Encouraged by its success in finding mineral deposits, the B.C. government is extending aerial geological surveys to search for water in the natural gas region of B.C.
Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett announced a $3 million extension of provincial funding for non-profit research organization GeoscienceBC at the Minerals North conference in Vanderhoof last week. The economy of the small community west of Prince George is historically based on farming and forest products, but one of B.C.’s largest gold mines is in development near there.
Bennett said New Gold’s Blackwater mine project, 110 km southwest of Vanderhoof, is a direct result of the GeoscienceBC survey that started in 2005 and identified the region as having metal mine potential. New Gold is continuing drilling this summer and proceeding with environmental assessment, planning to start construction once the price of gold recovers sufficiently to support the project.
New Gold expects the mine to generate 1,200 construction jobs and 500 operations jobs.
GeoscienceBC extended its survey last year to search for water aquifers around the major shale gas developments in the northeast. Deep salt-water aquifers can be used as sources of water for hydraulic fracturing and for disposal of contaminated water that comes up with gas.
The survey can also detect shallow fresh water aquifers, so they can be avoided in gas drilling and maintained for drinking and irrigation uses.
Bennett said the magnetic survey may also help understand the seismic effects of natural gas activities. Another application is searching for gravel deposits, which are used all over the province for road and other construction.
GeoscienceBC is the only public non-profit geological research organization in Canada. Its exploratory work narrows the search area for mineral exploration companies.
Bennett credited its work for locating a new metal ore deposit at the Huckleberry Mine south of Houston, extending its expected operation to 2021.