Manitoba's Mineral Industry

Exploration and Development Highlights 2001

Base Metals
Platinum-Group Metals
Precious Metals

Preliminary estimates of exploration expenditures for 2000 in Manitoba are $27.4 million, slightly above previous estimates of $25.0 million. Company spending intentions for 2001 were estimated at $30.5 million however, investment in mineral exploration and development in Canada was challenged by sagging commodity prices, a slowing economy and the difficulty for juniors to raise equity financing.

Recognizing the significant challenges facing the mining sector, Manitoba continued to offer a variety of direct incentives for exploration, and tax incentives for development projects. Tax incentives provided a tax holiday for new mines, a processing allowance and the mining tax exploration incentive, as well as sales tax exemptions on electricity and motive fuel. The Mineral Exploration Assistance Program (MEAP) and the Manitoba Manitoba Prospectors Assistance Program (MPAP) continued to provide direct financial incentives for exploration companies and prospectors carrying out projects in Manitoba. In addition, provincial exploration incentives were augmented by the new Federal Flow-through Tax Credit (FFTC) that provides an incentive to investors in mineral exploration projects. These provincial and federal incentives help offset the challenges to exploration and mining investment and position Manitoba favourably in a globally competitive market.

Despite these challenges there are reasons to be optimistic about future exploration activity in Manitoba. Encouraging results from multimedia geochemical surveys conducted by the Manitoba Geological Survey continued to lure new companies to join in one of Canada’s newest diamond plays. Additional large ground acquisitions were made in the Knee Lake and Gillam areas by major and junior diamond explorers. Airborne geophysical surveys were started and ground follow-up work including diamond drilling was initiated.

On the development front, Manitoba’s two major producers continued their large-scale capital expenditure projects. In Flin Flon, Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting (Hudbay) is well advanced with the 777 Project and in Thompson, Inco continued with the Birchtree shaft-deepening project.

Base Metals

Development work continued at Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting’s 777 Project in Flin Flon. The $400 million development project includes: two new underground mines, the 777 mine in Flin Flon and the Chisel North mine near Snow Lake; expansion of the Flin Flon concentrator and zinc plant; upgrades to the spill gas handling system; and upgrades to the Flin Flon infrastructure to support new projects. The Chisel North Mine and spill gas system upgrading were completed in 2000. Expansion projects at the Flin Flon smelter complex and development of the new 1540 m shaft at the 777 mine were ongoing. Modernization and expansion of the zinc plant was completed in October. Sinking of the new 777 shaft had reached the 1262 m level at the end of September. The fully commissioned shaft is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2002.

Hudbay’s exploration division, Hudson Bay Exploration and Development (HBED), conducted a limited drilling campaign in the Hargrave Lake-Huzyk Creek and Ponton areas early in the year. In March, all of HBED’s Manitoba exploration operations were suspended for the remainder of the year.

Callinan Mines conducted drilling on various projects in the Snow Lake area. Drilling was conducted at the Pot Lake, Daly Lake and East Morgan zones where only minor copper and zinc values were reported. Follow-up drilling on their Jackfish property returned an intersection of 2.77 m of 1.16% nickel and 0.56% copper.

Fort Knox Gold Resources and Berland Resources completed drilling on the East zone at their Watts River property northwest of Ponton. Notable results included 9.7 m of 2.2% copper and 9.5 m of 2.0% copper.

In Thompson, Inco continued with the $70 million deepening of the Birchtree Mine shaft. When completed in 2002, Birchtree’s daily production will nearly double to 3175 tonnes. The deepening project will access proven reserves of 13.6 million tonnes of 1.79% nickel and extend Birchtree’s production to 2016.

Inco Exploration continued their program of deep penetrating geophysical surveys and follow-up drilling of high priority targets as part of their exploration strategy to discover new mineralization near current mines or known deposits in the Thompson Nickel Belt.

Nuinsco Resources completed a geophysical survey and a 6-hole drill program on the Mel claims northwest of Thompson. The property is under option from Inco who is acting as project operator. Nuinsco also signed a letter of intent with Inco for development of the Pipe 1 and 2 deposits south of Thompson.

