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Earth science for everyone

July 29th, 2016

Geoscience B.C. puts extensive resource knowledge into the public domain

by Greg Klein

Geoscience B.C. puts extensive resource knowledge into the public domain

Outfitted with sensitive magnetometers, three Cessna Super Caravans
will fly the largest survey in Geoscience B.C.’s 11-year history.
(Photo: Geoscience B.C.)

 

It’s probably one of the biggest geophysical surveys underway anywhere. Pilots now have three magnetometer-equipped Cessnas criss-crossing an especially rugged 24,000-square-kilometre expanse of west-central British Columbia on tight, 250-metre linespacing. This is Search Phase II, part of an even bigger project that will make “a generational contribution to better understand the area’s geology and mineral potential,” says Bruce Madu, VP of minerals and mining for Geoscience B.C. But the results will hardly be limited to industry. The non-profit’s mission is to access “earth science for everyone.”

Data of this quality rarely finds its way to junior explorers, let alone prospectors. But proprietary software makes it available to anyone with an internet connection. Besides mineral opportunities, practical advantages include land use planning for regional districts, local communities and First Nations.

The grid extends from Fort Fraser to Smithers, building on two previous surveys. Last year’s Phase I flew over neighbouring terrain between Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers. The 2013 TREK program covered an area bounded by Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Quesnel, conducting sampling and mapping, as well as airborne mag. The three surveys combined will cover 55,500 square kilometres, about the size of Nova Scotia.

Geoscience B.C. puts extensive resource knowledge into the public domain

When combined with two previous surveys, this year’s program
will provide magnetic data for 55,500 square kilometres.
(Photo: Geoscience B.C.)

TREK’s inspiration came from the Blackwater discovery, now New Gold’s (TSX:NGD) proposed open pit mine with reserves of 8.2 million ounces gold and 61 million ounces silver. Yet “the surrounding geology is poorly understood,” Madu says.

The Phase II flyover includes another proposed mine, Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:PBM) Morrison copper-gold project, as well as Thompson Creek Metals’ (TSX:TCM) majority-held Endako molybdenum mine and the former Bell-Granisle copper-gold mines. The survey just bypasses Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) 50%-held Huckleberry copper mine.

Low prices put Endako on care and maintenance, with Huckleberry slated to follow this summer. But Geoscience B.C. helped extend the latter mine’s life by about two years, Madu says. “We flew some geophysics, the company participated and ended up drilling new ore. A couple of hundred jobs were given a couple more years.”

The region “clearly has substantial mineral potential,” Madu points out. “Even more importantly it has excellent infrastructure, lots of road networks, there’s rail in the area and hydro nearby, so it can be quite a cost-effective place to discover and develop a mine.”

Having just reconnoitred with the Search Phase II crew, Madu waxes enthusiastically about the staff, the three Cessna Super Caravans especially suited for this survey’s challenges, the ultra-sensitive magnetometers and the preliminary data. “It excites me—the quality is superb.”

Phase II comprises one of 13 projects scheduled for this year, with a budget totalling $2.5 million. “They cover all sorts of perspectives,” Madu says. “We’ll be active in the Sheep Creek, Barkerville and Cassiar gold camps, the Toodoggone region, we’ve got a mapping crew south of Terrace working on last year’s geophysics, we’ll be east of the Penticton gold camp around the Boundary area. We have chemistry projects re-analyzing almost 5,000 archive samples from southeastern British Columbia as well as the Atlin area. And we’ve got a lot of value-added projects on the go this year, taking existing data and putting together a more complete picture combining geophysics, geochemistry and geology, which I think is a big advantage for the industry’s future, being able to have these super-sized data sets.”

Not limited to mineral exploration, Geoscience B.C. also conducts surveys related to areas such as oil and gas, geothermal energy and groundwater.

In addition to fundamental baseline data creation, we do a lot of innovative research as well.—Bruce Madu,
VP of minerals and
mining for Geoscience B.C.

“On the minerals side, during our 11 years of operation we surveyed a large portion of the province with geophysics, we re-analyzed almost the entire suite of geochemical samples for the province, we provided a lot of innovative research in glacial tills and tree-top sampling, we funded new geochemical methods using water in the field as well as capturing gases and sampling organic materials. So in addition to fundamental baseline data creation, we do a lot of innovative research as well.”

