Mining and exploration stays hot in B.C.
By Brian Grant, Paul Wojdak, John deGrace, Bruce Madu, Dave Grieve, Bruce Northcote and Dave Lefebure, B.C.Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
British Columbia continues to be one of the leading jurisdictions for mineral
exploration activity and new mine developments.There were over 23 new mine
development proposals submitted to government for approval in the fall of
2007. Mineral exploration investments are at record levels and expected to
exceed $300 million, up significantly from 2006. British Columbia produced
over $6 billion worth of copper, coal, gold, zinc, molybdenum, silver, lead and
other metals as well as a growing variety of industrial minerals and structural
materials in 2006.
The province’s industry is internationally recognized for its expertise in
mineral exploration and mine development. In addition, it enjoys a
demonstrated geological potential for new mineral resources, one of the best
and most advanced geoscience databases internationally, superb digital access
to geoscience information, access to an ample supply of low-cost power, good
transportation systems and other physical infrastructure and a strategic
location well positioned to serve fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets.
British Columbia’s mining boom continued with the start of construction, in
summer 2007, of the $2.2 billion Galore Creek copper-gold project. NovaGold’s
mammoth project requires a 130 kilometre access road and powerline through
daunting terrain and a major tunnel from the headwall of
Galore Valley to link up with the road. Galore Creek is the
largest bulk mineable copper-gold deposit under
development in North America.
In the Toodoggone area, Northgate Minerals
Corporation continued production from its 52,000 tonnes
per day Kemess South porphyry copper-gold deposit. This
is one of the largest gold deposits in Canada. With a mill
expansion to 49,500 tonnes per day planned for the end of 2008, production at
Imperial Metals Corporation’s copper-gold Mount Polley Mine near Likely is
expected to increase by over 20 per cent. Recent reserve estimates have
extended the mine life to 2015.
In the southern Chilcotin, the Prosperity project of Taseko Mines Limited reentered
the Environmental Assessment Act review process. New Gold
Incorporated’s New Afton copper-gold project near Kamloops has received its
mine permit and is well into mine development, with plans for underground
block cave mining and a production target of 2009. Nearby, Abacus Mining and
Exploration Corporation continued definition drilling at the Ajax West and Ajax
East, as well as at the Comet-Davenport and Rainbow deposits.
Significant other porphyry exploration programs in northwest British
Columbia include the Mitchell zone on the Kerr-Sulphurets property (Seabridge
Gold) and adjacent Snowfield zone (Silver Standard Mines), GJ (Canadian Gold
Hunter), Red Chris (Imperial Metals), Ball Creek (Paget Resources), Bronson
Slope (Skyline Gold), Eaglehead (Carmax Explorations), Copper Creek (Firesteel
Resources) and Voigtberg (BC Gold).
North of Fort St. James, Serengeti Resources Incorporated continued to
have encouraging drill results that led to a step-out program designed to
delineate a potential ore body on its Kwanika copper-gold-silver property.
Terrane Metals Corporation’s
Mount Milligan copper-gold
porphyry deposit has measured
and indicated resources of 417.1
Mt grading 0.21% copper and
0.41 grams per tonne gold.
Feasibility studies are expected
to be completed in early 2008.
Other companies chasing
copper-gold mineralization in
the area are Teck Cominco
Limited (Jan/Tam/Misty), High
Ridge Resources Limited
(Chuchi), Solomon Resources
Limited (COL-Magnet) and
Incorporated (Takla-Redton and
Activity in the McKenzie-
Prince George-Williams Lake
region was spurred in part by
Geoscience BC’s $5 million
QUEST (Quesnellia Exploration
Strategy) program of grassroots
geophysical and geochemical
exploration in an area of
extensive overburden. South of Horsefly, Fjordland Exploration Incorporated
continued geophysical exploration and drilling on its Woodjam property.
Farther north near Quesnel, Richfield Ventures Limited will begin a drilling
program at its Mouse Mountain porphyry copper property upon completion of
a planned merger with Oak Point Incorporated. Other companies with major
exploration projects for copper and gold in the Cariboo region are Valley High
Ventures Limited (Lloyd-Nordic), Copper Ridge Explorations Incorporated
(Copper Ace) and Novagold Resources Limited (Shiko).
