Doyon's vast Tintina Gold Belt potential
Interior Alaska Native corp. is state's largest private landowner, including properties rich in precious, base & critical metals North of 60 Mining News – May 1, 2019
Last updated 7/20/2020 at 7:16am
With 12.5 million acres of land spanning Alaska's Interior, Doyon Ltd. is the largest private landholder in the state and one of the largest in the nation. For mining and mineral exploration companies, the rich mineral potential of these lands may be more impressive than the sheer size of the estate.
This is because the Doyon region is a nearly Texas-sized swath of Interior Alaska that is renowned for its gold and a host of other metals, providing the regional corporation, and village corporations within it, mineral-rich properties to choose from following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971.
"Much of this land was acquired for its mineral potential with a long-term view of providing economic development benefits for its Native American shareholders," Doyon penned in a summary of its extensive mineral properties.
These lands, coupled with a diverse array of businesses and joint ventures, help Doyon meet its primary objectives – ensuring the economic well-being of more than 19,500 current shareholders; honoring the traditions handed down by those that came before; and safeguarding a rich inheritance for future generations.
"Of course, we're proud of our strong performance and our reputation in Alaska and beyond," Doyon penned in a statement on its website. "But watching our community of shareholders grow and flourish as a result-that's our real point of pride."
Vast mineral potential
The vast mineral potential of the Doyon region has been world renowned since prospectors discovered rich deposits of placer gold in the streams of Interior Alaska in the late 19th Century. Over the past 130 years, roughly 15 million ounces of placer gold has been recovered from the streams in the Doyon region and more than 12 million oz of the precious metal has been mined from the hard rock sources of some of this alluvial gold.
Geologists have dubbed this particularly gold-rich area the Tintina Gold Belt – a 125- by 750-mile province that arcs from northern British Columbia, through the famed Klondike and White Gold districts in the Yukon, and across the Doyon region in Alaska.
Several multi-million-ounce hardrock gold deposits have been discovered across the Tintina Belt – Coffee and White Gold in the Yukon; Fort Knox, Pogo and Livengood in the Doyon region; and Donlin Gold on lands owned by Calista, the Alaska Native corporation for the Yukon Kuskokwim region of Southwest Alaska.
These deposits, however, only account for the lode source of a small percentage of the placer gold discovered in the Doyon region and the Tintina Belt as a whole.
Much of Doyon's vast portfolio of mineral lands covers prospects that have shown the potential to be listed among the world-class gold deposits this famed mineral province is known for.
Gold, however, is only part of the story.
Doyon lands are also prospective for other precious metals – silver and platinum group metals – base metals – copper, nickel and zinc – and critical metals – rare earth elements, chromium and tin.
Many of these mineral prospective lands are on or near the well-developed road system of Interior Alaska. Others are accessible by navigable rivers, such as the Yukon, which runs the breadth of the Doyon region.
Through careful structure of its exploration agreements with major and junior mining companies over the past four decades, Doyon has been able to retain geological information from past exploration on its lands. This, coupled with results from its own exploration, has allowed the ANCSA corporation to build a large database of geological information to guide future exploration on its properties.
Tintina Gold Belt properties
While Pogo, Fort Knox and Livengood are within the Doyon region, all three of these gold-rich projects are on lands owned by the state. Doyon, however, does boast its own million-ounce-plus property within the Tintina Gold Belt – Vinasale.
Located about 16 miles south of McGrath, a Southwest Alaska mining town that has been a hub for the area for more than a century, Vinasale hosts an intrusive related gold deposit reminiscent of those being mined at Kinross Gold's Fort Knox operation near Fairbanks.
According to a resource calculated for Freegold Ventures in 2013, Vinasale hosts 3.41 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 1.48 grams per metric ton (162,000 oz) gold plus 53.25 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 1.05 g/t (1.8 million oz) gold.
Flat, located in a placer gold-rich district about 60 miles southwest of Vinasale, is another intriguing gold property owned by Doyon.
While at an earlier stage of exploration, the Flat property covers 22,000 acres considered to be the likely lode source of two creeks – Flat and Otter – that are estimated to have produced more than 830,000 oz of placer gold since 1909. When you add in other creeks in the Flat area, this total is more than 1.3 million oz of alluvial gold.
There have been 46 holes historically drilled at Chicken Mountain, the main gold prospect at Flat. One hole drilled there cut 21.3 meters averaging 13 g/t gold and another cut 376.6 meters averaging 0.68 g/t gold, demonstrating both the high-grade and bulk tonnage potential of this project.
