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By Hon. Bob Mcleod
Special to Mining News 

Mining Explorers 2011: NWT: A treasure house of opportunity

Minister offers insights on mining industry's 2011 exploration activities


Last updated 11/6/2011 at Noon

The vast landscape of the Northwest Territories is blessed with an abundance of resources. It is a land filled with opportunity, and much of the mineral wealth remains untapped. Mineral explorers and producers are making best efforts to unlock this potential and seizing the opportunities that await them. The Government of the Northwest Territories strongly supports responsible and sustainable mineral development that yields substantial economic benefits to NWT residents, communities and businesses.

Four mines are operational in the NWT: BHP Billiton's Ekati Diamond Mine; Rio Tinto - Harry Winston's Diavik Diamond Mine, DeBeers' Snap Lake Diamond Mine and North American Tungsten's Cantung Mine.

Preliminary numbers for 2010 indicate that the diamond mining industry contributed C$967 million to the gross domestic product of the NWT, nearly one-third of the territory's total.

Estimates indicate that the three producing diamond mines are on track to produce over 10 million carats in 2011.

A fourth mine, DeBeers - Mountain Province proposed Gahcho Kue diamond project, is currently undergoing an Environmental Impact Review.

Once production begins, it is estimated that Gahcho Kue could produce as many as 49 million carats of diamonds during its lifetime.

But the NWT is not just a producer of diamonds. NWT mining companies are also focusing their attention on a variety of promising minerals and metals, including precious metals, base metals and rare earth elements.

Once the cornerstone of the NWT economy, gold is again a promising opportunity. Drilling began at Seabridge Gold's Courageous Lake project this year. This project represents one of the largest undeveloped reserves of gold in Canada. Courageous Lake, located 240 kilometers (149 miles) northeast of Yellowknife, is estimated to contain more than 4 million ounces measured and indicated reserves of gold. In addition, Tyhee Development Corp. recently released a prefeasibility study on the Yellowknife Gold Project, located 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Yellowknife. This project could potentially produce more than 800,000 ounces of gold.

Located 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of Behchokö, NWT, Fortune Mineral's Nico Project also looks promising. The project contains over 21 million metric tons of proven and probable gold, cobalt and bismuth reserves. Currently moving through the environmental assessment process, this mine is projected to have a 15-year life span.

Avalon Rare Metal's proposed Nechalacho Project is one of the highest quality undeveloped rare earth element deposits in the world. REEs have application in many progressive technologies, including: cell phones; rechargeable batteries; computer monitors; fuel efficient vehicles; and high powered lasers. Located 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Yellowknife, this project has an estimated 57 million metric tons of indicated mineral resources, 226 metric tons of inferred mineral resources, and an estimated 18-year mine life. Avalon released an updated prefeasibility study in July 2011 and hopes to have the mine producing by 2013.

Canadian Zinc Corp.'s Prairie Creek Mine Project is entering the final stages of its environmental assessment. Located 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Nahanni Butte, the Prairie Creek property hosts nearly six million metric tons of measured and indicated mineral resources, including zinc; lead; copper and silver. This project represents a significant opportunity for economic benefits in the Dehcho Region, and the rest of the NWT. Canadian Zinc Corp. has signed impact benefit agreements with Nahanni Butte Dene band and the Liidlii Kue First Nation in Fort Simpson, and a socio-economic agreement with the GNWT was signed in 2011, which will help to enhance these opportunities.

And Tamerlane Ventures plans to sample a 1-million-metric-ton bulk sample at the Pine Point Project in late 2011. This bulk sample is designed to test the viability of mining the other lead-zinc deposits on the property, which was formerly the Pine Point Mine operated by Cominco Ltd. until 1987.

Many other exploration companies are investigating the NWT's mineral potential. The GNWT and the Government of Canada - through the Northwest Territories Geoscience Office - continue to produce new geological maps of highly prospective regions of the NWT. The NWT economy was founded on mineral development and the production of hydrocarbons and this treasure house of minerals and metals will ensure that the trend continues well into the future.


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