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Mining industry pools exploration ideas.

Finding the next Kidd Creek or Dome mine beneath the swamps and overburden of the Abitibi region is the driving force behind a groundbreaking collaborative effort to search for new mineral deposits employing the latest in surveying technologies.

With deposits in the Timmins-Kirkland Lake region gradually being mined out, attracting more investment, creating more jobs and generally sustaining the mining industry is the aim behind the Discover Abitibi project. The project is aimed at discovering the next world-class deposit.

"This is just an incredible, incredible opportunity for the Timmins-Kirkland Lake area," says Dave McGirr, acting chair of the Timmins Economic Development Corp., one of the many development organizations involved in spearheading the initiative. "There is a huge potential here to boost economic development."

The project is driven entirely by local mining industry stakeholders who have been brainstorming at the committee level in recent months to devise ways to better survey targets in the more difficult-to-explore areas.

The entire project is being overseen by project director John Reddick, a well-known Timmins geologist.

"It's quite exciting from the perspective that the idea is to bring in new investment and jobs and will also create new technology which is wonderful for people in the region," says Kathy Keast, a Timmins economic developer officer.

With partners like FedNor, the Canadian Association of Mining Industry Resources Organization, along with local economic development agencies and municipalities on board, the process will assess what new technologies are available and what data is needed to fill in the knowledge gaps to provide solutions for exploration in the area.

The working groups expect to finish a proposal and business plan in February for submission to funding agencies including FedNor, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and the Ontario Mineral Exploration Technology program.

The initial estimates to do a comprehensive study of the region are between $10 and $12 million, says McGirr.

"Everybody believes there are more deposits in this area, it's just a question of finding them," says McGirr. "With the knowledge and history of finds in this area, this is the best opportunity for this type of program in the world in terms of finding deposits and expanding the life of mining in Timmins and Kirkland Lake."

Once funding is in place, the series of surveys will search for a broad suite of minerals including copper, lead, zinc, gold, possibly diamonds and industrial minerals.

Basically all of the mineral finds on the surface in the Abitibi region have been discovered, says Andrew Tims, president of the Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association. The next big discovery lies undetected beneath sand and clay or is deep down in the Canadian Shield, he adds.

"Maybe there's some splays (sister arms off the main faults) we're not seeing on the surface because they're covered. Seismics can definitely see it." says Tims.

Some of the newer technologies on the horizon include new geochemistry methods of analysing soil samples, he says. Metals in the ground create weak electrical currents dragging metal ions to the surface that latch on to grains of sand. New state-of-the-art equipment can detect these selective and low-level currents.

But just managing to bring all the normally-competing mining interests together in one room for an inaugural meeting at the Senator Hotel in Timmins in November was a landmark event in itself, McGirr says.

"It brought the entire mining community together and everyone's playing a role looking at this area in a holistic fashion," says McGirr. "If you were in that room with all the people that have a stake in the mining community, (you would see that) it was unbelievable the enthusiasm they had.

"They knew this was the right thing to do, knew it had the potential, and the volunteers from all the mining sectors stepped up to participate."

Keast hopes the process will generate the ways and means to support existing mines, refining and smelter facilities, and provide the economic stimulus to keep this infrastructure growing.

"It's a big challenge in that the mining sector has traditionally done things in-house and held their trade secrets and exploration data very close at hand because of the way the (claim staking) system works," says Keast. "But public information data is helpful to everyone especially if it's regional based...and we anticipate it will really spur activity in the area."
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:716
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