CORNER BROOK Thomas Resources Inc. is hoping to move on to the next phase of its mineral exploration activity in the Corner Brook Lake watershed area.
It was more than 10 years ago when the eastern Newfoundland mining company first proposed a garnet and kyanite quarry in the area, setting off a debate about whether or not such work should be carried out so close to the municipal water supply that serves Corner Brook, Massey Drive and Mount Moriah.
Corner Brook city council eventually gave Thomas Resources the green light to proceed with the initial phases of exploration, namely mapping and surveying. The last phase to be approved — trenching, a process through which samples of the sought after minerals could be extracted for analysis — got the OK from council back in spring 2005.
That approval to remove a four-tonne sample from the area was the result of a 4-3 split vote by city council.
The company has been in the watershed area twice in the last five years. According to Rod Mercer, president of Thomas Resources, the trenching activity had positive results and now the company wants to move to the next phase.
That next phase, which requires another approval from the City of Corner Brook, is to conduct core drilling of 21 holes at nine different locations along a two-kilometre line about 600 metres north of the western end of Corner Brook Lake.
The company’s current application has triggered a 45-day public consultation process before city council can make another decision. Public comments are due Jan. 29.
The proposed activity will be a winter operation with diamond drilling equipment and materials flown into the sites by helicopter and snowmobiles to reduce ground disturbance.
The depth and orientation of the 21 holes will vary from site to site, depending on the targetted geological feature. The deepest hole will be 250 metres deep and the shallowest will be 120 metres.
According to the application submitted to the City of Corner Brook, each hole will be two inches in diameter. The holes will all be located on exposed bedrock and the company said there should be little ground disturbance. All drilling water will be re-circulated in a closed system and not discharged in the area.
Fuel for the drill will also be transported to the site via helicopter, so there will be no need of a fuel cache onsite.
“The drilling program would take a couple of months,” said Mercer of the plans if the drilling is approved. “Each hole would take days to complete and analysis would take months after that.”
Mercer said it is too early to say when the company would begin considering a quarry in the area should the core drilling provide positive results.
The company’s application will be posted on the city’s website at www.cornerbrook.com for public perusal.
Paul Barnable, the City of Corner Brook’s director of community services, said it is not uncommon for mineral exploration to take place in watershed areas. The difference with this particular project is that it is the municipal level of government that makes the decision as to what takes place in its water supply area, as opposed to the provincial government calling the shots in most other watersheds.
“This diamond drilling doesn’t presume anything other than they are collecting more information,” said Barnable. “The manner in which they are carrying this out is very low-impact, unlike forest harvesting where you have clear-cutting and heavy equipment.”