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Discover Abitibi: Entrepreneurial community of the year.

It is said that new mines are often found in the shadow of a head frame. While many mines in the Timmins and Kirkland Lake area known collectively as the Abitibi Greenstone belt - are potentially nearing their end, individuals heading up the $12-million Discover Abitibi initiative are certain the effort is going to yield even more opportunity for the future.

Discover Abitibi is a multiphase regional geoscience project, which makes use of new technologies and applications to explore the mineral and metals potential of this region. The effort is being co-ordinated by the Timmins Economic Development Corp. (TEDC) and will result in a comprehensive database of information showing prospectors and mining companies likely targets for future exploration.

"The Discover Abitibi initiative is truly a regional initiative," says TEDC chair Dave McGirr.

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"It involves the entire community. The Abitibi-Greenstone belt is considered one of the most prolific areas for mining resources in the world.

"We believe this entrepreneurial initiative will allow us the opportunity to use the latest technologies to overcome the obstacle of a thick glacial overburden that had limited explorations in the past," he says. "We will be able to use new technologies to find new mines."

"It is important for the project to be recognized by the business community for its entrepreneurial spirit because it shows people that it is the right thing and the right way to go for region," says project co-ordinator Bob Calhoun.

In total, Discover Abitibi has 19 surveys completed, underway or planned, including the high resolution magnetic surveys, gravity surveys, geological and geochemistry studies of the whole region.

"We're doing all the necessary things for finding ore deposits and filling information gaps," says Calhoun. "The government of Ontario has done a lot with its Operation Treasure Hunt and we're filling in the information gaps for areas they won't be able to get to for a while."

Timmins Economic Development Corp. manager, Christy Marinig, says a total of 42 project ideas were submitted, but the 19 were selected partly due to budget constraints. They also wanted to get as much out of the exercise as possible.

"Projects were chosen to have the greatest benefit to fill those knowledge gaps, as well as encourage exploration activity in the region," says Marinig.

The survey work will be carried out between now and the initiative's completion in December 2004.

Calhoun says this is the first such survey done in Ontario, although similar ones have been done in Australia and the Northwest Territories.

"They were similar to this, but they were more company-driven, whereas this has a lot of government money tied up into it," he says. "The government realizes that, if there is a mine found in this area, they will recoup their money very quickly. But what's important to point out is that this is a community venture. At the present time, we have 29 private-sector partners in this and they range from individuals to large corporations from Falconbridge to the Porcupine Joint Venture."

McGirr says although the initiative has raised a large portion of the required $12 million, fundraising still needs to be carried out.

"The mining community and business community in general have been extremely helpful," he says.

Falconbridge has been a major contributor to the project, providing $535,000, while FedNor nd NOHFC both provided about $5 million to the initiative.

The economic benefits of the initiative are many. Calhoun, McGirr and Marinig all point out the need for continued exploration to find new mines and new reserves, as well as to encourage continued exploration in the area.

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McGirr says the effort has already resulted in an "exponential increase" in claim-staking activity.

Calhoun says the initiative is already producing an economic impact.

People who have staked claims are required to show they have spent $400 per claim to keep the claim after two years. With 1,000 claims, that is potential for $400,000 in exploration.

Add to that additional costs such as drilling in areas identified as having anomalies, the cost of gas, food and shelter, the economic benefits of Discover Abitibi become readily apparent, says Calhoun.
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Author:Wareing Andrew
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:689
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