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This article was published 2/3/2019 (530 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Vancouver-based graphite supply company says it’s been left in the dark by the Manitoba government and Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN), after applying to test potentially lucrative graphite deposits some 45 kilometres southwest of Thompson.
Global Li-Ion Graphite Corp. president John Roozendaal said his Vancouver-based company has been waiting for approval to conduct testing at the site for the past 11 months — a process that normally takes six weeks. It has left him feeling stonewalled by the province and NCN, while also throwing the future of the project into doubt.
"There is mineralization there that’s pretty high-grade looking. We have no idea how much is really there, because we’re at the discovery stage right now and we haven’t hit any evaluation beyond that. That’s the point we’re stalled at right now," Roozendaal said.
The history of the graphite deposits can be traced to 1965, when Mike Muzylowski — a geologist and member of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame — discovered them on an unrelated exploratory project.
The site is located not far from the Taskinigahp Falls on the Burntwood River, near the Wuskwatim Generating Station.
"I discovered it on May 5, 1965. I didn’t really know what it was or what it could be. I just kept the sample core and kept the claims. Then, in 2013, we went back and did some drilling. And the results make me think the site is going to turn into a graphite mine," Muzylowski said.
At the time of discovery, graphite deposits weren’t commercially viable. By 2013, thanks in large part to the rapidly growing industry of lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles, it had become a valuable and lucrative resource.
If the northern Manitoba discovery is what Muzylowski believes it is the site could one day be turned into a mine.
"I think it could be the largest high-grade graphite deposit in the world," he said.
The results of the 2013 testing were promising enough that Global Li-Ion purchased the claim to the site, given Muzylowski’s company had its hands full chasing zinc and copper deposits near Flin Flon. The company submitted paperwork to conduct further testing.
"About 11 months ago, we made applications to drill a number of holes, with very minimal surface impact, to see if there’s any mineralization adjacent to what we already know about," Roozendaal said.
"The application was received, but I’ve never gotten approval. It should have been about a six-week process. It really shouldn’t take much longer than that, but basically it’s gone dark."
Roozendaal believes what has slowed things down is the site — while located on Crown land — falls within the traditional territory of the NCN. He has met with the First Nation’s resource management board to explain the scope of the proposed work.
"This gets complex with the treaties that are in effect and the fact that there is a duty to consult. The land is 12 kilometres south of a huge hydroelectric dam, so it’s not like we’re talking about pristine forest," he said.
"If this were successful, in theory, we would want to go all the way to developing a mine one day. You’d be hiring people from the local communities. But having this stall, we’re now starting to look at other possible projects."
The Free Press requested information from the provincial government Monday. A written response — totalling three sentences — wasn’t received until Thursday. It confirmed the company applied for a work permit and the consultation process was ongoing.
"Six weeks may be an average time frame, but Crown-Aboriginal consultation is an ongoing process that may take longer depending on the circumstances," a provincial spokeswoman wrote.
The Free Press also reached NCN Chief Marcel Moody Wednesday. He was unaware of the specifics on the file and said he wanted to speak with members of the resource management board before commenting. Followup calls Thursday garnered no response.
"I’m in a difficult position: I’m from Manitoba; I’ve worked here my whole career," Roozendaal said. "It’s basically gotten to the point where we’re being ignored, and that’s not a good message for me to take back to my board."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
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