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Geochemistry / Assay


In recent years advances in analytical technology, particularly the modern quadruple ICP/MS and most recently, the high resolution, magnetic sector ICP/MS have allowed  hydrogeochemical surveys to become a very powerful  exploration technique. The high resolution method Actlabs has developed has become the new benchmark in exploring for gold, base metals, uranium, REE and other metals using water. Actlabs is unique in that we are the only commercial lab in the world serving the mineral industry with this technology. Some of the applications from our customers can be found at the links below.

Helpful Hints

The conventional method of preservation of water for analysis is 0.2% (2 mL/L) of concentrated ultra pure nitric acid for inorganic parameters. This may be inadequate in alkaline environments. The acid should be added only after the sample has been collected, and not as precharged acid in bottles which may leach metals from the bottle. When filling the bottle, it should be rinsed with the sample water twice before retaining the sample. It should then be acidified. A test of pH using pH paper will indicate if the pH after acidification is adequate (pH 2). Depending on the sample composition, preservation with nitric may invalidate Ag, As, Br and I analyses. Preservation with acetic acid should be used in that case; however acetic acid can invalidate results for Cr. Some customers do not add any stabilizing agents, since this has the potential for adding trace contaminants to the samples and causing analytical problems. A study conducted by the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) has indicated that low cost, high-density screw cap polyethylene bottles (rinsed with water) are best. We require 30 mL of water for analysis for inorganic parameters. Conventional wisdom recommends storage at 4ºC. Studies by the GSC indicate that this may not be necessary where samples are acidified < pH 2.  Do not freeze water as it will cause precipitation of some elements. Samples should be shipped to the lab as soon as possible for analysis. Stability tests indicate most samples are stable for at least 30 days and can be stable for a year or more (British Columbia Geological Survey) even when stored at room temperature. Gold unfortunately is not stable and will be adsorbed onto the sides of the bottle within a short period of time (hours). Addition of activated charcoal sachets can collect the gold which can then be analyzed by INAA. Further information is available from ACTLABS on request. Samples for ion chromatography should not be preserved at all. Code 6 HR-ICP/MS method removes these metals from the plastic bottle and puts it back into solution for analysis directly by HR-ICP/MS.  For hydro samples being analyzed by ICP/MS or by Ion Chromatography, please include TDS/conductivity measurements, if available.

Sample Preservation Instructions

  • 6 - Hydrogeochemistry
  • 6 - Metal Speciation in Water
  • 6B - Ion Chromatography
  • 6C - Multiple Methods

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