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Hot Prospects in the Cold: The New Geological Map of the Arctic

The new Geological Map of the Arctic is the most complex document ever produced in the storied 168 year history of the Geological Survey of Canada (Natural Resources Canada). Compilation of the Canadian segment of the new map is based on data stemming from over four centuries of field observations in the Canadian Arctic, which range from those initially made by the English explorer Sir Martin Frobisher in the later part of the 16th Century to the most recent data generated by the current slate of partnered multidisciplinary mapping projects in Canada’s three northern territories.

In addition to the rich Canadian dataset, the Geological Map of the Arctic integrates data and knowledge contributed by the geological surveys of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the United States. The resulting polar map presents an unprecedented, seamless, internally-consistent coverage of all onshore and offshore areas of the circum-polar Arctic north of 60ºN (approximately 8% of the Earth’s surface). In doing so, the map serves as a correlation tool for 1,222 different rock units from Greenland to Europe, from Russia to Alaska, and into Arctic Canada. Importantly, it provides a global geological context for many known mineral deposits and oil & gas fields that occur in classic mining and energy districts in the Arctic, and by extension, a tool for locating more within this vast region that is rapidly becoming more accessible. By documenting the Arctic’s unique 4 billion year old geological history and placing it within a planetary framework, the new polar map will guide the next generation of mineral and energy exploration programs in the North and, given it is done in an environmentally sustainable way, contribute to the future prosperity of all people in the circum-polar world. 

Listen to 'Mapping the Arctic' in our series of podcasts to hear Mark St-Onge talk about the process of making the world’s first Geological Map of the Arctic


Marc St-Onge, Canadian Geological Survey


Dr. Marc St-Onge is an internationally distinguished researcher and lecturer who studies how the core of the North American continent (the Canadian Shield) evolved and was assembled more than 2 billion years ago. He is a Senior Research Scientist (RES-05) at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) in Ottawa (Ontario), a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford (UK), and an Adjunct Professor at Queen’s University in Kingston (Ontario). 

Dr. St-Onge has led seven multi-year integrated field research projects in the Canadian Arctic and has participated in a number of expeditions to the western and central Himalaya, eastern Tibet, and western Greenland. He has earned many honours for his contributions to research and education, including three Teaching Merit Awards from Queen’s University, four Earth Sciences Merit Awards from NRCan, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002). Dr. St-Onge is co-leader of the international compilation project led by Canada that will result in the release of a new international Geological map of the Arctic and underlying GIS-enabled database in the first half of 2010.