Quebec exploration spending on the rise

Mining industry professionals were crowded into every possible meeting and conference room at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City this week for the annual Quebec Exploration conference.

After a booming year, mineral and exploration development spending in Quebec is expected to reach $350 million compared with $295 million in 2006.

Marco Gagnon, president of the Quebec Mining and Exploration Association (AEMQ) says 2008 will likely go beyond that.

“If we think about the money raised by junior mining companies, I think it will be a little bit better,” Gagnon says.

Early estimations put attendance numbers at 1,700 for this year’s conference but Gagnon says that number might have reached the 2,000-mark.

In its first year, about 1,100 people attended Quebec Exploration, but Gagnon says the success in the mining industry is not the only reason for the growth of the conference.

“We think yes, it’s because there is a boom in the mining industry, but also because we created this synergy,” he says.

For the first few years, the conference was more “geoscientific,” Gagnon says, but now there are company presentations, an investor forum, and more opportunities to talk about business.

This year, the public, especially students, were invited to attend on the final afternoon.

Gagnon says that over the last two years, the James Bay area has become the most prospective region in the province.

Virginia Mines (VGQ-T) made the area famous with its Eleonore gold deposit, now owned by Goldcorp (G-T,GG-N).

In addition to that, prospectors have flocked to the Otish basin and northern Quebec thanks to the new focus on uranium as well as the exploration for diamonds surrounding the Stornoway Diamond‘s (SWY-T) Renard diamond project.

“That’s where most of the exploration money has been spent,” Gagnon says of James Bay. “But before that it was the Abitibi.”

The hype surrounding James Bay didn’t stop the AEMQ from naming Abitibi-focused Aurizon Mines (ARZ-T) from being named Company of the Year.

The award recognizes a list of accomplishments.

The first thing that comes to mind is that Aurizon began commercial gold production in May at the Casa Berardi mine.

As of September 30, Aurizon produced 122,000 oz. gold from Casa Berardi for 2007 with the goal of reaching 165,000 oz. gold for the year. The company increased production by 15% in the third quarter to 48,305 oz. gold, with cash costs at US$282 per oz. gold.

The company also discovered a new gold zone along the south fault of Casa Berardi this year.

Aurizon’s exploration work at the Joanna gold project resulted in an indicated resource of 11.3 million tonnes grading 1.7 grams gold per tonne, or 630,000 oz. gold, and an inferred resources of 28.6 million tonnes grading1.6 grams gold per tonne, or 1.4 million oz. gold.

Other discoveries include new gold, uranium and rare earth elements at the Kipawa property.


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