VANCOUVER — In the 1980s Saskatchewan’s La Ronge gold belt was booming, with between 60 and 80 companies exploring on the ground and several hundred thousand ounces being pulled out of the ground. But a tough market and mixed success meant that most exploration fizzled out by the end of the decade.
Today, three companies are leading exploration in the region and reviving interest in a neglected gold district. La Ronge Gold, very much the tadpole of the pond, only started actively exploring the area this past winter, while Golden Band Resources has been exploring on the belt since 1993 and has several deposits in or near production, and Claude Resources has pulled almost a million ounces of gold from its Seabee operation since 1991 and still hosts a global resource of over a million ounces.
Despite its recent start, La Ronge has already made a splash in the area, pulling some impressive results in a drill program to confirm historical resources at the Preview SW deposit. Drilled in the centre of the old deposit first established by Cameco in the late 1980s, hole 121 hit 214 metres averaging 1.63 g/t Au starting at 12 metres downhole and hole 122 returned 197 metres carrying 1.04 g/t Au starting at 8 metres depth. The March 1 results were good enough to propel the company’s share price from 36¢ to 88¢ in a day, and the company quickly capitalized on the movement by raising $5.3 million at 65¢ for flow-through and 55¢ for non-flow through shares.
Now cashed up the company plans to confirm the historical resources at both Preview, and the Twin deposit sitting on La Ronge’s Wedge Lake property. The non-compliant Preview resource, based on 14,000 metres of drilling, stands at 493,700 tonnes grading 12.34 g/t Au, while the historical Twin deposit hosts 612,000 tonnes grading 5.14 g/t Au. La Ronge reports that the Preview deposit is made up of several sub-parallel northeast-trending shear zones, totalling 150 metres in width, sitting within a zone of diorite-gabbro sills extending 5.2 km across the property and reaching widths of roughly 200 metres.
Since releasing the first eye-catching results La Ronge has released several more drill results that, while showing significant gold mineralization, have not quite lived up to the heightened expectations. Since its initial spike to a high of $1.01 the company has slid down to a recent close of 29¢.
Infill drilling results include hole 122, drilled along the same section as holes 120 and 121, that hit 40 metres carrying 2.24 g/t Au from 45 metres downhole and 19 metres averaging 1.15 g/t Au from 127 metres depth. Hole 125 and 126, drilled at the southeast edge of historical drilling, returned several sub-10-metre intercepts grading as high as 2.12 g/t Au.
As to step-out drilling, hole 123, drilled 30 metres further south than any historical drill holes, returned 33 metres carrying 6.41 g/t Au from 148 metres and then 20 metres averaging 8.26 g/t Au from 198 metres. Hole 124, drilled on the same section, hit 2.8 metres averaging 11.16 g/t Au from 55 metres depth but was cut off before intersecting hole 123’s deeper high grade structure. In stepping out to the northeast, hole 130 returned 21.5 metres carrying 2.87 g/t Au from 40 metres depth, and hole 131 cut 19.6 metres averaging 2.09 g/t Au from 63 metres depth, both drilled at the northern limits of the historic resource.
Overall, the company sees the winter drill results as extending mineralization along strike to both the northeast and southwest with the deposit still open in both directions. Pending results from holes 132, 134 and 135, all drilled further to the northeast, should give a better picture as to the northeast potential of the deposit.
Meanwhile, Golden Band finally put its Roy Lloyd and EP mines into production last year and expects to produce 45,000 oz of gold in its fiscal year ending April 30. The company is also working on a mine plan to put its Komis deposit into production, which would allow a ramp-up of the Jolu mill throughput from 450 t/d to 650-700 t/d, and is looking to put the Golden Heart deposit into production by mid-2013 and possibly increase mill throughput to 1,000 t/d.
Golden Band’s deposits, which sit along the La Ronge gold belt in between La Ronge’s Preview and Twin deposits, generally host modest resources. The operational Roy Lloyd mine hosts roughly 157,000 measured and indicated tonnes grading 13.14 g/t Au for 66,000 oz. and about the same in the inferred category; the EP open pit mine hosts 102,000 measured and indicated tonnes grading 3.81 g/t Au for 12,500 oz of contained gold; and Tower East, the company’s biggest established deposit, hosts 5 million measured and indicated tonnes grading 1.86 g/t Au for 300,000 oz of gold. In total, the company has established resources in nine deposits that total 570,200 contained ounces in measured and indicated and 266,600 ounces inferred. But with an 875-km3 land package in the region the company still has lots to explore.
Finally, Claude Resources continues to show that there is the potential for a little more scale in the area, recently adding significantly to the inferred resources at its Seabee gold operation. Inferred resources increased 236% in the latest update to 4.2 million tonnes grading 6.48 g/t Au for 873,400 contained ounces of gold over five deposits. Much of the additional resources came from the recently discovered Santoy Gap and L62 deposits. Reserves, meanwhile, stand at 2.1 million tonnes grading 5.37 g/t Au for 355,600 oz of gold, and are based on the Seabee and Santoy 8 deposits. Not slowing down at its Seabee operation, the company plans to spend $7.5 million drilling 130,000 metres this year at the project in an effort to significantly expand the production profile.
The company reports that The Seabee and L62 deposits are located within the Laonil Lake gabbroic intrusive complex, while the mine itself sits some 60 km southeast of Golden Band’s mill. A network of quartz-tourmaline bearing mineralized shear structures traverse the complex, forming a complicated shear system. Mineralization at Santoy 8 and Santoy Gap, roughly 14 km east of the Seabee mine, is hosted within a series of sheeted, shear hosted quartz veins, silicified biotite-diopside schist and silicified granitic to dioritic dikes.
The company is also moving ahead with its Amisk deposit in Saskatchewan that sits close to the Manitoba border. The project hosts 30.2 million indicated tonnes grading 0.85 g/t Au gold and 6.17 g/t Ag plus 28.7 million inferred tonnes grading 0.64 g/t Au and 4.01 g/t Ag. The company plans to have a resource update out this quarter and a scoping study out by Q3 of this year. Claude’s share price recently closed at 89¢ with 173.3 million shares outstanding.
Other explorers active in the area include Masuparia Gold, which signed a joint venture deal with Golden Band in early April, and Wescan Goldfields, which started a 2,000-metre drill program on its Jojay project in February.
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