Gold, critical minerals top Yukon list
Popular mining incentives spurs wider-ranging elephant hunt Mining Explorers 2023 - January 18, 2024
Last updated 1/17/2024 at 11:36am
Raging wildfires and record hot temperatures challenged the well-laid plans of a score and more of mineral explorers in Canada's Yukon this year as the 2023 field season shifted into high summer.
Most of the companies, however, managed to carry out their exploration for gold, silver, copper, and other minerals across the territory.
The fierce and sometimes out-of-control blazes marked one of the worst wildfire seasons seen in Canada in nearly 30 years, consuming more than 100,000 square kilometers by August, or an area bigger than Kentucky. In Yukon Territory, wildfires burned more than 24,600 km2 of land, or an area about the size of New Jersey.
The devastation was so great in Yukon that the Canadian government has pledged to help plant 400,000 deciduous trees in the territory to replace the highly flammable evergreen forests that burned and lessen the danger of wildfires in the future.
Popular mining incentives
Yukon made C$1.4 million available to assist with funding early-stage exploration and target-evaluation projects during the 2022–23 field season.
YGS said the popular program attracted 63 applications seeking more than C$2.2 million in funding as part of proposed budgets totaling C$5.9 million.
During 2022, 42 exploration projects received funding, with gold being the primary commodity sought by 69% of the applicants. This was followed by 22% of the hard-rock applications targeting copper as the primary commodity, 2% targeting nickel-copper-cobalt-PGE; and 2% targeting rare earth elements.
All placer applications targeted gold.
Of the successful early exploration programs in 2022, YGS said two stood out as exceptional. Prospector Jack Milton's Sands of Time copper-gold project and Banyan Gold Corp.'s Nitra gold project.
Milton, who is chief geologist at Fireweed Metals Ltd., received regional funding for a third consecutive year to conduct fieldwork at Sands of Time, which is located in the Dawson Range about 12 kilometers (7 miles) southwest of the Casino deposit.
At Sands of Time, Milton assessed the exploration potential of drainages for hosting porphyry copper-gold-molybdenum-silver mineralization like that discovered at nearby Casino, where owner Western Copper and Gold Corp., and strategic investors Rio Tinto and Mitsubishi Materials, expect to produce some 6.95 million ounces gold, 36.09 million oz silver, 4.27 billion pounds copper and 346 million lbs. of molybdenum over 27 years.
Encouraging results from his work prompted Milton to initially stake 123 claims and an additional 150 claims in 2022.
Results of his 2022 program defined a copper-in-soil anomaly about 800 meters by 200 meters (about 2,625 feet by 656.17 ft) within a drainage with stream sediments yielding anomalous Casino suite zircons and gold grains.
In early August, Cascadia Minerals Ltd. optioned the 57-square-kilometer Sands of Time property from Milton.
Cascadia said Sands of Time has two large, underexplored molybdenum and copper soil anomalies similar in size to those over the Casino deposit, the larger of which has never been drilled; and analysis of zircon present in stream sediments indicating an undiscovered Casino-aged intrusion is likely present.
"Jack has utilized modern geological techniques to identify compelling, science-based evidence that the property may host porphyry-style mineralization under cover," said Cascadia President and CEO Graham Downs.
Rare discovery at Catch
Cascadia is also exploring its flagship Catch property, a new grassroots discovery that exhibits extensive high-grade copper and gold mineralization across a five-kilometer-long (three miles) trend within the northern extension of the prolific Stikine Terrane from British Columbia's Golden Triangle.
In November, the junior reported a new copper-gold porphyry discovery at Catch, with 117 meters of mineralization averaging 0.31% copper and 0.30 g/t gold in two holes drilling 1,066 meters.
"The first drill holes at Catch yielded significant copper-gold mineralization, confirming a new copper-gold porphyry discovery," said Downs.
The former CEO of ATAC Resources Ltd., which Hecla Mining acquired earlier this year, said encountering "a significant copper-gold porphyry discovery in the first two holes ever drilled on a project is incredibly rare."
A total of five holes for 2,462 meters were drilled at Catch in 2023.
Cascadia is also exploring the Rosy property in Yukon, the PIL property in British Columbia and more regional opportunities.
