Activation Laboratories Ltd. (ACTLABS) was established in 1987 by Dr. Eric Hoffman, an economic geochemist. The laboratory began by providing Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) to the academic, government and mineral exploration sectors. The INAA technique which involves bombarding samples with neutrons from a nuclear reactor and measuring the induced gamma-ray "fingerprint" from the sample, non-destructively, was enthusiastically embraced by all as a highly accurate and cost-effective, analytical technique for analysis of geological samples. Dr. Hoffman had effected the transfer of INAA technology from university to industry in 1978, where it became widely accepted. Although excellent, the INAA technique could not analyze all elements in the periodic table to the detection limits required by our clientele. Unfortunately, no one analytical technique can achieve this distinction. As a result, Actlabs added Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AA), Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP/OES), X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF), Fire Assay, Infrared technology for carbon and sulphur, Ion Chromatography, Capillary Electrophoresis (CE), Autoanalyzers, Inductively Coupled Plasma Emission Mass Spectrometry (ICP/MS), High Resolution ICP/MS, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (HPLC, LC/MS/MS) and Coulometry.
Some of the analytical innovations of using modern instrumentation to solve geochemical problems included the development of methods for analysis of rocks, soils, stream sediments, humus and vegetation samples for "Au+34" elements, the analysis of fire assay doré beads for Au, the analysis of the whole platinum group of elements by NiS fire assay combined with INAA and heavy mineral concentrate analysis by INAA. Our hydrogeochemistry and lithogeochemistry packages marry the needs of research and exploration geologists and environmental chemists with modern ICP/MS technology. These packages are still unrivaled in elements offered, detection limits achieved, highest quality of data, and cost, anywhere in the world. High-level Rare Earth Element Analysis using our robotic sample preparation is unrivalled anywhere in the world for accuracy and reliability.
Actlabs introduced Enzyme Selective Extractions in 1993. This selective extraction on surface soil had the ability to "see through" cover and find blind ore deposits buried below several hundred metres of overburden and cover rock. This was clearly an order of magnitude better than conventional geochemistry. Actlabs acquired its first ICP/MS in 1993 and pioneered large-scale ICP/MS analyses. We have maintained our commitment to advanced technology with the newest quadruple ICP/MS technology and we are the only commercial laboratory serving the mineral industry with high resolution magnetic sector ICP/MS technology. This technology allows us to have better detection limits than a quadruple ICP/MS by 1 - 2 orders of magnitude and resolves most interferences.
In 1996, Actlabs took over the WMC Exploration division laboratory in Kalgoorlie, Australia and built a new lab in Perth. Also in 1996, ACTLABS Organics Division began research, led by Dale Sutherland, into the use of soil gas hydrocarbons for mineral exploration. A CAMIRO sponsored research program ensued to test the technology. In 2001, the new SGH technology became widely available to the mineral exploration industry. As a result of the first CAMIRO project proving to be so successful, a second CAMIRO project was funded and completed to better understand why SGH was so successful. The results of this project are now available as the confidentiality period has ended. The SGH technique promises to become one of the most important technologies for finding blind, deeply buried mineral deposits.
A new state-of-the-art LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) was completed in 2005 which now provides a tool to improve service to our clients.The same LIMS system now links all of our labs worldwide. Our customers can now track their orders through WEBLIMS.
In 2003-2006, the lab in Ancaster was expanded to 50,000 sq. ft. Sample preparation facilities were greatly increased and were further expanded in 2007. We have added more fire assay capability and have added several new Thermo 6500 state-of-the-art ICPs. New automated titration equipment will allow more rapid and accurate titrations. The INAA capability was increased 30%. Automated fusion capacity for XRF was doubled in 2006 and increased again in 2009.
In 2006, a state-of-the-art laboratory was commissioned in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. This lab provides fire assay, leachwell cyanide technology, state-of-the-art fast sequential atomic absorption analysis and x-ray fluorescence methods on site as well as the full range of ACTLABS methodologies.
In 2007, two more Varian 735 ICPs and three more Perkin Elmer Sciex ELAN 9000s were added in Ancaster. A new Panalytical Expert Pro XRD system was installed and a new Panalytical Axios Advanced XRF was commissioned. A third Panalytical Axios Advanced XRF was added in 2009.
Sample preparation facilities in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador and Fredericton, New Brunswick for rock and soils became fully operational in June 2007. In August 2007 the new high-volume sample preparation-fire assay laboratory became fully operational in Tumeremo, Venezuela.
In 2008, a new carbon sulphur analyzer, additional fume hoods and AA capacity was added to the laboratory in Mongolia. A new coal laboratory was also commissioned.
In 2008, our new full-service lab became fully operational in Thunder Bay, Ontario. This facility provides large volume sample preparation, fire assay with both gravimetric and atomic absorption, as well as multielement ICP analysis and assays. Additional sample preparation and ICP capabilities were also added in 2008. 2010 and 2011 saw a major expansion with the acquisition of an additional 36,000 sq. ft. of space which allowed us to centralize the Thunder Bay lab facilities into the new modern lab with greatly expanded wet chemistry and instrumental capabilities. Two new PE-Sciex Elan 9000 ICP/MS were added as well as two new Panalytical Axios Advanced XRFs, two more Agilent 735 ICPs (now 4) and a thrid Varian 240 AAS.
