Late last year I drove more than 2000 km throughout Newfoundland with Philip Saunders, Mineral Exploration Consultant, Department of Natural Resources, Newfoundland and Labrador, to visit a number of mining and exploration sites around the province.
Despite being caught in the midst of Hurricane Leslie’s high winds and torrential rains during her visit to the island too, we traversed the countryside to take a closer look at a few of the projects that are making Newfoundland and Labrador one of the more exciting mining and exploration regions in Canada.
Weather aside, and being "washed out" in a couple of instances, we spent a week on the road visiting various sites and meeting with the people responsible for helping make this part of Canada the talk of the industry.
From the island of Newfoundland, to mainland Labrador, the minerals sector continues to grow and diversify with new mines and processing facilities, plus expansions or upgrades at existing operations.
The variety of commodities being extracted, from iron ore to gold, reflects the diversity of the Province’s geology and mineral resources. The quality of projects in advanced stages of exploration and development further illustrates the potential for significant new and long-term growth.
With billions of tonnes of production and reserves, the Labrador Trough iron district is the backbone of the Province’s mining sector. The region boasts continuous production of pellets and concentrates since the 1950s. Coupled with increased iron ore demand, this has led to new capital investments in infrastructure, expansion at existing operations, two mine start-ups since 2011, and new investment from China and India.
Labrador Iron Mines and Tata Steel Minerals, the newest producers, join established district mining giants Rio Tinto IOC and Cliffs Natural Resources. Alderon Iron may soon follow, with the 2012 announcement of a major investment in their Kami project by Chinese steel giant, Hebei Iron and Steel Group.
Other emerging projects throughout the district include those of Century Iron, Champion Minerals, New Millennium, Altius Resources, Cap-Ex Ventures, Golden Dory Resources and Ridgemont Resources.
Elsewhere, Vale’s Long Harbour hydromet nickel refinery is scheduled for completion in 2013. This facility will process ore from Vale’s massive Voisey’s Bay nickel-copper-cobalt mine in eastern Labrador.
In Newfoundland, Rambler Mining & Metals declared commercial production at its Ming copper-gold mine in 2012, processing ore at the upgraded Nugget Pond mill. Other metal mines include Teck’s Duck Pond Operation (copper-zinc-gold-silver) and Anaconda Mining’s Pine Cove gold mine.
Industrial minerals are also produced in the province. For example, Atlantic Minerals ships limestone and dolomite to world markets from its Lower Cove quarry on the west coast of the island.
Exploration is also proceeding strongly on several other fronts. Advanced gold projects, including Marathon Gold’s Valentine Lake and Castillian Resources’ Hope Brook, have yielded positive new resource estimates in 2012.
New gold prospects have also been discovered on Metals Creek Resources’ Jackson’s Arm property, and Puddle Pond Resources’ Heritage project.
On the base metals side, Buchans Minerals and Paragon Resources have signed agreements with Minco plc and Canadian Zinc respectively, to finance further exploration on their Buchans and Lemarchant zinc-lead-copper projects.
Joint venture partners Thundermin Resources and Cornerstone Capital have also increased the resource estimate at their Little Deer copper project.
Back in Labrador, uranium exploration has resumed at Aurora Energy’s Michelin Project. Aurora, a member of the Paladin Energy group of companies, is expanding the resource estimates at the Michelin and Rainbow deposits.
Elsewhere, Search Minerals is drilling rare earth prospects in the Port Hope Simpson area, and has released an updated resource estimate on the Foxtrot Project. Petmin has also announced an initial resource estimate on North Atlantic Iron’s Grand River Ironsands project.
And finally in Newfoundland again, there is renewed interest in certain specialty metals, including fluorspar, tungsten, molybdenum and antimony, due to strong prices for these commodities. The most advanced development is a 50/50 joint venture between Canada Fluorspar and Arkema of France, to reactivate the former St. Lawrence fluorspar mine.
In all, Newfoundland and Labrador combine to offer new and exciting opportunities for mining and exploration. It’s because of its vast resources, its infrastructure, and its sound government with an understanding of mining and its needs, that this part of the country is such a valuable asset to Canada and the rest of the world.
When you turn the page, you’ll see more of what I’m talking about.