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Manitoba invests more than $1 million in mineral exploration

Retaining workers, attracting investment are key challenges for the mining sector, says the province's economic development minister

Junior mining companies are the big winners in the latest round of funding from the Manitoba Mineral Development Fund.

Manitoba Economic Development Minister Cliff Cullen announced more than $1.6 million for projects on May 9 as part of the latest quarterly awards.

Two-thirds, or more than $1 million of the funding approved in the first quarter of 2022 is going to support mineral exploration activities by mining and exploration companies such as Snow Lake Lithium, Wolfden Resources Corp., which is also operating in the Snow Lake area, KG Exploration and Willeson Metals.

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Chuck Davidson said the MMDF funding covers no more than 25 per cent of total project costs, meaning that the fund’s investments are supporting at least $3 million more in mineral exploration activity.

“A lot of these are the juniors that are looking at potential new mines for Manitoba,” he said.

Interest in certain minerals, particularly those like nickel and lithium that are instrumental in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, is on the upswing right now, Davidson said.

“If we can assist on the exploration side, that’s the potential for new mines,” said Cullen. “And that’s really the economic development that we’re all looking for.”

In addition to exploration, the MMDF also supports community development projects in the hopes that more economically resilient communities with more amenities and services to offer will make things easier for the companies that operate there to entice people to stay or to move there for employment.

“It’s about attracting labour,” said Cullen. “Everywhere we go, it’s a competition for labour, so anything we can do to help make communities more labour-friendly, it helps companies like Vale.”

Manitoba also needs to promote itself as a mining-friendly jurisdiction.

“We do have world-class minerals here in Manitoba but we as a government have to make sure that we’re telling the world that we have these products available,” Cullen said. “The other thing is for us is to make sure that we’re creating the right policies to make Manitoba attractive to that type of investment.”

The province established the MMDF in 2019 with a $20 million initial investment. Designed as a successor to the Mining Communities Reserve Fund, the MMDF receives six per cent of the mining taxes the province collects annually.

Communities, businesses and organizations including Indigenous groups, municipalities and not-for-profit entities can apply for funding. The one-time grants support activities to advance new mining opportunities and outreach to First Nations for collaborative resource development.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce selects projects for funding.