Mining Explorers 2011: Explorers seek mega-deposits
Many focus on White Gold, Selwyn Basin areas; others eye underexplored areas
Last updated 11/6/2011 at Noon
Frontrunners in the Yukon mineral exploration rush in 2011 spent more than C$12 million each, with at least one company pouring C$25 million into its program. These companies include ATAC Resources Ltd., Kaminak Gold Corp., Capstone Mining Corp., Alexco Resource Corp., Golden Predator Corp., Ryan Gold Corp. and Silver Range Resources Ltd.
At least another 14 companies shelled out more than C$5 million each to search for precious and base metals, using virtually every modern exploration technique from sampling to drilling. Still, the entire group of big spenders explored only about one-fifth of the territory's 150-plus active mineral projects in 2011.
Atac Resources, for example, set eight drills to turning on its 185-kilometer (115-mile) long Rackla Gold property, which hosts the 2010 Osiris gold discovery. Extensive exploration carried out on Rackla in 2011 with up to C$25 million in expenditures showed significant promise.
Atac reported Oct. 3 that diamond drilling in the nearby Conrad Zone extended its mineralization to a 400-meter strike length and remains open in all directions. The drilling confirms gold mineralization at the Conrad and Eaton zones coalesce into a larger Conrad zone.
Since tapping the Supremo zone on its Coffee Project in the White Gold district in May 2010, Kaminak Gold Corp. has drilled eight gold discoveries stretching across a trend that exceeds 10 kilometers (6 miles) in length. In addition, soil sampling is turning up new prospects ripe for exploration on the 150,000-acre (60,704-hectare) property.
Double Double Hole CFD-90, drilled into the Double Double Zone cut 4 meters averaging 74.9 grams per metric ton gold. Both of two follow-up assay results returned the same results as the original.
Kaminak believes the structure hosting the gold at Double Double could be a high-grade extension of the Latte zone, located 800 meters to the west. Results of a magnetic survey suggest this zone could stretch for several kilometers.
Kaminak planned to spend C$15 million on exploration in 2011, including a 40,000-meter drill program. Other gold zones identified on the property include Latte, Supremo, Kona and Connector, Macchiato and Cappuccino and Americano West.
Golden Predator Corp. is another junior with big ambitions when it comes to finding gold in the Yukon. The company is also racing toward becoming the territory's newest hardrock gold miner. The company committed C$6 million of its C$15 million exploration for 2011 to exploration of Brewery Creek, a former gold mine that produced 278,484 ounces of gold from 1996 through 2002. Initially, Golden Predator thought Brewery Creek had the potential to provide up to 1 million ounces of gold in areas in and around where Viceroy mined, but results of the 2011 drill program, including a 74-meter intercept averaging 7.08 g/t gold, has the explorer thinking much larger.
"We feel fairly strongly there is multimillion-ounce (gold) potential here," Golden Predator Chief Geologist Michael Burke told Mining News in August.
Initial production could come from ore on an abandoned heap-leach pad, from which the former owner, Viceroy Resources, recovered only about 60 percent of the some 400,000 ounces of gold it stacked on the pad. Golden Predator said it intends to bring the Brewery Creek Mine back in operation by 2014.
A focus early in the year on staking paid off for Golden Predator with a significantly larger claims package in the Yukon covering more than 10 percent of the quartz claims in the Yukon and more than 4,000 square kilometers, or 1,544 square miles.
Golden Predator also planned to spend the lion's share of its remaining C$9 million exploration budget at two other advanced projects, Clear Creek (C$3 million) and Grew Creek (C$2.5 million).
All 11 holes drilled at Clear Creek encountered gold mineralization, including hole CC11-043, which cut 25.5 meters averaging 2.19 g/t gold from a depth of 15.0 meters.
Of its six other advanced projects and three pipeline projects in the Yukon, the company's 20 or so geologists focused primarily on mapping and geophysical work this season.
The company also explored the Harlan gold property in east-central Yukon with a nine-hole drill program.
At the Ida Oro gold project, Ryan Gold planned to spend C$6.5 million of its C$15.6 million 2011 exploration program to test a 4,000-meter-by-1,000-meter geochemical anomaly that is co-incident with a magnetic low defined by airborne geophysics carried out in 2010, with 12,000 meters of drilling in 2011.
