Jeff Green | Feb 12, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - February 12, 2009 Diamond driller confirms 15 drill holes at Frontenac Ventures exploration siteBy Jeff Green
There is confirmation this week that 15 test holes were drilled on Frontenac Ventures’ mining claim properties in late May and June of last year.
The Shabot Obaadjwan First Nation, and the Ministries of Northern Development and Mines and Aboriginal Affairs all say they were unaware that drilling had already occurred when they negotiated an accommodation agreement between early June and late November of 2008 concerning Frontenac Ventures' future drilling program in the Crotch Lake area of Frontenac County.
Confirmation that the drilling took place came in an email from Jennifer Bonner from George Downing Estate Drilling of Grenville Sur La Rouge, Quebec, which has been obtained by the News. Dated December 17, 2008, the email stated “We drilled 15 holes at the site, ranging in depth from 51 to 100 metres. Casing and caps were installed in these boreholes.”
An Ontario Ministry of Labour inspector, Alan Davidson, visited the site on June 23, 2008, and he found the drilling had already been completed. In his report, he wrote that he had a telephone conversation with drilling company owner Bruce Downing, who told him “Drilling operations ceased on June 17, 2008 and the drilling equipment was transported off the site. No further diamond drilling is scheduled at this time”. Bruce Downing also advised Alan Davidson that an “electronic personal dosimeter was located in the drill hut where the core samples were removed from the drill heads. 'No traces of Radon Daughters were registered' on the personal dosimeter.”
In 2007, concerns over the potential environmental impacts of test drilling for uranium had been a central issue among local environmental activists and two Algonquin communities, the Ardoch Algonquin and the Shabot Obaadjiwan, leading to a 4-month occupation of the Robertsville mine site, the access point to the Frontenac Ventures mine claim territory.
In response to the occupation, Frontenac Ventures sought and received a court injunction, ordering the occupiers off the site and permitting a limited drilling program on the site.
The two aboriginal communities claimed that the land, which is included in the long running Algonquin Land Claim, should not be open to exploration without prior consultation. Judge Cunningham ruled for the company and Robert Lovelace, spokesperson for the Ardoch Algonquins, received a six-month sentence for refusing to agree to follow the injunction (this sentence was commuted after 100 days by an appeal court in Toronto.)
After four months of negotiations, on November 28, 2008, the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation signed a memorandum of understanding with Frontenac Ventures Corporation, and the Ministries of Aboriginal Affairs (Ontario) and Northern Development and Mines (Ontario) setting out the terms for Frontenac Ventures’ drilling program.
When interviewed this week, Chief Davis said, “It was certainly a bit of a shock when I found out the drilling had taken place before the negotiations began. I am not impressed by the lack of disclosure by Frontenac Ventures, but it does not affect the agreement we have reached. The drilling that took place in late May took place on Frontenac Ventures' leased lands. We were consulting over activities on our lands.”
The “leased lands” that Davis refers to are a swath of Crown land near Crotch Lake for which Frontenac Ventures holds a 21-year mining lease from Ontario.
“Northern Development and Mines did an investigation about the drilling when I contacted them about this just before Christmas, but they did not know before that,” Davis said.
In a letter dated February 9, 2009 Assistant Deputy Minister Christine Kaszycki from the Ministry of Northern Development referred to that investigation, saying “We have confirmed with the exploration company that some drilling did take place in May prior to the commencement of negotiation of the agreement ... The ministry and my staff were not aware of this drilling, however this activity is allowed under the mining act...”
Kaszycki then said that the ministry has not changed its attitude towards the accommodation agreement that resulted from the negotiations. “We believe this agreement to be a significant, positive agreement that balances rights and interests of all parties.”
The memorandum of understanding was described by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Brad Duguid as “an example of how by working together in a spirit of cooperation and respect, we can find creative solutions in the face of challenging situations.”
Chief Davis said she remains committed to carrying out the agreement, but she admitted her attitude towards Frontenac Ventures has soured somewhat. “We are not comfortable with the trust level right now,” said Davis, “and I will address that with George White.”
When contacted at his winter home in Florida, George White wondered what all the fuss was about. “What we did last May and June was not core drilling, the holes were not very deep and were only drilled to test a theory about what, in geological terms, is called a non-conformity. They were not test holes in the sense that everyone is talking about. The samples weren't even assayed. It was not much different from drilling a well, which people do all the time.”
Last July when asked by the News if drilling had taken place, White refused to answer, calling it “proprietary information”.
This week he said that during negotiations the company was not asked about the drilling that had taken place, nor did it occur to them to disclose it.
White added that the geological work has been completed on the site and a report, prepared by a third party consultant to satisfy regulatory requirements, would be completed by early March.
Then the hard work of obtaining financing to carry on the exploration project will begin. The current economic climate will not make that an easy task.
“Things are 10 times worse out there than people think,” White said of the investment climate, “it really is like a depression”.