The following comments are from Matt Gaudet who completed his geological thesis on Carbonatite complexes.  It was taken off a Facebook thread that was responding to my CBC Morning North interview. I am glad to see geologists commenting on the use of rock dusts in agriculture. Boreal has advocated the need for geoscience to aid in developing sustainable agriculture; today it is all but ignored in the field of agronomy.

“This guy is playing his cards right though. Using mineral exploration to feed our growing agricultural demand is a big topic right now. There are a lot of investors waiting to jump onto that ship. What I find interesting is that he doesn't mention any processing before shipping his product.. Carbonatites are definitely a great source of potassium, calcium and phosphorus, but they can also be quite rich in some less desirable elements like uranium, thallium, and most notably the rare earth elements. When he mentions those green "bands", his samples sound very similar to the samples from the deposit I studied. Except my green bands were entirely aegirine, not a harmful mineral. However these Silicic areas were also loaded with uranoanpyrochlore. Some of my samples from these aegirine rich portions had up to 5 weight percent uranium. That being said, he seems like the kind of guy who makes sure to consistently test his samples to make sure they're not overly abundant in volatiles. Nice piece Mike thanks for the share.”


Dear Matt,

Boreal Agrominerals Inc. mission is to help re-establish geoscience’s major role in soil science which has been pre-empted over the past 50 years as chemical farming, monoculture and agribusiness increasingly dominated the agricultural sciences. The global imperatives for environmental and ecological sustainability, along with safe and nutritious food will require the advanced capabilities of geoscience, in particular the study of the reactivity of unique natural minerals in various soil systems and the plant nutrients made available by the complex biological/mineralogical interactions. Sustainable farming requires a new field of analytical procedures to facilitate the audit of minerals from rocks through the food chain while sustaining healthy organic soils. Sustainable farming also requires the revision and development of new regional and farm soil databases. Evolving in large part due to the internet is a superior interdisciplinary science paradigm, which recognizes that soil dynamics as perhaps the world's most complex set of systems.

We were aware of the inevitability of ever more stringent control of the toxic metals and pathogens contained in fertilizers and soil amendment products. Agricultural environmental legislation is already in force in various jurisdictions and will certainly be the future requirement for Ontario agriculture. Anticipating the demand for extremely clean and safe products we incorporated these standards into our exploration search parameters. We also targeted the most reactive minerals as superior for organic and conventional operations.  Following this very stringent search parameters the acquisition of the Spanish River Carbonatite complex was made 1993.  The Spanish River Carbonatite is unique because to date we have not encountered the hazardous elements you questioned in your facebook comments.  In fact the deposit is devoid of pyrochlore.  Further geological and mineralogical interpretation is required to describe this very unique phenomenon.  The best explanation or hypothesis we have so far are:

1.     the intrusion has very low fluorine content suggested by the absence of the mineral pyrochlore (Ca,Na)2(Nb,Ta)2O6F (Hogarth, 1989).

2.     uranium, thorium, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metal contents are low (Sage 1897a) particularly compared with other Carbonatite complexes (Hogarth, 1989, Sage 1987b).

These observations are important, particularly low fluorine content, which precludes the formation of pyrochlore and the corresponding accumulation of radioactive ions and heavy metals (Hogarth 1989).  Low fluorine also results in the substitution of chlorine for fluorine in the apatite mineral.  Chlorapatite is considered more soluble then fluorapatite (Veldhuyzen, 2002).  

Boreal has undertaken exhaustive studies of raw rocks utilized in agriculture and like you have found that many natural sources of minerals contain high levels of potentially hazardous metals, particularly rock phosphate. We have undertaken many speaking engagements to educate farmers on these issues.

The Spanish River Carbonatite has passed all stringent waste management guidelines and is the cleanest source of agrominerals we have evaluated. The only issue we faced in early exploration of the deposit was anomalous rare earths.  This prompted a thorough investigation of the role of rare earths in the natural environment.  To our surprise the largest database on the subject was from Chinese research which demonstrated positive affects in crop production.  This research was investigated by a team lead by Dr. Barry Meehan of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and their report on enhanced productivity of crops and pastures by application of rare earth elements. Wheat, barley, and canola pot trials showed positive responses to lanthanum additions with larger leaves, darker foliage, thicker stems and longer petioles. The increased growth was clearly visible.

Today Boreal has used this research to demonstrate the immense potential of alkali rocks as natural fertilizer and highlight that Spanish River Carbonatite is a complex mineral resource as well as supplying given essential macro and micronutrients unquestionably supplies a whole lot more through catalytic clays, reactive silicates, (now recognized as an essential plant nutrient), and rare earths. 


John Slack 

CEO Boreal Agrominerals Inc. 
Stewart Simpson is a long time friend of CEO John Slack and for over 10 years Stewart has been an avid promoter and user of Spanish River Carbonatite on his farm. 

By Brandy Harrison, Farmers Forum

GLENCOE — Retirement just isn’t Stewart Simpson’s style. The 91-year-old bought 11 rare breed cattle and has set out on a mission to make them the cornerstone of Canada’s burgeoning grass-fed beef industry.

"It’s sort of my last kick at the can," says the Glencoe farmer, who lives alone at Old River Farm, a 243-acre farm straddling the Thames River. "It’s in my blood. I was born on a farm and it was the only thing I wanted to do."

