Representatives of a company conducting mineral exploration in and near the Arrow Creek watershed were on the hot seat last week.
About 40 local residents attended a meeting of the Arrow Creek Water Commission on July 26 at the Creston and District Community Complex to learn more about test drilling, which began last year. Exploration is being conducted by two Cranbrook-based firms, Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. and TerraLogic Exploration Services.
“We’ve invited people to this meeting so they can get information from the people involved,” commission chair John Kettle said as he opened the meeting.
Project geologist Jim Harley presented an outline of the company’s activities in the Iron Range area, explaining about how the area was mapped and subject to airborne surveys before several test holes were drilled. Some of those holes, which average 300-350 meters in depth, were in the upper reaches of the Arrow Creek watershed, he said.
While gold was not necessarily the motivating factor in the explorations, he said, one test hole revealed a massive iron sulphide find at the 200-meter level. In that rock, gold was found in quantities as high as 14 grams per ton. The formation also contains silver, Harley said.
Responding to Kettle’s question about the next step in developing the assets, Harley said, “We think there is value in the ground. We are not anywhere close to a mine — we are in the very early stages of exploration.”
“Junior companies get bought out by majors when a resource is developed,” he added later.
An inspector from the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines told the meeting that the process from exploration through development is a long one.
When exploration indicates a development is feasible, he said, years of baseline study data are collected. Wildlife values are studies, communities in the area and First Nations are consulted with, a reclamation plan must be developed and money for reclamation must be in place before any approvals are made. Often, too, roads must be built, adding to environmental assessments for the mining itself.
Eagle Plains president and chief executive officer Tim Termuende said that mineral exploration is invited by the B.C. government, which creates geological maps.
“There is no question that Arrow Creek is an area of interest,” he said. “That interest was stimulated by government mapping. There is no doubt we can explore responsibly and protect water users. But we would never be in a position to develop the resource — a large company would do the mining.”
Mining, he said, would only go ahead if government agencies were assured it can be done without compromising the other values in the area, including wildlife and water.
When asked why the Regional District of Central Kootenay wasn’t taking steps to protect the watershed, Kettle explained that it is Crown land.
“Every little valley is a watershed for someone,” he said. “B.C. has the toughest regulations in Canada. The moment the Arrow Creek Water Commission knows they (mining developers) are going into our watershed, we will speak to it.”
History of Iron Range exploration
The original Iron Range prospect was discovered and staked in 1897 along an extensive belt of iron oxide showings. In 1939, the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd., along with its parent company Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR), acquired many of the historic Crown grants on the northern part of Iron Range Mountain.
The claims were evaluated by CM&S (later Cominco Ltd., then Teck Cominco Ltd, and now Teck Ltd.), to assess the potential for a large iron resource. In 1957, Cominco Ltd. completed an extensive trenching program exposing the Iron Range structure and mineralization over more than four kilometers strike length.
Most of the Iron Range Crown grants were held by Cominco-CPR until 1999, when they were reverted after being held privately for over 100 years. Eagle Plains Resources Limited re-staked the original Crown grants on the day they lapsed.
(From the Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. website, www.eagleplains.bc.ca)