Mining in Manitoba — the Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone Belt

Disclaimer: I am an investment writer with an interest in the resource industry. I am not a Professional Geologist or licensed financial advisor. I do own investments in some Manitoba-based mining companies and will disclose this information when relevant. Please always do your own due diligence before making any decisions that affect your portfolio.

I’m learning about the mining industry in Manitoba and blogging about what I learn. In a previous blog post I talked about the geography and history of mining in Manitoba and I looked at what is mined and where.

THE MOST PROMINENT MINING ACTIVITY IN MANITOBA

Although there is mining activity throughout the province, the most prominent mining activity in Manitoba occurs in one specific area: An area that is commonly called “the Flin Flon camp” or “the Flin Flon-Snow Lake camp” (named after two communities in the area). A slightly more technical name (that I prefer) is “the Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone Belt”.

You might recall this map from a previous blog post…

The Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone belt is the largest area I’ve highlighted — an area where copper-zinc and gold are mined. (Nickel, silver, and lead are also found there too).

Size, shape, and scope: The area of the greenstone belt is 250 kilometers (155 miles) long and 75 kilometers (46 miles) wide and straddles the boundary between Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Flin Flon is the largest of several communities in the area with a population of over 5,000 on the Manitoba side. Mining is the main industry.

Interesting fact: The town got its name after a science fiction character. A prospector who discovered the area and built a mine called “Flin Flon” which later became a town. Watch the 3 minute video that talks more about it…

Geology of the area: The Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone Belt is a Precambrian greenstone belt formed by volcanic activity. Specifically, it’s a bimodal-mafic classification of a volanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) ore deposit. (Yeah, I had to read that a couple of times, too). These belts frequently yield mineral combinations based around copper-zinc — copper-zinc-gold, copper-zinc-lead, copper-zinc-silver, copper-zinc-nickel (and a number of other minerals in less abundance). For some instructive (but not too overwhelming reading), start with the following Wikipedia sites (and of course check out their reference section for more detail if you want more than a brief overview): Flin Flon Greenstone Belt, Greenstone Belts, and Volcanogenic Massive Sulfide Ore Deposits.

This greenstone belt is one of the largest in the world. It contains 27 ore deposits and 183 million metric tonnes of sulfide ore have been mined here so far. There are several other greenstone belts. You’ve probably heard of the Abitibi Greenstone Belt, from which over 170 million ounces of gold have been mined since 1901. Manitoba has another greenstone belt — the Bird River Greenstone Belt — in the southeastern part of the province, which seems to be an extension of the mineral-rich belt in northwestern Ontario.

History of the area: Mineral deposits were first discovered in 1914 by prospector Tom Creighton (who gave the name “Flin Flon” to the area). The Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Limited was in full production in the area by 1930. Today, HudBay (the name of the parent company that acquired Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Limited) is the largest employer in the area. Their flagship mine — the 777 mine — is a copper-zinc mine (which also produces some gold and silver). One of the sources who I interviewed while researching these Mining in Manitoba posts considers the 777 mine to be one of the biggest achievements in the Manitoba mining industry.

What is mined there: The most common mineral is copper-zinc. Some gold, silver, nickel, and diamonds have also been mined there. The area is best known for copper-zinc but there are several gold explorers active in the area.

Closing thoughts: The Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone Belt is an interesting mining area but it is not as well known on the world scale as other belts. It has a strong history of mining and continues to be pro-mining today. There is plenty of infrastructure to support the mines and as long as it is economic to do so, I think we’ll see further development in the area. In future blog posts, I’ll examine some of the companies who are active in the area.

Mining in Manitoba — What is mined and where is it mined?

Disclaimer: I am an investment writer with an interest in the resource industry. I am not a Professional Geologist or licensed financial advisor. I do own investments in some Manitoba-based mining companies and will disclose this information when relevant. Please always do your own due diligence before making any decisions that affect your portfolio.

 

I’m learning about the mining industry in Manitoba and blogging about what I learn. In a previous blog post I talked about the geography and history of mining in Manitoba and in this blog post, I’m looking at where things are mined in the province.

SIMPLIFYING MANITOBA’S MINING ACTIVITY

There are a lot of sources that talk about where in Manitoba specific minerals are mined. I’ll get into detail later but I wanted to start with a very simple “bird’s eye view” of the provincial mining activity. So I gathered info from a variety of sources and have a nice, simplified, easy-to-remember overview of mining activity. (Certainly there is mining activity outside of these areas but this is a good place to start).

First, here’s a refresher on the geography of Manitoba, which is divided into 4 specific areas…

Now that we’ve had a refresher on the geography, let’s look at Manitoba’s mining activity — what is mined and where?

