R&D provides much needed boost in the east
Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the foremost producers of iron and nickel in Canada, ranking second in production of both metals among Canadian jurisdictions in 2014. It also produces, or has significant resources of a wide range of other commodities; including copper, zinc, gold, uranium, rare earths, granophile metals, industrial minerals and others.
With such world-class resources, diverse geology, and considerable exploration upside, it clearly represents an excellent mineral investment destination in a stable, development-friendly jurisdiction.
Here’s a look at some of the projects that support that statement.
Mining and Processing Developments
During the first half of 2015, Vale Newfoundland and Labrador Limited (VNL) produced 29,000 tonnes of nickel, 13,400 tonnes of copper, and 495 tonnes of cobalt from its Voisey’s Bay Mine in Labrador. In August, the provincial government announced that underground mining at Voisey’s Bay had been sanctioned by VNL’s parent company, Vale.
Construction is projected to start in 2016 with ore production beginning in 2020.
In July of 2014, VNL achieved a major milestone at its Long Harbour hydromet processing plant with the production of its first nickel. The facility is currently processing a combination of imported, low-impurity nickel matte and concentrate from Voisey’s Bay, while construction work continues elsewhere onsite.
The plant will process only Voisey’s Bay high-grade concentrate.
The Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) has been producing iron ore at the Carol Lake project in western Labrador since the 1960s. Total shipments (pellets + concentrate) for 2015 are expected to be about 17 million tonnes. The new Wabush 3 iron-ore deposit has cleared environmental assessment; however development has been delayed due to the weak outlook for iron ore markets.
Rambler Metals & Mining plc operates the Ming copper – gold mine near Baie Verte in northeast Newfoundland. The company produced a positive prefeasibility study relating to integration of the Lower Footwall Zone mineral resource into the life-of-mine plan for the operation. The plan would extend the projected mine life to 21 years, while optimizing the mining and milling processes.
Year-end (July 31) results for fiscal 2015 show production of 4,733 tonnes of copper metal, 5,335 ounces of gold, and 39,706 ounces of silver from 17,309 dry tonnes of concentrate.
Rambler also announced a definitive agreement with Thundermin Resources Inc. whereby Thundermin will amalgamate with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rambler. This enables Rambler to add the Little Deer and Whalesback copper resources to its portfolio.
Anaconda Mining Inc. announced new resource calculations for its Pine Cove gold mine and Stog’er Tight gold deposit near Baie Verte. The latest figures indicate total gold resources in all categories of about 129,000 ounces at Pine Cove, and about 50,000 ounces at Stog’er Tight.
The company sold 15,821 ounces of gold in fiscal 2015 (to May 31).
Tata Steel Minerals Canada Limited (TSMC), a joint venture between Tata Steel of India and New Millennium Iron Corp., operates a high-grade iron-ore mine in the Menihek area of northwestern Labrador. TSMC shipped its first load of iron in September 2013; shipments in 2015 (to September 15) were 1.4 million tonnes.
Annual capacity from 2016 onward is expected to be 6 million tonnes.
Teck Resources Limited’s Duck Pond Operations officially closed on June 30th. The mine started producing copper and zinc concentrates in 2007 and exhausted the mineral reserves over an eight-year mine life, as originally planned. Rehabilitation of the mine site has started and will be completed by 2018 followed by a period of monitoring.
Continuing economic uncertainty and depressed metal markets have affected other mining operations in the province. Both the Beaver Brook Antimony Mine, and Labrador Iron Mines operations have been placed on care and maintenance, and Cliffs Natural Resources’ Scully iron mine has officially closed.
Marathon Gold Corp. is exploring for gold on its extensive holdings in central Newfoundland. The company completed initial open-pit and underground resource estimates for the Marathon and Sprite deposits, and an updated open-pit and underground resource estimate for the Victory Deposit. With these new estimates, the total measured and indicated gold resource for the Valentine gold camp is about 1,060,100 ounces at a grade of 2.20 g/t, with an additional inferred resource of 200,000 ounces at a grade of 2.83 g/t.