Next year’s plans call for Search Phase III extending northeast to the Quesnel copper belt and covering a region that hosts Imperial’s Mount Polley copper-gold-silver mine, the auriferous turf of Barkerville Gold Mines TSXV:BGM, Thompson Creek’s Mount Milligan copper-gold operation and AuRico Metals’ (TSX:AMI) gold-copper-silver deposits at Kemess.

Looking further ahead, Madu sees the organization “looking at the mining cycle instead of just exploration to see what we can do to help the development or efficiency of mining. We might look at research into subjects like water, tailings and metallurgy, for example.”

The group was founded in 2005 when the province put up money as an inducement to industry contributions. A lot of those contributions come from preferred rates or volunteer work supporting a small staff. Regional trusts have also contributed. Last May the province forked over $5 million.

The results of all that go online, available to everyone. Geoscience B.C.’s Earth Science Viewer opens with a satellite image of the province. Users can zoom in on a particular area, load a layer of data from the selections to the left, then overlay additional data. New info comes online as survey results are processed. Mineral tenures are updated daily, with links to the government’s database of claimholders.

“Viewers can put the tie-dyed geophysical charts on top of the geology layer to see how they agree or don’t agree,” says Madu. “I think that’s quite a powerful prospecting tool because one thing we want to do is challenge assumptions. If the geology and geophysics are telling different stories, we want people to research that and explore it.”

A planned upgrade, possibly within a year, will make the viewer three-dimensional, “something like Google Earth where you can tip it on its side and fly around valleys a bit,” he adds.

With a wealth of practical info for industry and communities alike, the viewer “puts the power of information into the hands of people who can use it.”

Visual Capitalist: The history of British Columbia’s Golden Triangle

July 7th, 2016

posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | July 7, 2016

In a hidden corner of northwestern Canada lies some of the world’s most significant mineral potential. Billions of dollars of undiscovered gold, silver and copper still sit within an unexplored area that was once remote. However, only now can these world-class deposits be finally tapped. Skeena Resources TSXV:SKE has helped Visual Capitalist to put together the story of the famed Golden Triangle.

The history of the Golden Triangle

Even before Canada was officially a country, the area now known as the Golden Triangle was a hub for prospectors looking to strike it rich.

In 1861, Alexander “Buck” Choquette struck gold at the confluence of the Stikine and Anuk rivers, kickstarting the Stikine Gold Rush. More than 800 prospectors left Victoria to go to the Stikine in search of gold.

A few short years later, an even more significant rush would occur just to the north in the Cassiar region—it’s where British Columbia’s biggest ever gold nugget, weighing in at 73 ounces, would be found. The Atlin Gold Rush, an offshoot of the world-famous Klondike Gold Rush, would also occur just north of the Triangle.

The first discoveries

The companies that first worked in the Golden Triangle balanced its richness against the costs of its remote location.

Premier gold mine

The first big discovery in the Golden Triangle was at the Premier gold mine, which started operations in 1918. The company that first owned it, Premier Gold Mining Company, returned as much as 200% on the stock market between 1921 and 1923. At the time the Christian Science Monitor called it “one of the greatest silver and gold mines in the world.”

Snip mine

Discovered in 1964 by Cominco, the deposit stayed dormant until 1986, when it was drilled in a joint venture with Delaware Resources. Murray Pezim’s Prime Resources bought out Delaware after the stock ran from a dollar to $28 a share.

The high-grade Snip mine produced approximately one million ounces of gold from 1991 until 1999 at an average gold grade of 27.5 gams per tonne.

Eskay Creek

In 1988, after 109 drill holes, tiny exploration companies Stikine Resources and Calpine Resources finally hit the hole they needed at Eskay Creek with grades as high as 27.2 g/t and 30.2 g/t gold.

Eskay would go on to become Canada’s highest-grade gold mine and the world’s fifth-largest silver producer, with production well in excess of three million ounces of gold and 160 million ounces of silver.

Grades:

  • Gold: 49 g/t
  • Silver: 2,406 g/t
  • Lead: 3.2%
  • Zinc: 5.2%

By the time all was said and done, the stock price of Stikine Resources would go from $1 to $67, after it was bought by International Corona.

Why did these three rich mines shut down?

Despite the gold in the Triangle being extremely high grade, lower gold prices in the late ’90s made the economics challenging. Meanwhile, the lack of infrastructure in this remote area meant that power, labour and logistics costs were sky high.

