Manitoba

Growth, Enterprise and Trade

Mineral Commodities in Manitoba

Nickel in Manitoba

Nickel exploration and mining in Manitoba date back to the first discovery of nickel sulphides in the Bird River area in the early 1920s and culminated with the discovery of the world-class Thompson deposit in 1956. For the past 60+ years, this deposit has supported a fully-integrated nickel mining and processing operation in the City of Thompson in north-central Manitoba.

In Manitoba, nickel sulphide deposits are associated with mafic–ultramafic intrusions and ultramafic lava flows (komatiite), and can be generally classified as magmatic-type deposits. Major deposits of this type occur along the Paleoproterozoic rifted margin of the Superior province (defined in Manitoba by the Thompson nickel belt and Fox River belt) and in greenstone belts of the Archean Superior province (Bird River and Island Lake belts) and Paleoproterozoic Trans-Hudson orogen (Lynn Lake and Flin Flon–Snow Lake belts). Continued exploration successes and favourable, yet underexplored, geology indicate high potential for new nickel discoveries.

 

2016 HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vale Canada Ltd. completed its feasibility study of the Footwall Deep project, which would sustain the Thompson mining and milling operation for up to 15 years if developed

  • Corazon Mining Ltd. defined new geophysical targets in the Fraser Lake complex, located adjacent to the past-producing Lynn Lake nickel mine in the Lynn Lake greenstone belt

  • Drilling by Wolfden Resources Corp. at the Rice Island project in the Flin Flon–Snow Lake belt returned several high-grade intersections and identified a potential feeder zone at the base of the host intrusion

Figure 1: Geological map of Manitoba showing locations of selected nickel sulphide deposits

 

THOMPSON NICKEL BELT (TNB)

The TNB is situated along the northwest margin of the Archean Superior province. It contains several major nickel sulphide deposits, most notably the world-class Thompson deposit, associated with Paleoproterozoic (1.88 Ga) ultramafic intrusions and lava flows within platformal sedimentary rocks along the rifted margin of the Archean craton. High-grade massive to semimassive nickel sulphide ores occur in the ultramafic rocks or adjacent sulphidic sedimentary rocks and were subjected to amphibolite-facies metamorphism and multiphase folding during the Trans-Hudson orogeny, resulting in extensive modification of primary textures and ore-host relationships.

The Thompson, Birchtree and Pipe deposits have produced more than 150 Mt of nickel sulphide ore grading 2.32% Ni, 0.16% Cu, 0.046% Co and 0.83 g/t platinum group elements (PGE). Continued success in near-mine exploration, as exemplified by the ‘T3-1D’ extension of the Thompson deposit, demonstrates the exceptional potential of the TNB. Ongoing exploration is targeting the spatial association of ultramafic intrusions and sulphidic metasedimentary rocks within macro-scale sites of structural thickening (fold hinges) or low mean stress (boudin necks).

Figure 2: Geological map of the Thompson nickel belt

 

LYNN LAKE GREENSTONE BELT

Nickel deposits in the Lynn Lake district are hosted by 1.87 Ga gabbroic stocks that intrude 1.91-1.89 Ga arc volcanic rocks of the Lynn Lake belt in the Paleoproterozoic Trans-Hudson orogen. The Lynn Lake mine produced 22.2 Mt of ore averaging 1.02% Ni and 0.54% Cu during the period 1953-1976, making it the third largest nickel producer in Canada after Sudbury and Thompson, prior to being surpassed by the Voisey’s Bay mine in 2005. The Lynn Lake nickel project contains a residual mineral resource of 17.0 Mt grading 0.66% Ni.

 

ARCHEAN GREENSTONE BELTS

The Archean Bird River belt of the western Superior Province contains several significant deposits and occurrences of magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE and stratiform Cr-(PGE). Major deposits are hosted by the Bird River sill and associated mafic-ultramafic intrusions, which were emplaced at ca. 2.74 Ga into MORB-like basalt flows near the base of the Bird River belt. The Bird River sill includes the past-producing Dumbarton and Maskwa West mines (2.7 Mt @ 1.02 % Ni, combined), the active Makwa project (7.9 Mt @ 0.57 % Ni), and several undeveloped chromite deposits. The correlative Mayville intrusion, located on the northern arm of the belt, includes the active Mayville project (31.8 Mt @ 0.18 % Ni) and one undeveloped chromite deposit. The Archean komatiite-hosted Nickel Island Ni-Cu-PGE occurrence in the Island Lake greenstone belt has yielded significant drill intercepts, including 4.33% Ni over 4.5 m and 1.18% Ni over 21.34 m.

