silver lining may be a metaphor for optimism in the idiom “Every cloud has a silver lining,” but for Alexco Resource Corp., that lining is not found in the sky but conversely, in the mountains of the Keno Hill Silver District, more than 300 km north of Whitehorse.
Historically one of the world’s highest-grade silver districts, Keno Hill Silver District comprises approximately 23, 350 ha of mining leases, quartz claims and crown grants and has numerous mineral occurrences, deposits and prospects, including 35 mines with a history of more than 217 million ounces of silver from past production at a 40 ounce per ton grade average.
One of those mines is the Bellekeno Mine, Alexco Resource’s flagship project and now one of only three producing mines in the entire Yukon, and Canada’s only primary silver mine.
With more than 11,870,000 ounces of contained silver, Bellekeno is expected to be on a world-scale for many years, and with the recent commissioning of its on-site mill, Alexco Resource expects to ship between 2.0 and 2.8 million ounces of silver per year.
The new conventional flotation mill has a 400 tpd capacity for two concentrates: Pb-Ag and Zn-Ag, with average concentrate production rates per year of 12,000 tonnes Pb-Ag con, average grade 6,200 g/t Ag, 70% Pb and 8,400 tonnes Zn-Ag con, average grade 480 g/t Ag, 55% Zn.
Underground development includes more than 2,000 m of stopes that have been backfilled with a cemented blend of development waste rock and a pyritic component of dry filtered tailings.
The mine is ‘trackless’ because mining is being carried out using predominantly cut-and-fill mining methods augmented with shrink stoping to optimize high-grade mineralization extraction and reduce dilution.
Bellekeno is expected to be a 250 tonne-per-day operation.
Since starting work in the Keno Hill Silver District in June 2006, Alexco Resource has drilled 181 holes totalling approximately 44,800 m, and has flown 2,016 line kms of airborne geophysics. Last year alone, the company diamond drilled 6,500 m: 5,000 m underground and 1,500 m surface.
Step-out drilling at the company’s adjacent Onek underground and open-pit deposits confirmed that significant widths of indium-bearing zinc-silver and silver-zinc mineralization extends at least 400 m along strike, 220 m down dip, and remains open to the southwest and down plunge.
Initial results from 18 of the 20 holes reported intersects 10.4 m of 44.3 oz per ton silver. Building on these, past drill results and historical information, Alexco Resource is confident the Onek deposits will help extend its presence in the Keno Hill Silver District even further because of its mineralization, but moreover because of its proximity to its newly constructed Bellekeno mill and ease of underground access.
Exploration work continues in the District beyond Bellekeno and Onek as five surface core drills, one underground core drill and one reverse circulation drill are located on the company’s Bermingham, Flame & Moth, Galkeno and McQuesten Valley properties.
Additional surface core drilling is also planned for the Elsa/Husky and Silver King areas.
Alexco Resource’s business plan is to develop a string of mines throughout the Keno Hill District, because they know the area already contains one of the richest deposits of silver in the world and they plan to go after more by targeting a discovery of a 100 million ounce deposit.