Near Taseko Lakes, the Taseko (Galore Resources Incorporated), Taseko
Project (Great Quest Metals Limited), Tasco (Hi Ho Silver Resources
Incorporated) and Newmac (Newmac Resources Incorporated) copper projects
all had substantial exploration activity. In the southern Cariboo, GWR Resources
Incorporated drilled and trenched the Lac La Hache project.
The Princeton area was particularly active, with Copper Mountain Mining
Corporation conducting a very large drill campaign at the Copper Mountain
Project aimed at confirming and expanding new resources at the former
Similco mine. Nearby, significant programs were undertaken at the Axe
(Weststar Resources Corporation) and Princeton projects (Anglo-Canadian
Uranium Corporation). Imperial Metals Corporation is following up last year’s
positive results at Giant Copper, east of Hope, with a drill program that is
expected to continue into the fall. The target is the AM zone, a mineralized
breccia pipe that the company is testing at depth.
The buzz is definitely back for molybdenum.The Endako mine, which barely
avoided closure six years ago, is now a highly profitable operation and the
owner, Thompson Creek Mining, is considering doubling the current mining
and milling rate. An expanded Endako mill could also eventually treat highgrade
molybdenum ore from the Davidson deposit near Smithers (also owned
by Thompson Creek). Leeward Capital Corporation drilled on nearby Nithi
Mountain, as did TTM Resources Incorporated at the Chu property.
The Kootenay’s first metal mine since 2001 began production in the fourth
quarter — Roca Mining Incorporated’s MAX molybdenum mine near Trout
Lake. The MAX, an underground mine, plans to produce at a rate of 72,000
tonnes per year.
The Ruby Creek project (Adanac Molybdenum) near Atlin received an
Environmental Assessment certificate in September 2007. Within days, the
company announced the start of construction of an open pit mine and mill
estimated to cost $640 million. Other advanced molybdenum projects in the
northwest are Storie (Columbia Yukon Explorations), Lucky Ship (New Cantech
Ventures), Ajax (Tenajon Resources) and Red Bird (Torch River Resources).
Eagle Plains Resources Limited drilled the Sphinx molybdenum project
(inferred resource of just over 62 Mt grading 0.035% Mo). East of Summerland,
in the Okanagan, partners Goldrea Resources Corporation and Molycor Gold
Corporation drilled the Crow Rea property to better define near-surface
molybdenum mineralization in anticipation of bulk sampling.
High metal prices are also benefiting some of the older mines in the
province. Taseko Mines Limited has added 116 Mt of proven and probable
reserves to 348 Mt of 0.31% copper and 0.009% molybdenum for its Gibraltar
Mine north of Williams Lake. These new reserves can extend the mine life by 17
years. The Highland Valley copper-molybdenum mine of Teck Cominco
Limited/Highmont Mining Company Limited is continuing plans to extend
mine life to 2019, with the Valley pit expansion, crusher moves and equipment
purchases. Huckleberry Mines has been able to extend its mine life as well
(Imperial Metals Corporation and Japanese Consortium).
A major drilling program for copper and molybdenum were conducted on
the Berg (Terrane Metals). Drilling was also conducted at Big Onion (Eagle Peak
Resources), Seel (Gold Reach Resources), Lennac Lake (Dentonia Resources),
Louise Lake (North American Gem) and Coles Creek (Callinan Mines). Pacific
Booker reactivated an Environmental Assessment of the Morrison project.
Copper Fox Metals collected engineering and environmental data required to
complete an Environmental Assessment of the Schaft Creek project.
Over the Guichon Batholith, near Highland Valley Copper, programs for
porphyry-style mineralization were undertaken at the Rateria (Happy Creek
Minerals Limited), Tyner Lake (TNR Gold Corporation) and Dot properties
The precious metal-rich Eskay Creek mine (Barrick Gold) is expected to
close in 2008. Several companies explored for other polymetallic deposits in
the region, including the nearby Corey property (Kenrich-Eskay Mining), and
tested for an extension of the Double Ed deposit in the historic Anyox copper
camp. The southwest’s long-lived volcanic massive sulphide camp at Myra
Falls (Breakwater Resources Limited) continued to produce copper, zinc, gold
Redfern Resources Limited developed a novel river-based access plan for its
proposed Tulsequah Chief copper-zinc-silver-gold mine, while continuing
drilling. Spurred by a strong feasibility report,Western Keltic Mines is advancing
its Kutcho Creek copper-zinc project.
