Hunt for base, critical metals in Nunavut
Canadian North reports major strides at Ferguson Lake project Mining Explorers 2023 - January 18, 2024
Last updated 1/17/2024 at 11:18am
Reading the tea leaves years ahead of many other investors, one junior is bringing its late-stage base and platinum group metals project in central Nunavut to the forefront of mineral exploration in northern Canada.
Focusing on metals critical for clean-energy, electric vehicles, batteries, and high-tech industries, Canadian North Resources Inc. has quietly advanced the Ferguson Lake project for the past decade.
The project covers nearly 254 square kilometers (98 square miles) of Nunavut's Kivalliq region near Rankin Inlet enriched with nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group metals, and potentially lithium.
Canadian North completed 18,144 meters (about 11.27 miles) of drilling on the property in 2022 and surpassed a 20,000-meter drilling objective in 2023 with 21,126 meters, or about twice the height of Mount Everest.
60-plus years of exploration
Initially explored by a subsidiary of INCO Inc. in the 1950s, followed by Starfield Resources Inc. from 1999 to 2012, the Ferguson Lake property attracted the interest of the privately held Canadian North in 2013.
The group of Canadian investors since has been quietly advancing Ferguson Lake toward development as the demand for the complement of base and critical metals found on the property has grown exponentially.
About C$190 million has been invested in the Ferguson Lake project.
Work completed over the years includes more than 200,000 meters of diamond drilling, metallurgy and construction of infrastructure such as an 825-meter-long gravel airstrip, a 55-person all-year camp, satellite network and onsite heavy equipment.
Government grants support project
In recent years, Canadian North has attracted millions in private investment and won grants totaling C$500,000 from the Government of Nunavut's "Discover, Invest, Grow," program in 2022 and 2023.
The latest grant came on the heels of C$250,000 received in two installments in May and June for successful completion of the company's 2022 exploration program.
The Nunavut Department of Economic Development and Transportation says it supports development of a sustainable and viable mineral exploration sector in Nunavut through the DIG Program by providing contributions to mineral exploration companies conducting activities which advance exploration work on projects in the region.
"We are honored to have once again been awarded this grant from the DIG Program," said Canadian North President and CEO Kaihui Yang. "This is a strong encouragement and support to us, and it is a recognition of the exploration achievements and efforts we have made to-date on the Ferguson Lake project."
Yang said the money will be spent on further exploration of the Ferguson Lake property, "but more importantly, it also underscores the collaborative spirit between (Canadian North) and the government of Nunavut."
"We share a mutual vision of leveraging the rich mineral reserves within Nunavut to create meaningful opportunities for the community, while contributing to the region's economic prosperity," Yang added.
Junior eyes pre-feasibility study
Canadian North has tested extensive magmatic base metal and platinum group metals mineralized zones on the property, following up on three of 10 zones historically defined from 191,000 meters drilled in 623 holes.
The three most-drilled mineralized zones (East Zone, West zone, and West zone Extension) are spatially related to the same coarse-grained plutonic rock unit ranging from 10 meters to 600 meters thick.
The gabbro unit is traced by intermittent surface outcrop exposures and by diamond drilling over a strike length of 15 kilometers (nine miles).
The explorer's mineral deposit model indicates the West, Central and East mineralized zones at Ferguson Lake remain open for expansion down-plunge to the west, along strike to the east and down dip at multiple locations along its mineralized horizon. The mineral resources are modeled for massive and semi-massive sulfide bodies, but significant PGM-rich mineralization is hosted in disseminated or low-sulfide zones.
Canadian North says the property offers significant potential for resource expansion along strike and at depth over the 15-kilometer-long mineralized belt, including significant PGM-rich tonnage in low-sulfide zones.
Rhodium content in the mineralization, however, has never been systematically evaluated, though multiple intersections, such as 1.25 meters of 0.46 grams per metric ton rhodium and 1.6 g/t palladium in hole FL04-195 and 1.6 meters of 0.32 g/t rhodium and 1.2 g/t palladium in hole FL05-230 in nickel-copper-cobalt massive sulfides have been reported.
Canadian North also has identified pegmatites with lithium potential on the property.
2022 spurs 2023 ambitions
After reporting impressive drill results in 2022 and completing an updated NI 43-101 mineral resource estimate, the explorer set a goal of drilling 20,000 meters in 2023, in hopes of expanding known deposits on the property.
