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Thunder Bay takes lead in Mining Readiness Study

Oct 8, 2020


For decades, newcomers and travelers through Alberta were often mesmerized by the landscape of the seemingly never-ending prairies dotted with towering “rigs” drilling for oil.  Today, in the fall of 2020, a newcomer to northwestern Ontario is likely to get the same impression – What’s going on here? “Rigs” are everywhere.
Mining exploration has reached a fevered pitch in the northwest part of Ontario as companies from around the world have descended on the vast region north of Lake Superior in search of precious metals such as gold, silver, nickel, copper, platinum, and palladium, and a string of other metals and minerals like cobalt and lithium that are needed for the new economy, including electric vehicles, solar energy and more.
It’s hard to find accommodations in some of the smaller towns like Red Lake. Motel rooms are booked solid, small businesses and contractors are seeing a much-welcomed boost in business – geologists, like a 10-pound bass, are out there - but they’re hard to find.
Some of the biggest mining companies in the world are putting their fingerprints on the region. Along with high-profile precious-metals investors like Eric Sprott, Rob McEwen and others, they are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into junior mining companies, providing jobs for drillers, putting assay labs into overdrive, and striking a series of Impact Benefit Agreements (IBA’s) with the region’s First Nations communities.
It’s one giant recipe for success. It’s so busy that the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (TBCEDC) is undertaking a Mining Readiness Study. The study is underway and is being led by the accounting firm of MNP LLP in partnership with TBT Engineering.
“Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario are well-positioned to capitalize on, and support, the mining industry and major exploration projects,” says Thunder Bay CEDC Project Manager of Mining Services, John Mason.
Mason says MNP and  TBT Engineering will lead an analysis of needs and opportunities specific to the following themes: mine supply and service/business development, workforce/training/education, infrastructure, economic impact, and R&D/value added opportunities, specific to the 6 mines and 15 major exploration projects located in Northwestern Ontario.
“Gold and palladium are leading the way on the exploration front at the grass roots and advanced levels,” according to Mason. “Currently 35-40 exploration diamond drills are active in Northwestern Ontario.”

Mining and Exploration snapshot (September 2020):

