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  • Year of renewed interest >>
  • High PGE potential >>
  • Mapping Côte-Nord >>
  • Potential source of cement >>
  • Adjustments mining regime >>
  • Architectural stone >>
  • Indexation, rentals and fees >>

2004: A year of renewed interest in mining exploration

Sylvian Lacroix and Patrick Houle
Géologie Québec

The year 2004 has been one of the best in a long time for mining exploration in Québec, for allocated investments as well as discoveries and exploration results.

More than 200 million dollars spent on exploration and deposit appraisal

Exploration and deposit appraisal expenditures in Québec reached slightly more than 200 million dollars in 2004. This represents an increase of 70 million dollars (+ 52%) when compared with 2003. In fact, these expenditures haven’t stopped to increase since the year 2000, when a total of 94 million dollars had been accounted. The amount for 2004, from a broader historical perspective, is higher than the 173 million dollars accounted in 1997 and such a level of exploration activity hasn’t been seen in Québec since the end of the 1980’s.

Sources: MRNFP, Secteur des mines, Direction du développement minéral, Service de l’imposition et des données minières (for data related to Québec);
Metals Economics Group (for worldwide data).
Note: 2004P refers to preliminary data.
2005CI means companies’ intentions for 2005.

The rising trend for the worldwide exploration budgets began in 2003 and continued on in 2004 to reach the estimated amount of US$3.8B, in comparison with US$2.4B in 2003 and US$1.9B in 2002. However, the rise in these budgets converted in Canadian dollars (+ 47%) has been lower than the one observed in Québec. Consequently, the worldwide exploration budget portion allocated to Québec’s territory has slightly risen to 4.1%, which would rank Québec 6th among the most explored countries in the world for 2004.

The high expenditures increase on exploration and deposit appraisal observed in Québec for 2004 is explained by the increase in the expenditures on precious metals (+ $41M, + 61%), as well as on base metals (+ $19M, + 46%) and diamond (+ $9M, + 48%).

Highlights in exploration

Northwestern Québec has been the site of intense mining activity due to high prices of precious and base metals. Major advanced exploration, deposit appraisal and underground development work was achieved in order to evaluate the possibility of bringing into production Lapa and Goldex gold projects for Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd., Casa-Berardi for Aurizon Mines Ltd., East Amphi for Richmont Mines Inc., Fenelon for International Taurus Resources Inc., Sigma-Lamaque for Century Mining Corporation, Croinor for South-Malartic Exploration Inc., and Kiena for Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd.

Campbell Resources Inc. has announced the beginning of operations at the Copper Rand copper and gold mine, in Chibougamau. Drilling at the Noranda Inc. symbolically called "Renaissance" (rebirth) property near Matagami has intersected a new lens of massive sulphide with high zinc grades. Partners Noranda Inc. and Alexis Minerals Corporation have intersected 5.61% Cu, 1.70% Zn, 0.34 g/t Au and 17.6 g/t Ag over 5.16 m on their Lac Montbray property, west of Rouyn-Noranda.

In the Baie James area, the "Éléonore" discovery of Virginia Gold Mines Inc. has aroused intense interest and lead to new claim acquisitions. A major auriferous system, with intersections such as 18.85 g/t of gold over 16 metres, was tracked for over 300 metres laterally and to depths of 225 metres. In the La Grande greenstone belt, Virginia Gold Mines Inc. and its partner Noranda Inc. have announced the discovery of volcanic massive sulphides horizons in the DOM (9.94% Zn, 2.12% Pb, 0.73% Cu and 96.38 g/t Ag over 19.5 m–drillhole CN04-17) and the DOM NORD zones (12.65% Zn, 1.54% Pb, 1.36% Cu, 125.31 g/t Ag and 0.3 g/t Au over 4.7 m–drillhole CN-04-23) of their Coulon property.

Nickel exploration has been particularly intense in the Cape Smith belt where the Raglan mine is exploited since 1998. Canadian Royalties Inc. has announced a revised indicated resources estimate of 1.84 million tons @ 1.9% Ni, 2.3% Cu and 5.2 g/t Pt+Pd at the Mesamax deposit, and a preliminary inferred resources estimate of 1.4 million tons @ 0.7% Ni, 0.9% Cu and 2.7 g/t Pt+Pd at the Mequillon deposit. Knight Resources Ltd. and Anglo American Exploration (Canada) Ltd. have announced several promising intersections, such as 24.5 metres @ 1.71% Ni, 0.8% Cu and 1.33 g/t Pt+Pd. Goldbrook Ventures Inc. has also reported the discovery of new showings, where they have obtained grades such as 1.35% Ni, 0.61% Cu and 2.88 g/t Pt+Pd over 49.35 m.

