Partnerships unlock golden Doyon potential
Interior Alaska ANCSA corp. owns vast lands, mineral potential Alaska Native Claims – October 12, 2021
Last updated 1/6/2022 at 2:17pm
It is hard to quantify which is more impressive, the sheer size of the estate owned by Doyon Ltd. or the rich and underexplored mineral potential on the lands owned by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional corporation for Alaska's Eastern Interior.
Running the breadth of Alaska between the Brooks Range to the north and Alaska Range to the south, the Doyon region blankets a mineral-rich swath of Alaska's Interior that is nearly the size of Texas.
Doyon owns 12.5 million acres of land within this vast region, making it the largest private landholder in Alaska and one of the largest in North America.
Over the nearly 140 years since sourdough prospectors first found gold in the streams of Interior Alaska, nearly 30 million ounces of placer and hardrock aurum have been mined in the Doyon region. Most of this gold has been recovered from Alaska's section of 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 breadth of the Doyon region.
In addition to an enormous gold endowment that has yet to be fully realized, the Doyon region hosts a wide range of base, critical, and other precious metals – antimony, cobalt, copper, chromium, nickel, platinum group metals, rare earths, silver, tin, tungsten, and zinc are among the metals for which this region is renowned.
This provided Doyon and village corporations within its region with a broad array of mineral-rich properties to choose from following the passage of ANCSA in 1971.
"We selected many of our properties ... because of mineral potential," Doyon President Aaron Schutt said during a 2020 online breakfast presentation hosted by Resource Development Council for Alaska.
These lands, coupled with a diverse array of businesses and joint ventures, are helping 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."
To help foster further growth within the region, Doyon has become increasingly proactive in unlocking the vast mineral potential across its equally impressive landholding in Interior Alaska.
This includes leasing several gold exploration properties and investing in Tectonic Metals Inc., a gold exploration company led by a team known for their exploration success and working closely with local communities.
"We are really excited about the partnership and work being done on Doyon lands," said Schutt.
The forging of an increasingly strong partnership between Doyon and Tectonic began shortly after Kaminak Gold Corp. sold the roughly 5-million-ounce Coffee Gold project in Yukon's section of the Tintina Belt to Newmont Corp. in 2017 for C$520 million.
Following the sale of Coffee, several of Kaminak's executives teamed up with Alaska geologist Curt Freeman to create Tectonic Metals, a mineral exploration company primarily focused on the vast and underexplored potential of Alaska's portion of the Tintina Gold Belt.
For Tectonic, talking with the largest private owner of mineral-rich lands in the Tintina Belt was an obvious choice.
"Early engagement as we all know is imperative, and you cannot get any earlier than by working directly on Native-owned land at the onset," Tectonic Metals President and CEO Tony Reda told Data Mine North.
So, it is no surprise the two of Tectonic's first Alaska gold exploration properties – Seventymile and Northway – are part of Doyon's enormous estate.
In 2018, Tectonic and Doyon signed milestone agreements that cover every stage that might be reached on these properties, from exploration through mine development and production. These discovery-to-production agreements for Seventymile and Northway provide surety to everyone, including a future partner who might want to mine the deposits of gold and other metals discovered.
While exploration carried out more than two decades ago demonstrated the gold potential at Seventymile and Northway, tough market conditions cut short past programs before this prospectivity could be fully realized.
After two summers of surface exploration and geophysics at both Doyon properties, Seventymile emerged as the primary target for drilling to define on the Doyon lands leased by Tectonic
Situated between two prolific placer gold mining districts – Yukon's Klondike to the east and Alaska's Circle Mining District to the west – Seventymile is a large land package where previous exploration has shown the potential for multiple gold deposits.
While gold has been identified across the breadth of this Doyon-owned property, the 8,000-meter-long Flume trend is one of the most intriguing targets at Seventymile.
Previous drilling has encountered high-grade mineralization across this trend, including 1.1 meters averaging 187.9 g/t gold and 44.2 meters of 1.34 g/t gold.
With new geological ideas, Tectonic carried out early staged exploration at Seventymile during the 2018 and 2019 field seasons in preparation for an initial 26-hole drill program targeting six highly prospective Flume trend targets – Flanders, East Flanders, Deep Creek, Bonanza Creek, and Flume-Bonanza Link.