  • The large area in the Central and northwestern part of the province has a lot of mining activity in gold, silver, zinc, copper, and nickel. That’s not a surprise; those minerals are often found together.
  • Salt is mined in the western part of the province.
  • Gypsum is mined in the south-central part of the province, and dolomite and limestone are mined not too far away.
  • Gold, silver, and tantalum are mined on the southeastern part of the province, which makes sense because that land has very similar geography to Northwestern Ontario – an area with prominent gold and silver resources.
  • Petroleum and peat are mined in the southern part of the province. Geographically, they’re in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.

Again, there is other mining activity in the province but this gives us a high level view of the basics. Now we can get into the details a little with a little more confidence…

MINERAL EXPLORATION AND CLAIMS

One place you should definitely look if you want more detail about mining activity in Manitoba is the Manitoba Government’s license map, which is a very comprehensive PDF of mining and exploration activity in Manitoba. Click the screenshot of the PDF map to download and study it…

The map shows Manitoba divided up to help them map where mining activity is:

First, the province is divided into zones – Zone A and Zone B. Zone A seems to be the Superior Province and part of the Trans-Hudson Orogen (seem my previous blog post on the geography of Manitoba) and Zone B seems to be Hudson Bay Basin and the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. According to the Manitoba Government’s Mining Guide, the zone will indicate the size of exploration license they allow.

Second, the province is divided into sections which are labelled with a two-digit number and a letter (i.e. 64G). The numbers start down in the southeast corner of the province with the 52’s and they move north through 53, and 54, then they start down at the southwest corner of the province with 62F, 62G, 62H, and they work their way north to 64. (Honestly, this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me right now so I’ll dig deeper but it’s a starting point).

Third, those sections are divided into 16 squares (4×4) which aren’t labelled with any kind of key on the map but I’m sure have some kind of key associated with them.

In this map, we see a number of different things:

  • Restricted areas are grayed out and presumably there won’t be any mining there. I’ve tried to find info on this and can’t. Presumably the area is a wetlands habitat or part of the water system.
  • Mining exploration licenses are granted in larger areas where explorers will be searching for deposits. In the PDF map, they are represented by light blue squares.
  • Mining exploration licenses are converted into mining claims and those are indicated in the PDF map by red dots.

As you can see by looking at the map, there is a lot of exploration activity (blue squares) going on throughout the province but the mining (red dots) is concentrated in just a few areas.

I’ve given you enough to digest for now but I’ll be writing more about this in the future.

An overview of the geology and history of mining in Manitoba

Disclaimer: I am an investment writer with an interest in the resource industry. I am not a Professional Geologist or licensed financial advisor. I do own investments in some Manitoba-based mining companies and will disclose this information when relevant. Please always do your own due diligence before making any decisions that affect your portfolio.

 

In my last blog post, Digging into Manitoba’s resource industry, I mentioned that I was going to take a closer look at metals and mining in the province where I live. Mining is a significant activity here but there aren’t many people following it.

Where’s the best place to start when looking at the mining industry of any region? The geology and history of the area is, in my opinion, pretty key to understanding where we are today.

What follows is a brief overview the geological and historical factors that influence the mining industry in Manitoba.

A note about sources: Most (but not all) information came from the Mineral Resources Division of the Manitoba Government. I have linked to their pages where relevant. They have SO MUCH valuable information and I see my initial blogging effort as distilling what they have into something easy and accessible to others. So if you ever want more information or to go deeper, be sure to visit their website.

GEOLOGY OF MANITOBA

The area of rock that we now call Manitoba is mostly Precambrian rock (specifically, the Canadian Shield) covered by sedimentary rocks that were deposited in different time periods.

Manitoba is roughly divided into 4 geological areas (and those areas are further sub-divided). At the most basic level, Manitoba’s geological areas are: The Superior Province, the Trans-Hudson Orogen, the Hudson Bay Basin, and the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. Mineral exploration is conducted in all four areas.

Here is a simplified map I put together of the four areas of Manitoba’s geology:

If you want some excellent and far more detailed maps, be sure to check out the maps created by the Manitoba Government:

  • Official Highway Map of Manitoba:If you’re not familiar with Manitoba, this is a map of the province (with links to smaller maps of different sections). For your information, most of the province’s population lives in the southern third of the province. This map will also be useful to identify the proximity of infrastructure (roads, power, water, population) that mining companies need to rely on.
  • Geology of Manitoba Map (PDF): This is a more-detailed version of the map I have provided above. It includes more rock-types. It’s a must-read.
  • Geological Survey Map: This is an interactive map that provides more detail about the geological surveys of the province. It’s a hybrid between my basic map and the Geology of Manitoba Map.
  • Geological Domains Map (PDF): This map gives some of the big-picture geological areas that might be considered “mini-mining-districts of Manitoba”.
  • License Map (PDF): This map is a little overwhelming at first, and I’m not sure what all of the zones are and what they mean. I intend to look into this further. But this map does show where there are some mineral exploration licenses and mining claims and restricted areas.
  • GIS Map Gallery: This page gives access to interactive maps of mineral disposition maps, geo-scientific maps, and petroleum maps. It looks very useful but a little more advanced than the information I am looking for right now. I’ve bookmarked this page to go back to it later when I know more.