According to the 2022 calculation, Ferguson Lake hosts 24.3 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 0.85% (455.4 million pounds) copper, 0.6% (296.3 million lb) nickel, 0.07% (37.5 million lb) cobalt, 1.38 g/t (1.08 million ounces) palladium, and 0.23 g/t (180,000 oz) platinum; plus 47.2 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 0.91% (946.9 million lb) copper, 0.53% (551.5 million lb) nickel, 0.06% (62.4 million lb) cobalt, 1.4 g/t (2.12 million oz) palladium, and 0.25 g/t (380,000 oz) platinum.
In September, Canadian North said it completed 21,126 meters of drilling in 2023 and added that 69 out of 78 drill holes intersected semi-massive to massive sulfides containing nickel, copper, cobalt, palladium, and platinum.
Canadian North also reported favorable assays of samples from the season's first 21 drill holes. One assay, for example, returned 10 meters from 47.57 meters depth that averaged 0.89% copper, 0.53% nickel, 0.08% cobalt, 1.05 g/t palladium, 0.12 g/t platinum and 0.02 g/t rhodium.
The explorer conducted reprocessing and modeling of historic geophysical electromagnetic survey data, which aided in the drill targeting during the summer program, as well as successfully completing new borehole EM surveys on selected deep drillholes.
Canadian North also completed surface sampling on selected outcrop on the project site.
"The drill program intersected semi-massive to massive sulfides of the main or satellite mineralized horizons in 69 out of the 78 holes, and in particular drilling intersected a widening of the prospective host gabbro to hundreds of meters thickness carrying disseminated, semi-massive and massive sulfides in the west extension of the West Zone," said Canadian North Resources Vice President of Exploration Trevor Boyd. "The exploration program visually confirmed significant extensions of the sulfide zones along the 15-kilometer-long main mineralized horizon as well as the prospectivity of satellite horizons."
Pushing past boundaries
Initial results from the 2023 drill program included significant intersections of both semi-massive to massive sulfides and separate low-sulfide PGM-enriched types of mineralization within the main mineralized horizon.
Based on these drill results, Canadian North said the East zone has been extended along strike by 950 meters farther to the east from its historic resource boundaries, and the West zone has been extended along strike 250 meters to the west.
Drilling west of the historic resource boundaries of the main West zone at depths of 150-700 meters suggests a widening of the host gabbro rock unit to up to 450 meters in thickness associated with downhole observed intersections of up to 110 meters of disseminated to semi-massive sulfides in the drill core.
The early 2023 results, combined with drilling results from the 2022 program, extended the central part of the West zone up to 250 meters farther down-dip.
Canadian North said the borehole electromagnetic surveys of selected deep drill holes during the field season will aid in interpreting potential expansion of the mineralized body for the purpose of planning additional deep drill holes for 2024.
Assay results for 16 completed shallow holes in similarly mineralized horizons that make up the M-Zone and Anomaly 51 Zone south of the East zone and on a small island south of the Central zone in Ferguson Lake also remain pending.
Strides toward development
In addition to expanding mineral resource estimates at Ferguson Lake, Canadian North plans to complete a pre-feasibility study of the project in 2024.
With a focus on potential project development, the junior aims to enlarge the project's base metal and PGM mineral resources by establishing high-grade resource estimates for PGM in low sulfide platinum group element-enriched zones.
The explorer also will drill test for high-grade nickel-copper massive sulfides in prospective areas of the property.
In addition, Canadian North intends to carry out geophysical and geological mapping programs, expand metallurgical tests with current and alternative processing technologies for target PGM and base metals, and complete environmental/engineering studies and community engagement.
The Ferguson Lake PFS will be based on a new mineral resource estimate that will incorporate the results of 39,270 meters of new diamond drilling in 145 holes, which significantly expands the project's mineralized zones.
"The updated resource modeling will include significant extensions of the mineralized zones as defined by the new 145 drill holes," Yang said.
Canadian North hired geological and mining consultants, SRK Consulting (Canada) Inc. and Ronacher McKenzie Geoscience Inc., to independently re-evaluate and re-model the Ferguson Lake project with the addition of the company's new exploration data, updated metal prices, and economic conditions.
The re-modeling of the mineral resource will include the assessment and incorporation of both the semi-massive to massive nickel-copper-cobalt-palladium-platinum sulfide and the disseminated, low sulfide PGE-bearing types of mineralization. Updated and recently completed geophysical surveys and metallurgical testing results will be included in the technical review. Lithology, structure, mineralization and hydrothermal alteration recorded in drill logs also will be implicitly modeled, considering both historic and updated assays as part of an overall assessment of the project's geological exploration model.
"We expect the results of the remodeling will continue to demonstrate the Ferguson Lake project has tremendous potential for containing a significant nickel, copper, cobalt, palladium and platinum mineral deposit in North America," said Yang.