Ashton Mining of Canada Inc. and SOQUEM INC. invested about $18M north of the Monts Otish area in 2004, specifically for a 639 tons bulk sample of kimberlite material from the Renard swarm. In order to evaluate the diamond value, they are aiming at a target of 300 carats of diamonds. The first 269 treated tons have produced a total of 97 carats.

Prospects for 2005

Thanks to high metal prices and Québec’s diverse mineral potential, 2005 should be as favourable as 2004, since companies are planning to invest $201M in exploration and deposit appraisal in Québec.

Thus, northwestern Québec, the Monts Otish area and the Ungava Trough should remain the most explored regions in 2005. The investments on Québec’s territory will be helped by the exploration for gold, diamond, and nickel, together with the diverse measures taken by the gouvernement du Québec, such as the permanent continuation and upgrade of the flow-through share regime, the improvement of the tax credit for resources for junior companies, and the acquisition of geoscientific knowledge.


High PGE potential in the Matagami area

Jean Goutier
Géologie Québec

Recent mapping fieldwork and mineral inventory by the Department has allowed, among other things, to characterize the platinum group elements (PGE) mineralization of the rivière Bell Complex and to suggest exploration guides for this area. The rivière Bell area (NTS 32 F/10, 11 and 12) presents fundamental characteristics favourable to the occurrence of rare metals of the platinum group elements. The main showings recorded on this little explored, huge territory already seem to indicate an association with different geological contexts, even if they are separated by slightly more than 10 kilometres. The possibility to discover other sites with PGE economic grades in the area remain therefore very high.

Historical background

The rivière Bell Complex is a large magmatic intrusion (20 km by 65 km) located on both sides of this river in the Matagami area. As early as the first mapping fieldwork of the 1930’s, geologists have compared this intrusion to the Bushveld of South Africa. The rivière Bell Complex is known for its association with the zinc-, copper- and silver-bearing massive sulphide deposits of Matagami. Moreover, showings of copper, nickel, vanadiferous magnetite, and titanium also occur in this intrusion (figure 1). The discovery of the first two PGE showings in the area by SOQUEM goes back to the beginning of the 1990’s. The showings are Ebay, BWest and Dotcom.

Table 1: List of the three PGE showings of the Bell River Complex

Name

Ebay

BWest

Dotcom

Discovery

1991

2001

1991

Company

SOQUEM

Hinterland

SOQUEM

 

 

 

 

Platinum

2.26 g/t Pt

0.79 g/t Pt

2.00 g/t Pt

Palladium

0.69 g/t Pd

1.29 g/t Pd

2.87 g/t Pd

Copper

0.04% Cu

0.44% Cu

0.34% Cu

Nickel

0.02% Ni

0.24% Ni

0.32% Ni

Type

Stratiform

Shear zone-hosted

Intrusion breccia


The recent mapping fieldwork by the Department and exploration activities by the industry have shown that these showings correspond to three mineralization types, including the two so-called classic types. The Ebay showing corresponds to the stratiform type formed by a PGE-enriched magma. Some levels, such as the extension of this showing, are worth prospecting with the hope of finding other enriched zones. The best showing is associated with a shear zone.


This type of structure is frequently PGE-enriched like the Shear Ore of the Lac des Iles deposit. The Dotcom showing is associated with the intrusion breccia type. The geochemistry of this rock indicates that it is a distinct intrusion which can also be found outside the Complex.

Figure 1. Location of PGE in the rivière Bell Complex near Matagami, and distribution of the other mineralized showings associated with this magmatic intrusion.

The PGE in the world

PGE are rare metals grouping together platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium. These metals are corrosion resistant and their melting point is very high. The production of car catalysts is one of the main uses for PGE. Moreover, PGE are in demand for electrical applications, manufacturing of laboratory crucibles and numismatic coinage (collector coinage), dentistry and jewellery. At the moment, palladium, platinum and rhodium are worth respectively less than half, twice and three times the gold price.

South Africa and Russia are the main producers of PGE. Canada and the United States are lesser producers. PGE are found in primary deposits or as by-products of copper and nickel deposits such as Raglan in Nord-du-Québec or Sudbury in Ontario. Primary PGE deposits are divided in two categories: stratiform or intrusion breccia. Stratiform deposits are associated with large magmatic intrusions and form the most important PGE deposits in the world, such as those found in the Bushveld intrusion of South Africa. Deposits associated with intrusion breccias are linked to much smaller intrusions. The intrusion breccia type Lac des Iles deposit north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is the only primary PGE mine in North America.


