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By Sarah Hurst
For Mining News 

Kutcho Creek makes promising copper target

Junior Western Keltic purchased B.C. property from two majors and has taken it into the environmental assessment process

 

Last updated 1/29/2006 at Noon



A Vancouver-based junior that has been conducting a drilling program on its sole property, Kutcho Creek in northern British Columbia, formally entered the environmental assessment process last summer with a view to developing a mine. Western Keltic Mines will soon start making presentations to local communities to ensure that First Nations are on board. The company is striving to catch up with the more advanced development projects in the area, NovaGold's Galore Creek and bcMetals' Red Chris. Near to all of those is Barrick Gold's Eskay Creek mine, which is approaching the end of its life.

Two of the Kutcho Creek property's three deposits have been found to be potentially economic so far. The Kutcho deposit contains measured and indicated resources of 13.1 million metric tons grading 1.94 percent copper, 2.59 percent zinc, 33.7 grams per ton silver and 0.41 grams per ton gold, while the Esso West deposit contains 2.1 million tons grading 3.3 percent copper, 5.8 percent zinc, 75.7 grams per ton silver and 0.71 grams per ton gold. The deposits contain a total of 670 million pounds of copper and 950 million pounds of zinc and are open to expansion, according to Western Keltic.

Two drilling campaigns

"The project since we acquired it two years ago has had two drilling campaigns," Brian Butterworth, a geologist with Western Keltic told Mining News. "The objective was to collect material for metallurgical test work." The company took samples to find out whether it would be viable to deal with the metallurgy of the deposits and the results were positive, Butterworth said. Next year there will be more drilling and environmental baseline studies.

Previous owners of the property spent around C$20 million exploring it and Western Keltic has spent C$20 million in the past two years. If a mine is developed at Kutcho Creek, Western Keltic would most likely make a deal with a mid-tier producing type company such as Toronto-based Breakwater Resources, rather than a major, Butterworth said. There might also be investment from Asian countries that are keen to secure concentrate, he added. "There seems to be a voracious appetite for base metals at the moment," Butterworth said.

Kutcho Creek purchased in 2004

Western Keltic purchased Kutcho Creek in March 2004 from two majors, Barrick and Sumac Mines, a Canadian subsidiary of Sumitomo. The property, whose value was discovered in the late 1970s by Sumac Mines and Esso Minerals, is located approximately 56 miles east of the town of Dease Lake, on land which is part of the aboriginal territory of the Tahltan and Kaska Dena First Nations. Dease Lake has a population of 650. Other communities that may be affected by the development of a mine are Smithers, Talkwa, Terrace and Stewart.

After considering open pit and underground mining methods, Western Keltic now believes that a blend of both would be the best approach for Kutcho Creek. The company anticipates milling rates to be 3,000 to 4,000 metric tons per day, or approximately 1 million to 1.2 million tons per year, with a minimum 11-year mine life, according to the project description that it submitted to the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office. The concentrates would be transported by truck from the mine to the port of Stewart for shipment to Asian smelters.

 

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