Mining is a major industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, making a significant contribution to the economy of the province and the prosperity of its people for over 150 years. The key to maintaining and growing the industry is a consistent investment in exploration to find new ore reserves to replace those being mined. Our geology is diverse and populated with a variety of minerals while our prospectors and geologists are skilled in finding new deposits. However, our deposits are well hidden and it is very difficult to predict an area’s mineral potential in advance of it being thoroughly explored.
Deposits in production, such as Voisey’s Bay in Labrador, or the Beaverbrook antimony mine near Glenwood, were completely unexpected finds in areas that were not believed to be particularly prospective for mineral deposits. As well, advances in technology create demands for “new” minerals like lanthanum and neodymium that are essential for the “green” technology in hybrid vehicles and wind turbines and vanadium for smaller, more efficient batteries. As a result, a critical factor for mineral exploration is ensuring that sufficient land remains available to be explored for its hidden wealth.
Mineral exploration has very low environmental impact and ranges from a prospector examining outcrops, or a helicopter towing a remote sensing device above the terrain (to assess large areas in a preliminary fashion), to a tractor-towed or helicopter-portable diamond drill drilling a specific target. All exploration projects are approved and strictly regulated by a range of provincial government departments and Aboriginal governments and conducted using the best available practices for environmental protection.
Many people mistakenly believe that the entire province remains open for mineral exploration. This is simply not accurate. Parks, Wilderness and Ecological Reserves and candidate areas for Reserves, Watersheds, Municipalities, wildlife areas, and some Aboriginal lands have mineral exploration either prohibited entirely, or companies avoid them, as they may present significant obstacles to the successful development of a mineral discovery. The fact that increasing areas are unavailable for mineral exploration will ultimately cripple our mining industry and Mining Industry NL advocates for a provincial policy that would apply across government departments to address the accelerating alienation of land from mineral exploration. We firmly believe that modern mineral exploration and mining can be conducted in step with the environmental, social, and economic priorities of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for the benefit of all.
In 2011, the national association that represents the exploration and development sectors of our industry, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), developed a position paper on Land Use Planning and Land Access. Click here to view the position paper.