Geological mapping in the Côte-Nord (North Shore) area
Department survey creates interest among mining companies

André Gobeil
Géologie Québec

During the summer of 2004, the Department carried out geological mapping in the watersheds of the Outardes and Manicouagan Rivers north of Baie-Comeau (NTS 22F/10 – lac Varin). The project is part of a wide program of geological mapping aimed at improving knowledge of the mineral potential of the Côte-Nord area, thereby favoring the diversification of its economy.

The area is underlain mainly by anorthosites and related rocks belonging to the Grenville geological province, which covers most of the Côte-Nord region. The Grenville is well known for its titanium and iron potential, which is best demonstrated by the Lac Tio deposit located north of Havre-Saint-Pierre. The Grenville also has excellent potential for base metals, such as copper, nickel, and cobalt, and for dimension stone, which is currently experiencing strong growth in Québec.

During this survey, several mineral occurrences were discovered in rocks belonging to the Vallant Anorthositic Suite. A dozen new iron and titanium (ilmenite) showings have been added to those already known in the area; half of them are enriched in phosphorus (apatite).

Massive magnetite–ilmenite (Fe–Ti) showing hosted in leuconorite.
Magnetite–ilmenite–apatite (Fe–Ti–P) showing located on an island in the Outardes River.

Two new copper-nickel showings in anorthosite of the Vallant Suite are unusual in that they do not appear to be associated with mafic or ultramafic rocks, which are the typical hosts for these metals. These discoveries thus open up a new exploration approach for such deposits.

Several occurrences of granitic dimension stone have been found in the Vallant Anorthositic Suite and in the Varin Plutonic Suite. The quality and size of the resource in these sites remain to be determined. It should be noted that Autoroute 389, secondary roads, and numerous forest roads provide easy access to the area.

Uses:

Titanium: In oxide form, it is used as a pigment in paint and as an additive in plastics, paper, and medicines. It is used in alloys for planes and missiles. It is found in golf clubs, bicycles, portable computers, and prostheses. It is often used as a catalyzer, for example, in the polymerization process.

Phosphorus: It is an ingredient in chemical fertilizers (phosphates), fireworks, matches, toothpaste, and cleaning agents. It is used as a nutritional additive in cheese and as an additive in lubricants. It can be found, among other places, in delicatessen products, soft drinks, yeast, and condensed milk.


Discovery of a potential source of cement stone in the Percé area

Charles Gosselin
Géologie Québec

A large limestone deposit, considered to be a promising resource of cement stone, has been discovered in the Percé area. This deposit was found during work on industrial minerals and construction materials carried out by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles, de la Faune et des Parcs. The results were revealed during Québec Exploration 2004, held in Québec from November 22 to 25, 2004.

A summary evaluation of the limestone indicates grades of CaO (48–50%), Na2O+K2O (< 0.6%), MgO (< 2.5%), S (< 0.2%), and Cl (< 30 ppm) that satisfy the requirements of the cement industry. Easily accessible resources are estimated at several hundreds of millions of tonnes. In addition, the potentially exploitable limestone units are located a few kilometers from the coast and near a railway.

Nature of the work

During the summer of 2004, the Ministère des Ressources naturelles, de la Faune et des Parcs updated the inventory of quarries in the Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie regions. At the same time, a summary evaluation of the composition of White Head Formation limestone was carried out in order to check the potential of the sequence for cement production. The Nouvelle, Chandler, and Percé sectors were chosen because, in these areas, the formation outcrops fairly close to the coast, thereby increasing the likelihood of production (PDF Format, 131 Kb - Available in French). Hand sampling was carried out on a limited number (25) of outcrops. As the White Head limestone sequence is composed of thin limestone beds alternating with mudstone beds, the analyzed samples contain, unless otherwise noted, representative proportions of the two lithologies (PDF Format, 19,3 Kb - Available in French).

Percé area


In the Percé area, the White Head Formation outcrops in a mountainous corridor about 1.5 km wide that crosses the region in a northwest-southeast direction (PDF Format, 587 Kb - Available in French). The formation is divided into four members. The Burmingham, Irlande, and Des Jean members distinguish the formation. They are composed mainly of thin calcilutite beds and friable mudstone interbeds. (photo 1) The Côte de la Surprise Member is a mudstone marker horizon separating the Burmingham and Irlande members.

Distinctive appearance of the White Head Formation, Cap Blanc quarry. Resistant calcilutite beds alternate with friable mudstone interbeds.

