Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee. It's truly an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to present to you today.
I have a couple of quick apologies. One is that I'm challenged enough by the English language, so I won't be able to do it personally in French, but we have the benefit of a great translator here. Secondly, this is my first time presenting in this kind of format, so it's a learning process for me as well. I apologize for any lack of effectiveness in the communication today.
That being said, we have a 14-slide powerpoint presentation with a small video embedded in the middle. We're going to go through this in page-turn format. I'm not going to undertake to read the slides; instead, I'm going to provide what I consider colour and context in addition to those slides.
In starting, I will say I'm here to tell you a good news story that is uniquely Canadian and, by the end of the presentation, I hope you'll agree with me that it's a story that makes sense and is definitely important, as it supports the long-term competitive advantage of our country in natural resource exploration and development.
Our company, Gedex, is a small Canadian company. It's unique that a technology of this complexity and sophistication, which I'll get into explaining, would be successfully developed and commercialized by a company of our scale in terms of numbers of employees and of capital resources.
Having looked into some of your backgrounds, I would say that in many ways it's a story you people have contributed to already, because without Canadian commitment to higher education—you'll see a number of Ph.D.s and participation with a number of partnerships and universities in Canada—without programs such as SR and ED, and without targeted programs like as FedDev, the risk and the difficulty of achieving this level of technological advancement wouldn't be possible.
The reason I'm giving you this context, as we turn the page and focus on the technology and the applications to northern development, is that I want you as stewards of the Canadian environment to see something that has benefited from all the things you provide in terms of that environment in Canada. It's very important to me.
So it's a good story, and we'll start at the beginning.
The beginning in Gedex's case is the story of the two founders, two icons of Canadian business, Bill Breukelman and his friend Dr. Barry French. Their friendship started at the University of Toronto in chemical engineering 50 or 60 years ago.
They've both had numerous successes. Commercially, probably the best-known ones are MDS Sciex, which is an analytical imaging company, and IMAX, which is the wide-format theatre chain, which is probably the more broadly known one.
Both consider Gedex their most important undertaking in terms of continuing investment in that family of imaging technologies. But it develops technologies that are applied specifically to subsurface imaging, providing new data that can be used to interpret geology in terms of supporting petroleum, mining, and water exploration and development--globally, but everywhere in Canada.
Applications and benefits from the technology range from east coast petroleum applications and marine applications through to New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario, where you have the metals camps, and to the daughter of endowment now, Saskatchewan, which is enriched with potash, uranium, sophisticated agribusiness, and now tar sands as well, to Alberta, through Foothills petroleum applications and tar sands, and to B.C.'s coal. And today we're going to focus on the expansion and development of exploration and the attraction of risk capital to northern development.
Turning to page 2, you'll see a slide that consists of some of the key relationships around Gedex. The fundamental intellectual property that enabled the technology I'm going to introduce in a couple of slides really came from a combination of Rio Tinto and the University of Maryland. The remaining strategic partners have contributed predominantly through strategic finance and support of the cost of the development and the engineering.
The relationships with each of the schools and universities have been multi-level. It has been a source of key employees. In many cases, they have been co-developers of underlying and supportive intellectual property. All of these relationships are active, ongoing, and important to the success of Gedex Inc.
Bringing this technology into the broad context of the Canadian Arctic, exploration for natural resources is fundamentally a risk management process. It's extremely challenging, as I'm sure you're all aware. Our information is never perfect. The cost of perfect information is impossible to achieve.
It's always risking what you believe you know versus the cost of getting more information. This is a continual process, from early stage geological mapping and airborne geophysics through drill evaluation and right to the environmental assessment and commercial stages of development. There is always a trade-off with assurance of information, cost of information, and the ability to advance a project.
What Gedex Inc. is introducing and bringing to the market is a unique value proposition that we believe provides risk takers, at a very early stage of exploration, with better information and better data with which to derive underlying geological interpretation, which is fundamental to understanding the prospectivity, the justification for why a company would invest in the next stages of information, which are going to be increasingly more expensive.
Gedex's role is to provide new information that provides a higher quality subsurface geological mapping and understanding of the geology and prospectivity.
The fundamental proprietary instrument, which is the core of our technological differentiation, is really an extraordinary instrument. We refer to it as an airborne gravity gradiometer. I will explain in a little more detail what that is. Fundamentally, it measures minute part-per-billion changes in the earth's gravitational field. From that, it derives a density function: a change in the subsurface geology that is related to the density of the geological units themselves.
This instrument is an order-of-magnitude improvement over any current commercial capability. Arguably, it is one of the most sensitive instruments that has ever been engineered in the history of mankind. You're literally looking at a Nobel Prize level of physics.
It is the measurement of a change in the shape, or micrometry, but we have to be able to measure that change to one part in 10-15 metres--or one femtometre, from a scientific unit point of view. To provide scale to the committee, the nucleus of an average atom is about 10-10 metres. We're several orders of magnitude smaller than the nucleus of an atom in the resolution we require in this measurement, and we're doing that in a moving aircraft, so it's a very significant engineering challenge. Our direct investment today is approaching $100 million in development.
We have built the technology up and the instrument is buried deep inside our test aircraft. The total weight is about 500 pounds and it is completely isolated from all of the aircraft accelerations around it. That is critical to getting that resolution and accuracy. The entire 500-pound instrument is actually floating on high-pressure air bearings. It's so finely balanced that if you were to walk up to it and spin it with your finger very lightly, it would continue to spin in a frictionless environment for several hours.
The data controller for about 200 sensors that are internal to the instrument communicates to the instrument without wires. There is absolutely nothing attaching that instrument to the isolation technology that you see here on the slide or, ultimately, to the aircraft. The instrument itself thinks it's flying in free space. Ultimately, from a bizarre perspective the aircraft is moving around it without ever touching it. Like I say...extreme technology. Apologies if the video doesn't work.
Going back to gravity gradiometry very quickly, what is it? In high school when we were introduced to gravity, we were taught that it's a constant, and we worked on problems throwing balls off cliffs, and projectile problems, and we were taught that gravity is 9.18 metres per second squared.
Unfortunately, that's not true. It works for very simple problems like that, but the underlying assumption would be that the earth is homogeneous, that the density structure of the earth everywhere is uniform, but we know from geology and common sense that that's just not true. If you were to hold a rock in your hand that was full of lead, it would be heavy and dense, as opposed to holding a reservoir rock from a petroleum trap that was full of water or gas, which would be very porous and very light.
So if we know that the density of the underlying geology is changing, it only follows logically that the earth's gravitational field can't be constant. It has be changing as well. The trick is, what sensitivity of measurement do you have to make to be able to resolve subsurface geological changes from a gravitational measurement?
The magnitude of measurement that we're making is about a part per billion change and the unit that is applied to that is an eotvos. On a previous slide you see a reference to one eotvos per root Hertz. To put that in order of magnitude again, a part per billion change in the distance between the earth surface and the moon would be about the first 40 centimetres of that voyage. From our moving aircraft, we're measuring the change of the earth's gravitational field in three components to that sub-part per billion resolution. Again, it's extreme engineering and technology.
Moving on to the images shown here, the data is used to interpret subsurface geology, and it can do that essentially from the surface down to depths of about 10 kilometres, which is an extraordinary range in terms of depth of effective mapping. The data are recorded in an image similar to the upper left image on this screen that you can see. Geological units are interpreted from that, and then the prospectivity of those geological units is analyzed by resource companies.
What is key from an Arctic perspective is, that this technology is capable of sub-ice measurements in mapping, and it's also extremely differentiated in that it provides high-value information for the petroleum industry, in addition to effective information for mineral and water applications as well.