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By Rose Ragsdale
For Mining News 

Yukoner closes in on exploration dream

Junior bets that Freegold Mountain Project could yield the next big precious metal discovery in Canada's portion of Tintina Gold Belt

 

Last updated 10/26/2008 at Noon



FREEGOLD MOUNTAIN, Yukon Territory - Bill Harris, chief executive and chief operating officer of Northern Freegold Resources Ltd., is pursuing an exploration adventure of a lifetime, literally.

Harris, who was born and raised just 10 miles from Freegold Mountain, began prospecting for gold in the Dawson Mountain Range as a young child, tagging along behind his father, Glen, and their good friend Fritz Gruder in the 1960s.

Nearly four decades later, his intimate knowledge of the area's geology is paying off with eye-popping results.

Since early in the season, Northern Freegold has scored big with its 2008 drilling. The first hole of the season - drilled in mid-April - hole GRD08-68, intersected 3.25 meters, or 10.66 feet, of 100.69 grams per metric ton, or 2.94 oz/ton gold within 37.80 meters, or 124.02 feet, of 10.41 g/t (0.30 oz/ton) gold in Freegold Mountain's Nucleus Zone. The high-grade mineralization in hole GRD08-68 is hosted in massive pyrrhotite with lesser pyrite and chalcopyrite.

In July the junior reported results for five more drill holes, noting that four of them were step-out holes drilled to the east of hole GRD08-068. Two of these, GRD08-071 and GRD08-073, intersected a sulphide-rich zone similar to Hole GRD08-068. Hole GRD08-073 intersected 1.23 meters, or 4.04 feet, of 92.74 g/t (2.70 oz/ton) gold within 46.96 meters, or 154.07 feet, of 9.6 g/t (0.28 oz/ton) gold.

'A consolidation story'

Harris said the results have confirmed his long-held suspicion that the sprawling, hilly expanse of the 1,000 claims he has painstakingly amassed through property acquisitions and consolidation into a district-scale land package holds a substantial quantity of gold.

"It's the biggest land package in the area. Its 35 kilometers (about 21 miles) long and 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide on one end and 7 kilometers (about 4 miles) on the other end," Harris told Mining News during a recent interview.

Calling the 64-square-mile, or 166-square-kilometer Freegold Mountain Project a "consolidation story" that actually began in the 1950s, Harris said it came together after he reviewed a wealth of historical data on the area that he and his father had collected over the years and gleaned additional information about various exploration programs in the area.

"Putting it together in one land package is what made sense," he said.

The scale of the land package enables Northern Freegold to look at the regional geology rather than trying to understand the big picture by working small individual claims.

Though Harris can only guess at where future exploration will take the project, he is quite clear about its origins. Growing up in central Yukon Territory and prospecting for nearly 40 years, he saw a parade of prospectors and explorers come and go. Harris and his father made numerous discoveries in the region, themselves, and worked with various companies over the years on different projects.

The Freegold Mountain Project area has seen more than 80 different operators on different parts of the property over the years. The acreage has historic N43-101-established inferred resources of at least 700,000 ounces of gold, more than 15 known gold occurrences and unlimited potential.

Junior assembles strong team

Northern Freegold, meanwhile, has put together a winning management package too. In addition to Harris, Sue Craig, a geologist and Harris' wife, has taken on the job of president and assumed primary responsibility for raising capital and handling the junior's administration.

Craig, a former executive assistant to Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang, spent 10 years with Alexco Resource Inc., moving the Brewery Creek heap-leach mine from exploration to production and then award-winning reclamation. More recently, she led the Galore Creek Project in northwestern British Columbia through the environmental permitting process and won more awards.

In July, Northern Freegold also hired Febrizzio Colombo as exploration manager to draw on his extensive experience in mine project management around the globe and in mineral resource calculation, Harris said.

The junior also hired local placer miners during the past two years to provide support services to its exploration camp at Freegold Mountain.

Rapid ramp-up of exploration

After an extensive geophysical and mapping program on the property in 2006, Northern Freegold mounted a $5 million drilling program in 2007.

