Noble Explores Overlooked Ontario Nickel and Gold Targets
By Greg Klein
How did virgin territory remain unmolested in Ontario’s promiscuously explored Timmins region? For a number of reasons, the mineral potential of Project 81 went largely unnoticed until 2010. Only the following year did it come under the control of an explorer, at the time known as Ring of Fire Resources. Now, under its new name, Noble Mineral Exploration TSXV:NOB, the company has its attention focused firmly on the property’s Kingsmill nickel and Lucas gold targets.
Timber, not gold or nickel, was the property’s original attraction. That, along with low metal prices and relatively primitive geophysical technology, explains the neglect of its mining potential, Noble President/CEO Vance White explains.
“They were lands owned by AbitibiBowater [now Resolute Forest Products],” White says, “and a subsidiary of INCO would come in to carry out early geophysical work. At that time, it was basically two-frequency geophysics, so it was pretty rudimentary, and they couldn’t see very deep.” Nevertheless, early 1960s exploration did find compelling results by today’s standards.
“There were reports of a 1,265-foot [385.8-metre] intersection of 0.36% nickel. This [non-43-101] information was never in the public domain because these lands were private patented lands, so there was no need to file any of this data with the ministry in Ontario.” White points out some other attractions. “Incorporated into this large block of ground are something like seven or eight dams that provided power to AbitibiBowater’s sawmills and pulp mills. With that came access roads to the entire block of ground. It’s infrastructure galore where you have road, rail, power, water, drilling contractors, mining service personnel and all the rest close by.”
Randy Singh, Noble’s VP of Exploration, managed to track down more historic results, both nickel from Kingsmill and gold from Lucas in late 2010. White promptly contacted Abitibi, then dealing with its bankruptcy. But others were interested, and a bidding contest ensued. With funding from Franco-Nevada TSX:FNV, White and his team emerged victorious. Further acquisitions boosted the size to 72,218 hectares from the original 60,000, making the company one of the region’s largest landholders. Airborne geophysics began late last year and in January 2012, for the first time in decades, a drill bit struck the ground at Kingsmill.
The nickel assays have so far been released in two forms: aqua regia and total digestion inductively coupled plasma (AR-ICP and TD-ICP). As Singh explains, “Aqua regia dissolves the sulphide nickel. Total digestion is a four-acid digestion that dissolves everything, the silicate nickel and the sulphide nickel. We use both assays because if all your nickel is in silicates, it’s not economically possible to recover it. Any assay that is more than 0.25% nickel aqua regia gets a third assay. It’s a wet chemistry technique, which is an assay-quality analysis that’s even more accurate for sulphide nickel. It’s a much more involved analysis, and we’ll release those results when we receive them.”
March 5 Kingsmill assays include
- 0.17% nickel AR-ICP and 0.2% nickel TD-ICP over 250.4 metres
(including 0.23% AR-ICP and 0.27% TD-ICP over 122.4 metres)
- 0.22% AR-ICP and 0.25% TD-ICP over 114.2 metres
(including 0.24% AR-ICP and 0.27% TD-ICP over 72.2 metres)
(including 0.26% AR-ICP and 0.29% TD-ICP over 11.2 metres)
February 28 assays include
- 0.25% AR-ICP and 0.3% TD-ICP over 502.6 metres
(including 0.26% AR-ICP and 0.32% TD-ICP over 322 metres)
(including 0.3% AR-ICP and 0.33% TD-ICP over 39 metres)
White comments, “We believe we’re dealing with a very, very large anomaly, probably two-plus kilometres in strike length. We put in a section of holes on the west side, from which we’ve received very positive results, albeit low grade. But it’s at the higher end of these low-grade nickel deposits. And by stepping out 1,800 metres to almost 2,000 metres to the east, we’ve put down another set of holes, and we’re just in the process of receiving results back on that. I think that will show mineralization to the east is very similar to that in the west. Then you could draw a conclusion whereby the widths are probably between 400 and 500 metres, and the strike length is probably about a couple of thousand metres. We know it’s open at depth, and therefore you could be looking at a very large tonnage, perhaps over 1.5 billion tonnes.”
As for the Lucas gold target, historic, non-43-101 results include
- 2.97 g/t gold over 37 metres
(including 3.1 g/t over 35.7 metres)
- 3.15 g/t over 9.2 metres
- 2.78 g/t over 12.9 metres
- 3.51 g/t over 8.8 metres
We believe we’re dealing with a very, very large anomaly, probably two-plus kilometres in strike length —Vance White
Noble is now completing ground geophysics. “We’ve got our initial interpretations back, and it looks very promising,” White says. “It helps us understand why certain [historic] drill holes missed their target and why others came back with fairly significant grades in today’s environment. I think we have a pretty good handle on how we’re going to be successful in growing a mineral resource there.” Noble’s drilling will start after spring break-up: “within the next four to six weeks at the very outside.”
Then there’s the timber rights, which came with the 2011 acquisition. An independent forestry consultant has come up with an NPV of $18.5 million for both harvestable timber and timber that will grow into a harvestable asset, White reports. “We’re sourcing potential purchasers on either a per-piece basis or as a complete disposition of the rights.”
Looking further ahead, White says, “We’re considering making two entities, one focusing on gold and the other on nickel. Another opportunity is the potential to bring in other junior explorers. We have one party that has expressed interest in a certain area within Project 81, and we’re negotiating that right now.”
Under the October 2011 funding agreement, Franco-Nevada buys a $2-million, three-year debenture earning 5% interest and convertible to shares at $0.20. Franco-Nevada also backstops Noble’s $1.5-million payment to Resolute and pays $500,000 for Noble’s right to purchase royalties from Resolute.
Noble holds additional properties in Ontario and Saskatchewan. However, “Our entire focus is going to be consumed with Project 81,” White declares. “We have two very, very good targets that need all kinds of follow-up. We’re in the early stages of the discovery curve, and I think as we move forward we’ll get recognition both from a retail and institutional perspective. That’s when you’re going to start seeing some traction in the marketplace.”
At press time Noble had 125.5 million shares trading at $0.12 for a market cap of $15.1 million.