November 2015    Print this article

Exploration targets and their impact on the mining industry in Québec

Mehdi A. Guemache
Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

Roughly 85 exploration targets will be unveiled at Québec Mines 2015, on Tuesday, November 24 at 9:00 a.m.

Every year, the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN) unveils its mine exploration targets at the Québec Mines Congress. These targets have been updated by the MERN’s geologists through on-site geoscientific work during the summer. They are located in several regions of Québec, including Abitibi, Nunavik, Côte-Nord, James Bay, the Appalachians and others.

Comprehensive data on the exploration targets are compiled and presented in promotional documents (PRO), and stored on Québec’s geomining information system digital database (SIGÉOM).

The targets are either sites with anomalous metal content (showing or anomalous targets, depending on the prescribed thresholds1), or geological contexts conducive to the discovery of certain specific mineralizations (context targets, e.g. alteration zones, faults, etc.). The size of the targets varies; as a result, for practical reasons, they are generally referred to as isolated (< 100 m), local (100 m to 1 km) or regional (> 1 km). Showing or anomalous targets are usually isolated, while context targets may be isolated, local or regional.

These exploration targets are discoveries still at an early stage in the mine development process: the evaluation stage 2. Exploration work is needed to obtain additional information and confirm their potential, which may or may not exist. As for all geoscientific work, success is by no means guaranteed.

In the past, discoveries by the MERN’s geologists have nevertheless led to real, prolific mining projects, sometimes many years later. The Tio Lake iron and titanium mine, northeast of Havre-Saint-Pierre, which has been in operation since 1950, is a good example of this (Joseph A. Retty, RG-019, 19441).  

Every year, dozens of mining titles (claims) are acquired by private mining companies or independent prospectors, via the GESTIM (Mining Title Management) system, on targets unveiled by the MERN.

Experience has shown that the industry generally reacts in one of two ways to the publication of exploration targets, depending on their typology. The first type of reaction, “rapid response”, occurs in the minutes or days immediately following publication of the targets. It usually focuses on isolated targets (showing or local). In these cases, the target is the main, or sometimes the only, trigger. The second type of reaction, “delayed response”, may be spread over several months or even years. It usually focuses on regional targets, which are just one of several possible triggers (e.g. metal prices, adjacent infrastructure development, exploration and mining methods, etc.).

In 2013, for example, 29 mapping targets, including eight showing targets, were identified in sectors open to exploration in which no claims had been issued. In the month following their unveiling at Québec Mines 2013, more than 130 mining titles were acquired on 15 mainly isolated targets, including the eight mentioned above. In other words, there was a rapid response to 100% of the showing targets. In the following year, three other targets, all of them regional, generated roughly 90 mining title claims.

Implicitly, then, it is clear that the main judgment criteria here is the spatial-temporal relationship between the targets and the mining titles granted after publication. While this relationship is generally strong in the case of rapid responses (see the diagram), it is less so in the case of delayed responses. In this latter case, it is impossible to assert that the claims were in fact triggered by publication of the ministerial targets, especially the regional targets. Analysis of the press reviews disclosed by the companies and citing the MERN’s work, to support their exploration campaigns, may partly qualify this.

Regardless of this, the example presented below, drawn from a more exhaustive ongoing analysis, shows that the industry is very interested in the findings from the MERN’s geoscientific work.

Example of massive staking (in brown) on a local exploration target (target number 11, 13-SS-2235; see PRO 2013-02) immediately after its publication at Québec Mines 2013 (rapid response). The mining titles shown in grey were already active on the publication date. The yellow diamonds mark indicators that were already known.


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