Ecstall Mining Corporation continued drilling to define its Akie
sediment-hosted lead-zinc-silver deposit in the Muskwa Range, northeast
of Williston Lake.
North of Revelstoke, Selkirk Metals Corporation continued drilling on its
Ruddock Creek zinc-lead project and began a decline to facilitate
underground drilling of the E-Zone. Consolidated Venturex Holdings Limited
drilled at the LJ copper-zinc-lead property and International Bethlehem
Mining Corporation tested airborne geophysical anomalies on the Rain zinclead-
East of Clearwater, the Harper Creek project of Yellowhead Mining
Incorporated was the subject of a large program aimed at expanding the
known stratiform, disseminated copper resource.
Carbonate-hosted zinc-lead mineralization in the Kootenay Arc was the
target of drilling by ReMac Zinc Corporation on its ReMac project east of Trail
near the Reeves-McDonald and Annex mines.
The Jersey-Emerald project near Salmo was the site of extensive drilling by
Sultan Minerals Incorporated. Recent exploration by Sultan has focused on
molybdenum and tungsten potential, with combined measured and indicated
resources of 2.51 Mt at 0.37% tungsten in the Emerald Mine, calculated in
The Findlay project of Eagle Plains Resources Limited explored sedex-style
lead-zinc mineralization in the Cranbrook region. On the coast, Grande Portage
Resources Limited carried out a large drill program to test the Merry Widow
iron skarn for precious metal and copper values. Similarly, Prophecy Resource
Corporation is expected to follow up promising intersections drilled earlier this
year at the Okeover copper-molybdenum porphyry project north of Powell
In 2007, Merit Mining Corporation dewatered and rehabilitated the
underground workings on the Lexington-Grenoble gold-copper deposit,
located west of Grand Forks.The company’s focus was on extraction of a 10,000
tonne bulk sample and building a 200 tonnes per day mill. Cross Lake Minerals
Limited’s underground QR Mine, accessed via Quesnel, plans to start producing
gold in late 2007. Through an active exploration program, Cross Lake seeks to
extend the mine life significantly beyond the current two-year life based on
A resurgence in activity, not seen in more than a decade, returned to the
Golden Triangle (the Stewart-Iskut district), with some 14 drilling campaigns.
For example, the Bravo Venture Group targeted a quartz-chalcopyrite vein and
breccia zone. Epithermal gold-silver systems were targeted at Treaty Creek
(American Creek Resources) and Dilworth (Ascot Resources).
In the Toodoggone area, Sable Resources Limited’s Shasta epithermal goldsilver
mine is being explored underground and by surface drilling, with the aim
of bringing it back into production, using the nearby Baker Mill for processing.
Christopher James Gold Corporation completed an extensive drill program on
gold targets at its Ranch Project, focusing on the Bonanza and Mickey Zones.
Alpha Gold Corporation continued geophysical and geochemical
exploration and drilling to evaluate the geologically complex Lustdust gold
property north of Fort St. James.
Extensive drilling continued at Skygold Ventures Limited’s Spanish
Mountain sediment-hosted copper-gold bearing vein deposit just east of
Likely, and the deposit remains open in all directions. West of Horsefly,
Hawthorne Gold Corporation is rehabilitating underground exploration
workings and undertaking surface drilling at its Frasergold gold-bearing quartz
The Blackdome mine (closed) near Clinton and the Elizabeth property of JPacific
Gold Incorporated were drilled this year with a goal of reopening the
mine and augmenting production with ore from the Elizabeth property.
Nearby at the Stirrup project, Anglo-Canadian Uranium Corporation drilled
oxidized shear zones. Ongoing, positive results are reported from Bralorne
Gold Mines Limited’s drilling within the King-Bralorne gap at the Bralorne
The Spences Bridge gold belt near Ashcroft continues to be active, with
numerous companies exploring for epithermal gold targets, including
Consolidated Spire Ventures Limited (Prospect Valley), Strongbow Exploration
Incorporated (Ponderosa, Skoonka Creek) and Anglo-Canadian Uranium
Corporation (Skoonka). At the Elk Project near Peachland, Almaden Minerals
Limited conducted drilling and baseline studies to complete a prefeasibility
study on the high-grade gold veins.
Astral Mining Corporation drilling on the large Jumping Josephine
property, west of Castlegar, targeted gold-bearing quartz stockworks
discovered in 2006 by trenching. West High Yield (W.H.Y.) Resources Limited
carried out a third major phase of diamond drilling on its Rossland gold project.
Late in 2006, Northern Energy and Mining Incorporated (20 per cent),
Hillsborough Resources Limited (14 per cent) and Anglo Coal Canada Limited (66
per cent) jointly created a new entity, the Peace River Coal Limited Partnership.
The partnership manages the northeast British Columbia coal assets formerly
assigned to the companies separately.Peace River Coal (PRC) operates the openpit
Trend Mine and Western Canadian Coal (WCC) operates the Wolverine (Perry
Creek) open pit, producing 2.4 Mt per year of metallurgical coal. Exploration
drilling is underway aimed at defining the nearby EB deposit, which potentially
could increase Wolverine’s saleable export coal. In January 2007, WCC began
production from its Brule Mine north of Tumbler Ridge, with production
designed for 800,000 tonnes per year of pulverized coal injection (PCI) coal.
Opening of this mine followed closure of WCC’s nearby Dillon Mine in September
2006.In June 2007,WCC acquired the Willow Creek Mine located near Chetwynd
after closure by Pine Valley Mining Corporation the previous year.WCC hopes to
put this small mine back into production in 2008.
In the southeast, the Fording River, Elkview, Greenhills, Line Creek and Coal
Mountain mines, of the Elk Valley Coal Corporation, continued to rank number
two for exporting high-quality coking coals around the globe. Elk Valley Coal
Corporation undertook major drilling programs on Wheeler Ridge (Coal
Mountain Operations), Mt. Michael and Saddle (Line Creek Operations), and
Castle Mountain and Bare Mountain (Fording River Operations).
Quinsam Coal (Hillsborough Resources Limited) produces thermal coal
from its mine on Vancouver Island.
First Coal was active in drilling on its South Central (Goodrich) metallurgical
coal property south of the Willow Creek Mine. Drilling was planned on the
Belcourt and Adams/Gething prospects of Canadian Dehua International Mines
Group, south of Tumbler Ridge and northwest of Chetwynd, respectively.
East of Williston Lake, Aley Corporation has been drilling to outline a
carbonatite-hosted niobium deposit.
Eagle Plains Resources Limited drilled the Ice River igneous complex in the
Rocky Mountains, southeast of Golden, looking for base and precious metals,
rare earth elements and sodalite. Commerce Resources Corporation is drilling
the Upper Fir tantalum-niobium property and undertaking baseline studies.
Graymont Western Canada Incorporated is proposing development of a
high-purity limestone deposit in the Prince George region to produce lime. The
Coyote Creek gypsum project near Canal Flats was drilled by CGC Incorporated.
The southwest region is host to Canada’s two largest quarries, and five of
the top 25 aggregate operations. Texada Quarrying Limited (Lafarge)
produces nearly 6 Mt annually. Most of this is limestone, used as both
construction aggregate and as feed for Lower Mainland cement plants. The
Sechelt pit of Construction Aggregates Limited (Lehigh) is targeting six
million tonnes of sand and gravel production in 2007. Construction
Aggregates’ Producer’s Pit and Mainland Sand and Gravel Limited’s Cox
Station Quarry each produce in excess of 2 Mt annually and the Earle Creek
Pit (Lafarge) produces more than 1 Mt annually. Orca Sand & Gravel,
operated by Polaris Minerals Corporation, began shipping in 2007 and plans
an eventual yearly production of 6 Mt.