Samples from four quarries have been analyzed. The results have been used to estimate the composition of the Irlande and Des Jean members. According to the results, these units have similar chemical compositions, with a CaO grade of about 50% (PDF Format, 19,3 Kb - Available in French). In addition, the alkali-element, magnesium, sulfur, and chlorine concentrations are suitable for the cement industry. It is noteworthy that the two units constitute a limestone sequence whose stratigraphic thickness is estimated at more than 600 m (Kirkwood, 1989). The Burmingham Member, located at the base of the White Head and about 140 m thick, was not analyzed. However, it compares lithologically to the upper limestone units, and it is likely that its composition is also suitable.

Chandler and Nouvelle areas


In the Chandler and Nouvelle areas, the White Head Formation appears to be distinctly less calcareous than at Percé. Most commonly, the formation is banded and composed of limestone beds and argillaceous interbeds, which are welded together producing a massive sequence. The analytical results show that the CaO grade is generally less than 40% (PDF Format, 19,3 Kb - Available in French). In the Nouvelle area, a grab sample from a calcilutite bed gave a CaO grade of 44.9%.

Banded facies of the White Head Formation in the Chandler region.

An adequate evaluation of the potential of these areas would require more detailed work. Stratigraphic horizons richer in carbonate should be sought.

Reference

Kirkwood, D., 1989. Géologie de la région de Percé. Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources, Québec; ET 87-17, 33 pages.


Adjustments for an even more efficient mining regime

Jocelyn Boucher
Direction du développement minéral

The nature of recent changes to the Mining Act (R.S.Q., c. M-13.1) requires modifications to the present Regulation respecting mineral substances other than petroleum, natural gas and brine (R.S.Q., c. M-13.1, r.2). The Act to amend the Mining Act, sanctioned December 18, 2003, aims mainly to reduce, in a progressive manner, staking parks in Québec. Staking parks are areas in which a claim is acquired by ground staking. Henceforth, a person will be able to acquire a claim in a staking park by map designation if that person possesses a declaration signed by neighbouring title holders establishing that no possibility of conflict exists. The progressive elimination of staking parks will in the end reduce the cost to the mining industry of mining title acquisition. Moreover, another modification will permit a holder to request the amalgamation of designated claims located within the same cell in order to facilitate the management of mining titles in the new system of map designation. In a different context, municipalities and intermunicipal boards will henceforth be able to obtain an exclusive mining lease (notably for sand and gravel) for the construction and maintenance of their streets and road networks.

Furthermore, other measures in the present regulation have to be revised in order to simplify the requirements imposed on the mining industry. Finally, new statutory powers aimed at specifying the technical details of claim amalgamation or replacement have been introduced.

The new statutory measures that should be in force on March 3, 2005 concern:

  • the documents and information that must accompany a notice of map designation within a staking park;
  • the documents and information that the request for claim amalgamation or replacement must contain in order to ensure the security of the various titles, as well as the technical rules allowing adjustments to be made concerning, among other things, the periods of validity and the amount of work to be accomplished following amalgamation or replacement;
  • measures favoring the conversion of staked claims located north of latitude 52° as well as a measure requiring an agreement between the holders of staked claims located less than 400 metres from the mining right to be converted into map-designated claims;
  • the addition, as a condition of concluding or renewing a mining lease for surface mineral substances, that the applicant not be in default in the production of his declarations or in the payment of royalties for each of the leases he holds;
  • the filing of a five-year plan for the construction, repairing, and maintenance of streets and the road network by a municipality or an intermunicipal board for the acquisition of an exclusive mining lease for surface mineral substances;
  • the replacement of the requirement to survey by the possibility of locating the site of a tailings park using the UTM coordinate system, much less costly, when this site is located on land covered by an exclusive mining lease for surface mineral substances;
  • various modifications to harmonize with the Mining Act, the Geologists Act, and the Forest Act.

These new statutory measures will permit us to maintain and increase Québec’s attractiveness relative to mining regimes elsewhere, in particular by improving the method of obtaining a map-designated claim.


Architectural stone in Québec

Come and visit our Website!

The Department has recently put online a Website entirely dedicated to architectural stone in Québec. This new tool gathers together a large amount of information on exploration and quarrying of architectural stone in Québec, including the different projects, the main quarries and the multiple varieties quarried in Québec.

You can consult this Website at the following address: www.mrnf.gouv.qc.ca/english/mines/architectural/index.jsp.


April 1, 2005: indexation of rights, rentals and fees

As of April 1, 2005, all rights, rentals and fees shall be increased by 4.6%, in accordance with section 145 of the Regulation respecting mineral substances other than petroleum, natural gas and brine. This increase corresponds to the change in the general Consumer Price Index in Canada between 2002 and 2004.