From June to October, 70 workers in three separate camps swarmed over on the property, focusing on seven zones by diamond drilling 11,430 meters in 57 holes, rotary drilling 4,365 meters in 116 holes, taking 1,500 soil samples and acquiring 130 line-kilometers of ground geophysics.

Encouraged by what the junior found in 2007, Harris led the charge to get an early start in mid-April on a $10 million in follow-up exploration program this year, completing 22,773 meters, or 74,695 feet, in 97 drill holes by September. Results are pending on 83 holes with four diamond drills and one rotary rig pursuing both follow-up and initial targets.

So far, the aptly named Nucleus Zone in the northwest quarter of the property is the center of the action. With mineralization running to a depth of 250-300 meters, it is open in all directions, "which is a good thing," said Harris with a dry chuckle.

Another target, the Goldy Zone in the southeast quarter of the property, has shown high-grade gold mineralization to a depth of 75 meters and continues 100 meters along length. In 2007 drilling at Goldy, assay results showed 53.8 meters, or 176.3 feet grading 3.6 g/t gold including 15.45 g/t gold over 9.3 meters, or 30.50 feet. The objective of 2008 drilling was to understand from which direction the mineralization is coming.

Drill hole GY08-27 intersected 23.70 meters, or 77.76 feet, of 2.84 g/t gold, including

1.75 meters, or 5.74 feet, of 21.18 g/t gold and 1.45 meters, or 4.76 feet, of 11.26 g/t gold.

"Encountering high-grade gold intervals near surface in the Goldy Zone is very encouraging," Harris said Sept. 25. "The potential of expanding the mineralization within the shear zone is excellent as the shear zone may represent part of a larger regional mineralizing system."

Among other targets are the more centrally located Stoddart and Ridge zones, which had features that had never been tested. Harris said two drill holes in the junior's 2007 program yielded new discoveries of good copper grades and revealed copper-gold-molybdenum porphyry-style mineralization.

In all, five different deposit types have been discovered on the property. In addition to the copper and gold porphyry mineralization, the property has high grade gold and copper massive sulphide, high-grade skarn gold and silver, high-grade polymetallic vein gold-silver-copper mineralization and high-grade epithermal vein gold and silver.

Debbie James, one of 14 staff geologists working on the Freegold Mountain Project this year, said the experience had been like trying to piece together a giant underground puzzle.

The scale of the land package has allowed Harris to look at the geology on a regional basis for the first time, instead of working on postage stamp-sized claims. The overview has already aided exploration considerably: while the company hit mineralization in every one of its 26 drill holes in 2006 by playing it safe and drilling known deposits, in 2007, it put faith into its new model and stepped out. Now it's hitting longer, higher grades.

Good news on all fronts.

The idea of finding huge quantities of gold at Freegold Mountain requires no stretch of the imagination. A substantial quantity of placer gold, primarily coarse nuggets and wire gold, has been found directly downhill from Freegold Mountain in Mechanic Creek over the years.

Not only does the property sit uphill from placer gold streams that are still actively mined, it also lies near the center of the Yukon portion of the Tintina Gold Belt, a boomerang-shaped mineralized region in which more than a half-dozen major deposits have been discovered. This belt is home to the Fort Knox and Pogo gold mines to the north and the Donlin Creek gold deposit in the west. Mineralization identified in some zones at Freegold Mountain, in fact, has been likened to that found at Fort Knox, a mine which averages annual output of about 300,000 ounces of gold.

Harris now sees no end in sight for gold discoveries at Freegold Mountain.

"There are so many targets. We will just keep drilling after we get a resource estimate," he said. "I don't think we'll get to the end of this thing any time soon. It's a long way from finished."

Further complicating the outlook is significant copper mineralization on the property.

"We've got copper boulders that run up to 25 percent copper and 2.5 ounces gold per metric ton," Harris said.

Northern Freegold is working toward an updated resource calculation for the project by the second quarter of 2009, according to Harris.

 

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