Barrick Gold-Hemlo Mine
Williams Mine is on track to produce 213,000 ounces of gold from open pit stock piles and underground, the latter being the mine’s future. Head grades are 3.89 g/t gold. Aggressive exploration is taking place on site and west of the mine.
Evolution Mining-Red Lake Mine
Evolution released a new mineral resource at Red Lake Mine, of 11.0 million ounces, calculated by Roscoe Postle Associates. Ore reserve estimation, exploration($50M), and mill/processing upgrades continue.
Newmont Corp.-Musselwhite Mine
Musselwhite Mine completed full staff return to work protocols. Underground conveyance and materials handling will be completed by year-end. The mill is fully operational with ore trucks delivering feed directly to surface via the portal. Thunder Bay is the host for much of the workforce.
New Gold Inc.-Rainy River Mine
Underground development via ramp to access the Intrepid Zone, has commenced, to allow production by 2021; this deposit, which grades above 3.5 g/t will supplement current open pit production. In addition, further exploration is taking place northeast of the mine.
Harte Gold-Sugar Zone Mine
The Sugar Zone mill is processing gold ore at 800 t/ after a successful restart on August 5th. Grade control resource expansion drilling are underway at the Sugar Zone North and South target areas.
Impala Canada-Lac des Iles Mine
Lac des Iles continues as a low mine cost palladium mine employing the SLS (Sublevel Shrinkage) mining method. Ore is conveyed via shaft as well through portal access into the open pit to the mill. Planned growth to a mine rate of 12,000 t/d, and workforce expansion to 800 personnel, is in the works, with many current employees already residing in Northwestern Ontario.
PureGold Mining-Madsen Mine
Pure Gold and JDS Mining(EPC) continue to construct the Madsen mill. Development schedule will see a December gold pour, as Canada’s newest gold mine. The 2 million ounce orebody will equate to a 13 year LOM (Life of Mine)
Generation Mining-Marathon Project
Working thru a Feasibility Study for the Marathon Palladium-Copper Deposit, which is the largest undeveloped palladium resource in Canada @ 8.6M ounces. Exploration drilling is currently probing a 650 metre vertical, MT geophysical anomaly and the W Horizon target west of the orebody.
Battle North Gold (previously Rubicon)-Bateman Gold Project
Battle North raised $61M for pre-development, exploration and development of the Batemen/Phoenix deposit. The company is completing a Feasibility Study on the orebody, pegged currently at 979,000 ounces (M&I). A modern 1250 t/d mill is on site.
First Mining Gold-Springpole Lake Deposit
The 4.67 M ounce Springpole Lake gold deposit is going through a Pre-Feasibility Study scheduled for an early 2021 completion. First Majestic Silver Corp. holds a silver streaming deal with First Mining Gold for 50% of payable silver in exchange for a $22.5M (U.S.) injection into the project.
Clean Air Metals-Escape Lake/Thunder Bay North Project
The Current Lake PGE Deposit has an historic estimate of 741,000 ounces of Pt Eq. Clean Air’s goals are to expand the intrusion and conduit trends with aggressive drill programs, and produce an updated palladium/platinum resource, consolidating both project areas.
Noront Resources-Eagles Nest Deposit
Noront estimates the Ring of Fire road construction could commence in late 2021, following the Webequie and Marten Falls led environmental assessment process and engineering/design work. Road construction would take 4 years and by 2025 would be planned to coincide with opening of the Eagle’s Nest copper-nickel-PGE deposit. 2023-2025 would be the construction and development “window” for the mine and concentrating mill.
Frontier Lithium-PAK and Spark Deposits
The PAK deposit represents North America’s highest grade concentration of low iron spodumene and is Ontario’s largest resource. Near term goal is to build a demonstration concentrator, as well as define the potential to produce lithium hydroxide chemicals for the electric vehicle and lithium battery market, through a formal PEA study, led by WSP and XPS Expert Process Solutions.
Avalon Advanced Materials-Separation Rapids Deposit
Avalon raised finances to collect a bulk sample specifically for metallurgical process development and exploration on pegmatites west of the main deposit. Met work will include optimization of petalite concentration processing for the glass industry and secondly, pilot studies designed to recover high purity lithium hydroxide battery materials.
Rock Tech Lithium Inc.-Georgia Lake Deposit
Working through project approval and permitting of the Georgia Lake Lithium deposits. “Project definition” and “notice of project status” have been accepted. Provincial EA is underway; geochemical testing/water monitoring programs are in place. Rock Tech also has a joint venture agreement with Ardiden (Seymour Lake Lithium Deposit).
Greenstone Gold-Hardrock Gold Deposit
Design engineering, infrastructure planning, and permitting, continue led by the Greenstone Gold team. Premier Gold and Centerra Gold have a January 2021 court date to settle legal proceedings, between the two partners, concerning the Feasibility Study and development plans for the Hardrock Open Pit Mine. The open pit resource is 7.1 M ounces.
Treasury Metals-Goliath and Goldlund Deposits
Treasury Metals acquired the Goldlund Deposit, which adjoins the Goliath Deposit claim block, from First Mining Gold. Treasury has initiated an economic evaluation of both deposits. Mill processing and mining optimization are being considered for the 2 M ounce combined resource.
Zen Graphene-Albany Deposit
Following from a bulk sampling program in 2019, “Albany Pure” Graphene/Graphite products have been produced for customer testing and analysis.
Metals Creek Resources-Dona Lake Gold Mine Project
Exploration drilling tested the Main and B Zones, as well a hole was completed piercing beneath the lower most level of previous development. (A historic drill hole from previous owner Placer Dome encountered 21.08 metres of 4.36 g/t gold below workings). Main Zone drill results from Metals Creek  in 2020 included 8.45 g/t over 3.15 metres.
Kesselrun Resources-Huronian Gold Mine Project
Exploration has commenced on the Fisher, Fisher North, (Peter) McKellar Zones and the Huronian Mine Main Zone. The objective is to drill test newly interpreted structural control targets for gold mineralization.
Auteco Minerals-Pickle Crow Gold Mine Project
Auteco continues with a major 45,000 metre drill program at Pickle Crow. A new inferred resource was recently updated; the Pickle Crow Mine contains 2.8 million tonnes grading 11.3 g/t gold, equating to 1M ounces (3.5 g/t cutoff grade). Focus is on the Core Trend.
Great Bear Resources-Dixie Project
Great Bear continues to intercept encouraging drill results at the LP Fault Target. A 140 metre segment was drilled and returned 10.5 meters of 81.22 g/t gold in one of the initial holes. 126 of 300 planned drill holes have been completed into the LP Fault target. Great Bear’s Dixie Project is one of the largest drill hole exploration programs in Canada.  A comprehensive geological and mineralization update will be released by the company in the near future.
Laurion Mineral Exploration-Ishkoday Project
Laurion is developing an open pit model at the Ishkoday Project (includes the former Sturgeon River Mine). A three km by one km area is being targeted , that hosts gold-silver and gold-zinc mineral occurrences. The project database includes 307 drill holes as well as extensive geological and geophysical datasets.
Landore Resources-BAM Gold Deposit
Landore has commenced a 14,000 metre fall/winter drill program on the BAM Gold Deposit with three goals in mind: resource infill and extension, depth potential, and exploration target definition (follow up of till geochemistry surveys). The existing deposit resource sits at 1.3 M ounces.
Polymet Mining Corp.-NorthMet Deposit
PolyMet’s goals for the immediate future with respect to the large NorthMet copper-nickel-PGE deposit, located in the Duluth Complex of Northern Minnesota include: engineering and project optimization and continued compliance of environmental permits.
Premier Gold Mines-Hasaga Gold Project
Premier Gold Mines are completing a 25,000 metre exploration drill program on the Hasaga Project, Red Lake, as a follow up to a 2017 gold discovery. The Epp-C and Epp-D zones are priority targets. The $4 M program will culminate with production of an updated mineral resource estimate; current resource is 1.1 M ounces (Indicated) and 0.6 M ounces (Inferred)


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