Between Chicken Mountain and Black Creek, a nearby prospective area, it has been estimated that 4 million oz of gold could be delineated with additional drilling at Flat.
While Vinasale and Flat are west of Alaska's road system, many of Doyon's mineral properties are much closer to infrastructure.
Sawtooth, located about 65 miles northwest of Fairbanks and just north of the Elliott Highway, is one such property.
A five-mile trend running across the more than 50,000-acre Sawtooth property hosts several prospects with the potential to be the type of gold deposit for which the Tintina Gold Belt is renowned.
Soil sampling at one such prospect, Saddle, has outlined a 3,000- by 4,000-meter gold anomaly. Rock samples collected from this area have assayed as high as 4.1 g/t gold.
Nenana, a more recent gold prospect identified on Doyon land, is even closer to Alaska roads. Located about 30 miles southwest of Fairbanks, the grassroots prospect is on the Doyon's Parks Highway Tract, named for the paved highway that cuts through the middle of the property.
The Interior Alaska Native corporation said recent sampling has defined areas of coincident gold and trace element anomalies similar to the geochemical signatures of the multi-million-ounce Ryan Lode, True North and Fort Knox gold deposits to the northeast.
In addition, the Nenana prospect lies along a trend of magnetic anomalies that extends southwest from these intrusive-related gold deposits in the Fairbanks Mining District.
Combined, the geochemistry and geophysics suggest that further exploration could turn up the type of large gold deposit the Tintina Gold Belt is known for.
Tectonic Metals partner
Two of Doyon's gold properties – Seventymile and Northway – have drawn the interest of Tectonic Metals, a new gold exploration company with an executive team renowned for their success in the Tintina Gold Belt.
Tectonic's executive team includes two former CEOs of Kaminak Gold Corp., the company that advanced the Coffee Gold project in Yukon's section of the Tintina Gold Belt from a grassroots discovery to a roughly 5-million-ounce gold mine project that Goldcorp Inc. (now Newmont Goldcorp) acquired in 2017 for C$520 million.
Tony Reda, Kaminak's former vice president of corporate development, and Curt Freeman, renowned Alaska geologist and owner of Fairbanks-based Avalon Development Corp., round out the Tectonic Metals team of experts.
"We have the financial acumen, the business acumen and the exploration and mining acumen to deal with anything from exploration right through to development," said Reda, who is president and CEO of Tectonic Metals.
And they see enormous gold potential on the two eastern Alaska gold properties optioned from Doyon.
"We like to play big," Reda said, referring to the potential of its Alaska portfolio.
While historical exploration demonstrated big gold potential at Seventymile and Northway, tough market conditions cut short past programs before this prospectivity could be fully realized.
With the financial wherewithal to fund robust exploration and new geological ideas, Tectonic Metals believes it can capitalize on the data generated by past exploration on both Doyon properties.
Situated between Yukon's Klondike District to the east and Alaska's Circle Mining District to the west, Seventymile blankets a 25-mile-long gold trend that has not been explored for two decades.
While 83 historical holes tested seven prospects across Seventymile, Tectonic Metals believes this drilling was targeting the wrong style of mineralization.
"The previous explorers applied a Motherlode, California model to this property. We are looking at it from a structural, high-grade shear zone lens," Reda said.
With power auger sampling across the interpreted shear zone returning highly anomalous gold, the company took the first step towards validating this theory during a program completed last year.
The next step will be to test the bedrock. The company is contemplating using a GT Probe, a track-mounted rig that has proven to be an effective tool for testing the soil-bedrock interface in Yukon's White Gold District, or a rotary air blast drill to further test the shear zone in 2019.
Spanning a 30-mile-long district centered at Northway Junction on the Alaska Highway, Northway is the largest property in Tectonic's portfolio.
This property is prospective for the intrusive-related gold systems that the Tintina Gold Belt in known for.
Tectonic said stream sediment, soil and rock sampling completed during its 2018 program validated previously identified structurally hosted gold occurrences on the property.
The Tectonic team is particularly excited about Target 7, a large gold-in-soil anomaly that has never been drilled.
Sampling carried out last year returned assays with as much as 2 g/t gold, which is exceptionally high for soil sampling.
"This is one of the best undrilled gold targets I have come across in quite some time," Reda said.
Being located about 2.5 miles off the highway makes this target even more appealing to the private Tintina Gold Belt explorer.
