McLeod brings new vision to Heatherdale
Rob plans to resume the quest toward a mine at the Niblack North of 60 Mining News – June 26, 2020
Last updated 6/25/2020 at 12:48pm
After helping to foster what is shaping up to be a mining renaissance in his hometown of Stewart, British Columbia, Rob McLeod has bought a major stake in Heatherdale Resources Ltd. and is bringing a new vision to that company's Niblack copper-gold-zinc-silver project on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.
According to a 2011 resource, the Lookout and Trio deposits at Niblack host 4.14 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 1.13% copper, 2.32 grams per metric ton gold, 38.7 g/t silver, and 2.27% zinc; plus 2.49 million metric tons of inferred resource at 1.21% copper, 1.77 g/t gold, 25.9 g/t silver and 2.29% zinc.
While Heatherdale had advanced this high-grade volcanogenic massive sulfide project to the brink of considering the feasibility of permitting and developing a mine, economic hardships for the junior mining sector in 2008 and again in 2012 prevented the company from raising the money to advance the project further.
The advanced staged copper-gold project has been lying dormant ever since. A deal finalized earlier this month, however, is breathing new life into Heatherdale and Niblack.
Blackwolf Copper and Gold Inc., an agent for McLeod and others, has agreed to assume roughly C$4 million that Heatherdale owes Hunter Dickinson Services Inc. In turn, Heatherdale issued Blackwolf 35 million shares to settle C$3.4 million of that debt.
This debt restructuring provides Heatherdale a clean balance sheet that will allow the company to attract the new capital needed to unlock Niblack's value and acquire new interests.
This creative deal also provides McLeod with 11.4% of Heatherdale's stock, making him the single largest shareholder of the company.
David Copeland, Heatherdale's former executive chairman, CEO, and director, has relinquished his roles to make room for McLeod.
"We welcome Rob McLeod, an experienced and enthusiastic exploration geologist and mining executive to the company as CEO of Heatherdale," said Robert Dickinson, chairman of Hunter Dickinson and director of Heatherdale.
As the new CEO and largest shareholder of Heatherdale, McLeod is excited about furthering the exploration, and potential permitting and mine development, at this intriguing project on Prince of Wales Island.
"I am thrilled for this opportunity to restart exploration at the high-grade Niblack project, with multiple compelling targets to expand current resources and make new discoveries," he said.
Born and raised in Stewart, British Columbia, Rob is part of a third generation of McLeods that have made their livelihood from mining in and around this mining town at the southern tip of the famed Golden Triangle. Rob has spent most of his 25-year career as a geologist exploring the vast mineral potential BC, Yukon, and Alaska are renowned for.
He was most recently President and CEO of IDM Mining Ltd., a junior mining company advancing the Red Mountain gold-silver project near his hometown toward development.
While profiting handsomely from the sale of IDM to Ascot Resources Ltd., the exploration, permitting, and underground development carried out under McLeod's watch was about more than money – it was about revitalizing a town that his family has called home for three generations.
"I want a mine in Stewart, my hometown, so bad," McLeod told Trevor Hall, during a June 19 interview with Mining Stock Daily.
This sentiment is shared by many fellow residents in Stewart and northwestern BC.
"Stewart is a mining town supported by deep family roots; Rob's dad is looking down on us and smiling, knowing that underground miners and their families will be back in town and going to work every day at Red Mountain," Stewart Mayor Gina McKay said when provincial permits were issued for the mine project.
The issuance of the BC environmental assessment was also celebrated by the Nisga'a Nation.
"Over 50 years ago, IDM's President and CEO, Rob McLeod's father and former mayor of Stewart, Ian McLeod, campaigned for Nisga'a politician Frank Calder, helping to elect the first Native to any legislature in Canada. The Nisga'a Nation looks forward to working together with Rob and IDM Mining for the benefit of all northerners," said Nisga'a Lisims Government Chairperson Brian Tait.
