University of Saskatchewan

April 24, 2014   

U OF S GEOLOGIST AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS ROYAL SOCIETY MEDAL

June 28, 1999

The Royal Society of Canada has awarded University of Saskatchewan geologist Robert Kerrich the prestigious Willet G. Miller Medal for exceptional contributions to Canadian geoscience.

"Professor Kerrich is a world expert on the geochemistry of gold deposits," said Michael Corcoran, U of S Vice-President Research. "We’re proud that his outstanding work over many years at the University of Saskatchewan has received major national recognition."

The Miller Medal, named after a distinguished Ontario geologist who was a guiding force in the early development of that province’s mining industry, is awarded only every two years.

The Royal Society is the senior national body of distinguished Canadian scientists and scholars. The Society’s 1,500 "Fellows" are selected by their peers for outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences. Kerrich is the youngest-ever RSC Fellow.

In announcing the award, the RSC states that Kerrich provided the first clear evidence that the Earth’s ancient oceanic and continental crust avalanched 3,000 kilometres to the Earth’s core and returned to the surface as volcanoes. He also developed what is now widely regarded as the standard model of how gold deposits are formed by fluids circulating through ancient mountain belts in areas where plates of the Earth’s crust once collided.

Kerrich was recently invited by the influential international journal Science to write about recent breakthroughs by Australian scientists in understanding how gold deposits form. Kerrich’s commentary "Nature’s Gold Factory" appears in the June 25th issue of Science.

"Those breakthroughs will help Saskatchewan resource companies find new gold deposits like the ones near La Ronge," said Kerrich.

Kerrich has just completed a $1-million research project for a consortium of 14 Canadian mining companies. The four-year project, involving a team of professors, technicians and graduate students, used $600,000 Canadian-pioneered high-tech equipment to detect trace elements in rocks. The results may help pinpoint ancient volcanic belts in the Canadian Shield likely to contain precious mineral resources such as gold.

"A trillion dollars worth of mineral resources has been won from the Canadian Shield and a trillion more awaits discovery," he said. "But discovery is increasingly difficult and expensive, demanding innovative high-technology solutions. Those mineral resources are the underpinning of modern technological society, and are used in everything from hip replacements, to farm equipment, fertilizers, cell phones, and satellites."

Kerrich and colleagues recently received a $282,380 grant from the Saskatchewan government for a microbeam facility equipped with specialized high-tech equipment that can be used to develop new ways of finding new mineral deposits. The new facility will complement leading-edge research to be carried out at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron project that will be built on the U of S campus by 2003.

Kerrich has held the George McLeod chair in geochemistry at U of S since 1986. He was awarded the prestigious NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) Steacie fellowship in 1987 and has an earned Doctor of Science from the U of S.

Prof. Kerrich has graduated over 12 Ph.D. and numerous master's students. Of these, three students have gone on to be awarded post-doctoral fellowships, several are university professors, one is a corporate CEO, and many are research scientists in government or the private sector. He and his facility attract many visiting graduate students and visiting scientists, from Canada and around the world.

For more information, contact:

Prof. Robert Kerrich
Geological Sciences
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-5719
robert.kerrich@usask.ca

Kathryn Warden
Research Communications Officer
Office of the Vice-President Research
(306) 966-2506
Visit the U of S Research web site: www.usask.ca/research

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