Canada is one of the world’s leading mining nations, ranking among the top five global producers for minerals such as gold, potash, cadmium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and many others.
In 2019, the country’s total mineral production reached C$48.2 billion . While Ontario and Quebec represent two key mineral exploration jurisdictions within Canada, one major province is often overlooked by investors looking to gain a share of the country’s precious metals sector: Atlantic Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador.
The discussion around mining in Eastern Canada is often overshadowed by the prolific Abitibi greenstone belt that spans across the border between Ontario and Quebec, but Newfoundland offers one of the most extensive mining histories in Canada, with small-scale mining dating back to the 1770s , expanding into a major industry by the 1860s. Mining has shaped the economic, social and cultural history of Newfoundland. For today’s mining companies, the province offers world-class geology, significant infrastructure and exceptional access to a skilled workforce.
In the wake of a recent surge in gold prices, many exploration companies are now interested in revisiting historic mines with modern techniques and technologies. Newfoundland in particular has become a hotbed for mining activities, including gold discovery and production .
Newfoundland geology and gold mining
To understand why Newfoundland and Labrador is a rare opportunity for gold mining exploration companies, let’s first examine its geological history, which paints a memorable picture for any industry expert. In fact, earth scientists from across the globe visit the province to examine the evolutionary history preserved in its rocks . Western Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park has even been described as the eighth Wonder of the World due to its unique geological landscape.
Newfoundland’s mineral resources are a direct result of its geological history. The province can be divided into three distinct zones that were created as the continents separated approximately 600 million years ago. Labrador hosts some of the planet’s oldest rocks, forming massive deposits of iron ore, nickel and copper . Other zones were formed at least 200 million years ago, when continents broke apart to create the Atlantic Ocean. Central Newfoundland is characterized by sedimentary rocks including shale, gypsum and sandstone, all of which are associated with gold mineralization .
It wasn’t until 1976 that gold began playing an integral role in Newfoundland’s mining history, when miners uncovered widespread mineralization near Cape Ray. In 1983, BP-Selco discovered the famed Hope Brook deposit, which produced more than 752,000 ounces of gold over a decade of operation. In 2011, Coastal Gold began an exploration program below and around the existing Hope Brook mine, resulting in the development of an underground resource of 954,000 ounces of gold with a cutoff of 3 grams per tonne. Because the majority of exploration drill holes conducted to date in Newfoundland are roughly only 200 meters deep, many mining companies are now interested in exploring beyond this to find similar success. World-class orogenic-type gold deposits such as those found in Timmins and Val d’Or have been noted for being more than 2 kilometers in depth.
Mining is one of Newfoundland’s largest and oldest industries and it represents 6.4 percent of the province’s GDP. The sector contributes more than 7,000 jobs , and in 2018, the provincial government implemented a mining development plan that works closely with exploration companies to ensure sustainable employment. Mining and quarrying. Between February 2017 and 2018, the government of Newfoundland contributed more than C$2.3 billion in capital investments toward the sector.
According to Fraser Institutes’ 2020 Investment Attractiveness Index , Newfoundland and Labrador ranked within the top 10 mining jurisdictions in the world. Factors such as mineral potential, transparent permitting, solid infrastructure and a skilled workforce contribute to its increased attractiveness. In 2020 alone, the provincial Department of Industry, Energy and Technology processed 389 mineral exploration applications , surpassing any of the previous five years. Expenditures for mineral exploration also increased, climbing from C$50 million in 2019 to C$61 million in 2020.
Major players to watch
Now that gold prices have seen a revival, mineral exploration companies have flocked to Newfoundland, encouraged by a slurry of high-grade gold discoveries . Companies like Canstar Resources (TSXV:ROX) are well-positioned to capitalize on a rapidly expanding industry. The company’s 100 percent owned Golden Baie project covers more than 60,000 hectares in Southern Newfoundland, including a significant gold-bearing structure that is south of New Found Gold’s (TSXV: NFG ) Queensway project.
New Found Gold plans to drill 200,000 metres at Queensway this year and recent results include 24.0 g/t gold over 46.0 meters . Like Queensway, the Golden Baie project is highly prospective for orogenic gold mineralization, with visible gold discovered at surface and more than 20 gold occurrences spanning a distance of 30 kilometers.
Similarly, Marathon Gold (TSX: MOZ ) is expecting to begin construction at its 100 percent owned Valentine gold project in early 2022, with production slated for the second half of 2023. Marathon’s pre-feasibility study for the project outlines proven and probable reserves of 1.87 million ounces of gold, with resource estimates of 3 million measured and indicated ounces of gold.
Another major player to watch is Anaconda Mining (TSX: ANX ), whose Point Rousse project is located in the Baie Verte mining district and has produced more than 118,028 ounces of gold since beginning mining at the project’s Pine Cover open pit mine in 2010. In March 2021, the company announced a 4,000 meter diamond drill program that will test several priority targets near its fully permitted Pine Cove Mill and in-pit tailings facility.
Newfoundland is currently one of the top mining jurisdictions in the world. In the wake of a favorable commodity market for gold and recent high-grade gold discoveries, the province has become a hotspot for mineral exploration companies and investors looking for precious metals exposure. As the province continues to work hand in hand with companies to capture new opportunities, investors should pay special attention to companies that expect to build on historic exploration that may hold significant upside potential.
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