Following the permit issuances and the selling of Red Mountain to Ascot, Rob helped to negotiate an agreement that provides a framework for the Nisga'a Nation, its citizens, and businesses to benefit from the development of a mine at Red Mountain.
In recent years, Ascot has also been working toward this goal by advancing Premier, a mine that has produced more than 2 million ounces of gold and 50 million oz of silver over the last century. Most recently as an open-pit mine that produced 260,000 oz of gold and 5.1 million oz of silver from 1989 to 1996.
Ascot plans to use the mill and other infrastructure that remains at Premier to restart operations at this historic mine about 15 kilometers (nine miles) north of Stewart. The company has added Big Missouri and Silver Coin, gold-silver projects adjacent to Premier, and Red Mountain, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the southeast, to its portfolio.
A feasibility study completed in April envisions four mines in the Stewart area – Silver Coin, Big Missouri, Red Mountain and Premier – producing roughly 1.1 million oz of gold and 3 million oz of silver over an initial eight-year mine life.
"It is going to be awesome to see the four deposits that are within the portfolio developed in the years to come," said McLeod.
With his vision of mining providing jobs and economic opportunities in his hometown, McLeod is focusing his mineral exploration and community building expertise to Heatherdale Resources and its Niblack project.
40 minutes from home
Situated only 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Stewart, Niblack is basically in McLeod's backyard, despite the fact it lies on an island along Alaska's Southeast Panhandle.
"It is a 40-minute float plane ride from my hometown of Stewart," he said.
Niblack also has a history of mining that dates back to the dawn of the 20th century. The historical Niblack underground operation processed 20,000 tons of ore with average grades of 4.9% copper, 2.2 g/t gold and 30 g/t silver over a three-year span beginning in 1905.
While there hasn't been any mining at Niblack in more than a century, at least US$65 million has been invested in exploring the copper- and gold-rich VMS mineralization there since 1975. This work includes more than 65,000-meters of drilling and roughly 1,000 meters of underground development.
The underground development was completed by Heatherdale in 2008 to provide a better vantage for expanding the resources in the Lookout and Trio zones. This culminated in the 2011 resource calculation in these zones.
While these deposits have expansion potential, especially Trio, McLeod is excited about testing some of the other targets found along a three-mile- (5 kilometers) belt of prospective stratigraphy that has been folded into an S-shape at Niblack.
"For example, there is one zone called the Dama," he said.
A historical hole drilled in the Dama zone, which is about 1,000 meters southeast of Trio, cut 19.2 meters averaging 6.4% copper, 1.37 g/t gold, 3.2% zinc and 53 g/t silver.
"That is an obvious target to follow up," he said.
Other obvious targets include areas around the historical Niblack Mine, where one hole cut 4.6 meters averaging 5.8% copper, 2.4 g/t gold, 4% zinc and 71 g/t silver at the Lindsay prospect, which lies between Niblack and Dama.
McLeod's vision for Heatherdale goes beyond just exploring the fantastic geology Niblack has to offer. Much like his endeavors near Stewart, the Heatherdale executive hopes the exploration and eventual development of Niblack will generate economic opportunities for the area and garner strong support from the local residents.
"If there is anything we did well with IDM, it was community and indigenous relations, and being able to connect, engage and consult with locals," McLeod said. "We are going to take those skills we learned and try to get through what will be a permitting process for the Niblack project."
This starts with open dialogue with the people who live nearest the exploration and hopefully mine development project.
"As we advance Niblack, we will prioritize respectful consultation with the residents of Southeast Alaska, including Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian people," he said.
The new Heatherdale CEO's aspirations, however, go beyond just meeting with and providing good paying jobs to local residents.
"I've got ambitions for indigenous ownership within the company," McLeod said during his interview with Mining Stock Daily.
This is one part of his vision to establish Heatherdale as a leading ESG (environmental, social and governance) exploration company.
He is also working on bringing at least one more project, maybe two, into the Heatherdale portfolio.