Mad About Metanor
David Bond, EditorDesmaraisville, Quebec – There are a few places on this planet which, if you visit just once, you spend many waking hours afterwards calculating how to get back there again. Paris is such a place, as is Wallace, Idaho, as is Schaffhausen in Switzerland or Lijiang in China. Such another place is Val-d’Or, Quebec, about seven hours north of Toronto on fat paved roads. If you like mining towns, Val-d’Or will get quickly under your skin. Headframes dot the horizon, towering over the sub arctic landscape like construction cranes in Beijing.
The Silver Valley Mining Journal
Much is going on here in this camp in northwestern Quebec. Agnico-Eagle (AEM), which traces its roots to Cobalt, Ontario, is sinking shaft to 10,000 feet at its LaRonde gold mine near Cadillac, developing its new Lapa Mine nearby, and building a new headframe at its Goldex Mine on the outskirts of Val-d’Or to boost hoisting tonnages. Abcourt Mines (ABI-V) is prepping up a huge open-pit silver-zinc property a few miles north of Val-d’Or. Falconbridge’s purchase of Noranda and its sprawling mining and smelting complex a few miles west of here in Rouyn-Noranda has energized the district as well. There is a bounce in people’s steps. Val-d’Or means “Gold Valley.” Notice the Quebecois haven’t changed its name to Geenieville, or Ski-O-Rama.
You can hold your head high here, anywhere along the 1,200-mile Cadillac Fault, if you are a miner of precious metals, or of zinc or copper. The locals, and the provincial government of Quebec, are so supportive of mining that they’ll even move a town out of your way if that’s what it takes to access the veins.
We are now two and one-half hours north of Val-d’Or, in Desmaraisville, in a bull in camp just built to house Metanor Resources’ (MTO-V) first influx of seven dozen miners at Bachelor Lake. But this is not your ordinary bull camp. Along with a fine selection of French and English cuisine, a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Cote de Brouilly red, 2004 vintage, awaits us, breathing on the paper placemats. Les Quebecois, we have discovered, eat better than most Parisians. There’s non-smoking a tavern across the paved highway, next to a convenience store that sells more Budweiser than any other joint in Quebec. We are served fresh walleye retrieved scant hours earlier from Bachelor Lake. Except for the mosquitoes, this is a great place to be.
It’s a great place for a gold mine to be, too. Especially one with a proven production history, a freshly de-watered shaft next to a 500 ton-per-day mill, sitting atop 210,000 ounces measured and indicated, and another 80,000 inferred ounces of gold, with a company whose market cap is about one-fourth the appraised value of the mine and mill (absent any estimate of the value of all that gold they can pull out of the ground and melt into dore for $325 an ounce and a net of 30 cents per share).
In this game you bet jockeys and you bet ponies, and we will get to those in a moment. In Quebec you can also bet on the racetrack. Quebec so encourages mining that your first 100,000 tons are tax-free, “a batch sample” they call it hereabouts, and you get handsome rebates when you hire people, or when you plunk your operating profits back into the ground for new exploration and development. Here’s how the Quebec mining incentive works: In addition to the first 100,000 tax-free tons, an additional 52 cents are returned on expenses incurred during pre-production. And when you get that rebate, you’re free to turn around and re-invest it, and get another 52 cents back, and so on.
This idea of government encouraging mining is a foreign concept to those of us in the Western United States who’ve toiled under the likes of Bruce Babbitt and Christine Todd Whitman and Governors Dork Kempthorne and Cease-Mining Andrus. Yes, Virginia, there are places on this planet where they actually want you to mine, and for you to profit from your endeavours, because miners’ wages bring new taxes to the provincial treasury, and new prosperity to the community.
Metanor’s Bachelor Lake mine comprises 177 claims and two concessions straddling a 100-kilometer radius of active gold mines sitting atop 1.5 million ounces of reserves and resources. Ghislain “Jesse” Morin is passionate in his belief that at least that much additional gold can be discovered and proved-up at Bachelor Lake. The consultant to, and former director of Metanor, has plotted an aggressive exploration and development program for the mine’s lower reaches, down from the 1700-foot level to the 2300-foot level, for starters, along with setting up drill headings in Bachelor Lake’s existing drifts and drifting along the 2300-level. The mine’s previous owners never spent a farthing on exploration, Morin explains. Simply put: “The youngest director on the board was 72 years old. They didn’t figure they had that much time left.” Some 14,000 meters of diamond-drilling from the 1700 on down suggest the Bachelor Lake vein structure tends to widen, and to improve in grade, the deeper you go, Morin said. But again, the former owners, who operated the property from 1983-1989, didn’t seem to care. Morin passionately does.
Shaft-deepening and mill rehabilitation are scheduled for later this year and early next, with production commencing by Q3 2007 at an annualized rate of 50,000 ounces by year-end. Returning the mill to production will be a no-brainer. It was gently mothballed in 1987; the ball mills are jacked up off their bearings, and the baths and tanks were washed out down to bare metal. We have seen dozens of idled concentrators advertised as “turnkey,” but this one really is. Morin recently secured a new 900-horsepower double-drum hoist for the mine, to replace the existing 700-hp Nordberg as operations deepen and production increases to 750 tpd. A well-established mine developer and millwright in the Val-d’Or region (properly the Abitibi Mining District), Morin figures he can also boost gold recovery at Bachelor Lake’s mill by tinkering with retention times in the tanks – something he says his predecessors neglected to do.
Revenues from gold production at Metanor’s 100%-owned Bachelor Lake will be ploughed into the company’s other properties in northwestern Quebec and Ontario, including the DuBuisson property smack alongside AEM’s Goldex in Val-d’Or, which contains a total measured, indicated and inferred gold resource of some 450,000 ounces and was mined back in the 1930s; the Opinaca gold claims hard by James Bay next to Goldcorp’s Roberto Deposit, and the Wahnapitei property in Sudbury, hard by Falconbridge’s Nickel Rim.
Watch MTO. They are an absolute sleeper, sitting on some beautiful properties in one of the planet’s most prolific and mining-friendly districts. And if that Nordberg’s got half the horsepower of Jesse Morin, watch the ounces fly into the till.
July 20, 2006
David Bond, Editor
The Silver Valley Mining Journal
Email this Article to a Friend