Work at Banyan Gold Corp.'s Nitra gold project, Yukon's other exploration standout last year, took a backseat to work at the more advanced AurMac gold project in 2023, after the government issued a wildfire alert for its access roads.
Nitra covers similar lithologies to Banyan's flagship AurMac project to the west and Victoria Gold Corp.'s Eagle Gold mine about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the north.
After initial staking in 2019, Banyan carried out an inaugural exploration program at Nitra in 2020, collecting 4,250 soil samples from 107 line-kilometers. The explorer followed up with more soil sampling in 2021 and 2022 before trenching and then diamond drilling on Nitra in 2022. The work targeted a southern cluster of gold-in-soil anomalies defined by the 2020 and 2021 soil sampling programs.
In late July, Banyan suspended prospecting and soil sampling activities at Nitra and wrapped up a 24,556-meter phase-1 exploration program AurMac, a 173-square-kilometer (66.8 square miles) land package that hosts 6.18 million oz of gold in three deposits -- Airstrip, Aurex Hill and Powerline.
Banyan reported completion of its planned C$10 million 2023 phase-one drill program with more than 24.7 kilometers (15.35 miles) in 107 holes. The program confirmed mineralization between the Aurex Hill and Powerline deposits; expanded gold mineralization from areas within and proximal to the current mineral resource limits at Aurex Hill and Powerline; and extended gold mineralization to depth at Powerline within a zone of higher grade.
Banyan said it would spend the remainder of 2023 modeling and defining targets that could host higher-grade zones; and continue metallurgical tests in preparation for its next phase of drilling.
"With the infrastructure at Banyan, we have the ability to execute drill programs through December so we can constructively use this time to continue to plan our phase-2 drill and exploration programs with the benefit of additional results from our phase 1 program," said Banyan Gold President and CEO Tara Christie.
Expanding the Raven deposit
At Victoria's Dublin Gulch property, which hosts the Eagle mine, the primary 2023 exploration focus was the Raven deposit, where the explorer completed more than 13,200 meters of diamond drilling consisting of systematic fence drilling to the east of the current deposit boundary and exploratory drill holes around the promising high-grade mineralization identified in 2022 in drill hole NG22-155C (20.24 g/t gold over 14.5 meters).
Highlights of assays from drilling at Raven in 2023 include:
• 4.52 g/t gold over 7.6 meters from 257.8 meters in hole NG23-190C.
• 3.48 g/t gold over 11.7 meters from 182.9 meters in hole NG23-196C.
• 5.83 g/t gold over 31.4 meters from 44.6 meters in hole NG23-200C.
"The 2023 Raven exploration season is now completed and, as these latest results demonstrate, has continued to identify high-grade gold mineralization both internally and externally to the current Raven deposit bounds," said Victoria Gold President and CEO John McConnell.
In addition to diamond drilling, the miner completed 1,282 meters in 16 surface trenches at both Raven and the Lynx deposit, as well as detailed mapping and prospecting. Drilling in 2022 and 2023 also tested an additional 400-meter strike length from the 2022 maiden Raven mineral resource estimate's eastern limits. This drilling confirmed Raven mineralization over a strike length of 1,700 meters.
Victoria now plans to update its Raven mineral resource estimate with 2022 and 2023 drill results.
This year, the miner further explored a suite of targets across the Dublin Gulch Gold Camp, including Lynx, with surface trenches, soil geochemical surveys, geological mapping, and prospecting.
Victoria also reported a 17% jump in gold production to 124,749 oz during the first nine months of 2023, despite lower third-quarter output attributed in part to the mine's evacuation for wildfire danger in early August.
Because of its proximity to the mine, Banyan opened its excess camp space for temporary accommodations for Eagle's evacuated workers.
Swallowing Golden Predator
In a transaction valued at C$13.5 million, Victoria Gold also purchased 100% ownership interest in the Brewery Creek gold mine project, along with the Gold Dome and Grew Creek gold exploration properties, from Sabre Gold Mines Corp., through the acquisition of Sabre's Yukon subsidiary, Golden Predator Mining Corp.
Victoria said Golden Predator reported non-capital losses of C$44 million, from which it expects certain tax-related synergies to be associated with the transaction.