Both of these things have changed today, and activity at the Golden Triangle is now fast and furious.

Gaining access to the Triangle

The Golden Triangle is a hot area for exploration again. This is for three main reasons: higher gold prices, new infrastructure and modern discoveries.

Higher gold prices

Average gold price (1999): $279 (adjusted for inflation: $398)
Average gold price (2016): $1,202

Gold prices are more than three times as high today, even after adjusting for inflation. Combined with the Golden Triangle’s high grades, this becomes even more attractive.

New infrastructure

Today, road access to the area is easier than ever and a new transmission line will dramatically reduce the cost of power for companies operating in the Triangle.

Recent improvements:

  • Completion of a $700-million high-voltage transmission line to the Golden Triangle. The Northwest Transmission Line goes 335 kilometres from Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake and north to the Red Chris mine

  • Paving of the Stewart-Cassiar highway north from Smithers (Highway 37)

  • Opening of ocean port facilities for export of concentrate in Stewart

  • Completion of a three-dam, 277 MW hydroelectric facility located 70 kilometres northwest of Stewart

Modern discoveries

The next gold rush at the Golden Triangle has already started. Just some of the new discoveries in the area include Seabridge Gold’s (TSX:SEA) KSM project, Pretium Resources’ (TSX:PVG) Valley of the Kings deposit and Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Red Chris mine.

Yet despite this track record of new discoveries and mines being built in the area, a B.C. government report estimates that only 0.0006% of the Golden Triangle has been mined to date.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Geoscience B.C. gets $5-million grant, plans “new generation” of airborne mag

May 18th, 2016

by Greg Klein | May 18, 2016

A non-profit organization that puts geophysical results in the public domain, Geoscience B.C. announced another $5 million in provincial funding on May 18. The group now plans its largest airborne magnetic survey ever, with the Search Phase II project on a 24,000-square-kilometre grid over west-central British Columbia.

Geoscience B.C. gets $5-million grant, plans “new generation” of airborne mag

The region hosts the former Bell-Granisle porphyry copper-gold mines and one of North America’s largest molybdenum mines, Thompson Creek Metals’ (TSX:TCM) majority-held Endako, now on care and maintenance. Just outside the survey area sits Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) 50%-held Huckleberry operation and New Gold’s (TSX:NGD) proposed Blackwater gold-silver open pit.

Calling the project “a new generation of airborne magnetic survey,” Geoscience B.C. VP of minerals and mining Bruce Madu said, “The line spacing we will fly will be much tighter than in previous surveys of this scale, providing a data resolution that is much more detailed and accurate.

“The Search Phase II survey is a key piece of the puzzle that will bridge the gap between the Search Phase I geophysical survey completed last year and the TREK survey in 2013,” he added. “Together, these three adjoining projects will provide a continuous modern survey of high-quality magnetic data covering a 55,500-square-kilometre area—equivalent to the size of Nova Scotia.”

Results will be posted next year on the organization’s data release page and its Earth Science viewer. Beneficiaries will include not only the mineral exploration industry but also local communities and land use planners.

“Usually only the largest companies have access to this kind of data,” said Rob Maurer of the Smithers Exploration Group, which supports mineral exploration and mining in the province’s northwest. “But in B.C., the innovative work conducted by Geoscience B.C. puts tools in the hands of any individual who wants to go out and prospect for minerals.”

B.C. Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman credited the organization with helping strengthen his sector’s regulation. “They have done outstanding work identifying deeper saline aquifers appropriate for industry use, which goes a long way towards better protecting ground- and surface-water needed to sustain First Nations and other communities in northeast B.C.”

The organization released its previous airborne mag findings in January. Last month it announced results from an innovative program of helicopter-borne tree-top geochemical sampling.

In the wake of Mount Polley

May 5th, 2016

B.C. vows to toughen mining enforcement following another inquiry

by Greg Klein

To anyone hoping for a rigorous study, the timing was fortuitous. The August 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam collapse happened just months after British Columbia’s auditor general launched an inquiry into provincial oversight of the mining industry. The result was this week’s highly critical report that found “the same issues in the Mount Polley file as we [found] throughout the audit—that is, too few resources, infrequent inspections and lack of enforcement.” AG Carol Bellringer wants a shakeup of oversight and enforcement. But the government’s resisting a key recommendation, leaving intact what she calls an irreconcilable conflict.

