Undeniably one of the most famous and prolific gold- and base-metal-producing areas in the world, the Abitibi Greenstone Belt is once again seeing a flurry of exploration activity and re-examination of past-producing mines. Over 650 km long by 150 km wide, it extends from west of Timmins, Ont., to Chibougamau, Que., in the northeast. Companies are exploring for gold, nickel, copper, zinc and diamonds.
On the Ontario side of the Abitibi, the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development & Mines' regional resident geologist Gerhardt Meyer reports that in 2003, assessment work filed for mining properties in the Larder Lake District totalled about $5 million and that in 2004, this figure more than doubled. In the Porcupine Mining District, money spent in assessment work filed is up by over 20% from 2003 to 2004. "Anything that has mineral resources is being looked at, and we're starting to see grassroots exploration take off," says Glenn Seim, district geologist for MNDM in Timmins.
Of great importance to the town of Kirkland Lake are the new mining activities at the Macassa mine and a $21-million exploration campaign being conducted in the area by Kirkland Lake Gold. Another big player in the area, Queenston Mining, has committed $3 million to exploration.
The re-opening of the Pamour mine and the development of the open pit in Timmins represent huge investments to the town and will extend the mine life by about eight years. East of Timmins, St. Andrew Goldfields has been working on the Clavos deposit. West of Timmins, Lake Shore Gold has tripled the indicated resources on its Timmins gold project.
Elsewhere in Ontario's portion of the Abitibi, other important exploration projects are advancing. Near Matheson, Apollo Gold is conducting extensive drilling on surface and underground to prove up resources on the Black Fox project. Near Gowganda, Temex Resources extended the resource estimate on the Juby Main zone. In the north part of the belt, Pelangio Mines has discovered a new high-grade gold zone on its Detour mine property.
Nickel has been in the forefront of base metal exploration. The Montcalm nickel mine owned by Falconbridge 90 km northeast of Timmins is now in pre-production and may represent the first new nickel mine to be brought into production since the mid-1980s.
Not to be outdone, diamond exploration has also been on the rise. On its Temiskaming property near New Liskeard, Contact Diamond discovered two new kimberlite pipes in 2004 and plans delineation drilling and microdiamond sampling in 2005.
The level of activity on the Quebec side of the Abitibi equals if not surpasses that of Ontario. Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Parks resident geologists from the Val d'Or, Rouyn-Noranda, and Chibougamau offices all report an increase in exploration in 2004. Exciting projects are being advanced in all major mining districts. There appears to be a competition to see who will put the next mine into production.
Aurizon Mines plans a late 2006 start-up production date for the Casa Berardi gold mine in northwestern Quebec.
Near Val d'Or, Wesdome Gold Mines Inc. has conducted underground exploration and development on the Kiena gold mine, drifting north to access the Wesdome and Shawkey properties from underground. They are expecting to announce a production decision in mid-2005. Agnico-Eagle Mines has begun to rehabilitate the Goldex gold deposit.
In the Bousquet-Malartic district, Cambior is drifting underground to the Westwood gold deposit from the existing Doyon gold mine. Agnico-Eagle has launched a $30-million development program on the Lapa gold mine near Cadillac, and Richmont Mines is hoping to start production in late 2005 on its East Amphi project near Malartic.
Near the important Rouyn-Noranda Mining District, one of the most active companies is Alexis Minerals, which, in joint venture with Noranda, has made a new base metal discovery on the Lac Montbray property.
With the increase in the prices of copper and gold, and already existing infrastructure, the Chibougamau area at the far northeastern end of the Abitibi has seen a resurgence in exploration.
The Copper Rand mine, owned by Campbell Resources, is scheduled to reach full production in early 2005 (see "Mining Matters" in this issue)
With new mines opening in the near future and very bright prospects throughout, the Abitibi Greenstone Belt is once again at the forefront in exploration in Canada.
Pam Phillips is a geologist and freelance writer based in Uxbridge, Ont. She can be reached at email@example.com.