An environmentally contentious mineral exploration program in the Sudbury area will be allowed to proceed.
Junior miner Flag Resources (1985) Limited, a holder of mining leases in the Wolf Lake area, has been issued a mineral exploration permit by the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, with no conditions attached.
The decision was announced on Oct. 31. Flag Resources applied for the permit earlier this fall.
The permit will allow Flag to perform exploration drilling to assess mineral resource potential in the Township of Mackelcan in the Wolf Lake region, 47 kilometres northeast of Sudbury.
The permit application was subject to heavy opposition. Local activist groups including Friends of Temagami and the Wolf Lake Coalition left comments asking the government to protect the area from exploration.
The permit application was posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario and open to public comment between Sept. 19 and Oct. 19.
One commenter wrote, “Please protect Wolf Lake [sic] old growth red pine forest – the world's biggest remaining old growth red pine forest – by not allowing further mining exploration. Disturbance and debris still remain from past mining exploration activity of the company.”
Flag Resources has been in the Wolf Lake area since the late 1980s. Activists claim there is still residual evidence on the ground of past mineral exploration, something they would like to see remedied before the company starts work.
Wolf Lake was designated a forest reserve by the Ontario government in 1999.
Activists were under the impression that once the mining leases in the area expired, Wolf Lake would become a part of the neighbouring Chiniguchi River Waterway Provincial Park, a protected area.
Flag's mining leases were renewed by the provincial government in 2012 because the company remained in good standing. The junior miner believes the area has high mineral potential and they plan to drill some of their old bore holes this winter.
Wolf Lake's forest reserve status prevents commercial harvesting of lumber in the region, but allows for mineral exploration and mining activity.
After Flag applied for the work permit this fall, the mining industry rallied around them. Supporters took to the comments section to urge the government to grant the application.
“Prospecting and exploration must be allowed to continue on existing mine claims and leases in Ontario's forest reserves provided the obligations of the Mining Act are met,” wrote one commenter.
“I am in full support of the Flag Resources (1985) Limited request.”
The president of Friends of Temagami, PJ Justason, said that activists won't prevent the company from exploring the area. However, they will continue to pressure the government to reevaluate Wolf Lake's status as a forest reserve.