Buchans has Zinc in Nfld and Manganese in NB
By Ted Niles
It’s a familiar story—junior miner purchases historic producer and discovers significant and mineable remainder. That Newfoundland’s Buchans Mines were active from 1928 to 1984, producing in excess of 16 million tonnes of ore, gives one a better sense of what might possibly remain. Buchans Minerals President and CEO Warren MacLeod says of the Lundberg base-metals deposit, “It is literally underneath the old Lucky Strike glory hole and the old mine buildings. They built the mine site right on top of what they considered, at that time, lower-grade material, but which in today’s world is economic ore. When we went in there our philosophy was: let’s see what the old timers left behind. It didn’t take us long to find it.”
Located outside the town of Buchans, 330 kilometres northwest of St John’s, the Buchans property comprises 12,800 hectares, of which the Lundberg deposit covers 215 claims over 5,375 hectares. In November 2008 Buchans released an NI 43-101 resource estimate for Lundberg of 20.7 million tonnes inferred, with a combined zinc, lead and copper grade of 2.78%.
Misgivings that this was still not economic grade propelled Buchans to undertake a preliminary economic assessment. “We believed that Lundberg could be a standalone mine, and we knew the existing management at the time didn’t really know what they were sitting on,” MacLeod says. The PEA confirmed MacLeod’s hopes. Based on a 5,000 tonne-per-day open-pit and milling operation with a ten-year mine life, it projected Lundberg would have a pre-tax internal rate of return of 43.9% and a net present value (at a discount rate of 6%) of $217.8 million. Average operating costs are estimated at $23.79 per tonne with net revenues of $52.95 per tonne. Payback on capital expenditures is expected to be 1.5 years. Exclaims MacLeod, “Obviously, it’s screaming out that this could potentially become a mine!”
In addition to good infrastructure and the obvious permitting advantages of building a mine on a brownfields site, Buchans also owns deposits nearby that could potentially supplement Lundberg. Among these are Clementine West, Buchans North and Daniel’s Pond. Located about 30 kilometres west of Teck Resources’ Duck Pond mine, Daniel’s Pond has a current NI 43-101 indicated resource of 1.16 million tonnes grading 4.44% zinc, 2.12% lead, 0.31% copper, 87.79 g/t silver and 0.60 g/t gold and an inferred resource of 450,000 tonnes grading 3.88% zinc, 1.74% lead, 0.27% copper, 81.63 g/t silver and 0.52 g/t gold.
Buchans anticipates another drilling program to update Lundberg from inferred to indicated, then it will move to prefeasibility. From there to production, MacLeod says, would be five years. But before any of these steps can be taken, the company needs to find a joint-venture partner or “split the project off into its own private company, get it financed, then ultimately take it public in its own right.” MacLeod says that discussions with interested parties are ongoing and that he has a “personal goal to get some kind of deal wrapped up before Christmas.”
MacLeod notes, “Brook Hunt [& Associates] indicate that zinc will go into production shortfall from existing mines—as well as probable and possible mines—around 2015. And the Royal Bank of Canada is projecting 2014-2015 prices of around $1.30 a pound. If we have that kind of price, it would improve the economics. And if we aggressively pursue this project, it could come into production right around the time the anticipated shortfall is occurring. The timing could almost be perfect for Lundberg.”
If we aggressively pursue this project, it could come into production right around the time the anticipated zinc shortfall is occurring. The timing could almost be perfect for Lundberg —Warren MacLeod
Meanwhile, Buchans has been working its “dark horse asset,” its 5,800-hectare Woodstock manganese property in New Brunswick. An historic (non-NI 43-101 compliant) resource estimated the Plymouth deposit had 46.5 million tonnes grading 10.9% manganese and 13.3% iron, and the North and South Hartford deposits had 90 million tonnes at 8% manganese and 12% iron. MacLeod reports, “When we were researching Woodstock, we came across a joint federal- and provincial-government report about a program from the 1980s to find out whether you could leach this material. The importance of this is that if you’re applying leach technology, you’re going to be producing manganese cheaper than the Chinese, and you’re going to be producing it using a technology that’s not as tough on the environment as roasting.”
He continues, “We’re pretty confident that we will be able to leach the material from the ore. If we’re able to achieve that, it will really open the door for this project to accelerate to a purely economic assessment stage. One of the important things to note is that American Manganese’s Artillery Peak deposit is not the only game in town in North America for electrolytic manganese metal. Woodstock is pretty close on its heels. I think that the scale of this project could be significantly larger than Lundberg.”
Buchans announced September 7 results from three of the first five holes drilled at Plymouth. These include 11.43% manganese and 16.14% iron over 45 metres, 11.43% manganese and 14.9% iron over 89 metres and 9.22% manganese and 12.75% iron over 63 metres.
Buchans Minerals Corporation has 150.9 million shares trading at $0.075 for an $11.3 million market cap. It also has an early-stage gold project, the Goldquest prospect in southwest Newfoundland, which it holds in 50/50 joint venture with Benton Resources. Drilling is anticipated to begin there in September.