More than gold
While the Doyon region is best known for its gold, properties owned by the Interior Alaska Native corporation host a wide variety of precious, base and critical metals.
This includes Tofty, a tin-rare earths-gold property that lies along the newly built road to Tanana.
A 12-mile-long belt in the Tofty area is known for its rich, large quantities of placer cassiterite, a tin mineral, in the streams there. Doyon's 5,000-acre Tofty property hosts a potential hardrock source of tin as well as several other minerals considered critical to the United States.
Out of the eight holes drilled at Tofty, one cut 48 meters of magnetite-rich, niobium-bearing carbonatite. Portions of this intercept also contained anomalous quantities of niobium, rare earths and yttrium.
NW Rampart, which is northeast of Tofty and about 26 miles west of the Dalton Highway, is a newly recognized prospect with nickel, chromium and platinum group metals.
Considered a Norilsk-type target, sampling at NW Rampart has returned up to 1,190 parts per million nickel and 2,060 ppm chromium, with peripheral prospects containing gold, palladium and platinum.
A VTEM (versatile time domain electromagnetic) geophysical survey shows several miles of prospective ground in this newly recognized target area at NW Rampart.
While the Fortymile District just across the border from Yukon's Klondike is best known for its placer gold, Doyon owns well over 100,000 acres of property in this area rich in zinc, lead and silver.
Known as LWM-Fish, this property about 35 miles west of the Taylor Highway hosts 14 known carbonate replacement-style occurrences along a 50-mile trend. The most of advanced of these is the LWM deposit, where 86 core holes have defined a more than 1,000-meter-long zone of zinc-rich carbonate replacement mineralization.
One hole drilled by Full Metal Minerals in 2010 cut 4.4 meters of 23.71 percent zinc, 23.63 percent lead and 314.2 g/t silver.
LWM is open for expansion and several nearby prospects could add zinc, lead and silver to the resource.
Doyon also owns a large base metals property just south of the Brooks Range that is rich in base metals, though richer in copper than zinc.
Known as East Wiseman, this property situated just five miles off the Dalton Highway covers the Chandalar Copper Belt, a region where around a dozen volcanogenic massive sulfide, skarn and porphyry copper prospects have been identified.
Luna, a VMS prospect at East Wiseman, has been traced along a three-mile trend. Assays as high as 3.4 percent copper, 3.1 percent zinc, 37.3 g/t (1.2 oz/t) silver, and 0.31 g/t (0.01 oz/t) gold over 9.1 meters.
Evelyn Lee, a skarn prospect southeast of Luna, also hosts intriguing copper.
Two shallow drill holes drilled there cut 5.5 meters grading 2 percent copper and seven meters assaying 3.5 percent copper, both holes bottomed in mineralization.
A 2.1-meter channel sample in the same area returned 9.9 percent copper and 8.17 oz/ton silver.
Committed mineral partner
As extensive as these properties are, they do not represent all the mineral lands Doyon has to offer, an inventory that will likely grow as the Interior Alaska ANCSA corporation continues to collect more information on its portfolio.
These other properties host attractive base and precious metals in the Fortymile District, along the Yukon River and near several of the villages across Alaska.
Doyon recently completed an extensive review and integration of all available geophysical data and public and private prospect data sets for several of the most highly mineralized and accessible blocks. This has defined several additional prospect areas and an enhanced understanding of mineralization styles on the known targets, providing the information needed for more effective exploration programs going forward.
This enhanced database provides explorers more robust targeting information for expanding the existing resource at several prospects; new regional exploration opportunities on several properties in Doyon's portfolio; and better definition of drill targets on many of the properties the company has to offer.
Doyon's long history of doing business with majors, junior and private mineral exploration companies means the Interior Alaska Native corporation brings realistic expectations to structuring agreements and designing exploration programs on its properties to the negotiating table.
And any company that cuts a deal with the largest private landholder in the Tintina Gold Belt knows their land position is secure and they have a partner committed to mineral development.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Doyons vast Tintina Gold Belt potential is the fourth article in a 13-part series that investigates what the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act means for Alaska's mining sector and its future. The remaining nine articles will dig deeper into each of the land-holding Regional corporations; the mining lands that they own; and the services they offer to the mining sector. As a life-long Alaskan that has written about mining here for more than a decade, it is my hope that this series will provide a better understanding of ANCSA and serve as a guide to mining companies seeking to do business in The Last Frontier. For further information on ANCSA see An Alaska Native claims primer for miners published in the February edition of North of 60 Mining News.