$3-million Mineral Exploration Assistance Program (MEAP) will support 22 new projects – by John Barker (Thompson Citizen – July 18, 2014)

The Thompson Citizenwhich was established in June 1960, covers the City of Thompson and Nickel Belt Region of Northern Manitoba. The city has a population of about 13,500 residents while the regional population is more than 40,000.  editor@thompsoncitizen.net

Manitoba Mineral Resources Minister Dave Chomiak said June 23 the Mineral Exploration Assistance Program (MEAP), which delivers financial assistance to companies carrying out mineral exploration in Manitoba, would invest $3 million in 2014-15 to support 22 new projects, doubling 2013-14 funding levels. MEAP provides assistance in the form of a partial refund of approved exploration expenditures.

“Doubling our investment will have a positive effect on mineral exploration and development in Manitoba,” said Chomiak. “We are attracting new companies exploring here for the first time, creating good jobs for Manitobans, especially in northern communities.”

The companies are exploring for a variety of commodities including a number of projects for gold, copper, zinc and nickel. There is also one project each for graphite and uranium. Base metals and gold represent 92 per cent of the proposed MEAP projects. Twelve of the projects (54.5 per cent) are exploring for gold; five projects (22.7 per cent) are looking for copper and zinc; and three projects (13.6 per cent) are exploring for nickel.

There are 22 companies involved in 23 projects – 22 of them which are new projects – and three of the companies have been attracted in part by MEAP’s financial assistance to explore in Manitoba for the first time, Chomiak said.

The projects include CaNickel Mining Limited’s Thompson Nickel Belt North; Rolling Rock Resources Corporation’s Monument Bay; Bison Gold Resources Inc.’s Central Manitoba; Norcangeo Ltd.’s Bryce Bay/Thompson East; QMC Quantum Minerals Corp.’s Rocky-Namew VMS Project; Canadian Star Minerals Ltd.’s West Hawk Lake; Hudbay Minerals Inc.’s Lalor and Chisel Lake; Tudale Exploration Ltd.’s Bissett Area Gold; Callinex Mines Inc.’s MEL 1027A; Canada Bay Resources Ltd.’s Hannes Freeman and CBR Claims; Copper Reef Mining Corporation’s Northstar/Gold Rock; 4058667 Manitoba Ltd.’s Fay Lake; Carlisle Goldfields Ltd.’s Farley Lake; Bishopsgate Exploration Ltd.’s Four Queens/Sarah Lake Property; Razore Rock Resources Inc.’s Oxford Lake; CanAiaska Uranium Ltd.’s Ruttan 2014; 6413251 Manitoba Ltd.’s Barb Claims; MPVC Inc.’s Northwest Manitoba Uranium Project; Rockcliff Resources Inc.’s Tower Property; Mustang Minerals Corp.’s Mayville-Makwa; Strider Resources Limited’s Wekusko; and Wildcat Exploration Ltd.’s Reed.

Since MEAP’s first offering in October 1995, the province has invested $29.7 million in new mineral exploration.

Over $250 million in exploration expenditures have been reported and 782 exploration projects have been completed, the province said.

However, Manitoba continues to its long-term trend of dropping in the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute’s annual Survey of Mining Companies. In the most recent 2013 survey released March 3, Manitoba descended to 26th place from 20th spot a year earlier. Manitoba had been in ninth place in 2010, ranked eighth in 2008 and topped the survey as recently as 2006. Mining is Manitoba’s second-largest primary resource sector and the primary employer in several Manitoba communities, including Thompson, Flin Flon and Snow Lake and underpins the economy of Northern Manitoba.

Founded in 1974 by Newfoundlander Michael Walker, the Fraser Institute is a registered non-profit organization supporting greater choice, less government intervention and more personal responsibility. It is Canada’s best-known conservative think tank and known for the quality of its empirical research by supporters and opponents alike. Since 1997, the Fraser Institute has conducted an annual survey of mining and exploration companies to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulation affect exploration investment.

Survey results now represent the opinions of executives and exploration managers in mining and mining consulting companies operating around the world. The survey includes data on 112 jurisdictions worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica, including sub-national jurisdictions in Canada, Australia, the United States, and Argentina.

This year, MEAP will provide assistance of up to 40 per cent for approved eligible expenses to a maximum of $200,000 per recipient, per fiscal year, Chomiak said.

MEAP provides up to 50 per cent of approved eligible expenses to encourage exploration in under-explored frontier regions including the Northern Superior, Far North and Hudson Bay Lowland areas, and those areas where new discoveries can help sustain existing communities, such as Lynn Lake and Leaf Rapids, which were one time important Northern Manitoba mining communities.

The copper and zinc Ruttan Mine in Leaf Rapids opened in 1973 and was originally owned by Sherritt Gordon Mines, but was sold to Hudbay Minerals Inc. in 1987. Hudbay Minerals Inc. ceased operations of the Ruttan Mine on June 28, 2002. Leaf Rapids population dropped from 1,309 residents in 2001, the year before the mine closure, to 539 residents in 2006 and 453 in 2011, according to Statistics Canada, a 65.4 per cent population decrease since 2001.

Lynn Lake has a population of 482, almost identical in size to Leaf Rapids. Lynn Lake was founded in 1950 when a nickel deposit was discovered, followed soon after by gold, and named after Lynn Smith, chief engineer of Sherritt Gordon Mines Ltd. Most of Lynn Lake’s houses and commercial buildings were moved from Sherridon over cat train trails. The Lynn Lake Greenstone Belt contains rich deposits of nickel, while there are still gold and copper deposits in the area. Lynn Lake’s population was 714 in 2006, Statistics Canada reported, and dropped 32.5 per cent between 2006 and 2011.

Three of the 22 projects receiving MEAP funding this year are in Lynn Lake and Leaf Rapids, and three are in frontier regions.

Chomiak said for every $1 million the Manitoba government invests in financial assistance, up to $8 million is generated for the Manitoba economy through exploration expenditures. The 22 projects receiving funding this year are expected to generate $20.8 million, he added.

“Increased exploration activity boosts local economies, contributes to the province’s geosciences knowledge base and identifies potential mines,” said Chomiak. “Three of this year’s projects involve companies exploring in Manitoba for the first time and these companies have been attracted in part by financial assistance from the province.”