The Newfoundland and Labrador Prospector’s Association is holding its fourth annual general meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor this weekend and finalizing a presentation for all three political parties. They hope keep the industries potential in the forefront during the provincial election campaign.
“We want to send a message to all three parties that one of the cornerstones of rural economies in this province is a vibrant mining industry,” said association president Norm Mercer. “Key to that is a vibrant prospecting and exploration effort.”
Mercer noted that many of the large mines of the past in this province were developed either directly or indirectly due to the efforts of prospectors like Matty Mitchell whose initial snooping turned into the Buchans mining activity.
“The discovery of the Voisey’s Bay deposit also ignited a lot of interest,” Mercer added. “We’re at a stage now of looking at the demographics of our members because we want to encourage more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to become prospectors.
“It’s such an important part of early exploration, and key to leading to the mines of tomorrow,” Mercer continued, noting that the association currently has close to 300 members, only a small number of whom pursue it as a career.
The weekend activities will also include some workshops and training. Interested individuals are welcome to attend and join, for a small fee.
He added that the association offers supports and mentoring for anyone wishing to get involved in prospecting, and there is an expectation that many more people can be engaged.
“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are outdoor oriented people, its part of our culture,” Mercer said.
The Prospector’s Association was formalized in 2012, the last province in Canada to create such an organization.
Prospecting was very popular in this province back in the 1700s and 1800s, Mercer noted, but there was a period of time under a concession system that many large companies (like Asarco and Brinco) controlled large swaths of land.
The rights for these lands were returned to the crown and that corresponded with a jump in interest in prospecting, particularly in the late 1970s and 1980s.
With the introduction of a two-week training program and small government grant to help prospectors cover the cost of such things as gas and assays, “a whole new generation of prospectors got involved,” said Mercer.
A steering committee did some research on the possibility of forming an association, including gauging interest during eight meetings throughout the province.
“Those meetings were well attended and the overwhelming majority of the people attending said ‘yes’, we should form an association.
Since 2012 the annual general meeting and corresponding events has moved around the province.
The group addresses the educational needs of members but focus is growing on the issues and concerns of members. Having prospectors resourced, trained and active in the field is key for the mining industry, Mercer said.
“There is a downturn right now due to demand and price,” he said. “But we still have to be active.
“Its been a tough slug for the junior exploration companies to raise the risk dollars,” Mercer continued, noting the central region does have some “exciting” projects on the radar, including the Marathon Gold property near Valentine Lake.
More prospectors in the field can only serve to bring more excitement, he noted.
“There is a 150 kilometre long linear geological feature (in Central) that has great promise.”