MANITOBA’S MINING HISTORY

I am presenting highlights of Manitoba’s mining history below but if you want more detail from my sources, here is an easy-to-read downloadable PDF of the history of mining in Manitoba and here is an excellent timeline to provide even more detail.

Prehistory: The aboriginal people of Manitoba are known to have mined in an island located in the area marked with the red dot, below. This area (now called Black Island) contains red rock and the first peoples of the province used this red rock for pigment.

1700s: Exploration for minerals by Europeans goes back to the 1700s when explorers followed up on the aboriginal mining at Black Island.

1800s: In the 1800s, the following minerals were discovered and mined in the area: Salt, limestone, magnetite, dolomite, and coal. In 1890, gold was discovered in Falcon Lake (located at the gold dot, below)…

Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870.

1900s: In the 1900s, the following minerals were discovered and mined: Gypsum, granite, copper, nickel, copper-zinc, copper-nickel, lithium, molybdenum, chromite, tantalum, copper-zinc-gold-silver, and oil.

  • The tantulum produced in Manitoba is from the only tantalum mine in North America
  • I was also surprised to discover that peat moss is included as a significant part of the mining industry. It started being mined in Manitoba in 1939 and continues on today. I’ve never followed peat moss as part of the industry before!

2000s: Today, over 70 companies perform exploration activities in Manitoba and here’s a list of the minerals that are mined in Manitoba and what company mines them.

Digging into Manitoba’s resource industry

I’ve been following the resource industry for years.

I have an interest in the resource industry globally, although most of my exposure has been to companies listed on the Canadian venture exchange (the “TSX-V”). It’s not a preference, it’s just where I’ve landed in practice because of who I write for and what experts I listen to.

I’m fascinated by different metals and the economics behind their exploration and production. Junior resource companies, in particular, satisfy my need to look at entrepreneurial businesses from an economic and stock-trading perspective. I get excited by new trends in exploration (as you can see by the work I’m doing at my graphite minerals free e-course).

One area that I love to think about (and it’s a method I use to help me find good investments) is to look at jurisdictions. Mining jurisdictions are politically-defined areas where minerals are abundant and where mining is (usually) an important activity. These jurisdictions are found all over the world. There are some in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Alaska, Nevada, California, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and elsewhere.

Although I am fascinated by jurisdictions (and companies that mine there), I’ve never paid a lot of attention to the resource industry in Manitoba (which is the province I live in). I love where I live but my focus has too frequently been elsewhere.

Manitoba has a rich and thriving resource industry that does not get a lot of attention. As I look around this province, it seems like the resource industry here is underserved. Yes, there are analysts and mining experts that watch these companies but I haven’t found any jurisdictionally-focused investment writers who are looking at Manitoba as a mining district. And yet, we have a rich history in mining that is said to go back hundreds or even thousands of years (the Aboriginal people are said to have mined some red rock in the province). And today, Manitoba produces a lot of minerals, including more than 20% of Canada’s nickel, more than 15% of Canada’s cobalt, and 100% of Canada’s lithium (Source: Manitoba Government – Innovation, Energy, and Mines – Industry Profile).

So I’ve started exploring the mining industry in Manitoba and I’ve decided to blog about it from time to time. (If mining in Manitoba doesn’t interest you, don’t go away. I’m still blogging about business, finance, and real estate, too.).

Please note this important disclaimer: I am an investment writer with an interest in the resource industry. I am not a Professional Geologist or licensed financial advisor. I do own investments in some Manitoba-based mining companies and will disclose this information when relevant. Please always do your own due diligence before making any decisions that affect your portfolio.

DIGGING INTO MANITOBA’S RESOURCE INDUSTRY

The very first place to start is the Manitoba Government’s Department of Innovation, Energy, and Mines, and specifically their Mineral Resource Division (since I’m not as interested in the sci/tech innovation that they also govern). Sometimes, Manitoba’s Mining Association (which has the enviable domain name of Mines.ca) has some useful information, although I find the government website to be substantially more helpful.

My plan is to start at the links above and dig in, exploring the province’s resource industry as much as possible. I’m coming at is as someone with some experience/background in resources and investment but who knows very little about this particular jurisdiction. My goal with this effort is to learn more about Manitoba as a mining jurisdiction (and share my findings with you) and discover new investment opportunities to consider.

If you have an interest in the resource mining industry (and especially of the resource mining industry in Manitoba), bookmark this tag — Mining In Manitoba — and check back. If you are a industry expert, professional geologist, or investor with an interest in the Manitoba resource industry, please contact me because I’d love to talk with you further.