VANCOUVER — One of the main focuses for the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) and its annual Mineral Exploration Roundup is a continued support for public geoscience.
Back in 2005 the British Columbia government announced a $25 million investment in what would become Geoscience BC — an industry-led, industry-focused, applied geoscience organization. And an ongoing investment in geological research has been a key element in bringing B.C. back to the forefront as a mineral exploration destination.
The decision followed significant advocacy from the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines — which would become the AME BC — as well as a number of geologists and professionals from the exploration industry active within the province. Though it seems like environmental or permit struggles may be the primary concerns for exploration companies, it is often talk of axing public geological funding that really strikes chords.
A popular quote amongst explorers in reference to public geoscience reads as follows: “It is hard enough to find a needle in a haystack. If you don’t know where the haystack is it becomes nearly impossible.”
Over the past six years the province has granted Geoscience BC an additional $23.7 million in funding, which has resulted in new discoveries, expanding exploration programs, and greater benefits for local communities. On Jan. 29 The Northern Miner had a chance to sit down with Geoscience BC president and CEO Lyn Anglin to discuss the organization's mandate, recent successes, and goals going forward.
“I think there is still a lot more we can do, but it has definitely been a move in the right direction. We have to remember that B.C. is geologically an extremely complicated place. It is a really interesting bunch of different rock packages that make it unique in Canada, though we share similarities with the Yukon,” Anglin comments during an interview at the convention. “We also have different challenges with topography and climate, as well as glacial cover and you have very steep coastal mountains that are difficult to work in. There are parts of B.C. that don't yet have basic airborne magnetic coverage, and we're trying to fill in those gaps.”
Geoscience BC is doing a lot of work on new geochemical methods geared towards helping explorers strategize and prioritize sampling programs to realize maximum value out of each dollar spent on a project. Anglin says that the organization has had some major successes in regards to increasing awareness on effective geochemical techniques, as well as working alongside companies exploring new projects.
“In fact Dave Heberlein is consulting on a lot of our geochemistry research and he's been really busy with clients coming to him as a result of his work,” Anglin comments. “In some respects it was bringing people back to some basics of geochemistry that hadn't been applied for a while. The other thing with Dave's work is he's been looking at a lot of case studies, and we've heard from quite a few of the exploration-related geochem labs that those results have been really useful for them.”
One of the major releases by Geoscience BC at Roundup has been initial results from an ongoing exploration program on Northern Vancouver Island. During 2012 the organization focused on an area surrounding the communities of Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Alert Bay, Port Alice and Zeballos. Working closely with the Island Coastal Economic Trust, Geoscience BC is hoping to reinvigorate exploration interest in an area that once hosted BHP Billiton's (BHP-N, BLT-L) Island Copper mine, which was a 50,000 tonnes per day open-pit operation that ran through 1995.
“Before we started this program on North Vancouver Island there were claims, but not a lot of money being spent on the area, especially when you compare it to other parts of the province with the same geographic footprints,” Anglin explains. “It's under-represented, and we think there is capacity for more exploration because there is that potential for further discoveries. There obviously is no guarantee, but we're hopeful that data will lead to more follow-up and interest in that area of B.C.”
A second major priority for Geoscience BC has been its massive Quest project, which is a program of regional geochemical and geophysical surveys designed to attract the industry to an area lying between Williams Lake and Mackenize, B.C. Much of that portion of the province is covered by layers of sand and gravel from glaciers, so geophysics becomes a key tool for exploration outfits.
Quest has been running since roughly 2006, and has already had a positive impact on the industry. One example involves Vancouver-based copper producer Imperial Metals (III-T), which was able to use data from the Quest program to make a new discovery at its open-pit Huckleberry copper-molybdenum mine.
“That's a great story for the company, and the surrounding communities,” Anglin says. “It resulted in an extended mine life, and I believe they even credited our data in the press release following the discovery.”
According to Anglin the next area of interest for Geoscience BC will be the corridor surrounding Vanderhoof that hosts New Gold's (NGD-T, NGD-X) Blackwater gold-silver deposit — which holds 267 million indicated tonnes grading 0.88 gram gold per tonne and 4.3 grams silver per tonne for 7.5 million oz. contained gold and 40 million oz. contained silver.
The area is a parallel belt to where Geoscience BC ran its original Quest initiative. Anglin suspects it may have been a geochemical program the organization released in 2006 that kick-started exploration in the Blackwater district, and says she believes there might be another belt with high potential nearby.
“We're trying to maintain that information flow, and ensure that all levels of government recognize the value of public geosciences,” Anglin concludes. “I've spent a lot of my time connecting with local community leadership because we want to make sure the communities understand what we are doing, and why it might be of value to them. If anything it is more the communities that have generated support for us by telling politicians that this is something they want to see happen.”
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