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Granite attracts government's attention; potential shown for value-added products, skilled jobs.

The mining potential of granite has traditionally been overlooked for the glimmer of gold because it does not produce immediate wealth and requires more investment in processing to provide a return.

However, it is that value-added processing and the subsequent skilled jobs which have attracted the attention of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

The ministry is currently examining ways to stimulate investment in the local production and export of industrial minerals in order to create skilled jobs, says Dick Cowan, the ministry's manager of mineral development.

It is offering funding to help with the cost of feasibility studies, the construction of access roads and the purchase of processing equipment.

Last fall, at the Verona Stone Fair in Italy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Shelley Martel urged investors to help create a stone industry in Northern Ontario.

"We've had several delegations of quarry and fabricating people come to Ontario since then," says Cowan, adding that there are about eight companies investigating the potential of the region's granite reserves.

Dave Constable, the superintendent of the ministry's mineral development and rehabilitation branch, says the industry is very much in its infancy.

"It's an underdeveloped industry. First you develop a raw stone block industry and then you create the value-added product," he explains. "We are just at the beginning, but we have some good quarries in the northwest (of the province)," Constable says.

The best known of these quarries is located near Vermillion Bay and operated by Nelson Granite. The company cuts and polishes pink granite at the site for the manufacture of monument bases.

The newest of the northwest quarries is the Pine Green Granite Quarry, located 60 kilometers north of Kenora. It is expected to start production soon, according to general manager George Zebruck.

Pine Green will supply Palin Granite of Finland with an estimated 4,000 cubic metres of stone annually. However, the processing will be done in Finland.

Stone from the site is a coarse granite of a light green shade and will be used for building facing. The color of the stone and the size of the deposit (three square miles) is what attracted the Finns.

"It is a very unique color. We have a very good deposit - a world class deposit here north of Kenora," Zebruck says.

Zebruck says the company is projecting that the site will be in production for at least 20 years, but he believes the potential is much greater.

The quarry, which currently employs five people, is located on lands owned by the Grassy Narrows Native reserve. The provincial government required Palin to enter an agreement with the band to quarry the site.

Zebruck says the agreement is complicated and covers several items, including guaranteed employment for members of the reserve.

The general public's interest in granite was pisqued last month when several daily newspapers in northeastern Ontario published a story indicating that an Italian firm had signed a deal with three Sudbury-area prospectors for the right to quarry a site northwest of Espanola.

According to the published story, the 64-hectare site has a reserve of 50,000 cubic metres of coral and galaxy granite. The material would be substituted for marble as building cladding.

However, the reported size of the property and the amount of granite it contains have since been questioned by Constable and Wilfreid Meyer, the ministry's resident geologist in Sudbury.

In Kirkland Lake, meanwhile, a company called Tundra Granite and Marble Inc. has been offered a $100,000 loan from the Timiskaming Development Fund Corporation to cut, polish and distribute dimensional stones.

Granite would be quarried from several sites in Northern Ontario. Different colors would be made available, ranging from beige to black, but of particular interest is a unique green stone discovered near Kirkland Lake. Tundra Granite and Marble says it expects to have seven people on the payroll within one year of operation.


Under the Northern Ontario Development Agreement (NODA), the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and Energy Mines and Resources Canada will spend $242,000 over the next three years studying the development potential of Manitoulin Island's building stone and limestone.

The Manitoulin study is one of three NODA studies of industrial mineral potential announced last month by the provincial ministry. The other projects include:

* a two-year, $232,000 study of the aggregate and industrial mineral potential of the Blind River to Bruce Mines corridor

* a three-year, $254,500 project to update the inventory of industrial minerals such as building stone, graphite, quartzite, kyanite, vermiculite and silica in the Parry Sound and Nipissing districts.
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Title Annotation:Ontario
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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