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By Rose Ragsdale
For Mining News 

Explorers aim to resume gold hunt in 2019

Interest in early stage exploration prospects surges in Kivalliq region where two new gold projects plan production starts by fall


Last updated 2/15/2019 at 6:17am

Two new gold mines in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.

While the sun is setting on Agnico Eagle's Meadowbank Mine, this mill facility at the operation will continue to produce gold from ore delivered from Amaruq, a satellite gold deposit 64 road-kilometers (40 miles) away.

With the startup of two new gold mining operations scheduled for the first half of this year and recent regulatory approvals for development of at least three other gold deposits in the territory, there's little question that Nunavut is coming into its own as a gold mining center in Canada. Nearly one and one-half times the size of Alaska, the northern jurisdiction has seen little gold production since it was separated from Northwestern Territories 20 years ago.

But as production at Meadowbank, Nunavut's first gold mine developed in the 21st Century, winds down after nine years in operation, the territory is quietly witnessing an upsurge in exploration with more than a half-dozen early-stage gold projects making strides toward delivering more gold output in the future.

Most of the gold properties that explorers have targeted recently in Nunavut are located in the central Kivalliq region, relatively near Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.'s Meadowbank Mine, and Meliadine and Amaruq projects, which are both set to go into production in the second and third quarters of 2019, respectively.

Some of the new explorers opted to focus on projects in other jurisdictions last year, but at least two companies mounted successful exploration programs that advanced their understanding and piqued their interest in returning to Nunavut in 2019. Based on work completed in 2017, the others have indicated recently a desire to resume the hunt for gold in Nunavut during the coming field season.

Agnico Eagle leads the way

Though Agnico Eagle expects to cease gold production from Meadowbank in the third quarter of 2019, the company is busier than ever in Nunavut, gearing up to begin production at two gold projects, Meliadine and Amaruq.

Construction is nearing completion at the high-grade Meliadine property, which hosts the miner's largest mineral deposit with 3.7 million ounces of gold in proven and probable reserves (16.1 million metric tons at 7.12 grams per metric ton) and a sizable mineral resource as of Dec. 31, 2017, while underground development is proceeding as planned.

The company's other Nunavut project, Amaruq, is being developed as a satellite deposit of Meadowbank Mine. Agnico Eagle is advancing toward mining first ore at Amaruq early in the second quarter of 2019 and producing first gold from the Whale Tail deposit in the Meadowbank process plant in the third quarter.

Auryn leads the pack

Explorers actively seeking gold in the highly prospective terrain of the Kivalliq region not far from Meliadine and Amaruq include Auryn Resources Inc., Solstice Gold Corp., Nord Gold, Cache Exploration Inc. and NxGold Ltd.

At its 380,000-hectare (939,000 acres) Committee Bay gold project, Auryn Resources identified a second highly prospective area of gold mineralization in 2018. Situated along the Committee Bay Greenstone Belt, about 180 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Meadowbank, the project hosts the Three Bluffs gold deposit with an indicated resource of 524,000 oz grading 7.85 g/t gold and an inferred resource of 720,000 ounces grading 7.64 g/t gold. In 2018 exploration, Auryn discovered three separate gold-bearing systems at Committee Bay in the Aiviq, Kalulik and Shamrock targets that have generated a new round of anticipation among observers.

Russell Starr, Auryn's senior vice president corporate finance, said, "We think we have what the big boys (majors) are looking for at Committee Bay."

Observing that major mining companies tend to sit up and take notice when juniors identify 3 million to 5 million oz gold in a project, Starr recently said, "We've already identified a 1.3 million oz asset at 8 g/t (gold) at Three Bluffs. Now our job is to find another one of these, and we think we have that in Aiviq," he added.

Auryn is currently finalizing 2019 exploration plans for Committee Bay, but the explorer has said the scope of the work this season is contingent on 2018 exploration results at its Gibson MacQuoid gold project farther south in the Kivalliq region, Homestake Ridge project in British Columbia and the highly active Sombrero copper project in Peru.

