Magnetic mapping will lead the way to north Vancouver Island mining exploration

$930,000 provided to conduct the North Vancouver Island Exploration Geoscience Project

If you see a low-flying helicopter sweeping over the treetops this summer, just think of it as a guy with a metal detector looking for lost change and jewelry on the beach.

The only difference is the chopper will be covering thousands of square kilometres as it utilizes the latest technology to conduct a magnetic survey to seek out potentially valuable deposits of metals and minerals.

“It’s a game-changer…the data is very, very detailed,” said Garth Kirkham of Geoscience BC.

Starting in 2005, the provincially-funded not-for-profit organization has been mapping large swaths of the province in order to provide a better game-plan for prospectors and mining companies.

“This initiative, by itself, could be a huge driver for your economy,” said Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.

On Wednesday, Geoscience BC along with Island Coastal Economic Trust provided $530,000 and $400,000 respectively to conduct the North Vancouver Island Exploration Geoscience Project.

The announcement was made at the Maritime Heritage Centre during the follow-up meeting of the Campbell River Regional Economic Investment Pilot project. The two other projects discussed that are moving forward are for biomass research and a consolidated marketing plan for eight community-based organizations. The magnetic mapping is the big news. While Kirkham noted that such mapping in other areas of B.C. has not, so far, led to the creation of a new mine, it has led to a big spike in exploration. As well, noted Bell, it has helped a few operating mines expand operations by identifying new deposits.

“Forget about a new mine for just now,” said Bell. “Last year, in B.C., approximately $460 million was spent on exploration.”

In Smithers alone, a community of about 4,500 people, claim staking and test drilling brings in more than $100 million annually and employs hundreds of people.

Bell said Campbell River is well-positioned to do the same. The community has long-supported the Myra Falls and Quinsam mines, and has a wide variety of other businesses to support the mining industry.

In fact, the choppers and pilots to be used in the magnetic mapping will be based out of Campbell River. They are expected to soon begin the work and will be finished by the end of September.

The data will then be compiled and released to the public next spring online at www.geosciencebc.com. And as soon as the information is released, the project proponents said Campbell River can expect to see more exploration activity.

“This is a strategic approach to mining investment,” said Camela Tang, vice-chair of the Island Coastal Economic Trust. “I’m interested to see what lies beneath our feet.”

The mapping will take place over a large region of the North Island, north of the 50th parallel. Kirkham said specific regions have been identified due to rock formations, etc. As well, water and moss samples will be taken from streams and creeks to look for signs of metal and mineral deposits.

“So, is there good stuff there?” asked a man who attended the meeting.

Well, explained Kirkham, the red dots on the map don’t always point to exact spot, but there are indications the North Island holds valuable deposits of platinum and the rare palladium.

“It looks good for these elements,” he said.

North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena was also at the meeting and requested that residents be properly notified when the helicopters are flying near their communities.

“First Nations have been notified about this,” said Rivercorp Chair Vic Goodman. “This (project) will benefit First Nations…it will provide them with good information on potential resources.”

 

Other projects

 

The initial meeting in January to identify potential economic drivers for the Campbell River region came up with more than 20 proposals.

Minister Bell asked for the committee to whittle that number down to three to five realistic projects that could provide immediate benefits or assistance. That led to Wednesday’s meeting which, in addition to the magnetic mapping, focussed on biomass research and the consolidated marketing plan.

Bell said the North Island could provide a lot of biomass in the form of wood pellets that can be burned to create energy. He also expressed some regret that he didn’t put more time into wood pellet development when he was Minister of Forest.

He knows now that wood pellet biomass is a proven technology in contrast to cellulose-ethanol. Bell advised giving the boot to anyone who comes along and claims they want to build such a cellulose-ethanol plant.

In addition, Bell said Korea has a mandate to use 10 per cent biomass to produce energy by 2022. That may not sound like much, he pointed out, but that’s more biomass than can be produced in North America.

“The contracts haven’t been filled,” said Bell as he dangled the economic carrot.

Finally, the local organizations investigating a consolidated marketing plan include Rivercorp, Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce, North Island Employment Foundation, Campbell River Creative Industry Council and Campbell River Multicultural Association.