Ethos Capital Corp., a bold newcomer, is exploring five gold-prospective properties in the White Gold district, including the Betty and Wolf properties (802 claims covering about 16,228 hectares, or 40,023 acres) located 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Dawson City, Yukon. Ethos planned extensive 2011 exploration on the properties with spending budgeted at C$6 million. The junior launched a systematic field program in June, including soil sampling, airborne and ground geophysics, trenching, geology and prospecting, with diamond drilling on already-defined gold anomalies. By August, Ethos had reported encouraging results on the 152-square-kilometer (59 square miles) Betty Property.
Among other companies that mounted 2011 exploration programs of at least C$5 million:
Victoria Gold Corp is looking to begin construction of a heap leach operation in 2012 at its 5-million-ounce-plus Eagle Gold Project on the Dublin Gulch Property in central Yukon, with first gold anticipated in 2014.
The company is spending about C$10 million on 2011 exploration, with about one-third devoted to further work at the Eagle deposit, another a third on the area immediately surrounding Eagle, and the remainder being spent to seek new mineralization across the entire 400-square-kilometer (154-square-mile) property.
Grab samples taken here returned assays as high as 1.8 g/t gold and 6,410 g/t silver.
The Dublin Gulch property also hosts the Potato Hills Trend, a 7-kilometer-by-3-kilometer (4-mile-by-2-mile) band of significant multi-element mineralization.
Rockhaven Resources Ltd. at its Klaza gold-silver property in central Yukon 50 kilometers (32 miles) west of the town of Carmacks. With a budget of just over C$6 million for 2011, Rockhaven worked to produce a mineral resource for Klaza with diamond and reverse circulation drilling scheduled into the fall.
Pacific Ridge Exploration Ltd. successfully completed its C$3 million exploration program for 2011 on its properties in the White Gold district of Yukon.
With a focus on the Mariposa Property, including 6,000 meters of diamond drilling in 41 holes, grid-based soil sampling, ground and airborne geophysics, and geological reconnaissance work, the junior reported cutting gold mineralization in nine of the 10 holes for which it had received results by Sept. 28 of an 18-hole drill program in the Skookum Main target.
Pacific Ridge said the results warrant further drilling in 2012.
The company also explored its other holdings in the district, including geochemical and airborne geophysical surveys on the Eureka Dome Property, and geological reconnaissance on the Gold Cap Property.
Tarsis Resources Ltd. continued work on its 2010 grassroots copper-gold-silver discovery at its White River Project in the underexplored southwest corner of Yukon Territory. Far from the areas where most of Yukon's mineral explorers crowded in 2011, White River is situated about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of the Alaska border and 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the Alaska Highway. The project is showing potential to host large-scale mineralization. Assay results received in early August - including one select sample containing 4.41 grams per metric ton gold, 0.47 percent copper and 391 g/t silver - confirm the property's potential.
Apparently spurred by Tarsis' work in the region, Teck Resources Ltd. has staked two claim blocks immediately to the southeast of the White River property.
Northern Tiger Resources Inc. may offer a glimpse of how under-explored the territory really is at its 3Ace project in Southwest Yukon.
"Some people might think the Yukon is a mature exploration district but Alex (McMillan) was able to walk in from a road and find an outcropping quartz vein that runs 5,000 grams per ton gold, so I think that bodes well for all of the money that is being spent in the Yukon and there being additional new discoveries," Northern Tiger President and CEO Greg Hayes told Mining News. The chunk of quartz the First Nations prospector carried the 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) down the mountain to the Cantung Mine Road contains 4,820 g/t gold to be exact.
Northern Tiger conducted a 10,000-meter drill program at 3Ace this year. In addition to drilling, a C$6 million exploration program included extensive soil and stream sediment sampling, mapping and geophysical surveys. A larger campaign is planned for 2012.
Northern Freegold Resources Ltd. continued to explore the gold-rich Revenue Zone porphyry system in 2011 at its Freegold Mountain Project in central Yukon.
The junior reported impressive drill results in late September, including a 304.8-meter intersection of gold, copper and molybdenum mineralization in the Revenue zone.
Based on an evaluation of historic and 2010 drill-hole data from the Revenue zone's gold-rich porphyry system, the target deposit was defined in February as 40 million to 110 million metric tons containing 700,000 to 1.1 million ounces gold, 5 million to 10 million ounces silver, 130 million to 280 million pounds copper and 9 million to 18 million pounds molybdenum.
