Dec '10/Jan '11


Province strengthens its position on potash and uranium

Miner uses remote controller to run scoop tram at McArthur River, the world’s largest high-grade uranium deposit mine | Photo courtesy of Enterprise Saskatchewan

In 2010, expenditures on mineral exploration in Saskatchewan are expected to be approximately $355 million, the bulk of which will be targeted for potash, uranium and coal projects, with lesser diamond, gold, base metal, platinum group and rare earth elements exploration. This represents a significant increase from the almost $277 million spent in 2009, and would be the second-highest annual exploration expenditure total in provincial history, behind the 2008 record of $474 million. Exploration activity levels in the province have been on a continual upward trend with an estimated $1.88 billion in expenditures since 2004, compared to the collective $674.5 million spent in the 20 years prior to 2004.

Saskatchewan affirms commitment to mining

In 2009, Saskatchewan remained a global leader in potash and uranium production, traditionally accounting for 30 per cent of global potash production and 20 per cent of global primary uranium production. An unprecedented drop in potash sales volumes resulted in a fall in total value of provincial mineral sales to $4.6 billion, down from the record $8.6 billion sold in 2008. A strong rebound in potash sales volumes in the first-half of the year provide a clear indication that 2010 provincial mineral sales values will once again be among the highest in Canada.

Saskatchewan is the third largest coal-producing province and in 2009 had 46,800 ounces of gold production. The province also had production of sodium sulphate, silica sand, bentonite, kaolin, aggregate and salt.

The Government of Saskatchewan is firmly committed to sustaining and enhancing the competitiveness of the province’s mining industry. To that end, the province continues to review and improve its regulatory processes. The government is currently reviewing its uranium royalty system to ensure that Saskatchewan remains among the world’s largest uranium producers and is competitive in attracting new exploration and development.

Mineral exploration continues

There are currently a number of exploration projects underway in Saskatchewan, from the early grassroots stages to advanced development. Some examples of advanced-stage projects include: the Hoidas Lake rare earth elements project; the Star-Orion South kimberlite project; the La Ronge gold project; as well as the Cigar Lake, Millennium and Midwest uranium projects.

As of August 31, 2010, the amount of land under disposition for mineral exploration, pursuant to The Mineral Disposition Regulations, 1986, totalled 5.7 million hectares. There were also 4.3 million hectares of land under disposition for potash exploration and development, pursuant to The Subsurface Mineral Regulations, 1960, with an additional 4.1 million hectares disposed under The Coal Disposition Regulations, 1988.

Mapping out new deposits

Another key aspect to growing the mining sector is the Saskatchewan Geological Survey’s geoscience program. The survey is undertaking leading-edge geoscience research to better understand Saskatchewan’s mineral potential, thereby helping to reduce exploration risks. The province is also continuing to develop high-quality, easily accessible online geological databases so potential investors can do a lot of their research remotely, regardless of where they are located.

These initiatives have proven to be particularly useful to junior mining companies, which are often less resistant to exploration risks. One example of this type of work is a program that has been undertaken for the past few years, in partnership with Natural Resources Canada, to provide modern airborne magnetic and radiometric data for the Athabasca Basin. The Athabasca Basin is home to the largest high-grade uranium deposits in the world and has been the main focus of uranium exploration in the province. The data, when combined with data from other research projects on the Athabasca Basin, have proven to be a valuable exploration tool for junior and senior exploration companies alike.

The government also continues to develop new tools, such as the Mineral Administration and Registry System (MARS), which will allow clients to obtain mineral rights online. This tool will help level the playing field for all exploration companies by removing the costs and hardships of manual staking.

The provincial Government of Saskatchewan remains dedicated to its mandate of responsible and sustainable development of its mineral resources and continues to strive to provide the minerals industry with the tools and regulations to help achieve these ends.

Submitted by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources

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