Drill core from Gossan Resources Inwood magnesium project | Photo courtesy of Manitoba Geological Survey
Manitoba’s mining industry has experienced a modest recovery from the global economic downturn that occurred in the latter half of 2008 and in 2009.
Exploration and deposit appraisal expenditures totalled $97.8 million in 2009, down from the 2008 peak of $152 million, and are projected to drop slightly
in 2010 to $85.9 million. This drop, however, does not reflect the considerable exploration and development successes in Manitoba’s minerals sector in
Base-metal exploration and development highlights in 2010 reflect optimism, resulting from exploration success, and sadness, generated by the closure of
HudBay Minerals Inc.’s Flin Flon copper smelter and the recently announced closure of Vale’s nickel smelter and refinery in 2015.
HudBay Minerals is proceeding with the 777 North expansion project, which will provide additional feed to its Flin Flon concentrator and zinc plant and
additional exploration opportunities. The company will also construct a 3,500-tonne-per-day underground mine and upgrades to their Snow Lake concentrator.
The project is projected to cost $560 million, with initial production commencing in late 2012 and full production in 2014. HudBay is advancing two
exploration projects with joint-venture partners at Reed Lake and Lost Lake that the company anticipates will proceed to the feasibility study stage.
Rockcliff Resources Inc. continued the evaluation of the Rail deposit, southwest of Snow Lake. The company also drilled borehole targets on their Reed Lake
volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) property and began initial fieldwork in preparation for a winter drill program at their Tower VMS property.
Crowflight Minerals Inc. temporarily suspended production at their Bucko Lake nickel project in October to allow operational changes. Crowflight has
successfully increased the Proven and Probable reserves of contained nickel at Bucko Lake 22 per cent from the figures in the 2007 feasibility study.
Victory Nickel Inc. is advancing the Minago nickel project towards development with the initiation of the permitting process. Recent drilling identified
high-grade zones within the open pit shell that were originally thought to be waste. Prophecy Resources Corp. initiated a 3,000-metre drill program at the
Lynn Lake nickel project to test five recently identified induced polarization (IP) anomalies. Mustang Minerals Corp. continues work on the ongoing
feasibility study of the Maskwa deposit near Lac du Bonnet and exploration work at the nearby Mayville property.
Precious metal exploration and development in Manitoba continues to focus on the re-evaluation of past-producing gold mines. Alexis Minerals Corporation
acquired Garson Gold Corp. in a friendly takeover in late 2009 and completed a feasibility study for the reopening of the Snow Lake Mine (formerly the New
Britannia Mine). Alexis plans to begin pre-production development in January.
St. Eugene Mining Corporation Ltd. completed the acquisition of the Tartan Lake gold mine northeast of Flin Flon. The company is upgrading the Tartan Lake
historic gold resources base to a NI 43-101-compliant resource in advance of mine de-watering, and the initiation of an underground exploration and test
mining program. Auriga Gold Corp. is acquiring the past-producing Puffy Lake gold mine and adjacent Nokomis gold property south of Sherridon from Pioneer
Metals ULC. The mine produced 28,000 ounces of gold in 1988 and 1989. Carlisle Goldfields Limited plans to restart exploration activity at the MacLellan
gold mine in Lynn Lake. The mine produced 144,000 ounces of gold between 1986 and 1989.
Bison Gold Resources Inc. continued to explore the past-producing Ogama Mine on their central Manitoba property southeast of Bissett. The mining operation produced 45,440 ounces of gold from 1948 to1951. San Gold reported record production levels in 2010. The improved performance is the result of increased
production levels from the high-grade, ramp-accessible Hinge Mine. An aggressive, multi-year exploration program has delineated a number of high-grade,
near-surface gold zones within easy Hinge Zone ramp access.
Copper Reef Mining Corporation’s 21-hole drill program at its Gold Rock property confirmed down-dip mineralization continuity of the Gold Rock vein and
successfully delineated additional structures parallel to the vein. Wildcat Exploration Ltd. is aggressively exploring their expanding portfolio of Rice
Lake gold projects. The company also announced the acquisition of the South Thompson nickel property, located approximately 55 kilometres south of Thompson
in the Thompson Nickel Belt.
Specialty and industrial minerals
Under an agreement made last year, Goldsource Mines Inc. provided Westcore Energy Ltd. with specific drill sites having a high probability of intersecting
significant intervals of coal; three of these targets successfully returned very thick intercepts of coal during the 2009-2010 winter drilling program. The
coal ranked from Lignite A to Sub-bituminous C.
In May 2009, Gossan Resources Limited confirmed that the Zuliani (high-efficiency magnesium) process produces magnesium metal, under atmospheric
conditions, at exceptionally high raw material efficiencies. Larger scale testing was to begin this year. The company also drill-outlined two zones of
high-purity silica sand near Manigotagan. A series of proppant tests indicated the sand exceeds all of the minimum oil and gas industry frac sand
Tantalum Mining Corporation of Canada Limited (TANCO) is currently mining pollucite, which contains cesium, to produce cesium formate, a drilling fluid for
the petroleum industry. Staff levels have increased back to 67 employees, and could increase by another 30, following layoffs in 2009. Resumption of
spodumene production is also contemplated.
By Chris Beaumont-Smith, Minerals Policy and Business, and Jim Bamburak, Manitoba Geological Survey, Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines