PDAC: RED LAKE GOLD RUSH
Nothing gets the heart racing like the prospect of a high-grade gold discovery. And where better to look than in northwestern Ontario, where two such mines are operating. Placer Dome’s Campbell mine has been turning out well over 10 million ounces from ore grading about 0.3 ounces per ton (oz/t) Au, since 1949. Goldcorp’s Red Lake mine started up in 1948 and has about 4 million ounces to its credit.
Historically, the grade at Red Lake ran about 0.3 oz/t Au, but successful deep drilling revealed the presence of 1.86 million tons grading 2.02 oz/t Au. Even when lower grade sulphide zones are figured into the equation, the total proven and probable reserves are 3.24 million tons at 1.33 oz/t Au. That discovery relaunched Red Lake as the highest grade gold mine in Canada. (The story of this transformation was reported in our October 2000 issue.)
Goldcorp’s luck and skill continue to find fabulous intersections below the high-grade zone (HGZ). As the company reported last December, one hole returned 13.8 oz/t Au over a length of 16 feet from a drillhole that extended the HGZ at depth in the hanging wall.
Additional work has been done in the footwall (34 intersections up to 7.94 oz/t Au over 4 feet); as infill drilling (246 intersections averaging 4.13 oz/t Au over 7.3 feet); immediately east of the mine (best intersection was 1.42 oz/t Au over 27.3 feet); and in lower grade sulphide mineralization (if 0.96 oz/t Au over 16.4 feet can be called “lower grade”). The deepest hole returned 5.21 oz/t Au over 8 feet at a vertical depth of 6,763 feet in the HGZ. The average grade of material below outlined resources is reported to be 8.19 oz/t Au over 10.3 feet.
The Red Lake camp is only about 70 years old. Many people believe that, since the area has not been thoroughly prospected in that length of time, there should be a lot more gold deposits lying undisturbed. The Red Lake greenstone belt is certainly an obvious target for more work, although the Birch-Uchi greenstone belt is an even less explored area in spite of its similar geological underpinnings.
No wonder the Red Lake district is one of the most exciting Canadian gold plays in several years.
An excellent description of the local geology can be found on the web site of Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development & Mines. The current areas of interest are the Red Lake and the Birch-Uchi greenstone belts. Several junior companies, either alone or through joint ventures, are very busy in these areas.
Fronteer Development Group, a recent convert to the junior mining ranks, abandoned the real estate industry in May 2001 and quickly acquired 10 properties in the Birch-Uchi greenstone belt. At the helm of Fronteer is Mark O’Dea, president and CEO, who was runner-up in the original Goldcorp Challenge. Fronteer’s land selection was based on its in-house targeting criteria developed for Red Lake-style gold mineralization.
Fronteer currently controls five properties 60 miles northeast of Red Lake. The company has optioned part of its Woman Lake property from Perry English and plans to earn a 100% interest by the end of 2004. On this property a zone of quartz veining along a sheared contact has been traced for up to 500 feet along strike. Previous drillholes returned values of 0.87 oz/t Au across 4 feet and 0.82 oz/t Au across 3 feet. Chip samples from the vein assayed as high as 14.08 oz/t Au and 0.61% Cu across 2.5 feet.
The Sandy Point and Shanty Bay properties are two of Fronteer’s BIF-hosted gold targets. When Sandy Point was drilled by a previous owner, the best intersection assays were 0.20 oz/t Au over 14.7 feet. Recent grab samples taken by Fronteer returned values as high as 0.38 oz/t Au over 5.6 feet. Fronteer’s grab and chip samples taken at the Shanty Bay showing graded as high as 0.31 oz/t and 0.33 oz/t Au over 3.9 feet. Fronteer plans to undertake soil and geophysical surveys over these properties as a prelude to drilling.
The company has optioned five properties to Glenhaven Ventures, including the promising Mink Lake and Swain East claims. These comprise the Birch Lake project, also located in the Birch Uchi greenstone belt.
At Mink Lake, a quartz vein system up to 65 feet wide, with a strike length of at least 1.75 miles, has been identified. Grab samples collected from there assayed as high as 1.05 oz/t Au, and eight other grab samples were in the 0.02 to 0.14 oz/t Au range. Soil samples suggesting that the vein system continues to the northwest were also collected. The next step is further soil sampling, detailed rock channel sampling and geophysical surveys before drilling.
Three copper-gold showings have been investigated at the Swain East property. They appear to be classic volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) mineralization. Rock samples from the three showings returned best grades of 0.54 oz/t Au and 3.9% Cu, 0.26 oz/t Au and 3.9% Cu, and 0.42 oz/t Au and 2.08% Cu. Infill soil sampling, geophysics, mapping and more prospecting are recommended.
Glenhaven has found encouraging signs on one more of its optioned properties. Grace Lake consists of a magnetic-conductivity anomaly beneath conglomeratic sediments, making it an excellent geophysical target for a buried VMS system.
Rubicon Minerals Corp. is in the enviable position of having Anglo Gold (Canada) Exploration as a joint venture partner in Red Lake. Anglo Gold can earn 70% of the project by spending $5.1 million on its first Canadian undertaking.
Rubicon began building its land position along the Red Lake break five years ago while other juniors were rushing off to Indonesia, Bill Cavalluzzo, vice-president, investor relations, told CMJ. “Our philosophy is to work green field projects within the shadow of headframes,” he added.
“This [Red Lake] is the best gold belt in the world,” claims Rubicon president and CEO David Adamson. “There is huge blue sky potential for the belt. This is the best place in the world to find a high-grade mine, and everyone is looking for grade, not open-pittable deposits.”
The Slate Bay claims are the premier target of the Rubicon-Anglo Gold project. Last fall five holes were drilled along strike to depths of between 500 and 650 feet. Broad zones of mineralization were found, and the best assays were 0.32 oz/t Au over 2.5 feet in mafic volcanics and 0.38 oz/t Au over 18.7 feet in sediments.
A sixth hole tested a geophysical-structural target about 2,000 feet to the west-southwest. Additional drilling is underway this winter. Three more properties were added to the joint venture in January. Chief among them is the Adams Lake property, which historically returned core grading up to 2.76 oz/t Au over 4.92 feet.
Rubicon has several other promising parcels in its portfolio: the McCuaig prospect, which is a joint venture with Golden Tag Resources; the Pipestone South claims, optioned from Perry English; and the former McKinley mine.
Wolfden Resources is another hopeful junior in the Red Lake camp. This company controls the Lingman property north of the town, the Borthwick property that includes the former Berens River producer, and the recently optioned Skinner property.
“We think we’re getting close to something,” Wolfden president Ewan Downie says of the Skinner property. His company is following up on basal till sampling done by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1993. The area of interest lies on the boundary of the Balmer and Confederation assemblages below a swampy creek. It has never been tested with geophysics or drilling, so hopes are high.
Wolfden’s holding also includes the former Argosy mines (a.k.a. the Jason mine). It has optioned a 51% interest in the property to First Au Strategies, which calls the project Cassummit Lake. Holes drilled below the old mine workings (900 feet) have returned 0.68 oz/t Au over 3.3 feet and 0.4 oz/t Au over 9.8 feet. Three other unmined veins have also returned promising values. First Au plans a winter geophysical program, trenching and sampling in the summer, and drilling next fall.
“I’m very confident that the mineralization will continue at depth,” First Au director Bob Archer told CMJ.
“From my experience in the Canadian Shield, I expect the deposits are continuous and there are lots of new zones possible.” He offered that he has a goal of identifying one million ounces on the property.
Two more targets for First Au are Leg Lake and Nickleby Lake, both of which the company has optioned. These properties contain copper values and significant potential for platinum group metals (PGMs). Leg Lake is a zone of known sulphides at the north end of Uchi Lake. First Au is planning a winter geophysics program there and possibly an airborne survey. The company can earn a 100% interest in both of these properties.
Tri Origin Exploration owns 100% of the Confederation claims and has given Goldcorp an option to earn 70%. Goldcorp completed two holes last December in a polymetallic anomaly believed to contain gold, silver, zinc, nickel, copper and cobalt.
Finding more gold in the Red Lake area is inevitable. With so many active projects, it’s only a matter of time. Finding base metals and PGMs would be a significant bonus.
(cont. on page 20)