Metal Earth geoscience project attracts international talent to Canada

Globally, there is intense competition to attract and retain top geoscientists. These highly-qualified professionals are in demand, with opportunities to work in industry, government, and academia. They have many choices, and where they decide to take their careers can have a broad social and economic impact on the projects, communities, and countries where they work. 

Gaëtan Launay set his sights on Canada as a graduate student in France, saying: “After my PhD defence, I began discussing opportunities with Dan Kontak, who was on my committee.” Kontak, a full professor at the Harquail School of Earth Sciences, encouraged Launay to apply for a post-doctoral position with the Metal Earth project.

Launay received two job offers at the same time – one in China and one in Canada. He chose to join the Metal Earth project, leading the Rainy River Transect. Over the past three years, his research focused on the investigation of the crustal architecture of the Rainy River greenstone belt and the Quetico fault. This allows Metal Earth researchers to better understand crustal processes controlling differential metal endowment in Archean greenstone belts. The project also aimed to examine the stratigraphy, volcanology and the petrogenesis of the Rainy River belt to identify the geological environment favourable for the formation of the Au-rich syn-volcanic deposits, such as New Gold’s Rainy River deposit. 

In April 2019, Launay arrived in Sudbury to prepare for the field season. His partner Marie followed about two months later, securing a job at a Francophone daycare located at Collège Boréal’s main campus. “Quality of life is better in Canada,” Launay explained. “France has a great culture, but it’s very busy,” he observed, saying that he enjoys northern Ontario’s tranquil natural surroundings. 

Launay began co-supervising MSc student Mattea McRae and two field assistants in Rainy River in summer 2019. One assistant was Québécois, and he helped Launay quickly adjust to the diverse people, accents, and cultures in Canada. He also adapted to the terrain. “It was the first time that I used a boat for mapping, and there was new wildlife like bear and moose, which we don’t have in Europe,” Launay said. He also appreciated Metal Earth’s comprehensive field health and safety training program, which covers everything from ticks to wildfires. (Launay and McRae even rescued two lost beagles during their time in the field.)

Over the course of the next three years, Launay developed geologic insights in the transect, such as the existence of older Mesoarchean rocks underlying the Rainy River greenstone belt. 

“A thicker older crust may have resulted in lower heat flow into the Neoarchean crust and inhibited the formation of base metal and gold deposits in the Wabigoon subprovince,” Launay explained. Interpretation of the magnetotelluric and seismic profiles acquired by Metal Earth provided insights into the fault geometry and geologic processes in the Rainy River greenstone belt. His work also includes a new regional geological map, which will be published soon, with a geophysical dataset. Launay’s findings could improve mineral exploration targeting in the Rainy River transect, and others with similar characteristics.

Gaetan Launay with his partner Marie and their son, Milo in 2021, with a pumpkin.

On a personal level, Gaëtan and Marie have established themselves in Sudbury and attained permanent resident status in Canada. Their son, Milo, born in Canada in June 2021, is a dual citizen. In summer 2022, Launay advanced in his career, taking on a new role in Sudbury with the Ontario Geological Survey. Marie has also progressed professionally and is a supervisor at the Carrefour Francophone daycare centre, located in Sudbury’s new Place des Arts. As a family, they love exploring Sudbury and Canada and enjoy guiding their parents in discovering this country when they visit from France.


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