Dr. Heather Jamieson is most deserving of the Mineralogical Association of Canada's prestigious Peacock Medal for outstanding contributions to mineral sciences. Heather has emerged as the leading environmental mineralogist in the world when it comes to trace elements at mine sites, be they abandoned or active mines. She has advanced and redefined this important subdiscipline of mineralogy by incorporating newer, more powerful, cutting-edge analytical techniques into her arsenal of conventional mineralogical tools. She has also enhanced the impact of these studies by integrating mineralogical studies into broader investigations that include aqueous and other solid media, and geochemical modeling.
Heather has an international reputation as a highly productive and innovative scientist, which is clearly documented by her extensive bibliography of both high-quality peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and practically oriented proceedings volume publications that are essential in bridging that gap between basic and applied research. The field of environmental mineralogy is challenging to even the most skilled mineralogists because the phases are commonly extremely fine grained, at times are poorly crystalline or amorphous, contain weakly bound volatiles that hinder achieving low vacuums in various instruments or result in changing compositions under the electron beam, have poorly known stoichiometries, and can adsorb environmentally significant trace elements in significant quantities that are not incorporated in the crystallographic lattice. In other words, these compounds are figuratively 'Hell' for traditional mineralogists, yet Heather and her students manage to coerce them into revealing their secrets. She elegantly combines both traditional mineralogical such as optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and bulk X-ray diffraction (XRD) with cutting-edge methods such as synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopic methods and micro-XRD, and more recently scanning electron microscopy mineral liberation analysis to achieve unique insights into important environmental problems.
Heather's ability to select important geochemical systems is especially keen. Arsenic globally, but especially from mine sites, is a major concern for human health. Her work and that of her students and post docs at Yellowknife have identified important controls on the source, transport, and fate of arsenic in that system with important implications throughout the world. This research was especially challenging because ore processing produced an array of atypical compounds. She has successfully transferred these lessons to abandoned mines in Nova Scotia as well. Her more recent focus on antimony is particularly astute and ahead of its time. The toxicological effects of antimony should be similar to those of arsenic because of their geochemical similarities, yet antimony has not received comparable scientific scrutiny. Working at mine sites is often challenging because of the delicate nature of the relationships that must be developed with the mining industry, government officials, environmental groups, and local communities that may include First Nations. Heather has been a model on how to forge trustworthy relations that allow the objective science to progress to the benefit of all.
Heather's research on efflorescent sulfate salts at the notorious Iron Mountain Superfund site in California (home of negative pH and gigantic efflorescent salts) was ground-breaking because of the challenges characterizing hydrated salts. Likewise, her recent interest in rare earth element (REE) deposits, such as those at Thor Lake, is very timely due to the current global interest in critical minerals. Little is known about environmental risks associated with REE deposits and the ores are challenging from a metallurgical standpoint. Detailed knowledge of the mineralogy of these deposits is essential to both of these lines of inquiry. Heather and her students are making major contributions here.
The impact of her science is truly international, spanning academia, industry, government,and First Nations. Her scientific achievements seen through her publications and presentations are equaled by her ability to interact and collaborate effectively with colleagues and stakeholders. Heather is leading the charge to a better understanding of emerging contaminants at mine sites. Some of the greatest impact is being realized through the students and post-docs with whom she interacts either in the classroom or through supervision of their research. Her past graduate students and post docs are now making important contributions in academia, industry, or government.
Robert Seal and Kirk Nordstrom