Bellringer argues that B.C.’s mining ministry has a mandate to promote the industry, making the department unsuited to regulatory duties. She wants that responsibility transferred to a separate agency. The government disagrees, saying instead it will create a compliance and enforcement board.

B.C. vows to toughen mining enforcement following another inquiry

Other than that, the province says it accepts the AG’s recommendations, which add 17 suggestions to 26 others made by a panel of engineering experts and B.C.’s chief mines inspector regarding tailings facilities. Even so, the government and AG continue to disagree on a number of issues.

The audit examined both B.C.’s Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment, finding they focus on permitting, not enforcement. In fact “we found almost every one of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program within the MEM and the MoE were not met.”

Looking at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley disaster, the AG says the engineering panel emphasized how the failure happened, blaming it largely on a departure from the original design. The AG said she considered why: “We found that the ministry did not ensure that the tailings dam was being built or operated according to the approved design, nor did it ensure that the mining company rectified design and operational deficiencies.”

The engineering panel, on the other hand, stated that inspections “would not have prevented failure.”

The AG also examined Elk Valley coal mining, which over 100 years “has resulted in high concentrations of selenium in the water system.” For the past two decades the MoE has “noted dramatic annual increases of selenium in the watershed’s tributaries … but took no substantive action to change it,” the report charges. “Only recently has the ministry attempted to control this pollution through permits granted under the Environmental Management Act.”

In response, mines minister Bill Bennett said his department’s orders to Teck Coal will reduce selenium “to acceptable levels and the company, not the taxpayer, will cover those costs.”

The government has its new mining compliance and enforcement board slated for operations within 90 days. That would bring greater integration between the ministries of mines and environment, as well as the Environmental Assessment Office, according to Bennett. But he says the AG’s recommendation for a separate agency suggests ministry officials are “incapable of differentiating between promotion and regulation of mining, a view government does not share.”

Bellringer pronounced herself “disappointed in the resistance to this overall recommendation as it is consistent with many other jurisdictions’ response to similar incidences.” Speaking with ResourceClips.com, AG communications manager Colleen Rose said her office doesn’t have examples of other jurisdictions with separate compliance agencies. But she pointed out that Ontario’s auditor general made a similar recommendation last December.

MEM has estimated that its financial security deposits for major mines are under-secured by more than $1.2 billion, yet the ministry has not disclosed this to the public or to legislators, or communicated the potential risk this poses.—Carol Bellringer,
B.C. auditor general

Apart from protecting the environment, the AG made recommendations to protect taxpayers. The report called on government to ensure companies pay the costs of an environmental failure and post sufficient security deposits for reclamation. The province says new legislation will require miners to pay into a spill preparedness and response organization. As for reclamation deposits, they’ve risen from a 1984 total of $10 million to “more than $773 million by the end of 2014.”

But government estimates show the province’s major mines remain under-secured by over $1.2 billion, the AG states. “Yet the ministry has not disclosed this to the public or to legislators, or communicated the potential risk this poses.”

The legacy of an environmentally cavalier past might demonstrate that risk. The auditor noted that Yukon’s Faro mine, in operation from 1969 to 1998, left the territory’s taxpayers with a clean-up bill estimated at $700 million. B.C. taxpayers put up $46 million for a water treatment plant at the former Britannia mine, which ended its 70-year life in 1974. Annual operating costs come to $3 million for a facility that’s expected to operate in perpetuity.

Ottawa estimates that Yellowknife’s Giant mine, in operation from 1948 to 1999, left federal taxpayers on the hook for about $1 billion.

Meanwhile B.C. continues working its way through the 26 recommendations for tailings facilities following two Mount Polley inquiries. The province has also tabled legislation to toughen penalties for mining infractions with up to $1 million in fines and three years in jail.

Download the B.C. auditor general’s report.

B.C. miners to face higher fines, longer prison terms in Mount Polley aftermath

February 26th, 2016

by Greg Klein | February 26, 2016

Delinquent miners in British Columbia could face up to $1 million in fines and three years in jail under a Mines Act amendment introduced February 25. The province vowed to impose stricter enforcement and heavier penalties in response to the collapse of a nearly 40-metre-high tailings dam at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold mine in August 2014.