The Revenue target deposit extends for 1,500 meters in an eastward direction, and from surface to a depth of 250 meters.
It is open laterally and at depth.
Northern Freegold said the goal of the 2011 drilling on the Revenue zone is to upgrade the target deposit to inferred resources, and to expand it.
With more companies digging away on properties across the territory, an avalanche of samples nearly overwhelmed laboratories in Whitehorse and Vancouver, B.C., resulting in huge backlogs for assay analyses and a dearth of important data from early-season exploration reaching the miners during critical weeks at the height of the summer. As a result, many of the companies had to rely on unconventional methods for sample and core analyses, such as X-ray fluorescence, to help guide their exploration efforts during the latter weeks of the field season.
Argus Metals Corp., which is exploring the Hyland Gold Project located in the Selwyn Basin of eastern Yukon Territory, reported encouraging drill results in September, including a 39.4-meter interval averaging 0.80 g/t gold and 3.28 g/t silver starting at a depth of 71.6 meters from hole HY-11-29; and a 42.2-meter interval averaging 0.78 g/t gold and 2.38 g/t silver and including 9.2 meters of 1.79 g/t gold and 0.36 g/t silver, starting at a depth of 143.8 meters from hole HY-11-31.
The junior also conducted property-wide geochemical mapping and sampling programs.
The explorer said it used portable XRF analytical equipment to identify areas of interest for immediate prioritization and follow-up programs, and in two cases, resulted in exploration drilling.
Numerous acquisitions and name changes this year has transformed the landscape. "For example, Universal Uranium is now Expedition Mining. Copper Ridge is now Redtail Resources. Hinterland Resources is changing its name to Stakeholder Gold. New Pacific Metals (a company with major ownership by a Chinese silver producer) acquired Tagish Lake Gold Corp., but the operation is being run by Tagish Gold as a subsidiary," Lewis explained.
Novagold Resources Inc.'s recent purchase of Copper Canyon Resources gives it ownership of the Kiwi gold property off the North Canol Road in central-eastern Yukon, which the company planned to drill this year.
Solomon Resources Ltd. staked multiple large claim groups in Southwest Yukon in 2011 with an eye toward future exploration. Solomon President and CEO Randy Rogers said ongoing work by the Yukon Geological Survey has drawn new attention to the Kluane Front Ranges and nearby Ruby Range, and recent staking activity suggests that junior exploration companies looking to acquire new and prospective ground outside of the heavily staked Dawson Range and Selwyn Basin Gold Districts of the Yukon are turning their attention to this region.
In addition, Solomon explored its 309-claim Ten Mile Creek property located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) north-northwest of Kinross' White Gold project and 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Kaminak's Coffee property. Solomon holds an option from Radius Gold Inc. to earn a 51 percent interest in the Ten Mile Creek property.
A handful of explorers advanced silver-rich projects, primarily within or near the historic Keno Hill Silver district where Alexco's Bellekeno Mine and numerous other properties are located in east-central Yukon.
Monster Mining Corp., for example, reported encouraging results from trench sampling at its flagship Keno-Lightning property.
Monster also conducted surface exploration program at Keno-Lightning, a property that comprises 329 quartz claims covering about 6,650 hectares (16,432 acres). It hosts eight known Yukon Minfile occurrences and is located in the Keno Hill silver district, which produced more than 200 million ounces of silver between 1913 and 1989.
New faces in the Yukon this year could fill a chapter in Who's Who in junior mining, including several well-known prospectors such as Adrian Fleming, who led Underworld Resources when it made the White Gold discovery in 2008, and Chuck Fipke, whose tenacious prospecting is credited with sparking Canada's diamond mining boom in the 1990s.
Fleming's new company, Smash Minerals Corp., explored the Whiskey Gold Property in the White Gold district with an extensive C$4.3 million inaugural program consisting of a helicopter-borne magnetics survey, ridge sampling, grid soil sampling, geological mapping and prospecting, plus trenching and drilling.
Fipke is chairman of Cantex Mine Development Corp., a junior that explored the Car and Lin properties in the southeast Rackla Belt near Atac Resources' property, using Fipke's patented heavy mineral technologies to analyze samples from the properties.
A swarm of Yukon newcomers made impressive gains during the year.
