The federal government will extend the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, which was slated to end at the end of this month, Canada’s natural resources minister announced Sunday.

The credit was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, but the government is proposing to extend it for a year until March 31, 2018, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said at the media event on the opening night of the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s convention. The credit is often part of the federal budget, but Carr made no mention of when that might be coming.

“The 15 per cent mineral exploration tax credit is aimed at helping junior mineral exploration companies raise the capital they need to finance early stage exploration, which is vital to mining development and the creation of our mines of tomorrow,” he said.

“This credit helps support the future prosperity of Canada’s mineral industry and it all starts from the flow through shares that serve as an incentive for attracting investors into grassroots exploration.”

The flow through share system is a unique investment structure in which resource companies pass along (or flow through) their expenses to investors who can deduct them against their taxable income. The METC adds a 15 per cent tax credit on top of that for an added incentive.

It was a welcome development for the mining sector, which argues the credit is an invaluable tool that helps fund early stage prospecting and development that might not otherwise be funded.

In 2015, more than 200 companies issued flow through shares and more than 410,000 investors benefitted from the credit, Carr noted.

Financing for junior mining companies has been especially hard to come by in recent years as the entire industry has been going through a down cycle of low commodity prices.

A similar credit was first introduced under Jean Chretien’s government during a previous mining downturn in 2000. That temporary measure aimed at helping the companies weather tough times expired in 2005. When the Conservatives took over they revived the mineral tax credit and extended it each year through their reign. The Liberal government has continued to extend it on a year-by-year.