High mineral potential in the Nord-du-Québec Region:
a promising future
By Patrick Houle
Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune,
Mines Sector, Nord-du-Québec Region
In 2005, the Nord-du-Québec Region ranked first for exploration expenditures outside a mine site, which amounted to more than $88 million. The region continues to generate significant new mineral discoveries such as:
- Canadian Royalties’ nickel project South of the Raglan Mine
- Goldcorp’s gold project north of Opinaca reservoir
- The Ashton Mining of Canada–SOQUEM joint venture's diamond project north of the Otish Mountains.
The Nord-du-Québec Region is currently a major exploration pole because of its high potential for new discoveries and due to numerous types of mineralization in different host rocks. The region occupies nearly a third of the Superior Province, recognized worldwide for its many copper, gold, zinc, nickel and silver deposits.
Even though the mature Chapais-Chibougamau and Joutel-Matagami mining camps have experienced more than 50 years of success in exploration and mining, the southern part of the Baie James territory, which is part of the Abitibi Subprovince, continues to be a choice target in the search for vein-type gold deposits and volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits.
In addition to taking advantage of Québec’s attractive investment climate, mining companies can benefit from a tax credit relating to resources of up to 45% in Québec’s Near North or Far North.
The Baie James Territory
Easily accessible by way of a provincial network of roads and airports, the Baie James territory contains a large number of small greenstone belts with numerous metal showings (Au, Ag, Cu, Zn, Pb, Ni, Mo, Li, Fe). This extensive territory remains relatively unexplored except for the Chapais-Chibougamau and Joutel-Matagami mining camps. Moreover, the territory has significant potential for gold, especially along certain regional structures that have characteristics in common with the recent gold discoveries in the Cadillac Tectonic Zone, in Abitibi, such as the eastern extension of the Detour Lake Deformation Zone, northwest of Matagami.
Several areas are highly prospective for volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits, including:
- The Grevet-Mountain Complex, east of Lebel-sur-Quévillon
- The Joutel area
- The eastern extension of the Matagami mining camp
- The Lemoine and Scott members in the Chapais-Chibougamau area
- The Fecteau and Chanceux Formations in the eastern part of the Urban-Barry Belt.
In the Near North (PDF format, 345 kb), which includes the Frotet-Evans, Eastmain and La Grande volcanosedimentary belts, deposits associated with very promising new geological settings are being developed. The discovery of the Roberto system of gold mineralization on the Éléonore property (Goldcorp) and the Eau Claire deposit (Eastmain Resources) confirm the Near North’s potential for high-grade gold mineralization. There are prospective areas for the discovery of highly auriferous mineralization along the contact between two lithostratigraphic domains (sedimentary and volcanic rocks), along the contact zone between the La Grande and Opinaca subprovinces, or on the periphery of synvolcanic igneous intrusions.
In addition to being prospective for precious and base metals, Québec’s Near North also has potential for rare metals (Y, Zr, Nb, Ta, Be, Li and REE). Known mineralized showings occur in peraluminous monzogranitic plutons and granitic pegmatites either along the contacts between the La Grande Subprovince and the Opinaca and Nemiscau subprovinces, or in the Frotet-Evans Belt.
As for diamonds, the Desmaraisville, Baie James lowland, Wemindji, Réservoir Caniapiscau and Monts Otish areas appear to be the most prospective so far. The joint venture formed by Ashton Mining of Canada Inc. and SOQUEM inc. estimates that the Renard 2, 3, 4 and 9 kimberlitic bodies contain from 18.6 to 22.0 million carats of diamonds within 23.2 to 27.5 million tonnes of kimberlitic material on the Foxtrot property, north of the Monts Otish.
Finally, the surge in the price of uranium has revitalized exploration to a point unequalled since the mid-1980s. Various outliers of the Sakami Formation, the Rivière Rupert area and the sedimentary sequences of the Monts Otish basin are highly prospective areas for the discovery of uranium.
The Nunavik Territory
The Nouveau-Québec (Labrador Trough), Torngat and Ungava (Cape Smith Belt) orogens occupy a large portion of the Far North.
In the New Québec Orogen, Clark and Wares, 2004 catalogued 393 showings, primarily:
- Iron formations with or without gold
- Nickel-copper ± PGE showings
- Uranium showings
- Copper-zinc-silver (VMS) showings.
The sandstones near Otelnuc and Portage lakes and the Chioak Formation are prospective for uranium. The Retty and Gerido lake areas are likely targets for VMS deposits. As for copper and nickel, there are several similarities between the Qarqasiaq sector (NTS 25 D/01), at the northern extremity of the Labrador Trough, and the Cape Smith Belt.
The Cape Smith Belt (Ungava Trough) is known for its deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum group elements (Raglan mining camp). The western portions of the ultramafic rocks of the Chukotat Group and of the Raglan-type sills in the Povungnituk Group remain relatively unexplored, as does the Belt’s North Domain. The Raglan Mine remains the area’s jewel. In operation since 1998, the mine produced nearly 6,300 metric tons (mt) of copper, 22,900 mt of nickel and 450 mt of cobalt in 2005.
The Saindon-Cambrien structural corridor, the Lac Aigneault sector and the Monts Torngat area are highly prospective for diamonds.
Several greenstone belts of the Minto Subprovince as well as the eastern part of the Ashuanipi Subprovince, west of Shefferville, are interesting targets for the discovery of gold and VMS-type base metal mineralization.
Clark, T.- Wares, R. 2004 – Lithotectonic and Metallogenic Synthesis of the New Québec Orogen (Labrador Trough). Ministère des Ressources naturelles, de la Faune et des Parcs, Québec; DP-2004-02, CD-ROM accompanied by a map at a scale of 1:500,000 and the catalogue of mineral deposits.