By HEIDI ULRICHSEN
If there was one thing the 400 prospectors and geologists attending the Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium seemed to agree upon, it was that 2007 was a banner year for mineral exploration.
“Certainly, this is an exciting time to be in the business, as you all know,” said Michael Gravelle, the new Northern Development and Mines Minister.
The MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North was the keynote speaker at the symposium’s banquet dinner, held in December at the Radisson Hotel in Sudbury.
“In fact, this symposium is an ideal chance to celebrate another outstanding year for good news in mining exploration in Ontario.”
More than 92,000 mineral claims were filed in Ontario by early December 2007, and Gravelle expected that number to rise to 100,000 claims by the end of the month.
About $519 million was spent on exploration in 2007, up from $346 million in 2006.
The province is committed to supporting the province’s minerals industry by providing extensive geoscience information, maintaining favourable taxation policies and providing a stable and effective regulatory environment.
Gravelle, along with Ontario Prospectors Association president Wally Rayner, presented prospector Perry English with the 2007 Ontario Prospectors Award during the symposium dinner.
English, who has a long history in the industry, has filed a record-breaking 90 claims over the past two years.
“I’m not going to say too many words here. I’ll just say thank you, and that a lot of this success comes from the partners I’ve had over the years. I really appreciate this,” said English.
Ontario Prospectors Association executive director Garry Clark said the unprecedented amount of money spent on exploration in 2007 put all of the prospectors at the event in a really good mood. “It makes it a little bit easier to walk around here when everybody’s smiling.”
He’s trying to get the word out to young people that the exploration industry is thriving, and it’s a good business to get into.
“We have a problem with a lack of people in the industry to complete some of the jobs, be it geologists, people running diamond drills, or geophysicists. They’re not there. We have a capacity problem.”
In past years, most prospectors in the province were looking for gold, said Mark Smyk, acting regional manager of the Ontario Geological Survey for the northwest region.
But because the price of all types of metals and minerals has skyrocketed, prospectors are now also searching for copper-zinc, copper-nickel, uranium and diamond deposits, he said.
They are also re-evaluating the minerals left over on historic mine sites, or those which were discovered long ago, but rejected because the deposit wasn’t considered rich enough to be economically viable.
“We’ve had record levels of exploration, expenditures and claim-staking. It shows no sign of letting up either. Our office has been very busy, not just with exploration, but with all kinds of other issues like mine developments.”
Smyk said one of the most exciting new mineral finds made in 2007 in northwestern Ontario was a gold deposit found by Kodiak Exploration Ltd. between Beardmore and Geraldton.
“This is a very exciting recent discovery. It was really the catalyst in getting a lot of exploration interest focused on the Beardmore-Geraldton belt and it will probably translate into a lot of exploration in 2008.”
Timmins regional resident geologist Brian Atkinson said a potentially large nickel-copper discovery by junior mining company Noront Resources Ltd. in the James Bay Lowlands is causing a lot of discussion in his area of the province.
“There are about 20 companies operating up there now (near Noront’s find). A lot of the companies are staging out of Webequie First Nation. There are airborne surveys and diamond drilling going on.”