework for more detailed sub-regional integrated resource planning.
An integrated resource plan presents the government’s resource management policy for public lands and resources, including minerals, within a defined area. Rather than being a regulatory mechanism, a plan is intended to be a guide for those who have responsibilities or interests in that area, including:
- resource managers
- the public
The planning process ensures that interests and concerns are identified and considered in decisions about public land management, use and allocation.
AGS interactive maps and apps include;
- Geological Framework of Alberta
- AGS Interactive Minerals Map
- Hydrogeological Regions of Alberta
- GeoTour: Discover Alberta’s Landscapes
For more information contact the AGS.
Connect with the Coal and Mineral Development Unit:
Alberta Energy and Minerals
Coal and Mineral Development Unit
North Petroleum Plaza
9945 108 Street *
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2G6
* Couriers, please report to the 2nd floor.
Calgary (drop-off location only)
Alberta Energy and Minerals
300, 801 6 Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 3W2
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