By Michael Lynch
Junior mineral exploration companies in the northwest are gearing up for a summer of intense activity in the Nipigon basin.
There are 15 companies operating on more than 35 properties, with most looking for copper-nickel, platinum-group element minerals (PGEs).
Two recent developments have sparked the interest of mineral explorers in the basin. Platinum prices reached new heights, before moderating, and the Ontario Geological Survey (OGS) unearthed a number of “extremely active PGE hot spots.”
In March the former mines minister, Dan Newman, said “staking and exploration activity for PGE minerals in Ontario are now at the highest levels ever recorded…”
Activity in the Lake Nipigon area topped the list, followed by Lac des Iles west of Lake Nipigon, East Bull Lake, Agnew Lake, and Seymour Lake, north of the Nipigon basin.
Robert Middleton has been exploring in the Nipigon basin for years in search of a Noril sk-type mother lode. Middelton is exploration manager for East West Resource Corp. and is considered the basin’s most vocal proponent. He is also involved with six other companies exploring the basin.
Middleton gave a technical talk on the Nipigon basin at the Northwestern Ontario Mines and Minerals Symposium in Thunder Bay, April 9 and 10.
Neil Pettigrew, a project geologist with Avalon Ventures, says Middleton has developed “a model for the Nipigon basin that could host a Noril sk type deposit. His model is now widely accepted in the industry,” Pettigrew says.
The Noril sk deposit is located in Siberia and is the world’s richest nickel ore body. The deposit at Sudbury is larger, but not as rich.
“Our mission is to wake up the sleeping giant,” Middleton says.
Pettigrew says the Nipigon Plate is an “interrupted third failed arm of a proterozoic arm that is one billion years old.”
He says rock types and sulphides being found in the Nipigon Basin show similarities to a Noril sk deposit.
Avalon Ventures has three properties it is exploring in the basin, two of which are joint ventures.
“It’s geologically similar to the giant Noril sk nickel deposit and it (the basin) has tremendous potential,” says Don Bubar, president of the company.
Falconbridge Ltd. and Inco Ltd. have conducted mineral exploration in the Nipigon basin in the past, but were not successful.
The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has confidence in the basin’s potential. A $3.5-million project has been announced by the fund to map areas with mineral potential and produce a Web site.
Partners in the mapping project include the Ontario Prospectors Association (OPA) and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
Companies working in the area have agreed to assist with the mapping project, bringing the value of the project closer to $7 million, says Garry Clark, OPA president.
Clark says the OPA is looking for a program director to work on the project under contract until March 2003. He says geophysical contractors will be hired and the data retrieved will be compiled and published.