Marathon continued its prospecting, trenching and drilling activities in 2015, focused on the Marathon, Sprite and Victory areas, and succeeded in expanding known zones of mineralization in all areas.
Benton Resources Inc. received encouraging results from a trenching program on its Cape Ray Project in southwest Newfoundland, a joint venture with Nordmin Engineering. The new data will be incorporated into the NI 43-101 compliant resource base in preparation for an upcoming Preliminary Economic Assessment to be completed by Nordmin. Along the trend to the northeast, Benton conducted an initial drill program on its Staghorn Property, recently optioned from Metals Creek Resources Corp. The program was designed to test several gold showings, geochemical and geophysical anomalies.
In Newfoundland’s central volcanic belt, Canadian Zinc Corp. reported additional high-grade intercepts from drilling on its Lemarchant Zn-Pb-Cu-Au-Ag deposit, a part of the Tally Pond Project. In the historic, very high-grade Buchans Mining Camp, Minco plc intersected narrow intervals of high-grade base metals (Zn-Pb-Cu-Au-Ag) in the “Ore Clast Zone”, which occurs at depth beneath the previous workings. Further work is planned on both projects.
On the Baie Verte Peninsula in northeast Newfoundland, Anaconda initiated a new exploration program designed to help extend the mine life of its Point Rousse Project to over 10 years, at the current production rate. Anaconda plans to conduct additional drilling at Pine Cove and trenching at Stog’er Tight, as well as continuing ongoing exploration at other deposits and prospects within trucking distance of the Pine Cove mill.
Puddle Pond Resources Inc. recently completed another round of drilling on its Heritage Project in southern Newfoundland. The objective was to further explore a large (4.5 by 1.5 km) zone of epithermal-style alteration that locally hosts bonanza grades of gold and silver.
Innovation, Research and Development
A positive new development in the province’s mining sector in recent years is the injection of significant R&D funding into the sector from both provincial and federal governments. This is in addition to direct funding provided to companies and prospectors under the province’s Mineral Incentive Program.
Substantial investments have been made in a variety of R&D projects and initiatives ranging from innovative exploration methods to advanced mineral processing technology. Some recent examples of government investment in major projects include:
- Canadian Zinc Corporation and Buchans Minerals Corporation have agreed to jointly undertake a research program, partially funded by Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC), on their respective Cu-Pb- Zn-Ag-Au deposits in central Newfoundland. The objective of the research is to determine the technical and economic viability of developing the companies’ key deposits into producing operations by utilizing a central milling facility. All of the deposits are within trucking distance of the recently closed Duck Pond Cu-Zn Mine. RDC will contribute $535,000 to the project.
- Search Minerals Inc. has announced it will receive research and development funding totaling $1,250,000 from RDC and from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The funding is to assist in the construction and operation of a pilot plant for the testing of Search’s metallurgical process, which is designed for large-scale production of a mixed rare-earth oxide suitable for further separation by a refinery. Initial feed for the test will be a 7 tonne sample extracted from the high-grade core of the Foxtrot rareearth element deposit, located on the southeast coast of Labrador.
- Rambler Mining & Metals plc has also partnered with RDC in recent years on a project, investigating the potential for pre‐concentrating mineralized material from the Lower Footwall Zone of the company’s Ming Mine through dense media separation. This could significantly reduce material handling requirements and potentially enable the use of Rambler’s Nugget Pond mill in lieu of building a new standalone copper concentrator. RDC has invested $1,000,000 in the project.
RDC has also invested in a number of earlier stage exploration projects in Newfoundland and Labrador with industry partners, and has funded university- based research in mineralizing processes and exploration techniques through the Department of Earth Sciences at Memorial University in St. John’s.
Mining Industry NL and RDC will host a Mining Innovation Symposium on February 11, 2016 at the Holiday Inn, St.
John’s. This one-day event will focus on the increasingly important role that research, development and innovation play in growing the mineral industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. CMJ
Phil Saunders, P. GEO., is Mineral Exploration Consultant, Department of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s.