The move expanded Victoria's footprint in Yukon Territory and will give the explorer an opportunity to add value to its asset portfolio, according to Victoria President and CEO John McConnell.
The 181-square-kilometer (70 square miles) Brewery Creek project is home to a former-producing heap leach gold project about 55 kilometers (34 miles) east of Dawson City and 120 kilometers (74 miles) west of Victoria's Eagle Gold Mine.
According to a 2021 calculation, Brewery Creek hosts 34.5 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources grading 1.03 g/t (1.14 million oz) gold, and 36 million metric tons of inferred resource grading 0.88 g/t (1.02 million oz) gold.
Gold Dome covers 95 square kilometers (36.7 square miles) some 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of Mayo, while Grew Creek covers 135 square kilometers (52 square miles) on the Robert Campbell highway six kilometers (3.72 miles) west of Ross River.
"With the acquisition of Sabre's Yukon assets, we are pleased to be expanding our footprint and asset base in our own backyard," said McConnell. "With our track record of exploration, permitting, development and operations in Yukon, we believe we can add value to this portfolio of assets."
More silver at Keno Hill
At Keno Hill, the second of two operating mines in Yukon, Hecla Mining carried out underground definition and surface exploration drilling programs in 2023, focused on extending mineralization and resource conversion in the high-grade Bermingham Bear Zone Veins (Bear, Footwall, and Main Vein zones), and defining new mineral resources.
During the third quarter, two underground drills completed more than 3,962 meters of definition and geotechnical drilling, and two surface core drills completed more than 7,010 meters of exploration drilling targeting the Bermingham, Bermingham Townsite, Hector-Calumet Chance, and Coral Wigwam target areas. An initial core-hole testing for continuity of the Deep Bermingham vein system intersected mineralized veining 1,050 feet (320 meters) below the existing resource.
Hecla said the favorable Basal Quartzite host stratigraphy was shown to extend a minimum of 107 meters below where the hole was ended, or 869 meters below surface, indicating significant potential for expansion exists below the current Bermingham resource.
High-grade White Gold target
White Gold Corp., a perennially active explorer reported another busy field season, focusing much of its attention in 2023 on targets at its 17,127-hectare (42,321 acres) on the Betty project.
Lying along strike some 40 kilometers (25 miles) east-southeast of Newmont Corp.'s Coffee gold project, and contiguous to the Casino project, Betty hosts several exploration targets, including Betty Ford, Mascot, Betty White, Betty Grable, and Betty Black.
Assay results for 2023 exploration diamond drilling at the Betty Ford target included hole BETFD23D015, which intersected gold averaging 5.04 g/t gold over 20.85 meters within near-surface oxide mineralization from 18.65 meters depth. Two higher-grade subintervals averaged 13.34 g/t gold over 2.30 meters and 11.47 g/t gold over 2.05 meters.
White Gold also encountered a deeper zone in the sulfide domain of host sedimentary rocks, grading 0.44 g/t gold over 28.55 meters from a depth of 107.85 meters that included another subinterval of 1.38 g/t gold over 6.15 meters.
Drilling at Betty Ford this season also encountered a second area of sedimentary rocks some 30 to 50 meters north of the target's main gold-bearing rocks, with the potential for near-surface gold mineralization that remains untested.
"We are very encouraged by the structural and geological setting of Betty Ford, along with the consistency of wide high-grade gold intersections," said White Gold's Exploration Manager Cameron Norton.
"When interpreted alongside the area's broader regional geology, the Betty Ford target and Betty property represent a high-priority opportunity for generating future mineral resources within the White Gold District," Norton added.
More than 20 other gold, silver and copper exploration programs took place across Yukon this field season, including work at Snowline Gold Corp.'s Rogue Project and Seabridge Gold's 3 Aces in the southeast region of the territory.
Interest in critical metals grows
Several explorers, including newcomers, launched programs in Yukon this field season, targeting minerals that Canada and the United States deem critical to national and economic security.
Work by Fireweed Metals, a returning Yukon explorer, stood out for reporting exceptional results from its largest-ever drill program at the Macmillan Pass project.
