Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Miners at the exploration stage have their eyes shores to the North

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The company Aston Bay Holdings is exploring an area in northern Nunavut in search of minerals, like this malachite, a copper mineral.

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While the ecological transition is Accompanied by increased demand for minerals, junior mining companies are seeing more and more exploration potential in Canada's North. However, the challenges are significant in attracting investors and restoring the image of the industry.

For Andrew Carne, vice-president of expansion of Cascadia Minerals and vice-president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, there is no doubt, Currently, the opportunities for the mining industry are enormous, especially in the North.

His company launched operations last July, and is working on four exploration projects, mainly in the Yukon. The metals sought: copper and gold, explains Andrew Carne, visiting Vancouver at the annual industry gathering, AME Roundup.

Provinces like Ontario or British Columbia have historically been focal points for mineral exploration, he says, but now, Canadian territories offer immense geological potential that we are only just beginning to unlock.< /p>

In 2021, Canada established a list of critical minerals (New window) considered essential to Canada's sustainable economic success, including copper, cobalt and zinc, as well as rare earth elements.

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If the mining sector can be considered incompatible with a sustainable economy, Andrew Carne believes that on the contrary, it is part of the fight to combat global warming, because it produces minerals necessary for the ecological transition.

Environmental damage caused by industry continues to create discord, such as the Tulsequah Chief mine in northern British Columbia. Acid and chemical spills still occur today – although it has not been in operation since 1957 – and reach as far as Juneau, Alaska.

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An abandoned mine on the banks of the Tulsequah River, British Columbia.

I know it's easy to focus on the mistakes of the past, but we truly are in a new era in the way mining is done. With very high environmental standards and in partnership [between the territories, the federal government and the First Nations], maintains Andrew Carne.

For Dave O'Brien , CEO of Stuhini Exploration, there is a disconnect in society between people's desire for a greener world and opposition to the mining industry.

If you want a green future, you need metals. You can't drive an electric car and say mining is bad. They require six times more metals [than a conventional car].

A quote from Dave O'Brien, president and CEO of mineral exploration company Stuhini Exploration

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Tom Ullrich, president and CEO of Aston Bay Holdings, believes that the company's gains from this industry are such that they offset the risks. Everything around us comes from a mine or was made by tools that come from a mine. We would not have today's society without this industry.

Everything we do has an impact, our presence, in as a human, has an impact. Mining has an impact. So we must recognize this and mitigate these impacts.

Obtaining financing as a junior mineral exploration company, however, is a difficult task because the investment is risky, laments Dave O'Brien, CEO of Stuhini Exploration, a mineral exploration company with one of its projects located in Atlin, British Columbia, near the Yukon border.

Same story for Tom Ullrich, president and CEO of Aston Bay Holdings: We have perhaps one potential site in 100 that is moving forward, and of those, only a portion will actually become a mine. Activities do not create income until minerals are found, which is far from guaranteed, he adds.

Operating in the North can also present particular challenges in terms of infrastructure and travel costs. Aston Bay Holdings is exploring a very remote area in northern Nunavut, where a small camp is set up and everything has to be flown in, says Tom Ullrich.

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Copper samples found in Nunavut by the company Aston Bay Holdings.

It's cyclical. It's a real challenge. When things are going well, investors are happy, but when things are not going well, this is not the case. […] People need to realize that we need these products, we should focus on the long term, rather than this volatility, says Dave O'Brien.

Our day will come. I call it “The Awakening” and I don’t think it’s too far away, Dave O’Brien firmly believes.

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