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The Red Lake resurgence

September 16th, 2019

Miners and explorers seek ever more gold from this busy Ontario district

by Greg Klein

Miners and explorers seek ever more gold from this busy Ontario district

Benefiting from reinterpretation of past work, Great Bear now
has three rigs drilling Dixie Lake. (Photo: Great Bear Resources)

 

A new gold producer on the way, attention-grabbing assays from a well-financed junior and high hopes for the price of gold—could that in any way explain the current excitement at Red Lake? A region that’s produced 30 million ounces since its first rush in 1926 still has more gold to mine and, explorers believe, more mines to find.

Just as Newmont Goldcorp TSX:NGT was considering the sale of its Red Lake operations, Pure Gold Mining TSXV:PGM began building Madsen Red Lake, billed as Canada’s highest-grade gold development project. But, as far as juniors are concerned, the district’s biggest newsmaker has been Great Bear Resources’ (TSXV:GBR) Dixie Lake property.

While focused on British Columbia’s Golden Triangle in 2017, Great Bear optioned Dixie from Newmont, also getting decades of data from over 160 historic holes. Given the succession of companies that drilled and departed, the data might have seemed more encumbrance than encouragement. Undeterred, Great Bear geologists began relogging core to “resolve geological differences between generations of work dating back to the 1980s and provide a coherent framework for the company’s own drilling.”

The prepping paid off. That summer’s Phase I program found success with its first hole and reached up to 16.84 g/t gold over 10.4 metres in hole #5 at the Dixie Limb zone. As the campaign progressed, the company tripled its turf to cover a potential gold-bearing structure of regional significance.

Miners and explorers seek ever more gold from this busy Ontario district

Pure Gold conducts underground test mining at Madsen Red Lake.
(Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

More expansions followed, with assays reaching up to 26.91 g/t over 16.35 metres at the newly discovered and near-surface Hinge zone. Financings came through too, most notably with an $11.1-million infusion that included a total of $5.7 million from McEwen Mining TSX:MUX and Rob McEwen himself, progenitor of Red Lake’s last renaissance. The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame credits him with transforming the Goldcorp mine “from a 50,000-ounce producer in 1997 to a 500,000-ounce producer in 2001, while cash costs fell from $360 per ounce to $60 per ounce over this period.”

The stock soared past $2 from about $0.58 pre-McEwen. The grades, discoveries and financings continued, even with what president/CEO Chris Taylor called “the cheapest discovery hole we’ve ever had.” That happened after a keen-eyed geo spotted high-grade visible gold on unassayed core that had been neglected for 12 years. Clearly, the company was on to something when its management decided past operators had overlooked Dixie’s promise.

Great Bear now has three rigs at work.

But this is no spectator sport, as the inevitable influx demonstrated. For Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST, however, the attraction is base metals more than the yellow stuff. The company’s Garnet deposit features a 2017 inferred resource showing 2.1 million tonnes averaging 5.78% zinc, 0.72% copper, 19.5 g/t silver and 0.6 g/t gold, using a 3% zinc-equivalent cutoff. 

Miners and explorers seek ever more gold from this busy Ontario district

Visible gold attests to Great Bear’s confidence in Dixie Lake.
(Photo: Great Bear Resources)

An historic, non-43-101 resource for Pistol Bay’s Fredart zone estimated 385,000 tonnes averaging 1.56% copper and 33.6 g/t silver. Historic drilling on the company’s Joy-Caravelle area shows non-43-101 results including 21.6% zinc and 0.13% copper over 0.25 metres.

Up to recently, Pistol Bay’s portfolio had been about 25 kilometres northeast of Dixie Lake. But the company moved closer in July, with an option on 2,130 hectares southeast of Great Bear. Part of the former Goldpines claims, the property’s past work consisted mainly of geochemical sampling.

An NSR held by Perry English on Fredart hints at the prospector’s impact on the district. English sold the Dixie and Packwash properties to Great Bear and, under an LOI signed earlier this month, will vend Red Lake’s Camping Lake and Bruce Lake projects to Prime Meridian Resources TSXV:PMR.

Spurred on by recent grab samples as high as 19 g/t, 23.3 g/t and 126.5 g/t gold, Pacton Gold TSXV:PAC plans 10,000 metres of drilling to begin next month at its Red Lake project. Historic work included sampling, trenching and drilling.

A more advanced project towards the district’s eastern reaches, First Mining Gold’s (TSX:FF) Springpole reached PEA in 2017 with an indicated 4.67 million gold ounces and 24.19 million silver ounces, along with an inferred 230,000 gold ounces and 1.12 million silver ounces.

Proximal to both Newmont Goldcorp and Pure Gold, Nexus Gold’s (TSXV:NXS) McKenzie project underwent a spring field program that scored a sample result of 135.4 g/t gold. In August the company signed an LOI with privately held Hawkmoon Resources that could have the latter company acquire or JV on Nexus’ Canadian projects.

With a Phase I drill program of at least 2,500 metres well underway, BTU Metals TSXV:BTU hopes to find evidence that Great Bear’s high-grade LP fault structure crosses BTU’s Dixie Halo property.

Under an LOI signed last week, Maxtech Ventures CSE:MVT would acquire the Panama Lake project from Benton Resources TSXV:BEX. The latter company assembled the property by staking, last year adding the former Goldcorp Ben Lake project. This year’s drilling produced assays up to 1.23 g/t gold over 6.5 metres.

Some other companies in the district include Confederation Minerals TSXV:CFM, which last May added the Leo property to its Red Lake portfolio with the company’s 70%-held Newman Todd property.

This month GoldON Resources TSXV:GLD completed prospecting and soil sampling on its West Madsen project optioned from Great Bear last May. GoldON sees rare earths as well as gold potential in the property.

Meanwhile Madsen begins construction, with commercial production expected by the end of 2020. The project came together quickly after Pure Gold, then called Laurentian Goldfields, assembled claims including the former Madsen mine in late 2013 and early 2014. Within five years Pure Gold built a resource of 2.06 million ounces indicated and 467,000 ounces inferred. That includes a probable reserve of 3.51 million tonnes averaging 8.97% for 1.01 million ounces that’s expected to keep the mine busy for 12 years.

Deep-pocketed support comes from AngloGold Ashanti NYSE:AU, Eric Sprott, Rob McEwen and Newmont Goldcorp, who collectively hold over 30% of Pure Gold.

Although the district’s success stories encourage enthusiasm, Red Lake also spawned a cautionary tale. Rubicon Minerals TSX:RMX notoriously skipped feasibility to take its Phoenix project directly from PEA to production in 2015. Six months later the mine shut down. The explanation: Unexpectedly complex geology. The resource shrank dramatically, from 1.13 million gold ounces measured and indicated in 2013 to just 106,000 ounces in 2016. Inferred fell from 2.22 million ounces to 307,000 ounces.

Later that year the company sought creditor protection.

But last month Rubicon bravely unveiled a new PEA with “a lower margin of error and risk.” Still a far cry from the 2013 estimate, however, are the current numbers of 589,000 ounces measured and indicated, along with 540,000 ounces inferred. Chastened, the company plans to begin feasibility studies in Q1 2020.