After suffering through five lean years, optimism is slowly returning to the mineral exploration sector, and nowhere is that more evident than in northwestern Ontario. Fresh from soaking in the buoyant atmosphere at the Prospectors and Developers mining convention in Toronto in March, John Mason sees more geologists in the field, once-dormant drilling companies have rigs turning, and shortages of skilled and experienced labour are being reported in some areas.
“The optimism is real in terms of the money starting to flow,” said the project manager of mining services for the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, as prices for gold and other metals begin to rebound and exploration capital is more readily available.
When the City of Thunder Bay released its Mining Readiness Strategy in 2013, it pinpointed nine projects in the region that had near-term potential to become mines. A few more have since entered the picture, including Harte Gold’s decision to transition its Sugar Zone project, north of White River, into commercial production in 2018.
Action in the Hemlo gold camp along Lake Superior’s North Shore is heating up with reports that Barrick will realize 10 more years of life out of its Williams Mine after the mining company performed 18 months of exploration.
It’s encouraged several junior companies to take a second look at the small greenstone belt. Those outfits with ground staked near, or adjacent to, Barrick can more easily raise money for exploration.
“That may lead to more discoveries, and may result in one or two more deposits being found,” said Mason. Exploration had taken place there in fits and starts when gold prices spiked in the 1980s and the first decade of the 2000s, “but it’s still very limited. It needs another fresh look.”
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