Highlights from this 2020 drilling include: 19.81 meters averaging 1.37 g/t gold; 6.1 meters averaging 2.07 g/t gold; and 4.57 meters averaging 1.2 g/t gold.
Tectonic says its exploration at Seventymile has both validated and proven continuity of the mineralized structures across the Flume trend, and follow-up drilling on five Flume trend targets is being carried out this year.
Tectonic's ability to advance its work at Seventymile and other Alaska gold properties during the uncertain markets brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic was bolstered by an unprecedented investment by Doyon.
In a deal that benefits both parties, Doyon acquired 10.5 million Tectonic shares for US$1.5 million. With this investment, the ANCSA regional corporation owns a roughly 15% in the gold explorer and enough warrants to increase its interest to around 18%.
This 2020 investment strengthened the already close partnership and provided Tectonic the capital to continue exploration during the global social and economic upheaval brought on by the COVID pandemic.
"We are honored and excited to have Doyon as a shareholder and partner as we continue our endeavor to be a pioneering mineral exploration company committed to high standards of environmental stewardship, early and ongoing community engagement, and maximizing social and economic benefits to the communities in which we live and operate in," said Reda.
Schutt said there were several reasons behind Doyon's decision to become a strategic partner and the single largest shareholder of Tectonic.
"We saw the work they have done with the First Nation communities in the Yukon, just across the border; we saw the geologic success and the creativity they have on their team; and we talked about ways to get more done on Doyon land, and that resulted in Doyon making a direct investment in Tectonic in April of 2020," he said.
Doyon and Tectonic further strengthened their partnership with a long-term exploration, development, and production lease on 65,600 acres of Doyon lands near Tibbs, a gold property Tectonic is exploring on state lands within the Goodpaster Mining District.
These new properties include Carrie Creek, 15,800 acres of Doyon lands divided into two blocks immediately north and south of Tibbs, and Mount Harper, a 49,800-acre polymetallic exploration property about 10 miles southeast of Tibbs.
Much like the two properties Tectonic previously leased from Doyon, there has been no exploration at Carrie Creek and Mount Harper in more than two decades.
Carrie Creek, which consists of two land packages north and south of Tibbs, host at least three styles of gold mineralization reminiscent of the high-grade gold at Northern Star Resources' nearby Pogo Mine, lower grade bulk tonnage gold like Kinross Gold's Fort Knox mine near Fairbanks, and mineralization similar to what Tectonic is exploring at Tibbs.
Situated about 10 miles southeast of Tibbs, Mount Harper hosts several prospects and styles of mineralization – tungsten skarn, quartz-molybdenum veining, porphyry molybdenum-copper, and structurally controlled silver-lead-zinc mineralization.
The new geological models successfully applied at Tibbs have already helped Tectonic geologists begin to unlock the potential of these Doyon properties, including visible gold in rocks picked up on the southern Tibbs property.
Wider gold potential
The properties leased by Tectonic are far from the only gold-rich lands owned by Doyon. In fact, one property owned by the Interior Alaska ANCSA corporation, Vinasale, boasts a deposit with well over one million ounces of the precious metal.
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 Fort Knox, a Doyon region mine that has produced well over 8 million oz of gold.
According to a resource calculated in 2013, Vinasale hosts 3.41 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 1.48 g/t (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.
Historical drilling at Flat shows the high-grade and bulk tonnage potential of this project, including one hole that cut 21.3 meters averaging 13 g/t gold and another that cut 376.6 meters averaging 0.68 g/t gold.
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 sampling has defined areas of coincident gold and trace element anomalies at Nenana that are reminiscent of 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.
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 the large quantities of placer tin found in the streams. Doyon's 5,000-acre Tofty property hosts a potential hardrock source of this alluvial 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 with minor amounts of 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 and platinum metals.
A 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 land 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 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 in 2010 cut 4.4 meters of 23.71% zinc, 23.63% lead, and 314.2 g/t silver.
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% copper, 3.1% 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 there cut 5.5 meters grading 2% copper and seven meters assaying 3.5% copper, both holes bottomed in mineralization.
A 2.1-meter channel sample in the same area returned 9.9% 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.