More gold at Kahuna

Solstice Gold, a junior formed recently by diamond hunter Dunnedin Ventures, to explore the 920-square-kilometer (355 square miles) district-scale Kahuna project and an adjacent 805-square kilometer (311 square miles) parcel, reported results of its 2018 exploration program in November. Kahuna is located 26 kilometers (16.5 miles) from Rankin Inlet and about 7 kilometers (3.5 miles) from Meliadine, which surrounds the Kahuna property on the north, west and south.

Dunnedin found gold in 2015 adjacent to diamond-bearing kimberlites at its diamond project at Kahuna. So far, four gold belts, including the Kannuqa belt, have been discovered on the property.

Solstice said Nov. 27 that it identified three more areas of elevated gold mineralization in 2,050 till samples collected in a high-resolution till survey of the property last summer over the central part of the Westeros Fold, an 85-square-kilometer (33 square miles) area. The survey area lies southwest of the previously identified Qaiqtuq target area, which contains abundant elevated gold in boulders and, locally, gold in outcrop.

"On Nov. 13, we summarized positive results from our detailed boulder and outcrop sampling programs in the Qaiqtuq area, which represents an eight-kilometer- (five miles) long target now set up for drilling," said Solstice Executive Chairman David Adamson in a statement. "Our focused exploration strategy has confirmed new targets in prospective parts of the Westeros fold. It is worth bearing in mind that this fold has an impressive 40-kilometer (25 miles) unfolded strike length. Taken together with our recently announced regional sampling programs, we believe that we have demonstrated gold prospectivity over a large part of our extensive property position in what we consider to be the emerging Meliadine gold district."

Explorers plan 2019 work

Several gold explorers opted not to mount programs in 2018 at their early stage projects in the Kivalliq region.

One notable absentee, Nord Gold, indicated recently that it plans to return to the territory in 2019. The Moscow-based company boasts nine operating mines in four countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Burkina Faso and Guinea – and a number of development and exploration projects, including the early stage Pistol Bay gold project in Nunavut.

The 860-square-kilometer (332 square miles) Pistol Bay property is located on the northwestern coast of Hudson Bay in the underexplored Rankin-Ennadai greenstone belt southwest of Meliadine and 10 kilometers (six miles) from the hamlet of Whale Cove.

In 2017 Nord Gold completed 4,205 meters of drilling, concentrating on new targets on its large license area, including Howitzer, which returned highly anomalous drilling intercepts. Best intersections include 156 meters averaging 8.2 g/t gold and 163 meters at 5.6 g/t gold. The explorer published a JORC-compliant resource estimate for Pistol Bay in December 2017 that tallied 742,000 oz of measured, indicated and inferred gold resources grading 2.94 g/t gold.

Gold exploration drilling at Committee Bay greenstone belt Nunavut

Daniel Murray; courtesy of Auryn Resources Inc.

The discovery hole at the Aiviq target on the Committee Bay property cut 12.2 meters averaging 4.7 grams per metric ton gold, including 3.05 meters of 18.09 g/t gold.

Another junior, Cache Exploration, is exploring the Kiyuk Lake gold project located in the Kivalliq region about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Nunavut's southern border with Manitoba. Cache's most recent exploration campaign in 2017 at Kiyuk Lake yielded the discovery of the East Gold Point zone, confirmed that mineralization extends to 200 meters below surface at the Rusty zone and intersected a previously unknown high-grade phase of eight meters of 26.4 g/t gold. The best intercept at the East Gold Point zone cut 64 meters of 1.5 g/t gold.

For 2019, Cache said it expects to complete a survey on the property in the second quarter.

NxGold is one explorer that sat out the 2018 field season in Nunavut, awaiting renewal of existing land use licenses, the only permits needed to conduct a proposed exploration program at its 4,174-hectare (10,314 acres) Kuulu project. Held under a 2016 option agreement to earn up to 70 percent interest in the Kuulu project from Meliadine Gold Ltd., the Kuulu project is located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Rankin Inlet and less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) along trend from the Meliadine project.

The continued delay in renewal of necessary permits has forestalled further work at the Kuulu project. As of Sept. 30, land use licenses for Kuulu had yet to be renewed.


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