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Company mum on mining claims

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 01/4/2019 8:45 AM

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Despite earlier pledges of disclosure, an Alberta-based company is remaining tight-lipped about hundreds of mining claims it holds throughout the Southeast, and now says it will offer more information to municipalities and the public in the next six months.

A provincial spokesperson for the department of growth, enterprise, and trade, which oversees the mining branch, said last month HD Minerals Inc. has 357 active mining claims in Manitoba, mainly clustered in the RMs of Hanover, La Broquerie, Springfield, and Tache.

That’s down from the 452 claims reported in February 2017 by the Winnipeg Free Press.

None of HD’s active claims expire before September 2019, the spokesperson said.

Trevor Martens, vice-president of market development with Evolve Surface Strategies Inc., a land acquisition firm working with HD Minerals, declined a telephone interview last month but offered an email update.

"HD Minerals is currently still evaluating the mineral validity in the area," Martens wrote.

The company "cannot release the details of the exploration or the type of minerals we are seeking due to confidentiality and the possibility of this information being detrimental to our possible business in the future," but plans to begin public engagement "in the first or second quarter of 2019," he added.

Donovan Toews, a land use consultant who in May 2017 briefed Tache council about exploratory drilling planned that summer near Monominto, said last month his firm, Landmark Planning and Design, is no longer involved with the project.

Toews initially estimated the company would publicize its findings in September 2017. When that month arrived, Toews revised the timeline, saying HD Minerals "will gladly make their findings known" by November 2018, after reporting to the province.

Citing confidentiality regulations, the provincial spokesperson said she couldn’t disclose HD Minerals’ findings until the report is at least three years old, the claim is abandoned or surrendered, or its holder consents to publicly release the information.

With two self-imposed deadlines now past, reeves and mayors say they wish they knew more about the mysterious mining claims.

Springfield reeve Tiffany Fell said the claims are located in the south and east portions of the municipality.

"They won’t tell us, and I’ve asked them, and they just won’t let us know. They keep it very close to the chest."

Reeve Lewis Weiss of La Broquerie confirmed the claims there aren’t hampering surface development like they were in the fall of 2016, when developer Franz Felnhofer learned he’d need approval from a numbered Alberta company before he could proceed with a small subdivision near Marchand.

While landowners control surface rights, mineral rights belong to the Crown.

Weiss said a mine could produce economic benefits.

"It would bring some more industry to Manitoba."

RM of Ste Anne reeve Paul Saindon said he’s received "no word whatsoever" about the claims.

"We’ve seen some of the drilling wells that were left behind," he said, and guessed the company may be after sand.

RM of Tache mayor Justin Bohemier did not respond to requests for comment. Hanover reeve Stan Toews couldn’t be reached at press time.

Weiss said lithium is still his best guess. Speculation last year suggested the element may be suspended in underground saltwater deposits known as petrobrines.

Exploratory activity farther north supports Weiss’s hunch. Last month, Sagkeeng First Nation signed an agreement to allow Vancouver-based New Age Metals to begin a large lithium exploration project near Bird River, 150 kilometres northeast of Steinbach.

Two other Vancouver companies, Quantum Minerals and Equitorial Exploration, sought lithium last year in the Cat Lake area of Nopiming Provincial Park, about 200 kilometres northeast of Steinbach, according to releases from the companies.

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