Tectonic Minerals Corp. / Comstock Metals Ltd. is exploring the QV claims located 78 kilometers (about 48 miles) south of Dawson City in the White Gold district north of and contiguous with claims held by Kinross' Golden Saddle deposit at the White Gold Project.
The junior optioned the QV claims, which now cover 10,374 hectares (25,634 acres) in 494 claims with additional staking by Comstock this summer, from prospector Shawn Ryan.
The company conducted additional soil sampling on the property this year and hired 2010 Prospector of the Year Jean Pautler, P.Geo, to write an NI 43-101 report on the QV Claims.
Pautler identified east-west trending quartz veins on outcrops on the property that Tectonic/Comstock describes as being Golden Saddle-type structures.
The 2011 work is aimed at developing drill targets for the spring of 2012.
Aben Resources Ltd. optioned from Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. the Rude Creek South gold, copper and molybdenum property north of Dawson, Yukon; Rusty Springs silver-lead-zinc property in the Dawson Range and several other properties in a possible extension of the Rackla Belt in MacMillan Pass. Aben's estimated budget for its 2011 exploration programs on Yukon properties is about C$5 million.
Prophecy Platinum Corp. is exploring the Wellgreen and Burwash platinum group elements-nickel-copper properties. In late September, the company reported encountering 457 meters of mineralization borehole WS11-188 that average 0.47 percent nickel-equivalent (including 0.72 g/t platinum + palladium + gold) from surface to the footwall contact. Within this larger swath of mineralization, the hole encountered a high-grade section of 17.8 meters of 3.14 g/t platinum + palladium + gold, 1.03 percent nickel, 0.74 percent copper (1.77 percent nickel-equivalent).
Commander Resources Ltd. is exploring the Glenmorangie (Hyland area) and Yukon Olympic (Dempster highway) properties.
Colorado Resources Ltd. staked the Oro Property within the possible extension of the Rackla Belt near MacMillan Pass and recently agreed to purchase three properties - Sol, Nid and Bach - in the Macmillan Pass area, a fourth property - Al - located in the Aishihik Lake area northwest of Whitehorse.
Constantine Metals Resources Ltd. and Carlin Gold Corp., which formed a joint venture in 2010 specifically to target and explore for Carlin-type gold deposits in the Yukon's Selwyn Basin, recently staked 1,097 additional claims in five areas prospective for Carlin-type mineralization in the Mayo Mining District, east central Yukon.
Wolverine Minerals Corp. optioned 21 properties from Strategic Metals, including some in the Finlayson Lake area and others in the Dawson Range.
Bearing Resources intended to explore properties located near Golden Predator Corp.'s Clear Creek gold project and Northern Tiger's 3Ace gold project in Southeast Yukon, which drew considerable attention in 2010 after reporting impressive gold assays in grab samples and subsequent drilling (Bearing holds a 100 percent interest in the Flume property, of which a 75 percent interest is currently optioned to Ryan Gold Corp.);
Caribou Copper Resources agreed to earn in to options held by Alix Resources Corp on five Yukon properties owned by Strategic Metals, including the Hartless Joe and Byng gold-silver properties northeast of Whitehorse (The Corky and Meloy copper-gold properties with potential for molybdenum and the Vault gold property are all located northwest of Haines Junction).
Hawkeye Gold & Diamond Inc. agreed to acquire a 100 percent interest in each of the Dart, Mint and Top properties from the YES Exploration Syndicate Inc. (The properties host gold-associated younger volcanics within the Carmacks Caldera and are located in the Aishihik Lake area northwest of Whitehorse).
Mill City Gold Corp. recently optioned the Mount Hinton Property in the Keno Hill mining district from Rockhaven Resources Ltd., also plans to explore the Tombstone Gold Project near Dawson.
Gold World Resources optioned the Mount Anderson Property, a volcanics-associated gold-silver, polymetallic property similar to the former producing Skookum gold mine, according to Lewis.
Great Bear Resources optioned a 75 percent interest the Ike Selwyn Basin Gold Project from Argus Metals in the Hyland district near Atac Resources' Carlin-type gold discovery in eastern Yukon.
Kestrel Gold is exploring the King Solomon Dome Property in the White Gold mining district south of Dawson after optioning it from longtime Yukon prospector Bernie Kreft.
Ontario explorer White Pine Resources optioned the Money and Tender properties in the Dawson Range from prospector Shawn Ryan.