Exploration agreement aims to help junior mining companies in northern Sask. and Man.

An agreement between the Saskatchewan and federal governments worth approximately $2 million will aim to help junior mining companies in their exploration of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Future of Creighton, Sask.'s main industry 'up in the air,' according to longtime Mayor Bruce Fidler

A picture of a jumbo drill at Hudbay's 777 mine in Flin Flon, Man. (Hudbay Minerals)

An agreement between the Saskatchewan and federal governments worth approximately $2 million will aim to help junior mining companies in their exploration of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The agreement was signed in December 2017. 

The future of the mining camps near Creighton, Sask., which is approximately 430 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, is "up in the air," according to the town's mayor.

"The forecast put out a year ago by Hudbay [Minerals] was that the 777 mine, the one in operation right now where they're producing ore, is going to run out and shut down in three or four years," said Bruce Fidler.

Bruce Fidler (back row, centre) has been the mayor of Creighton for 14 years, and worries about the future of the mining sector in the region. (Town of Creighton website)

He estimates a shutdown would affect roughly 700 employees, who live for the most part in Creighton and Flin Flon, Man.

A processing plant in Flin Flon is still in operation, processing ore from a mine in Snow Lake.

"We've been hoping for some kind of program to come out for a couple years now, to assist the juniors in getting out there and doing exploration and drilling and finding another ore body that could save, or at least be, the next mine," said Filder.

Overhead survey

The agreement will fund an airborne survey of the Flin Flon and Creighton region, which is a well-known, "highly prospective" area.

Three mines are already in operation in the region. The 777 mine, near Flin Flon, mines zinc and copper, and smaller amounts of gold and silver. The Lalor mine in the Chisel Basin produces the same minerals.

Nearby Reed mine produces copper. Hudbay owns the majority of each mine.

"The challenge is actually identifying the deposits. This survey is going to be taking place and trying to see through rocks that actually cover the old volcanic rocks in Flin Flon you can see on the ground," said University of Saskatchewan geology professor Kevin Ansdell.
University of Saskatchewan geology professor Kevin Ansdell calls the Flin Flon area 'highly prospective' and full of potential. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

While there are many kinds of geophysical surveys, the new agreement focuses on two, using both a helicopter and an airplane.

"The helicopter is flying over a piece of land and it's emitting an electromagnetic current at low level," said the head geologist on the project, Gary Delaney.

"That goes down into the ground and if there's a conductive body, that will generate its own current."

The conductive body could be indicative of a copper or zinc deposit.

Process will take years

Kevin Ansdell holds two minerals from the Flin Flon area — copper ore and zinc. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Once a deposit is found, it is up to the mining companies to invest, explore further, and decide if a mine is economically viable.

Fidler hopes a new mine can be set up before the others dry up, in order to keep the existing zinc metallurgical plant and concentrator operating.

The town's efforts have concentrated on economic development in recent months, to prepare for the loss of the mining sector. Creighton, Flin Flon, and Denare Beach have banded together to create a regional economic development committee.

A new economic development officer has been hired, and will start their role Feb. 1.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story identified Kevin Ansdell as a geography professor. In fact, he is a geology professor.
    Jan 31, 2018 7:25 PM CT