By Cameron Orr
It is being called a “rebound year” as 2010 saw a sudden jump in exploration expenditures over last year.
That’s the word from regional geologist Paul Wojdak who gave attendees at the recent Rock Talk conference in Smithers a round-up of what’s going on in the north.
And there is, in fact, plenty going on.
“It was a strong year,” said Wojdak of 2010.
In a report on exploration and mining in the Skeena region, freely available online on the Ministry of Forestry, Mines and Lands website, and prepared by Wojdak, the Skeena Region, which effectively covers an area from south of Houston right up to the B.C./Yukon border — including areas such as Prince Rupert and Kitimat — has seen $241.5 million spent on mine development, a near record level.
Annual exploration expenditures in 2010 surpassed the last record setting year, 2007, with $172 million. In 2007, that figure was $170 million.
He singles out a few projects in the report’s introduction. Firstly he discusses the Endako open pit molybdenum mine that he said is in the midst of a $498 million expansion and modernization.
The Huckleberry Mine is also developing a new plan that will potentially expand the lifetime of the mine for years.
Of course one of the major developments that has mining interests rubbing their hands together is the Northwest Transmission Line, which will send power up the Highway 37 corridor.
The project just received its provincial environmental certificate, a major hurdle for its development.
“It does look like things are going to be strong this year.” said Wojdak.
He also points out that mineral prices are hitting at or near records — gold is hitting new peaks, and silver is holding on very strong as well.
The one exception to the mineral price explosion is zinc, he said, but thankfully most of the projects in the region are gold and copper. Molybdenum is doing well also, although not at the peaks it saw a few years ago.
A development which has people excited is a project called Blackwater-Davidson, a property owned by Richfield Ventures.
The site, located about 100 km south of Fraser Lake, has some advantages over other projects further north. For example, he said sites north of Stewart pose challenges with rugged topography and glaciers.
“This thing south of Vanderhoof … would be relatively a piece of cake in terms of the physical challenges,” said Wojdak.
He did add, however, that,”Nothing is a piece of cake in permitting, it seems.”
But Blackwater-Davidson also has the advantage where you can just drive to it on a 150 km road from Vanderhoof.
In Wojdak’s annual report of 2010 for the Omineca Region, he noted that “numerous” gold-bearing intercepts at the location justified Richfield Ventures to upgrade 20 km of access road and install a year-round camp.