When it comes to mining, Saskatchewan could easily be called a ‘rock star.’

Already a leader in uranium and potash production, one junior mining company hopes to put the province on the map for another mineral — zinc.

“Zinc has been touted by many resource market watchers as being a metal that is potentially in short supply,” says Jean-Charles Potvin, chairman of Toronto-based Murchison Minerals Ltd.

Demand is growing for the mineral that is an input in everything from automobile and electrical components to fertilizer and even skincare products.

That’s why the company is looking to a significant deposit and potential other finds in northeastern Saskatchewan as a future, major source of production for the base metal.

Located 550 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, Sask., the Brabant-McKenzie deposit is a not-so-distant cousin — geologically speaking — of current and past producing zinc and copper deposits to the east in Flin Flon, Man., he says. For decades many looked to Brabant-McKenzie to hold the same potential. Several positive results from exploration drilling supported the notion.

But Potvin believes what’s been found to date is just the start.

So far, exploration has proven the deposit has at least two million tonnes of ore at grades of about 10 per cent zinc equivalent, and he believes seven million more tonnes of high-grade ore could be in the ground.

That’s why Murchison Minerals is ramping up drilling, with the aim to explore the area further. The company’s goal is to double the size of the find, which could make the deposit viable enough economically to warrant building a mine and mill.

And central to the success of Murchison’s efforts has been support from the Government of Saskatchewan.

“They are really good at providing companies like ours with the right resources to help the industry to grow,” Potvin says.

Indeed, Saskatchewan has a reputation for being a good place for miners to do business, consistently ranked among the top jurisdictions in the world by the Fraser Institute. It was world’s second most attractive place for mining investment in the institute’s 2017 survey.

Potvin can attest to the second-to-none assistance the junior miner has received so far from the provincial government.

“Last September, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced the new Targeted Mineral Exploration Incentive, which basically provides up to $50,000 per company toward drilling and exploration in targeted areas,” he says. “What we do is expensive, so every little bit of support like this helps.”

But it’s not just financial support. The government also makes a strong case for mining companies to do business in Saskatchewan in other ways.

“Another great advantage the province offers is that it’s got an amazing database that has been digitized,” he says. “It provides miners like us with detailed geological information for most of the province, and it even contains lake sediment samples for trace metals.”

Companies can use the Saskatchewan Mineral Assessment Database to search mineral assessment files by text or map, and then view copies and download them in PDF format, helping miners such as Murchison to quickly identify promising areas for exploration.

Potvin adds that if government officials cannot provide an answer to a question right away, they will find the right expert to answer the question “in a matter of hours, or at most a few days.”

And that’s a good thing because time is of the essence for exploration firms such as Murchison. Funding is often tight; revenues are nearly non-existent, and business is highly seasonal.

“Most drilling is done in the winter because it’s easier to get around on frozen lakes, meaning you don’t need helicopters to move your equipment like in the summer, when it’s much more expensive,” he says, adding companies often only have a window of a few months to explore a stake.

And Murchison Minerals has much to explore since a recent airborne geophysical survey detected dozens of new targets with potential mineralization.

While the stakes are always high, and nothing is guaranteed, one thing Murchison can count on is being able to draw upon a local workforce that is highly skilled and experienced.

“There’s great infrastructure in that respect in the province,” Potvin adds.

Whether it’s drilling companies, helicopters, float planes or geophysicists, the province has all the tools a mining company needs to be successful. That’s not surprising, given the province’s long and successful history in the resource extraction business.

“There’s just a ton of experience in Saskatchewan to draw upon,” Potvin says.

Now with 30 new targets on its radar, Murchison is poised to begin another round of drilling. And Potvin and his team can hardly wait.

“We’re anxious to get at it and go break some rocks,” he says. “We’ve had some very promising developments to date, so we’re very excited.”

For information about investing in Saskatchewan, visit thinksask.ca.

 

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan.