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Exploration

CCIC ramps up to serve juniors

December 1, 2007
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Exploration with 0 Comments

Geologists rule. Finally, after years of being “used and discarded” during short-lived spikes in the mining cycle, “there’s enough demand that we can actually start to be price-setters,” said Scott Jobin-Bevans, managing director of Caracle Creek International Consulting Inc., (CCIC).

“A lot of junior mining companies out there are cashed up. They raised a lot of money in the last year or two,” he said. Now, they’re looking to do resource modeling and pre-feasibility studies, “so we see ourselves ramping up to fill that void.”

Jobin-Bevans, who also serves as second vice-president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, co-founded CCIC in 2001 with Johannesburg-based partner Trevor Richardson. The company’s principal Canadian office is in Sudbury.

As recently as 2005, the Canadian unit had three employees. Today, there are 22 geologists, technicians and support staff in the Sudbury office and several other employees in Toronto and Vancouver. The majority of the company’s work in Canada is focused on Ontario and Quebec, but overseas assignments also take Sudbury-based staff to China, Russia, Guinea, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. CCIC’s South African office employs 50 to 55 geologists and support staff and operates independently, but “we cross pollinate on some projects,” said Jobin-Bevans.

The company provides a wide range of geological consulting services, including 43-101 technical reports, property evaluations and due diligence, data compilation, project management and mineral resource estimates.

“Traditionally, juniors have tried to make do with hiring their own people on a short-term basis and then cutting them loose after a few years, but now with this megacycle they don’t have enough staff and there aren’t the human resources out there to hire,” said Jobin-Bevans.

Relying on a geological consulting firm like CCIC solves their problem.

“Finding a VP of exploration nowadays is almost impossible because they’re all busy working, so they come to us to fill that role. We can instantly bring in a team which has a depth of management, technicians and support staff.”

Contracting out to a consulting firm also helps junior mining companies maximize their use of flow-through funds.

“They have to spend 90 per cent of their flow-through money in the ground, but they need hard money to run the company, so there are two types of venture capital,” he explained. “We can help them spend their flow-though dollars much more easily because everything we charge goes into the ground.”

Jobin-Bevans claims government and large mining companies are largely responsible for the dearth of important new discoveries in Canada. Government, he said, has failed to recognize mining as an industry in which Canada excels. “They look at mining as being a non-renewable resource, a finite, extractive industry that takes care of itself.”

The major players in the industry are also responsible, he charged.

“They make their hundreds of millions or billions and, when the industry enters a down cycle, they cut everything. Then they wonder why they have to scamper back to find people and get going on exploration for the next cycle.”

Technology

Jobin-Bevans is optimistic about the advances that have been made in geophysics, geochemistry and data management.

Geologists can see deeper into the ground as a result of improvements in geophysical surveying, he said. They are also able to take advantage of powerful computer software to manage large volumes of data, view 3-D models and use geographic information system technology to mine the data.

CCIC, in fact, is itself a distributor of FracSIS, a powerful spatial data integration application that consolidates different forms of GIS, geological, geophysical, geochemical and drilling data in a single spatial database and presents that data in a unified, collaborative 3D visualization environment.

Advances in metallurgy are also making lower-grade deposits more economic to mine, said Jobin-Bevans.

“We have always had a problem with one gram of gold per tonne. We had problems with two grams per tonne, but now we’re starting to get production of gold from epithermal systems in South America at .6 of a gram per tonne.”

Significant new deposits can take a decade or longer to develop, but in the meantime, the exploration industry is successfully employing new technologies in established and abandoned mining camps, he said.

He points to Osisko Exploration Ltd.’s Canadian Malartic property on the Quebec side of the Abitibi gold belt as an example. Discovered in 1926, the property produced one million ounces of gold between 1935 and 1965.

Since its acquisition by Osisko in 2004, extensive drilling has led to a NI 43-101 compliant inferred gold resource estimate of 8.4 million ounces.

Models change

“Geological models change,” said Jobin-Bevans. “Applying new geophysical techniques and reinterpreting old data sets can make a big difference, even on projects that have been written off.”

The shortage of geologists is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the exploration industry. CCIC alone, he said, could hire a half dozen geologists immediately. Candidates with five years or more of experience are especially hard to find, he added.

“Enrolment in geology programs has been pretty consistent over the years. The problem is that a lot of geology students transfer into other programs in third year or end up in the oil and gas industry as a result of aggressive campus recruiting.”

Chair of the PDAC’s student affairs committee, Jobin-Bevans has spearheaded an annual two-week student-industry workshop in Sudbury to introduce geoscience students from across the country to the mining industry.

“We can’t really say we pay more because, traditionally, we haven’t and we can’t say we offer more stability because we don’t, but it’s an option. A lot of students don’t realize that there’s a huge exploration industry – the biggest in the world – that comes out of Canada.”

Born and raised in Flin Flon, Manitoba, Jobin-Bevans followed in the footsteps of his father, a geophysicist who worked for Hudson Bay Exploration and Development. He completed BSc and a Masters degree in Economic Geology at the University of Manitoba and earned his PhD from the University of Western Ontario.

He moved to Sudbury in 1997 to do fieldwork for his thesis and worked closely with Earth Sciences faculty at Laurentian University. It was at Laurentian where he met his partner Trevor Richardson and the two decided to launch CCIC.

Sudbury, he said, is an ideal location for a geological consulting company because of its central location and the opportunity to recruit geology graduates from Laurentian.

www.cciconline.com

 

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