An ambitious exploration program in a relatively unexplored area in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, has resulted in an exciting discovery for Toronto-based gold producer Agnico Eagle Mines. In just over three years, the exploration team has advanced the Amaruq project from a new grassroots discovery to a major high grade gold deposit. Its growing gold resource, currently estimated at 3.7 million oz of gold (19.4 million tonnes grading 5.97 g/t), technical studies and permitting efforts place the project on a trajectory to potentially be ready to go into production by 2019 as a satellite deposit to the Meadowbank mine located 50 km to the south.
The Meadowbank mine is Agnico Eagle’s largest gold producer and Nunavut’s first gold mine. Operations began in 2010, however, Meadowbank is expected to run out of ore by the end of 2018, leaving an 11,000-t/d mill hungry for more. This looming deadline has helped to sharpen the focus of the company’s regional exploration team. Agnico Eagle’s other Nunavut gold project, Meliadine, lies about 290 km southeast of the Meadowbank mine near Rankin Inlet.
Agnico calculates there are 3.71 million oz of gold at Amaruq, of which 2.86 million oz are in the Whale Tail deposit.
The Amaruq project is one of the most significant greenfield gold discoveries in Nunavut and recent large discoveries in Canada. This success will soon be formally recognized when Agnico Eagle’s exploration team receives the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s Bill Dennis Award in March 2017.
Amaruq (which means “wolf” in Inuktitut) was a geology driven discovery resulting from modern pioneering methods and a focused, aggressive exploration effort. After Agnico Eagle acquired Cumberland Resources and its Meadowbank gold project in July 2007, a new strategy to pursue grassroots exploration of the area led to a compilation of all the geological information available for the region around Meadowbank. Amaruq was one of many targets identified by this literature review, based on prospecting results from the late 1980s.
Senior geologist Jean Lafrance uses a
portable XRF machine to identify specific
geochemical markers in the core.
In April 2013, Agnico signed a mineral exploration agreement with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. covering an area approximately 93 km2. In that same year, the company initiated a small exploration p
rogram that included prospecting, mapping, a small ground geophysical survey (Mag-EM) and a four hole drill program targeting the best conductors. It was the fourth hole that intersected significant gold mineralization and became the Amaruq discovery hole.
Geologists Roxanne Takpanie (L) and
Robert Fraser examine core from the V zone.
Exploration spending has increased each year to a total of US$83 million to the end of 2016, leveraging the facilities at the Meadowbank mine to minimize costs. The competent technical field team has advanced the understanding of the mineralization and increased the size of the known gold deposits using 272,000 metres (1,065 holes) of diamond drilling to date and other state-of-the-art tools (such as 3-D modelling, portable XRF analysis, targeted academic studies, etc.).
The project has grown quickly. The IVR deposit was discovered in 2013; the large Whale Tail deposit was discovered the next year, and was the host of an initial resource estimate. The land package has increased to currently include 1,167 km2. The camp has been expanded to accommodate 125 people.
Whale Tail is now seen to be a steeply dipping deposit at least 2.2 kilometres long from near-surface to locally as deep as 730 metres including multiple horizons of gold-bearing, vein-rich and silica-altered volcano-sedimentary rocks, with surface and underground potential. The V zone in the IVR deposit forms a series of parallel quartz vein structures immediately north of Whale Tail, dipping shallowly toward Whale Tail from surface to at least 540 metres depth. The discovery of additional lenses in the V zone has improved its potential as a second source of open pit ore.
Construction of a 62-km Amaruq exploration access road from Meadowbank began in early 2016 and is expected to be completed in late 2017. Permitting is progressing for the construction of an exploration ramp and portal and the potential collection of an underground bulk sample. An environmental impact statement was submitted in June 2016 in support of the Whale Tail satellite pit, and is under review.
Commenting on the significance of the Amaruq discovery, Guy Gosselin, Agnico Eagle’s vice-president of exploration, stated, “It’s exciting to know we discovered it ourselves, in our own backyard, which allows us to create a lot of value for the company. We believe very much in the potential of this region, but we also have a realistic understanding of what it will take to grow a business in this remote arctic environment.
Fortunately, with our Meadowbank and Meliadine properties nearby, we have access to the right people and resources, which is a tremendous advantage.”
Jane Werniuk, senior geologist, technical reporting, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited. Olivier Côté-Mantha, principal evaluation geologist, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited.