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Difficult year for junior miners

Uncertainty surrounding world markets and a lack of investor confidence clouded the 2013 Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium Tuesday.
Josh Bailey, vice-president, exploration, for Wallbridge Mining Company Limited, said his company sees a positive future in exploring the Sudbury basin for platinum group elements. Jonathan Migneault Northern Life

Uncertainty surrounding world markets and a lack of investor confidence clouded the 2013 Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium Tuesday.


“This is probably the hardest year I've ever seen,” said Garry Clark, the executive director of the Ontario Prospectors Association, which organized the event. “I've been in the business since 1983.”  


Clark said junior mining companies have had difficulty securing funding due to declining investor confidence tied to mining exploration. “This year the amount of exploration dollars being spent worldwide, let alone in the province, is way down,” he told Northern Life.


That slump, Clark said, has been due primarily to shrinking demand for raw materials from China. Despite a poor year for mining exploration Clark said there are glimmers of hope things will improve. 

Tuesday's symposium had around 200 participants and between 30 to 40 junior mining companies sharing updates on their various projects.


Clark said a few companies have been able to raise funds for exploration and mine development in the province. He said Rubicon Minerals' Phoenix Gold Project in Red Lake, for example, has shown a lot of promise.  


“The biggest issue is to find those deep-pocketed partners,” Clark said. On that front, Sudbury-based Wallbridge Mining Company Limited has managed to for joint ventures with a number of larger, deep-pocketed, mining companies. 


Joshua Bailey, Wallbridge's vice-president of exploration, spoke Tuesday about the company's ongoing projects in the Sudbury basin.  


The company has collaborated with Lonmin PLC, the world's third largest platinum producer, since 2002.


Wallbridge has focused on platinum group elements – which primarily include platinum and palladium – and are relatively abundant in the Sudbury basin. 


Platinum group elements are important components for catalytic converters in vehicles and fuel cells. “These are elements that are basically key for keeping emissions low and keeping smog down in big cities,” Bailey said. “I think demand is pretty strong right now.” 


South Africa and Russia are the world leaders for the production of platinum group elements, but Sudbury has some of the largest deposits in North America. 


Bailey estimates approximately 20 million ounces of platinum group elements have been discovered in the Sudbury basin over the last 20 years. 


Wallbridge has developed one of its projects on its own – the Broken Hammer Mining Property – which could generate estimated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $8.4 million. 

The net present value of the project, which would have a mine life of around 12 months, is around $6 million, Bailey said.


The Broken Hammer Project is at the feasibility stage. Once it is developed, the revenues will allow Wallbridge to fund more exploration projects without having to turn to the timid markets.  


“There's a huge amount of discovery potential in Sudbury,” Bailey said. “It's incredible that some huge deposits are still being found here. The geology here is just incredibly rich.” 

Jonathan Migneault

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