Gold may be Dryden’s new economic generator – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – July 2013)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business

Mining and Dryden have not always been synonymous. But this area of northwestern Ontario is continuing to gain some profile with junior miners to continuing to advance gold projects despite challenges to raising exploration capital.

“There’s a lot of buzz around the mining sector and I’m getting more calls on that side of things from companies looking to jump in ahead of the curve,” said Nicole Gale, office manager at the Dryden Development Corporation (DDC).

For years, the community’s economy has always been impacted by the highs and lows of the forestry industry, namely the fortunes of the Domtar pulp mill. However, ongoing exploration work from area junior miners like Treasury Metals, Manitou Gold and Tamaka Gold has stirred up excitement in the small city of 7,600.

Located on the Trans-Canada Highway between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, Dryden has always been a retail shopping hub for neighbouring communities. Now it’s aiming to be a local service hub for mining outfits.

Gale said the DDC’s online mining service directory, a listing of supply companies and businesses that caters to the industry, continues to be updated and promoted.

“We’ve been looking at gaps on the supply side moving forward,” said Gale. “The junior miners are focusing on securing capital and we’re assisting where we can on the community front,” in attending exploration information sessions and helping the exploration players connect with local business.

The city has worked with the juniors in co-hosting investor groups on community tours and have promoted skilled labour opportunities through connections with Confederation College.

“What I’m finding is I’m getting more inquiries from business startups and companies looking to expand because they’re trying to service them with the equipment rentals and supply needs that these companies are looking for,” said Gale.

The city is working with Laurentian Goldfields, which had a mining option agreement with the City of Dryden on a property in nearby Van Horne Township, to help them with the acquisition of the mineral and surface rights.

For small communities, mineral exploration can be the gift that keeps on giving through equipment sales and leasings, restaurant meals, hotel stays and jobs for local labourers.

In the case of Treasury Metals, the Toronto-based gold digger has established a project office in Dryden two years ago that employs 12 full-time.

The company moved into a former Ministry of Natural Resources tree nursery and has set up a core shack and made use of the multiple large storage buildings and office space.

The company is moving the development of its high-grade Goliath gold deposit into an open-pit and underground gold mine and mill about 20 kilometres east of town.

The 161-hectare property contains 1.7 million ounces of gold in the inferred and indicated categories. Currently in the environmental assessment and permitting stage, the company continues to explore for more ounces as it prepares to start a feasibility study this summer.

Norm Bush, vice-president of the Goliath project, said Dryden is getting excited over the possibility that mining can be an economic generator.

Bush was the former manager of the Dryden Weyerhaeuser mill (now Domtar) during the downsizing of the last decade when 850 jobs were lost.

“Since that time there’s been huge recognition in the community that exploration and mining is really the future direction in terms of growth. We’ve had nothing but excellent support from council and I’d say the vast majority of the citizens.”

At the city’s two industrial parks, municipal officials are having discussions and are preparing to make room for an energy company looking to expand and a Calgary-based home builder that wants to establish a production plant to serve First Nation communities.

On the renewable energy front, the city has wrapped up a plan on a pilot program to work with local farmers and a British Columbia company, Bionera, in conducting crop trials for willow trees for possible use as woody biomass.

The opportunity and the company contact came through an agricultural fallow lands and district heating study.