In late 2008, our new Guyana sample preparation facility became operational.
2008 also saw the completion of our Ancaster expansion with 36,000 sq. ft. of laboratory space added. The Materials Testing, Forensic and Pharmaceutical labs were moved to this facility allowing our ICP and Preparation departments to expand.
2009 also saw Actlabs opening a new sample preparation facility in Geraldton, Ontario. This was expanded in 2010 to include fire assay, atomic absorption and gravimetric.
A new high-technology lab was also commissioned in Coquimbo, Chile in 2009 with the sample preparation, fire assay, atomic absorption and ICP and ICP/MS laboratory. Other additional technologies are currently in the planning stage for this lab. Macarena Mery provides the technical leadership at this facility. A new sample preparation lab was added in 2010 in Antofagasta.
In 2009 a new Field Emission Gun Scanning Electron microscope with 2 Energy Dispersive Xray Analyzers and Mineral Liberation Analyzer software was added (FEG SEM-MLA). This instrument is unique in North America (FEI-FEG QUANTA 650 MLA). This new facility marks the beginning of Actlabs entry into the Geometallurgy market.
Internationally in 2010, Actlabs opened new full-service labs in Zacatecas, Mexico (fire assay, atomic absorption, gravimetric and ICP) as well a sample preparation in Chihuahua, Mexico. A preparation facility was added in Choibalsan, Mongolia. A new full-service lab became operational in Windhoek, Namibia and includes ICP and XRF facilities. A new, very high-volume fire assay/atomic absorption, gravimetric and cyanide lab is due to open in Ougadougu, Burkina Faso in early 2011 in a new building under construction.
In 2010 in Canada, Techni-labs in Quebec was purchased and modernized with ICP being added in Ste. Germaine and high-volume fire assay/atomic absorption and gravimetric added in Val-d'Or along with enlarged sample preparation facilities. New high-volume fire assay/atomic absorption-gravimetric labs were built in Timmins and Red Lake, Ontario. Our Thunder Bay lab was considerably expanded to 80,000 sq. ft. and now includes a new, much enlarged wet chemistry, ICP/MS, XRF, expanded ICP and atomic absorption facilities in a fourth building. A new fire assay, atomic absorption and ICP lab will be ready in the spring of 2011 with sample preparation operational now in Stewart, BC.
Our Ancaster lab expanded further with the addition of a new robotic fusion process established for our lithogeochemistry department. In addition, new ICP/MS (three) and ICP/OES (three) were added to increase capacity substantially. In 2011 we added two more PE Elan 9000 DRC ICP/MS and still more ICPs. Due to increased demand and additional services, fire more GC/MS were added as well as two additional HPLCs, DNA instrumentation.
In 2011 much new analytical equipment was added in Ancaster and Thunder Bay to enhance sample preparation, ICP, ICP/MS and XRF. Dryden was converted to a full lab and a new full-service lab will be opening in Sudbury. We now have the most extensive lab facilities serving the mineral industry in Ontario.
A new division and separate facility, Actlabs Agriculture, was established under the leadership of Rob Deakin. The new team he has built will offer conventional as well as high-tech agriculture services and will help marry the fields of agriculture, environment, nutrition (human and animal), geomicrobiology and geochemistry to provide a unique offering to the agriculture industry to help enhance crop yields and aid in preventing crop disease. Please see www.ActlabsAg.com.
In 2012, additional XRF instrumentation, both wavelength and energy dispersive were added. A new FEG-QEMSCAN SEM will be added in March to our geometallurgical facility. In addition, our metallurgical facilities are being enhanced to provide bench scale metallurgical work, including the addition of rod mills, ball mills, flotation cells and gravity separation and metallurgical expertise to enhance our metallurgical operations.
Construction has begun on our new 200,000 sq. ft. Mineral and Metallurgical complex. Occupation of that facility started in 2013 and continued into 2014. A new generation of ICP/MS has been acquired; we look forward to new packages evolving. New microwave plasma ICP/OES technology that runs on air instead of argon has been acquired. If testing works out, this will allow us to offer ICP technology in many countries where argon supply is unavailable or prohibitive cost wise.
Internationally, the Mongolia lab acquired ICP and XRF technology. The Guyana lab has been converted to a full-service gold and multi-element lab. A new, full-service lab in Medellin, Colombia is under construction and will be operational in March. Facility enhancement in Chile will add additional AAS, ICP and XRF equipment. The new, very-high volume gold lab in Burkina Faso is operational. Facilty enhancement adding ICP and fire assay into Namibia and additional preparation in Panama has also occurred.
2011 saw our entry into building and/or operating mine labs for Labrador Iron Mines Ltd. in Labrador; mine site labs for El Morro project of Goldcorp in Chile; Andacolo project of Dayton Mining in Chile; two labs (analytical and metallurgical) being built and commissioned for the giant Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia; a mine lab for Silvermex in Mexico and operating a preparation lab for Advanced Exploration in Nunavut.
Actlabs is committed to bringing the most modern technologies and a higher level of competencies to the analytical laboratory for the mineral industry. The Actlabs Group has become the world’s leading laboratory group providing Neutron Activation and ICP/MS services. We continue to invest heavily in Research and Development of new products so that our clients can be at the forefront of exploration technology.