In what could prove to be Ontario’s last great staking rush, several hundred claimstakers recently converged near Temagami on a piece of northeastern Ontario roughly the size of Prince Edward Island.
For 20 years prior to being declared open, the area was under a land caution as a result of aboriginal land claims. Most of the land lies between Hwy. 560 in the north and Hwy. 11 in the southeast, comprising parts of 103 townships and covering more than 6,000 sq. km.
Elaine Basa, a geologist with the Ontario government in nearby Cobalt, says the former land caution includes at least six townships that are “very, very prospective” for gold and base metals, including Knight, Tyrell, Leonard and North Williams in the northwest and Strathcona and Chambers in the southeast.
These townships, along with Tudhope Twp. in the north, are either on or adjacent to known Archean greenstone belts.
Most of the other townships in the caution area overlie Proterozoic sediments of the Southern geological province. Although they have seen far less exploration work in the past, some areas are thought to be prospective for copper-nickel, platinum, diamonds and possibly uranium, Basa says.
Roy Denomme, mining recorder for the Sudbury mining division, estimates there were close to 700 claimstakers on the newly opened lands when the caution was lifted at 9 a.m. on Sept. 17. A large portion of the claims was reportedly in the hands of mining companies before 15 minutes had elapsed.
Most claimstakers were concentrating on 8-10 townships near the towns of Gowganda and Temagami, where several showings — and even some past-producing mines — existed before the staking ban. The Wanapitei anomaly area just northeast of Sudbury extends to the former caution area, and Denomme expects this area was heavily staked as well.
Claimstakers have 31 days to record their claims with Denomme’s office (and with that of Roy Spooner, his counterpart in the Larder Lake division), so the number of claims staked is not yet known. In coming weeks, he expects to be kept busy sorting out overlapping claims.
While Denomme pegs the number of claimstakers in Tyrell and Knight twps. at 150-200, Strike Minerals (STRK-C) President Carl Forbes figures the number of stakers in Tyrell Twp. alone exceeds 800.
Forbes says his stakers claimed the prime gold ground in Tyrell Twp., which he says was also sought by Battle Mountain Gold (BMG-T) and Royal Oak Mines (RYO-T). Within 24 hours of the claimstaking, he had already heard from 15 companies seeking an interest in his 50 claims.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” says Forbes. “I spent years actually prospecting and physically working on ground within the caution. I mapped it and I sampled it, so I knew the best places to go, whereas the big companies could depend only on government files.”
Dennis Prince, international exploration manager for Falconbridge (FL-T), says his company had about 40 people involved in the staking rush. He regards the rush as significant because of the large size of the area that was opened up and the long period of time during which it had been off limits.
“It has been locked up so long that people haven’t had a chance to look at it. It’s like going to another country where the politics have been so bad for so long that the exploration level has been zero.”
Prince says modern geochemical techniques and new “deep-seeing’ geophysical methods could prove useful in exploring the area’s deep overburden and cover rocks.
Daniel McDermott, executive director of the Toronto-based Earthroots Coalition, says the staking rush limits the ability of this, or any future, provincial government to protect Temagami’s land base insofar as the claimstakers would have a right to compensation. “Temagami, as a reasonably pristine wilderness area, might, in the not terribly distant future, be simply a sad memory.”
While refusing to speculate whether any mines would end up being developed, Basa says she does expect that several years of exploration activity will follow in the wake of the staking rush. “It’s really going to mean a lot for the economies of a lot of small towns.”