More Risky and Costly than Ever to Replenish Mineral Reserves
Base metal reserves in Canada are on the decline. Most of the easy-to-find deposits in established mining camps have been exploited, and the costs of making a discovery have been steadily increasing since the 1980s. Ensuring that production rates do not outstrip existing mineral reserves will require explorers to increasingly search for deposits in more challenging environments, including at depth (in active mineral regions) and in northern/remote regions.
These new challenges will further increase the uncertainty and risk associated with locating and delineating exploration targets, as well as the costs. Public investments in geoscience are required to increase the probability of exploration success in Canada and to ensure that discoveries are made in a more cost-effective manner. This is particularly important in periods of economic downturn, such as the one we are currently facing.
Public Investments in Geoscience Improve the Odds of Exploration Success
Mineral exploration is the first and vital stage of the mineral development cycle. The purpose of this stage is to locate mineral deposits that could be economically developed into a mine. Mineral exploration involves a high degree of uncertainty and risk.
Successful mineral exploration is a collaborative effort that requires both government and private sector investment. Geoscience programs help to identify the haystacks so that exploration companies can effectively and efficiently search for the needles - the economic deposits that may one day become a mine.
GEM Renewal is Appreciated but Addresses Only Half of the Challenge
The PDAC applauds the federal government’s renewal of the Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals (GEM) program, which will stimulate exploration in data-poor northern regions of Canada by establishing the modern and foundational geoscience knowledge base required to inform exploration decisions. The renewal of GEM creates opportunities for new economic development through the location and development of significant near-surface deposits in the North.
A comprehensive public geoscience strategy also requires programs that innovate exploration in active mineral regions where near-surface deposits have likely been developed. While the purpose GEM is to attract exploration investment in greenfields projects, the purpose of programs like the Targeted Geoscience Initiative (TGI) is improve exploration efficiency through innovation in methodologies, technologies and data processing.
TGI-4 has served to enhance the capacity of industry to detect buried ore deposits. The program has improved exploration models for a number of areas including the Canadian Malartic region near Val d'Or (Quebec), the James Bay lowlands (Ontario) and the Athabasca Basin. New exploration strategies developed as a result of the program will support mine expansion and increased mine-life while lowering discovery costs.
Given that the focus of the program is thematic, rather than geographic, the outputs of the program will have application for northern exploration projects once the GEM program is completed. Without the TGI-4 program, mineral exploration activities in southern Canada would be less effective and costlier, with consequent negative effects on the Canadian economy and communities across Canada.
PDAC Recommends Renewal of TGI
The PDAC recommends that the federal government renew the Targeted Geoscience Initiative for additional 5 years and maintain the program’s funding level at $25 million.
Previous iterations of the TGI program had limited industry involvement, which typically occurred only in its evaluation stage. We further recommend that TGI-5 include greater industry participation, particularly at the planning and design stages.
PDAC applauds the Government of Canada's renewal of the TGI program in Economic Action 2015.