Oct 04: “Critical Minerals” ~ Paulina Branscombe, Melinda Yurkowski & Michelle Nicolas

Endowment and future growth in three provinces

Monday, October 4 2021
12:00 - 1:00pm (MDT)
Register at: CSPG GeoWomen Page 
This is a FREE event - All genders welcome - No membership required.


Canada has identified 31 ‘critical minerals’ vital to growing its economic development as the world transitions to a low-carbon and digitized infrastructure. These minerals will be needed for renewable energy and clean technology applications and for defence and security technologies, consumer electronics, agriculture, medical applications and critical infrastructure.

Where are these minerals and how can petroleum geologists contribute to their exploration and development? Leaders from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba geological surveys will discuss their provincial endowments and their potential future growth areas. Potash, lithium, rare earth metals and helium are some of the minerals that will be highlighted. In addition, the speakers will share career journeys and challenges encountered along the way to showcase different pathways to success.

The intent is to provide information, inspiration and ideas for career seekers, researchers and the energy community.

Information on Canada’s Critical Minerals can be found here: Critical Minerals (nrcan.gc.ca)


Paulina Branscombe is the Modelling & Resources Manager within the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) branch of the AER, leading a multidisciplinary team of geoscientists, hydrogeologists, geomodellers, geostatisticians and engineers. She completed both her undergraduate geology and graduate geology degrees at the University of Alberta. Her M.Sc. covered geochemistry and evolution of fluids involved in the dolomitization and precipitation of metals and non-metal minerals at Pine Point lead zinc mine in the Northwest Territories. Her career started in economic geology but shifted into the oil and gas industry and then into the regulatory sector. Paulina joined BP Canada in 2006 (conventional and unconventional plays) and BP Alaska (2008 2009) (heavy oil) before joining AER in 2015. Professional interests include fluid evolution and interaction in the WCSB and regional scale geomodelling.


Melinda Yurkowski is Assistant Chief Geologist with the Geological Survey at Saskatchewan’s Ministry of the Energy and Resources. She completed her B.Sc. and her M.Sc. geology degrees at the University of Regina and has since worked in both private and public sectors, in both carbonate and clastic environments, focusing on Saskatchewan rocks. Melinda has been with the Saskatchewan Government since 1998, in both regulatory and research roles and in 2010, she took on her current role, heading up Petroleum Geology Unit at the core facility in Regina. In addition to her managerial role, Melinda is working on resolving the story behind the generation, migration and trapping of economic helium deposits in the province. Melinda is a registered Professional Geoscientist with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan.


Michelle Nicolas is Provincial Geologist and Manager of the Manitoba Geological Survey (MGS). After receiving her B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Manitoba, she became Project Manager of the Groundwater Rehabilitation Program for the Manitoba Government after the 1997 Red River flood. She joined the Petroleum Branch in 1998 as a Petroleum Geologist, then moved to the Manitoba Geological Survey (MGS) in 2007 as a Petroleum Geologist and Phanerozoic Stratigrapher, becoming Chief Geologist of Sedimentary Geoscience in 2013. She became acting Director of the MGS in 2019, before moving into her current role. Her area of expertise is in the petroleum and pore-space geology and stratigraphy of Manitoba’s two Phanerozoic sedimentary basins, with experience in most of the Phanerozoic formations in the Williston Basin, including the prolific Bakken Formation, the potash-bearing Prairie Evaporite, Cretaceous shales, deep subsurface brines, and helium potential. She also works on the stratigraphy and hydrocarbon potential of the frontier Hudson Bay Basin. Michelle established and chairs the Manitoba Critical Mineral Team for the Manitoba Government, and sits on the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Critical Mineral Task Team. She is a registered Professional Geoscientist with Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba and is a Fellow of Geoscientists Canada