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Discover Abitibi Initiative to end

A successful mineral exploration initiative in northeastern Ontario has run its course after generating at least $38 million of activity.
Fred Gibbons
Fred Gibbons, chairman of the Timmins Economic Development Corp.

A successful mineral exploration initiative in northeastern Ontario has run its course after generating at least $38 million of activity.

The Discover Abitibi Initiative (DAI) began in 2001 and undertook five phases throughout the Abitibi Greenstone Belt. It was a joint venture between the Timmins Economic Development Corp. (TEDC), the Kirkland Lake Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., FedNor, and private sector companies.

“If we go back to 2001, mining in Northern Ontario was not nearly as robust as what we are experiencing today. Discover Abitibi was in fact an effort to stimulate exploration activity in our section of northeastern Ontario,” said Fred Gibbons, chair of the TEDC.

About $14 million was directly invested in the DAI from both the federal and provincial governments and the private sector.

“The $14 million invested has leveraged about $38 million of activity that we can quantify from our own records,” he said.

The initiative oversaw the completion of 29 exploration-related projects ranging from airborne surveying to ground-based geoscientific investigations. These provided up-to-date data that companies could use in their search for mineral wealth in the region. Since its inception, the program was managed by Robert Calhoun, who Gibbons credits as a “major factor” in its success.

“Over the course of 10 years, various phases of Discover Abitibi were undertaken and this level of what we just wrapped up has provided a quantum of data that exploration and mining companies have been pouring through,” Gibbons said. “I call it mega data. The type of surveys undertaken were very expensive and proved useful to those using it.”

The production and distribution of the data to the public, according to the TEDC, has positioned the northeast as an area of choice for exploration companies and is a valuable economic development tool.

“The work it did was on such a massive scale throughout the Abitibi Greenstone Belt that it identified potential targets, new and old, that need to be re-examined,” he said. “With each successive phase, the data became more and more refined and that data is in the public domain.”

Its success was built on the development of partnerships between the government funding agencies, the Geological Survey of Canada, the Ontario Geological Survey and private companies.

“To my knowledge, it is the first collaboration between the private sector and government, brokered by the economic development corporations in Timmins and Kirkland Lake and the geological surveys to bring the focus to bear on what has typically been regarded as one of Canada's prime mining areas,” Gibbons said.

The success also depended on the participation of countless volunteers who evaluated proposals and provided oversight to the two economic development corporations for the completion and technical soundness of the projects.

“The long-term value will be felt in the region for many years,” he said. “I think we have achieved beyond what we originally set out to do. As many as 90 exploration companies in any one year have been working in the Timmins area alone. Many have utilized the data to help pinpoint properties of interest to them.”