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By Rose Ragsdale
For Mining News 

Juniors ride second wave of exploration

2011 brings a few mineral discoveries but mostly ups and downs in field programs; record numbers of Yukoners enter labor force


Last updated 11/20/2011 at Noon

A second wave of mining exploration swept across Yukon Territory in 2011, bringing with it new mineral discoveries, record employment and myriad other changes, large and small. Roughly 100 companies, including a score of newcomers, mounted an array of mineral exploration programs with most of them stalking gold and silver deposits. Some came away with early success and excitement about their results, while others sifted the tea leaves, looking for clearer signs of the elusive mineralization they seek.

"The impact of this mining rush was felt all over the territory," said Claire Derome, outgoing president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. "Typically mining is a seasonal business. But 2011 has been unusual. It's been busy all year long. The claim staking didn't really stop. It went on all last winter and drilling started early. In February, Golden Predator Corp. was the first company out the door," she said.

First-timer success

Among the companies participating in this second wave of mining investment, a handful have reported encouraging early results in gold exploration, especially in the vicinity of Kinross Gold Corp.'s 1-million-ounce-plus Golden Saddle Deposit and Kaminak Gold Corp.'s Coffee Project in the White Gold District. The explorers include Ethos Capital Corp. at its Betty Property adjacent to Coffee, Pacific Ridge Exploration Ltd. at its Mariposa Project north and east of Betty and Goldstrike Resources Ltd. at its Lucky Strike Property 10 kilometers (6 miles) east of Golden Saddle.

Ethos reported soil geochemical results and gold analyses from initial pit trench rock samples from the Mascot Creek soil grid area on the Betty Property where it delineated a 17.5-square-kilometer gold-soil anomaly measuring 5 kilometers by 3.5 kilometers. The Mascot soil anomaly has six soil values above 1,000 parts-per-billion gold to a maximum of 7,288 ppb gold as well as 50 meters of trenching that averaged 7.3 grams per metric ton gold.

Ethos CEO and President Gary Freeman said, "The Mascot Creek area is particularly exciting because we have discovered significant gold mineralization in rock samples from a second area at Bond within the very large gold soil anomaly. These continuing positive gold results from pit trenches are extremely encouraging because it continues to indicate there are gold mineralized bedrock sources for the gold-soil anomalies. These results continue to reinforce our view that the Betty Property has considerable potential for gold mineralization."

Pacific Ridge wrapped up a 6,000-meter drill program aimed at testing five targets at Mariposa in September, reporting gold intersections in 9 out of 10 drill holes at the Skookum Main target and mixed results from the work at the other four targets. The junior said results of the 40-hole drill program warrant continued drilling in 2012.

Goldstrike Resources Ltd. reported results of first-pass exploration at 24 properties in the Yukon. At the Lucky Strike property, which Goldstrike is exploring with 30 percent partner PetroOne Energy Corp., the companies reported trenching exposed Coffee Creek-style mineralization producing samples as high as 3.06 grams per metric ton gold in silicified bedrock along a 7-kilometer northwest-trending structure outlined by geophysics. Additional positive results outlined three new zones on the property that require follow-up exploration and drilling.

Goldstrike also reported that a major new breccia zone was discovered late in the season by Yukon prospector Tom Morgan during the staking of Goldstrike's Cando-2 and Cando properties in east-central Yukon. The claims cover Mt. Sheldon, and extend to within 300 meters of the North Canol Road, along with other promising results on its Big One, Summit and Plateau South properties.

In other areas of the Yukon, first-time explorers such as Gold World Resources Inc., Colorado Resource Ltd. and First Point Minerals Corp. also reported encouraging results.

Gold World Resources Oct. 27 said it located six anomalous zones with exceptionally high mobile metal ion response levels for precious and base metals on its Mount Anderson property near Whitehorse.

Colorado Resources Nov. 3 said it completed its 2011 Yukon fieldwork and provided an update on the Oro Property near MacMillan Pass in east-central Yukon.

After extensive sampling and geological mapping, the junior identified favorable lithologies and structures for "Carlin" style mineralization and completed 15 trenches for 1,368 meters.

First Point Minerals Corp. Nov. 7 said it has staked the Mich property in the Yukon after discovering a large zone of nickel-iron alloy mineralization during a worldwide search for new nickel-iron alloy targets this year.

Mich is located 52 kilometers (32 miles) east of Whitehorse.

Wide-spaced sampling of sparse outcrops of bedrock within the 2,200-meters-long by up to 640-meters-wide zone returned values ranging from 590 to 1,160 parts per million (0.06 to 0.12 percent) nickel-in-alloy from 14 rock sample sites, for an average grade of 893 ppm (0.09 percent) nickel-in-alloy.

Follow-up standouts

Other explorers following up on 2010 results have reported significant progress at their respective projects this field season, including Northern Tiger Resources Inc. at both its Sonora Gulch gold-silver property in central Yukon and at the 3Ace Property in southeastern Yukon, ATAC Resources Ltd. at the Osiris Zone on its Rackla Property in east-central Yukon, Golden Predator at its Brewery Creek gold project east of Dawson and Stina Resources Ltd. at its Kodiak and Dime properties, located both north and south of Golden Saddle in the White Gold District.

For many companies, an unprecedented backlog at assay laboratories slowed to a crawl the pace of sample analysis. This suggests that the jury still may be out on many 2011 exploration campaigns.

Initial disappointment

At least one company, Smash Minerals Corp., has already expressed disappointment in its failure to make a new gold discovery in 2011.

In a somewhat candid letter dated Oct. 25, CEO Adrian Fleming told Smash's shareholders that the company's large and aggressive exploration program on its 850-square-kilometer land package, including the Whiskey Property in the White Gold district, identified seven drill targets, of which it drill tested four.

"The small core drill program, eight holes for 1,665 meters, did not result in a new discovery.

The drill results were disappointing, but I am not discouraged," wrote Fleming, who previously led Underworld Resources Inc. to discover the Golden Saddle Deposit before it was acquired by Kinross.

Among reasons Fleming cited for his continued optimism: The drilling "clearly identified the signature of a mineralizing system and the pathfinders that can be used to find other targets"; more assay results are pending that will provide a jump-start to the 2012 field program; three drill targets have already been defined for testing in 2012; and the company completed its 2011 program with C$5 million left in the bank.

"I have said from the get-go that having one of the largest land packages in the White Gold district would require a minimum of two seasons of serious exploration to adequately assess its gold potential. We have just completed our first year of fieldwork," Fleming concluded.

A year of changes

Record levels of exploration activity and the startup of two new mines in the territory resulted in a dramatic increase in productivity.

Derome said Yukon's labor force swelled to an all-time high of 20,000 workers, though the territory has a population of only 35,000.

But for the chamber, the biggest changes came in the way the trade group organized the program for its annual Yukon Geoscience Forum, scheduled for Nov. 19-23.

Derome said the chamber expected to close its doors early when 500 delegates registered online for the gathering and would offer no onsite registration for the event. The group also added two extra days of programs, enough to expand the forum to five days in all. The new offerings included a new focus on development and production with presentations on social responsibility, environmental conservation and mine safety, along with a core display and geological posters in addition to presentations by government and industry officials.


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