New exploration company sniffing around old mine sites – Winnipeg Free Press

The CEO of Manitoba’s newest mineral exploration company, NiCAN Ltd., is using the example of previous companies he’s worked at to find value in regions that have been heavily explored in the past.

It owns two nickel exploration properties in Manitoba – the Wine project, 50 kilometers southwest of Snow Lake near HudBay’s former Reed Lake mine and the Pipy project, 12 kilometers northeast of Thompson which has been explored by Inco in the 1960s.

NiCAN raised $6.1 million in March in a private placement and went public through a reverse takeover on the TSX Venture exchange in early August.

Its CEO, Brad Humphrey, was the former CEO of QMX Gold, an exploration company in Val d’Or in the Abitibi region of Quebec. It was acquired by Eldorado Gold in January 2019 for $132 million.

Humphrey believes there are lots of potential opportunities to be had doing exploration work in regions that have already been heavily mined and explored.

“We have these amazing, historic mining camps all over Canada and all it can take is someone having a slightly different view of that geological model to make a new discovery,” he said.

It is something that happens often in places like Timmins, Sudbury and Val d’Or and Flin Flon and Thompson.

“You see it all the time,” he said. “Maybe it just takes turning the drill rig around and drilling it in a different direction. And there is better ground penetrating technology that we had in the ’60s, stronger and better computer systems that can crunch huge amounts of data in different ways.”

NiCAN received $100,000 from the Manitoba Mineral Development Fund and has already spent more than $1 million doing drilling on the Wine project.

The company raised close to $3 million in flow through shares, which means it will be spending at least that much on further exploration in Manitoba by the end of 2023.

Before his career as a mining company executive, Humphrey worked as a mining industry equity analyst for a few Bay Street firms. Other of NiCAN’s management team have a lot of experience and contacts, another plus as the company started from scratch just a little more than a year ago.

Humphrey believes it’s also helpful to be working in known mining areas that have been active areas for a long time off and on where there’s lots of people already working in the industry and infrastructure in place.

“We are friends with neighbors where we do exploration and the benefit is you share information, you share ideas,” he said. “If you’re looking for a specific contractor they may be working with someone in the area already and you can share some stuff.”

He said a helicopter company that was supporting its drill program also had a core shack that NiCAN could use, which saved NiCAN the expense of putting up its own structure.

The company expects to release its first results on early drilling of the Wine project in the next few weeks.

It’s still developing its exploration plan for the Pipy project which butts up against Vale’s properties in the Thompson region.

As well Humphrey said it is still looking for other potential properties spurred on at least in part by the demand for nickel that is spiking with the electrification movement, as nickel is an important component in most batteries.

Humphrey said his experience working with the provincial mines branch has been a good one, finding them to be supportive and helpful and working on Manitoba properties that are so close to major mines is exciting.

“How much better can it be to explore for nickel in Thompson and Snow Lake!” he said.

The prospects of finding productive ore bodies near ones that have already yielded results is always higher.

“Just look at Val d’Or,” he said. “There have been consistent discoveries there for 100 years. There have been hundreds of thousands of meters of drilling there and they are still making discoveries. It takes hard work and maybe changing the geological model slightly and you get a completely different result.”

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Martin Cash

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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