There are only a few North Devon cattle in Canada, but Simpson has never been afraid to launch into the unknown. He owned the first wheeled disc in Ontario in the 1950s, the first 10,000-bird flat-deck cage system in 1963, and the first soybean roaster in 1970.

"I guess I was kind of an originator of ideas," he says.

Simpson was born in 1921 — the year of the first baseball game broadcast on radio and when Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics. But he’s well into the modern age, with a cell phone and an Internet connection.

For most of his life, Simpson was an egg farmer, owning as many as 30,000 layers. He was doing chores by five and was only 13 when he quit school to farm.

When he was a teenager, Pennies from Heaven and Blue Moon were radio hits, Grapes of Wrath debuted on the big screen, and Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds was conjuring up fears of an alien invasion.

Growing up, his family used horses to farm and went into town with a horse and buggy. He remembers when that changed.

"I got the nerve up one night to ask my dad if we could buy a tractor," Simpson recalls. In 1943, a Farmall H — which cost $1,005, a pretty penny at the time — arrived on the farm. "It had steel wheels because rubber was scarce during the war."

After the Second World War, his brother took over the home farm. In 1948, Simpson struck out on his own, buying his uncle’s 100-acre farm for $60 per acre, and began building chicken barns.

After a lifetime in the egg business that included battling the quota system all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, he handed over the reins to his son, just over a decade ago.

About that time, Simpson started reading Acres U.S.A., an organic farm magazine. That’s where he first heard about Gerald Fry, an Arkansas beef farmer known for a back-to-basics philosophy on genetics, and his attempt to revive a small, now-rare breed of beef cattle called North Devon, which originated in Europe and fatten on grass.

Simpson heard opportunity knocking.

"I thought, ‘what else is there left to do?’ I don’t even like the sound of the words ‘nursing home,’" says Simpson, who asked Fry to put together a small herd. Ten pregnant cows and a bull arrived on his farm in November and December 2011.

Life moves at a slower pace now, with Simpson living in a heated apartment above a shop he built. But he’s in near-perfect health.

"My eyesight is not so great and I can’t jump around like I used to. When I’m getting on and off the tractor, I have to be more careful. But I’m still going," he says.

These days, he reads a lot but still spends a couple hours feeding hay to his 21 head of cattle, which live outside year-round. Up until February, he was using a pitchfork, but with a new Hustler bale feeder he can now load a round bale and shave off hay into piles without leaving the heated cab of his tractor.

A neighbour is on call at calving but Simpson cuts and rakes all his own hay, hiring out the baling. His 22- and 24-year-old grandsons, who now run the family egg business, are just down the road and recently helped him seed 26 acres.

Simpson aims to have a 35- to 40-cow breeding herd, stocked with top quality genetics, to sell to commercial beef farmers who want to tap into a growing grass-fed beef craze.

"It’s a pretty ambitious undertaking for an old fella like me," he says, especially because it’s a long-term project. While he’s already had inquiries, he has nothing to sell yet. With three years between generations, it’ll be some time before his herd puts meat on Canadian tables — a goal he’s passionate about, emphasizing that farming is at a crossroads that could see organic take off.

"I wish I was even 10 years younger. There’s going to be such a change in the world," he says.

Simpson is determined to see his current project outlive him.

That’s why he has a partner, Steve Jones, a sheep and cattle breeder and his former neighbour. Jones, who lives in England and visits a few times a year, will handle promotions. Simpson is in the process of incorporating the project.

"It’s a big job and I’ve got to have help. The good Lord only gave me two hands and I need three," he jokes. "When I’m ashes, it’ll carry on."


The water cycle is bigger than we can imagine and heavily dependent on local geology.  In this hour long presentation (two part video), John provides an in-depth look at the relationship between geology, soils and water.

Slides are incorporated throughout the videos below and available for download here.

Part 1 - Topics
  - Water from a geological perspective
  - The water crisis
  - Water usage and pollution in agriculture
  - Soil dynamics and soil water

Part 2 - Topics:
  - Eastern Ontario bedrock geology
  - Glacial history
  - Geological and soil conditions affecting water patterns
  - Soil water holding capacity
  - Water erosion and ground water characteristics of the Ottawa Valley
  - Potential ground water problems in the Ottawa Valley
  - The role of sustainable agriculture in water conservation 
The focus of this year's Eco-Farm day was Water.  The day was complete with a bustling trade show floor, 350 attendees, excellent workshops and food. A highlight was sharing the trade show with SpreadX.  Marc (pictured on left with John) and Julie are amazing and run an awesome service.  SpreadX is featuring Spanish River Carbonatite as their premiere fertilizer - and offerring it at a great price.  SRC is outselling lime so far in conventional and organic markets.  We can't wait to hear about the results. John Slack (Boreal CEO) presented: The role soils will play in water conservation.  The presentation was a hit and provides an in-depth (literally) look at the connections between the water cycle, geology and agriculture. The presentation is around an hour and will be available on video soon. Another presentation that stood out was by Vladimir Vasilenko and John Lounsberry on light.  They demonstrated the impact and increased growth potential of having a more full spectrum of light on plants (as well as cold pasturization of infrared technologies - amazing stuff). Their LED technologies claim up to %50 more growth over fluorescent grow lights. We enjoyed talking with Vladimir who has an impressive education and career across many fields relevant to agriculture.  Light, Soil and Water are profound things full of complexity and mystery, easily taken for granted and essential to all life - it was a full day.  Thank-you to the Canadian Organic Growers and Tom Manley of Homestead Organics for organizing another successful conference!