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Queen's Park provides stimulus funding in the hunt for much-needed critical minerals

Ontario Junior Exploration Program offers exploration funding for junior miners
Drilling at Palladium One's Tyko Project, north of the Hemlo mine complex in northwestern Ontario (Company photo)

There’s a looming global crunch for high-tech metals to feed the electric vehicle industry and not enough mines currently in production to meet that increasing demand.

To incentivize more exploration in Ontario, the provincial government announced in Sault Ste. Marie that it has invested $5.8 million to help a handful of exploration companies hunt for critical metals like nickel, copper, cobalt and lithium.

The funding will be delivered through the Ontario Junior Exploration Program (OJEP) as part of a special critical minerals stream, launched in 2021. 

The government said in a news release over a four-year period it is allocating  $12 million specifically for critical mineral exploration. These minerals are used for batteries in electronic vehicles and in everyday digital technologies like cell phones.

The province said since 2021, 32 companies on the critical minerals trail have pocketed funding with the companies themselves investing an additional $12.8 million in their exploration projects.

Exploration money for grassroots exploration is always tight for junior exploration companies. The way this program works is that funding is available to cover up to 50 per cent of eligible costs up to $200,000 for each project. Companies must have a market cap of up to $100 million or of comparable value if privately owned. 

The province provided a list of junior miners to receive funding so far.

  • $200,000 to VR Resources Ltd. to complete an eight-hole drill program at its Hecla Kilmer project, a rare earth discovery north of Kapuskasing in the Moose River basin.
  • $200,000 to MacDonald Mines Exploration to complete an eight-hole drill program at its SPJ Project in the Sudbury area. 
  • $200,000 to Tyko Resources (also known as Palladium One) to complete a nine-hole program at its Tyko nickel, copper, platinum group metal property, 25 kilometres north of Barrick's Hemlo Mine Complex near the north shore of Lake Superior.
  • $172,000 to BTU Metals Corp. to complete a drill program with three holes
  • 150,000 to 5007223 Ontario Inc. to complete a diamond drill program with five holes, line cutting activities and an induced polarization (IP) survey
  • 17,857 to Transition Metals Corp. to complete an airborne geophysical survey over an area of 363 kilometres

Applications is now open with a deadline of March 16.

Since 2021, the province said it has committed $29 million to the program, including $12 million for critical minerals and $17 million for other commodities, like gold.

Over the years, OJEP has been a hugely successful provincial mineral exploration incentive program. Originally launched in 2015, it provides financing for early stage exploration projects that could eventually become future mines.

One of the poster kids of the program was Great Bear Resources. The Vancouver-based gold junior miner used $100,000 from the program to jumpstart a drill program that eventually springboarded them  toward a high-grade gold discovery in the Red Lake district of northwestern Ontario.

Great Bear and its top tier Dixie Project was scooped by Kinross Gold in December 2021.

"The Ontario Prospectors Association (OPA) supports the government’s Ontario Junior Exploration Program,” said OPA President Garry Clark in a statement. “Assistance programs allow explorers to complete additional exploration and attract junior explorers to the province. Exploration provides for economic stimulus in northern communities."

“Early exploration is the first step to finding future mines including critical minerals,” said George Pirie, Minister of Mines. “The Ontario Junior Exploration Program is helping unlock the province’s vast mineral exploration potential and paving the way for unprecedented growth in our mining sector.”

“We’re building a supply chain ecosystem, connecting resources and workers in the north to the future of clean steel and electric vehicles, and ensuring the cars of the future can be built in Ontario from start to finish by Ontario workers,” said Premier Doug Ford.