Fireweed said it continued to expand the Boundary Zone at MacPass, identifying multiple wide high-grade zones of zinc-lead-silver mineralization in step-out holes within stratiform laminated to massive sulfides, which demonstrate strong continuity of the system, and potential for further step-outs of mineralized zones.
Following up on drilling from 2022 and compelling initial results this year, Fireweed continued to test the extents of the high-grade feeder zone target.
Among drilling highlights:
• Hole NB23-016 intersected 81.3 meters (35 meters estimated true width) of 8.5% zinc, 1.1% lead, and 47 g/t silver, including 12.4 meters of 17.2% zinc, 2% lead, and 79.1 g/t silver. This hole also encountered a separate interval of 12.84 meters grading 4.5% zinc and 8.8 g/t silver.
• Hole NB23-012 intersected 67.8 meters (41 meters estimated true width) grading 6.3% zinc, 1.2% lead, and 52 g/t silver.
• Hole NB23-011 intersected 44.83 meters (8.5 meters estimated true width) grading 8.3% zinc, and 1.2% lead.
Assays were pending in mid-November for 24 remaining drill holes from Boundary zone, along with 10 holes from the Tom deposit and two holes from the Jason deposit.
"We are delighted by the continued demonstration of scale, strength, and continuity of mineralization at the Boundary Zone," said Fireweed Metals CEO Brandon Macdonald.
He said with completion of Fireweed's largest-ever drill program, a picture of the Boundary zone's true scale is emerging.
The 2023 drilling continues to return high-grade zinc values that support Fireweed's stratiform mineralization model and better defines vein, breccia, and replacement mineralization near surface.
Prospects in western Yukon
Palladium One Mining Inc. reported the start of exploration in July at its Canalask nickel-copper project about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of Whitehorse, Yukon's capital city. Canalask, which is accessible from the Alaska Highway near Beaver Creek, consists of 179 quartz claims covering about 3,400 hectares (8,401 acres).
The explorer planned to carry out a high-resolution, ground-based electromagnetic survey and analyze historical geophysical data this summer.
"Canalask hosts a footwall nickel-copper sulfide deposit of unknown origin, thereby suggesting that a larger deposit is present at depth in the adjacent regional-scale ultramafic dyke," said Palladium One President and CEO Derrick Weyrauch.
Canalask also hosts untested geophysical targets.
During 2023, Palladium completed a drone-based magnetometer survey at Canalask over 392-line kilometers at 100-meter spacing that was designed to help refine the location and structure of nickel-copper-platinum-group-elements mineralization on the property and assist in refining future drill targets.
The explorer grabbed samples during a site visit this summer that assayed more than 2% nickel, 6% copper, and 1.55 g/t gold.
Palladium said the results support high grades historically reported in footwall-style sulfide mineralization on the property.
A historical resource estimate for Canalask's Main Zone was reported at 400,000 metric tons at 1.35% nickel (copper was not reported) by Discovery Mines Ltd. in 1968 and early metallurgical flotation tests returned concentrate grades as high as 19.7% nickel.
Canalask covers an area within the Kluane Mafic-Ultramafic Belt, a system of PGM-nickel-copper deposits within a sequence of mafic-ultramafic rocks that extends from northern British Columbia through southeastern Yukon and into central Alaska.
The belt hosts numerous nickel-copper-PGM deposits and prospects, including the past-producing Wellgreen Deposit, now owned by Nickel Creek Platinum Corp., and situated 110 kilometers (68 miles) to the south.
Canalask's geological setting draws comparison to the world-class Norilsk camp in Arctic Siberia, the explorer said.
Stillwater Critical Minerals Corp. also carried out PGM-nickel-copper exploration in southeastern Yukon during 2023.
This work was carried out at Kluane, a 255-square-kilometer (98.4 square miles) property near the Alaska Highway that encompasses the Spy, Ultra and Catalyst properties on trend with the Wellgreen project.
"Work this season included geological mapping, drone lidar and imagery acquisition, prospecting, and rock sampling programs aimed at advancing targets for follow-up campaigns and completing detailed geologic maps over priority areas," said Stillwater, which is a member of the Metallic Metals Group of Cos.
Stillwater also said it formally began an examination of the Kluane project's potential for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide, with an initial focus on identifying and mapping rocks based on their potential for storing the greenhouse gas.