Precious metal prices drive northwest mining activity: No shortage of mine expansion and greenfield projects in gold, palladium, lithium in the development pipeline.

AuthorRoss, Ian

Soaring gold and platinum prices continue to build the economic case for mine development activity in northwestern Ontario and for a global player to make its entry into the region.

With gold hovering between $1,500 and $1,520 per ounce this fall and palladium surging to $1,800 per ounce in early November, John Mason, project manager of mining services for the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC), expects to see more interest in precious and base metal properties in the region.

The big news in September was the acquisition of North American Palladium (NAP) by South African base metal heavyweight Impala Platinum Holdings in a $1-billion share and cash deal. Shareholder approval could come by early December.

NAP's main asset is the Lac des lies Mine, 90 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, with the company committed to spending more than $20 million on exploration to expand its reserves at the mine site and its Sunday Lake property.

While it's unclear if new ownership will bring in its own preferred suppliers, NAP recently issued comfort letters to area companies assuring them it was business as usual.

Mining has been a huge boon to Thunder Bay's business community with more than 400 companies filling a number of roles in the mining supply chain.

"We're hopeful there won't be any negative changes," said Mason.

NAP president Jim Gallagher pointed out the arrival of Impala brings more horsepower into the region in buying services, selling product, and providing stronger backing to fund exploration.

"Overall, I think it's going to be good here," said Mason.

Across the landscape over the next three to five years, three gold mines and one base metal mine are expected to go into production.

Pure Gold Mining looks to be first in the queue with its revitalization of the former Madsen Mine, southeast of Red Lake. The company expects to enter production in the fall of 2020.

Greenstone Gold is expected to make a construction decision by year's end on its Hardrock open-project near Geraldton, while Treasury Metals' Goliath Project, east of Dryden, is slated to start production in 2021.

Also in the mix is Superior Lake Resources with its redevelopment of the former Winston Lake zinc mine near the town of Schreiber on the north shore of Lake Superior.

Rubicon Minerals could be a future gold producer in the Red Lake area within the next five years.

After a disastrous production start in 2015, new management has been meticulously adding...

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