At the Bucko deposit near Wabowden, Nuinsco completed a 10-hole delineation drilling program and received encouraging results including 8.5 m of 5.4% nickel and 7.9 m of 3.6% nickel. The drilling expanded the resource, which previously stood at 2.0 million tonnes of 2.27% nickel. Despite encouraging results, Nuinsco suspended operations at Bucko until ore processing issues are resolved.

Northeast of Thompson, Canmine Resources completed a 5-hole drill program at their BINCO property.

At the Fox River property located 200 km east of Thompson, Falconbridge completed a 3600 m drill program within their permit area. Geophysical targets were drilled for both magmatic nickel-copper sulphide and PGE deposits. In addition, a number of magnetic anomalies consistent with kimberlite intrusive signatures have been identified. The property was optioned to Rockwell Ventures, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hunter-Dickinson Group. At the end of July, Rockwell announced that a major drill program was initiated to test targets previously outlined by Falconbridge.

Aur Resources completed drill programs at their Counsell Lake and Eldon Lake projects near Lynn Lake.

Platinum-Group Metals

In January, Fort Knox Gold Resources received encouraging drilling results at their McBratney Lake platinum-palladium property near Flin Flon. A hole drilled to confirm a previous Hudbay intersection returned 16.8 m of 8.9 g/t palladium and 1.8 g/t platinum. Fort Knox initiated a stripping and bulk sampling program in August and additional drilling was planned for the fall.

Gowest Amalgamated Resources conducted geophysics and completed a 9-hole drill program at their Cuthbert Lake property southeast of Thompson to further evaluate PGE surface occurrences. Drilling returned low base metal and PGE values.

Rubicon Minerals completed a lithogeochemical sampling program on their permit property in the Cuthbert Lake-Partridge Crop Lake area.

Wildcat Exploration conducted a summer mapping and sampling program on their Reed Lake property that is underlain by a large, layered, mafic-ultramafic sequence.

In southeastern Manitoba, Exploratus Ltd. conducted a stripping and channel sampling program at their Maskwa-Mayville property.

Precious Metals

In April, International Curator Resources announced a new gold discovery at their Assean Lake property near Thompson. The newly discovered Hunt zone was intersected in 6 holes over a strike length of 500 m. The discovery hole intersected 4.6 m grading 8.98 g/t gold. A 35-hole summer drill program also returned encouraging results of 8.15 m of 9.37 g/t and 4.4 m of 12.51 g/t gold. The summer program confirmed that the steeply plunging, gold-bearing shoot continues to depth.

In southeastern Manitoba, partners ManQuest Resources and Iriana Resources drilled known gold zones at their Beresford Lake property. Tudale Exploration conducted drilling at their Moore Lake, Wanipigow River and Wallace Lake properties. Wildcat Exploration carried out summer mapping and sampling programs on their substantial holdings around Bissett. A fall drill program tested the past-producing Poundmaker mine property and the Clinton zone, both located northwest of Bissett. At Poundmaker, Wildcat intersected gold grades of 2.84 m of 9.0 g/t and 3.0 m of 5.36 g/t gold.


The rush for prospective ground for diamond exploration continued into early 2001. Both junior and senior diamond explorers acquired additional permits in the Knee-Oxford lakes and Gillam areas, partly in response to encouraging results obtained by the Manitoba Geological Survey from multimedia geochemical surveys carried out in the northern Superior Province since 1996. Senior companies acquiring permits in late 2000 included De Beers (23 permits totaling 8170 sq. km), BHP Minerals and Kennecott. In early 2001, junior companies such as New Claymore Resources, Marum Resources, Iriana Resources and others either acquired permits or entered joint ventures with other property holders.

A number of companies conducted aeromagnetic surveys on their properties in 2001 and reported identifying distinct magnetic targets. Follow-up ground geophysical surveys were carried out at some of the more advanced projects. Initial drill programs were conducted in late winter by partners Kennecott and Montello Resources in the Oxford Lake area and by partners BHP Minerals and New Blue Ribbon Resources on the Moose River project southeast of Gillam. None of the project partners reported kimberlite, although New Blue Ribbon intersected a large sub-economic massive sulphide zone. BHP and New Blue Ribbon drilled additional magnetic targets at the Moose River project in the summer.

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