By Rose Ragsdale
For Mining News 

Junior explores nickel, cobalt showing

Critical minerals discovery among few in Canada's Far North North of 60 Mining News – August 5, 2022


Last updated 8/5/2022 at 7:49am

Sixty North CEO David Webb and director Brian Malahoff at Mon property.

Sixty North Gold Mining Ltd.

Sixty North Gold Mining CEO David Webb and director Brian Malahoff at the Mon property in Northwest Territories.

Sixty North Gold Mining Ltd. reported July 11 that crews moved onto its Mon Gold property in late June and began mapping and sampling a recent nickel and cobalt discovery situated about a mile (1.5 kilometers) southeast of the mine site.

The original discovery of the critical metals occurred in 2021 when a grab sample returned greater than 1% nickel, 0.18% cobalt, and 0.429 grams per metric ton gold. Follow-up grab samples in early 2022 confirmed 0.31% nickel, 0.022% cobalt, 0.124 g/t gold, plus very elevated platinum and palladium values.

The company then mapped more than 1,500 meters of strike length, revealing poorly exposed outcrops. Mapping and sampling confirmed the presence of a very large hydrothermally-altered intrusion, generally showing geology favorable to nickel and cobalt mineralization.

Sixty North described the discovery showing as a nine- by 14-meter exposure of weakly fractured and weakly gossanous gabbro. Only trace sulfides were observed, with many white to silver-white roughly equal-sized grains of less than one millimeter in size. These were generally disseminated within portions of the gabbro.

Additional weakly gossanous patches were observed some 220 meters north of the discovery showing. The same coarse-grained poikilitic gabbro unit host weakly gossanous patches up to 14 meters wide and more than 20 meters in strike length. Assays from sampling of this material are pending

Keys to national security

Cobalt and nickel are among the 50 minerals that the United States deems critical to its national security and economy. The minerals are also on Canada's list of 31 critical minerals.

Cobalt is used in numerous and diverse commercial, industrial, and military applications, many of which are strategic and critical.

On a global basis, the leading use of cobalt is in rechargeable battery electrodes. Superalloys, which are used to make parts for gas turbine engines, are another major use for cobalt. The mineral also is used to make airbags in automobiles; catalysts for the petroleum and chemical industries; cemented carbides (also called hard metals) and diamond tools; corrosion- and wear-resistant alloys; drying agents for paints, varnishes, and inks; dyes and pigments; ground coats for porcelain enamels; high-speed steels; magnetic recording media; magnets; and steel-belted radial tires.

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Canada's production of refined cobalt amounted to an estimated 6,045 metric tons in 2021, with cobalt exports mainly from Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba.

Nickel is a transition mineral that exhibits a mixture of ferrous and nonferrous metal properties. Geologists believe most nickel on Earth is concentrated in the planet's core.

Nickel is sold primarily for first use as refined metal (cathode, powder, briquet, etc.) or ferronickel. About 65% of the nickel consumed in the West is used to make austenitic stainless steel. Another 12% goes into superalloys or nonferrous alloys. Both families of alloys are widely used because of their corrosion resistance. The aerospace industry is a leading consumer of nickel-base superalloys. Turbine blades, discs and other critical parts of jet engines are fabricated from superalloys.

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Nickel-base superalloys also are used in land-based combustion turbines, such as those found at electric power generation stations, while the remaining 23% of consumption is divided between alloy steels, rechargeable batteries, catalysts and other chemicals, coinage, foundry products, and plating.

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An important evolving use of nickel is in production of lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Canada is the largest nickel producer outside of Asia, ranking sixth in world mining output. The country produces an average of 210,000 metric tons of nickel annually. Ontario's Sudbury Basin alone produces an estimated 65,000 metric tons of the mineral yearly.

In 2020, Canada ranked sixth in world nickel production. The country's exports of nickel and nickel-based products that year were valued at $3.9 billion.

Low profile in NWT

While Northwest Territories is acknowledged to be a treasure trove of valuable mineral deposits, few discoveries of substantial amounts of cobalt and nickel have been reported.

Though the NWT ranks among the world's leading diamond producers and boasts substantial gold and other base and rare metals projects either currently in production or advancing toward production, this Far North Canadian jurisdiction has witnessed relatively little exploration activity focused on nickel and cobalt.

Mapping by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1936 and exploration, started in 1968 by New Athona Mines Ltd. and continued by several explorers in the ensuing years, covered claims with cobalt, bismuth, arsenic, and copper showings located about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Yellowknife.

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Fortune Minerals Ltd. acquired and explored these claims within a larger area that ultimately became the Nico gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper project.

Today, Fortune is developing the property, which hosts an estimated 82 million pounds of cobalt, along with other minerals. The Nico project has an estimated mine life of 20 years.

Thye Lake, also known as the Nickel King property, is the other significant known showing of substantial quantities of nickel and cobalt in Northwest Territories. Located just 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of the territory's border with Saskatchewan, the Thye Lake claims have been explored by various operators since the early 1950s.

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Strongbow Exploration Ltd. optioned Nickel King in 2004 and carried out exploration programs off and on for five or six years.

An updated NI 43-101 technical report for the Nickel King project's Main Zone deposit was released in June 2010. The property was not explored between 2008 and 2015; however, a Land Use Permit allowing mineral exploration was issued at the end of 2011 and was active until December 2016.

A 2009 NI 43-101-compliant indicated resource estimate for the Nickel King deposit (Main Zone) totals 11.1 million metric tons grading 0.40% nickel, 0.10% copper and 0.018% cobalt. The deposit also hosts total inferred resources of 33.1 million metric tons, with an average grade of 0.36% nickel, 0.09% copper and 0.017% cobalt. The resource was calculated using a 0.2% nickel cut-off in early 2009.

The project is currently available for option.

Gold mining to begin

Meanwhile, Sixty North said its crews assembled and tested a diamond drill rig for support of the company's ongoing development of the Mon property's gold deposits and to follow up on additional gold targets as they are identified on the property for short-hole programs.

The company aims to begin mining gold at Mon, which is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Yellowknife, this year. Past mining on the property extracted 15,000 metric tons of ore to depths of 15 meters below surface, recovering an estimated 15,000 ounces of gold.

The Mon property consists of 11 contiguous mining leases and three mineral claims, comprising an aggregate of roughly 1,537 acres, located in the South MacKenzie Mining District, NWT.

Sixty North also noted that the historic Discovery and Con mines are located 45 kilometers (28 miles) to the north and 45 kilometers (28 miles) to the south of the Mon Property, respectively. The Discovery mine reported total production of 1 million oz of gold when it shut down in 1969, while the Con mine reported total gold output exceeding 6 million oz.

"We feel that the history of gold production in this belt supports our plans and designs," observed Sixty North President and CEO David Webb, Ph.D., P.Geol., P.Eng.

CORRECTION: Past mining at Mon produced 15,000 ounces of gold, not the 150,000 oz previously stated in this article.


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