Gold seam at Bell Creek mine. Picture by Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
Bell Creek (Timmins, Canada), Oct. 28 : Dan Gagnon pointed at a seam at the deep end of his Bell Creek mine and said, “That’s the gold seam we are working on right now… we plan to up our central mill’s capacity to 3,000 tonnes a day by next year.”
Timmins is at the heart of the ongoing gold rush in Canada and much of what is mined here lands up in India or China, the world’s two biggest buyers of gold.
Timmins, along with Hemlo and Red Lake in the Ontario province of Canada, produces more than $1.8 billion worth of gold annually.
India imported gold worth around Rs 2,205,07 crore in 2011. Despite a drop this year, the World Gold Council estimates that by 2020 the annual demand for gold in India will increase to over 1,200 tonnes (around Rs 2.5 trillion), at current price levels, putting a huge pressure on the country’s balance of payments.
However, unlike China, India has never tried to control the mines from where it imports gold. China has pumped in huge amounts to pick up stakes in gold mines across the globe, including Canada, Australia and Africa. So, for every gram of gold China buys, part of that amount comes back to that country as profit.
George Ross, deputy minister for mining in Canada’s Ontario province, said, “We look forward to Indian investment in mining, especially in metals. Indians have not invested in gold, nickel, chromium.”
Indian corporate houses, including the Tatas, Jindals and Mittals, have traditionally been interested in coal and iron ore in Canada, with most of the investment bunched in Ontario, Canada’s richest and largest province.
“We would like Indian and Chinese companies to look at more diversified metal investments here, especially in what we call the ‘Ring of Fire’, one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in North America in almost a century,” Ross said.
Gagnon, who is the senior vice-president of Canadian gold mining company Lake shore Gold Corp, said the Bell Creek mine was part of a complex of three it operates in the area and could be just the tip of an iceberg.
The “Ring of Fire” refers to the crescent-shaped arc of deposits located in northern Ontario. The region is rich in chromite, nickel, copper and platinum group metals, besides zinc, gold and diamond.
Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources Inc is investing around $3.3 billion in a chromite mine at Black Thor in the icy, tribal swamplands, which can turn Canada into the world’s fourth-largest chromite miner.
Chinese miner Sinocan is expected to start drilling in the region later this month and has held meetings with the Webequie tribals who live in the mineral-rich area.
The mining firms are raising money at Ontario’s capital, Toronto, the world’s largest centre for financing mines. The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchange together account for 58 per cent of the world’s public mining companies.
“It’s not just Canada for which we raise funds. Around half of the 9,300 mineral exploration projects held by TSX and TSXV companies are outside our borders in places such as Africa, South America, Australia,” said Robert Peterman, director-global business development at TSX.
The reporter was on a sponsored trip organised by the Ontario ministry of economic development