Province introduces new amendments to aid mining and resource exploration sector

The provincial government has announced amendments to the Mineral Tenure Registry Regulations in an attempt to give companies more time to explore and develop northern mineral sites.

The amendments waive all expenditure requirements for mineral claims and leases that were active on March 18, 2020. That relief period lasts for the current term, plus the next 12 months. The amendment also allows any expenses incurred during the relief period can be applied towards future expenditure requirements, and allowed claim holders an extended opportunity to meet the requirements for deficiency deposit refunds.

Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre said Saskatchewan’s mining and resource sector has ground to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic and these amendments will help companies get back on track.

“Keep in mind that these are mineral dispositions that these companies have already acquired and have already paid for,” Eyre said during an interview on Friday. “This just allows them to hold on to them longer, and also in some cases to raise the capital necessary to do the exploration work that they want to do.”

The changes come at no cost to the government. Eyre said the industry is still strong, and likely won’t need a financial injection to keep companies going. However, she argued the province would still need to provide more incentives for the sector to remain competitive.

A number of northern Saskatchewan mines have suspended operations during the pandemic, including Cameco’s Cigar Lake uranium mine, and Seabee’s gold mine.

Eyre said that’s an immediate concern for the government, but they’re confident the industry can withstand without significant aid.

“There are some things that we might look at around competitiveness for the sector moving forward,” she explained. “We’re always looking at those things, but within the strict COVID context, again, we’re looking pretty good for recovery in the mining sector.”

Eyre added that the government would be open to extending the amendments beyond the current term and 12 month relief period, if unforeseen circumstances kept the pandemic lockdown in place.

The amendments were made following consultation with Saskatchewan’s resource sector. Organizations like the Saskatchewan Mining Association (SMA) welcomed the news, saying it would help mining exploration and development continue despite the pandemic.

“Our exploration members are very grateful for the relief the Saskatchewan government has provided to Saskatchewan explorers,” SMA president Pam Schwann said in a media release. “It will further enhance Saskatchewan’s reputation as a destination for mineral exploration investment.”

The Canadian mining industry is one of the largest in the world. It employs more than 400,000 people across the country. In 2017 alone, Saskatchewan mining companies contributed $1.8-billion in federal, provincial and municipal taxes.