Figure 3: Geological map of the Bird River greenstone belt

 

FLIN FLON–SNOW LAKE GREENSTONE BELTS

The Paleoproterozoic Flin Flon belt is well known for its world-class volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits, but also contains several nickel sulphide occurrences associated with mafic-ultramafic intrusions. The Namew Lake deposit, hosted by a metamorphosed pyroxenite sill beneath a thin cover of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks south of Flin Flon, contained a pre-production reserve of 2.58 Mt grading 2.4% Ni, 0.9% Cu, 0.5 g/t Pd and 0.7 g/t Pt. Recent drilling results at the Rice Island Ni-Cu-Co deposit associated with a mafic-ultramafic intrusion at Wekusko Lake returned 2.57% Ni, 1.07% Cu over 17.4 m. Nickel sulphide and PGE occurrences are also associated with the 1.88 Ga Mikanagan Lake gabbro sills in the Flin Flon arc assemblage and the Reed Lake layered mafic-ultramafic intrusion of the Elbow–Athapapuskow ocean-floor assemblage, indicating significant regional potential for nickel sulphide deposits.

 

SELECTED NICKEL DEPOSITS IN MANITOBA

Deposit
District
Ownership
Status

Resource1
(Mt)

Grade
(% Ni)
Paleoproterozoic Trans-Hudson orogen
Thompson2
TNB
Vale Canada Ltd.
Current producer
150.0
2.32
Soab (North & South)
TNB
Vale Canada Ltd.
Past producer
0.9
1.50
Manibridge
TNB
Pure Nickel Inc.
Past producer
1.3
2.55
Bucko Lake
TNB
CaNickel Mining Ltd.
Advanced project
11.3
1.39
Minago
TNB
Victory Nickel Inc.
Advanced project
68.8
0.52
Bowden Lake
TNB
CaNickel Mining Ltd./
Glencore Canada Corp.
Advanced project
2.0
1.16
Mel
TNB
Victory Nickel Inc.
Advanced project
1.4
0.87
Moak Lake
TNB
Vale Canada Ltd.
Advanced project
45.0
0.70
Mystery Lake
TNB
Vale Canada Ltd.
Advanced project
227.0
0.60
Hambone Lake
TNB
Vale Canada Ltd.
Advanced project
3.3
0.81
Hambone North
TNB
Vale Canada Ltd.
Advanced project
1.1
1.10
Discovery
TNB
CaNickel Mining Ltd.
Advanced project
4.5
1.00
Resting Lake
TNB
CaNickel Mining Ltd.
Advanced project
90.0
0.30
William Lake
TNB
Pure Nickel Inc.
Advanced project
na
na
Lynn Lake
Lynn Lake
Corazon Mining Ltd.
Advanced project
9.4
0.88
Namew Lake
Flin Flon
Hudbay Minerals
Past producer
2.6
2.44
Archean Superior province
Dumbarton
Bird River
Mustang Minerals Corp.
Past producer
1.5
0.81
Maskwa West
Bird River
Mustang Minerals Corp.
Past producer
1.2
1.28
Mayville
Bird River
Mustang Minerals Corp.
Advanced project
31.8
0.18
Makwa
Bird River
Mustang Minerals Corp.
Advanced project
7.9
0.57

1 Resource estimates include past-production and current reserves and resources as applicable; users should verify critical information
2 Includes Thompson, Birchtree and Pipe deposits
ABBREVIATIONS: na, not available; Mt, million tonnes; TNB, Thompson nickel belt

 

CURRENT PRODUCERS

  • Thompson and Birchtree (Vale Canada Limited): reserve (2015), 27.5 Mt grading 1.75% Ni; production (since 1956), 2.724 Mt of 99.9% pure nickel metal

 

ADVANCED PROJECTS

  • Bucko (CaNickel Mining Ltd.): resource (2008), 11.3 Mt grading 1.39% Ni

  • Minago (Victory Nickel Inc.): resource (2009), 68.8 Mt grading 0.52% Ni

  • Makwa-Mayville (Mustang Minerals Corp.): resource (2013), 39.7 Mt grading 0.36% Ni

  • Lynn Lake (Corazon Mining Ltd.): resource (2016), 9.4 Mt grading 0.88% Ni

 

MANITOBA EXPLORATION AND MINING ADVANTAGES

  • Diverse, dynamic $59 billion economy — one of Canada’s strongest and most stable

  • Flexible transportation infrastructure for shipping by rail, air, road and sea

  • Supportive business climate and highly competitive mining tax regime

  • Easily accessible geoscience and exploration data

  • World-class deposits and high mineral potential in large underexplored regions

For more information, visit the Manitoba Mining Sector Profile.

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