By Alissa Brothers
Mount Pearl might not be the first place you think of when it comes to a haunt for prospectors, but that’s where the Newfoundland and Labrador Prospectors Association held its annual general meeting this past weekend.
The boot and hammer guys, as they call themselves, gathered at Hotel Mount Pearl, amid what has been a tough few years for the mineral exploration industry in Newfoundland and around the world.
Still, according to the president of the association, veteran geologist and Mount Pearl resident Norm Mercer, the mood was positive.
“There was an element of optimism,” Mercer said. “The atmosphere was positive and quite encouraging amongst the 22 members who attended our annual general meeting.”
Mercer allowed “the mood was much more positive” due to a raise in spirits people in the industry seem to be feeling the past few weeks. In recent years, the energy and outlook was dismal for the livelihood of prospectors due to a major slump in mineral commodity prices.
“Over the past few years we’ve been in a downturn,” Mercer acknowledged. “But certainly over the past few months, things are slowly starting to turn around. Just recently, over the past week or so, we’ve had quite a lot of mineral claim staking happening in Central Newfoundland with well over 5,000 claims staked in the Grand Falls, Gander, and Notre Dame Bay areas.”
A number of prospectors are being contacted by junior mining companies, according to Mercer, with regards to interest in their claimed properties especially ones with showings of gold and silver.
“Things have certainly picked up since the spring, and it seems like a number of new mining and exploration companies have been attracted particularly to the island with a focus on acquiring precious metal properties,” said Mercer. “Copper and nickel are steady, and zinc seems to be attracting some further interest. Prospectors by their nature are optimistic, but we are quite encouraged with what’s been happening over the past few weeks.”
While Labrador was the big spot for prospecting prior to the downturn, Central Newfoundland has always attracted interest and still does.
“Since the spring and early summer we are seeing that there are several different precious metal properties that are being drilled, certainly in central Newfoundland at Valentine Lake by Marathon Gold, and by Benton Resources at their project down at Cape Ray, and also further activity up at the Baie Verte and White Bay areas by Anaconda and Rambler,” Mercer noted. “Several other juniors have acquired property to the west of Gander, and that area has seen quite a lot of increased activity. Even on the Burin Peninsula and to the north there we’ve got a junior (mining company), Puddle Pond Resources. They’ve been getting some very encouraging results on their precious metal property at Point May on the boot of the Burin Peninsula. We now have drilling going on near Thorburn Lake (outside Clarenville) and proposed drilling coming to Butler’s Pond on the Southern Shore in early October.”
With all of this activity, prospectors are finally starting to stake claims and have companies look at their properties again. “Interest and activity is certainly starting to pick up, especially now in the last 10 days or less with the tremendous number of claims that have been staked in Central Newfoundland,” Mercer said. “We just came back from the field last night after visiting a prospector’s property on the Burin Peninsula, and a number of prospectors have received either calls or e-mails entertaining property visits or potential to option their claims to several different new companies. So all of that is very encouraging and we are hoping that it will be the beginning of an upswing for the exploration sector which has been quite down in the past four to five years.”
Mercer said there are a number of individuals who partake in prospecting in Mount Pearl, although most of them participate on a part-time basis. The city has also been the headquarters for a number of junior mining companies over the years. “We’ve got about 300 members all over Newfoundland and Labrador and they’re spread out over 130 different communities,” he said.