Currently, court-imposed penalties can range up to $100,000 and a year’s imprisonment. The government can also issue a stop-work order or cancel a mine permit. But in addition to the stronger court deterrent, the new regs will allow B.C. to fine companies without prosecution.

BC miners to face higher fines, longer prison terms in Mount Polley aftermath

The amendment will bring the Mines Act “in line with other provincial natural resource legislation, including the Environmental Management Act, the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Oil and Gas Activities Act, all of which include administrative monetary penalties and more severe penalties for court convictions,” according to a government statement.

The legislation results from investigations by B.C.’s chief mines inspector and an independent panel of three engineering experts into the Mount Polley disaster. Twenty-six recommendations called for stronger regulation, as well as better corporate governance and engineering practices.

In January 2015 the panel attributed the collapse to a deposit of glacial till eight metres below the base of the dam, which the designers didn’t properly understand. A review of other mines this year found “no immediate risks or safety concerns” with other tailings dam foundations, the province stated.

The government noted that the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia will introduce improved guidelines for dam site assessments and that the Mining Association of Canada has issued recommendations following a review of its own tailings management requirements.

B.C. also plans to require all operating mines to establish independent boards to provide “third-party advice on the design, construction, operation and closure” of tailings facilities.

Speaking to the Vancouver Sun, B.C. NDP mining critic Norm Macdonald charged the governing B.C. Liberals are “deeply beholden to these mining interests and their record over time has been a record of leniency and a lack of proper oversight.”

Macdonald told the paper B.C. hadn’t been using enforcement tools already in place. “He added that not using a $1-million fine is no different than not using a $100,000 fine,” the Sun stated.

Indeed, a Sun investigation last year “found that no fines had been levied in the courts under the Mines Act since 1989. Instead, the mines ministry issued orders in an effort to remedy workplace and safety violations: 2,712 between 2005 and 2013. The Sun’s investigation also showed that inspections by geo-technical engineers fell dramatically after the Liberals came to power in 2001. While inspections had increased in recent years, none were carried out at Mount Polley in 2009, 2010 and 2011.”

Another Mount Polley outcome could be participation by Alaskan natives and government in B.C. environmental reviews, under a memorandum of understanding signed by the two governments in November.

Mount Polley resumed operations in August 2015, a year after the disaster.

MOU offers Americans scrutiny over B.C. mining projects

November 25th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 25, 2015

British Columbians and Alaskans will seek involvement in each other’s mining proposals following a memorandum of understanding signed November 25. The MOU calls for governments and natives to take part in environmental assessment and permitting processes in their neighbour’s jurisdiction. But with an emphasis on trans-boundary waters, which mostly would consist of rivers and streams originating in B.C., Canadian projects might get more scrutiny than those next door.

B.C.-Alaska MOU pledges cross-border co-operation on mining and environment

The memo follows visits by B.C. mines minister Bill Bennett and Alaska lieutenant-governor Byron Mallott to each other’s turf. Bennett’s trips, following the tailings dam collapse at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley mine, tried to reassure Alaskans about B.C. environmental practices.

In August 2014, just weeks after the disaster, Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources asked Canada’s Environmental Assessment Agency for participation in the approval process for Seabridge Gold’s (TSX:SEA) KSM gold-copper project near the state border. Provincial approval had already been granted the previous month. The federal permit came through last December.

Other prominent projects in B.C.’s northwestern corner include:

  • Galore Creek, a NovaGold Resources TSX:NG/Teck Resources TSX:TCK.A and TCK.B copper-gold-silver project that reached pre-feasibility in 2011

  • Schaft Creek, a Copper Fox Metals TSXV:CUU/Teck copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project that achieved feasibility in 2013

  • Chieftain Metals’ (TSXV:CFB) Tulsequah Chief zinc-copper-gold project, now permitted for construction

  • Pretium Resources’ (TSX:PVG) Brucejack gold-silver project, slated for 2017 commercial production

  • Imperial’s Red Chris copper mine, which achieved commercial production in July

The MOU sets no timeframe for achieving its goals. Money for the cross-border initiative would come from existing government budgets, with the possibility of additional “alternate public or private sector funding.”

High-grade glitter

November 13th, 2015

Dunnedin Ventures surpasses historic results at its Nunavut diamonds project

 

Just the first bulk sample released by Dunnedin Ventures TSXV:DVI, it shows “some of the best diamond results reported in Canada,” declared CEO Chris Taylor. The November 12 announcement distinguished the Kahuna project in Nunavut as “having kimberlites with both high grades and large diamonds.” That would seem especially auspicious following the company’s first field season. But this is a project with a history, in a region that saw roughly $25 million of past exploration. And it’s getting some help from the dean of Canadian diamond exploration, Chuck Fipke.

“This is not grassroots,” Taylor emphasizes. “We know the diamonds are there. We just have to add to those we’ve found.”

Dunnedin Ventures surpasses historic results at its Nunavut diamonds project

Dunnedin CEO Chris Taylor ventures
into the Notch kimberlite last summer.

Dunnedin signed a four-year, 100% option on the property in November last year “after a lot of tire-kicking,” Taylor says. A former Imperial Metals TSX:III geologist who moved into the juniors about six years ago, he was attracted to diamonds as “the only real bright spot I could see in resources over the last couple of years.”

There was a family connection too. His Flemish great-grandfather imported diamonds into Belgium, where he had “about 100 guys cutting stones for him.” Taylor has family business heirlooms decorating his office, some from his grandfather, who worked with gems in this country.

A “contact of a contact” knew people at De Beers, where a geologist pointed Dunnedin to Kahuna.

The project, about 25 kilometres from the hamlet of Rankin Inlet on Hudson Bay’s northwestern shore, had previously been part of a regional program that included radar, airborne magnetics and electromagnetics, and ground-based EM surveys. Over 10,000 till samples revealed approximately 20,000 indicator minerals.

But the Kahuna claims lapsed after the last operators left, Stornoway Diamond TSX:SWY to focus on Renard and Shear Diamonds to tackle the ill-fated Jericho project, Taylor says. Vendors re-staked the claims and signed the option with Dunnedin late last year.

Besides finding kimberlite pipes, past explorers “found this series of kimberlite dykes, which is what our project is based around, and realized these were the sources of the indicator minerals. When they popped holes in them, they realized they had good diamond grades,” relates Taylor.

“When we looked at the bulk sample data, there seemed to be enough work done to do an initial resource, which is what we ended up publishing earlier this year.”

Announced in January, the inferred resource for the Kahuna and Notch dykes, 12 kilometres apart, provided figures for two sieve sizes over 0.85 millimetres, considered commercial sizes.

  • Kahuna (+0.85 mm cutoff): 3.06 million tonnes averaging 1.04 carats per tonne for 3.19 million carats
  • (+1.18 mm cutoff): 0.8 ct/t for 2.45 million carats

  • Notch (+0.85 mm cutoff): 921,000 tonnes averaging 0.9 ct/t for 829,000 carats
  • (+1.18 mm cutoff): 0.83 ct/t for 765,000 carats

  • Total (+0.85 mm cutoff): 3.99 million tonnes averaging 1.01 ct/t for 4.02 million carats
  • (+1.18 mm cutoff): 0.81 ct/t for 3.22 million carats

The two kimberlites are exposed at surface and remain open along strike and at depth. The project holds six other diamondiferous kimberlites, four of them between Notch and the PST dyke, location of the November 12 results.

PST’s 820-kilogram sample gave up 526 diamonds, 96 of them above 0.85 millimetres and totalling 5.34 carats. The sample grade hit 6.5 carats per tonne, nearly tripling the historic 2.18 carats per tonne. And for that, Dunnedin thanks Chuck Fipke.

“He’s an old school friend of one of our directors, Pat McAndless, and the first person I went to when we started on diamonds,” Taylor says. “Chuck’s a very open, genuine guy. He showed me some of the methods they used to make the discovery at Ekati, the characteristics of diamond deposits. It provided guidance for me to find a project that our company could work with.” An adviser to the company since July, Fipke’s “guiding us on the ongoing sample processing and exploration methods, and we’re using his lab.”

Fipke’s CF Mineral Research has developed unique methods of diamond recovery, Taylor says, accounting for dramatic improvement. Also, Fipke “can recover all the indicator minerals at the same time, which is a helluva bonus. Usually, if you do caustic fusion, which is how most companies get their diamonds out of the rocks, you destroy all the minerals that came up in that kimberlite. But we can use them to hone in on our exploration.”

Chad Ulansky, Fipke’s “right-hand man in diamond exploration,” accompanied Dunnedin’s first field season last summer. The company has its own expertise too in McAndless, recently retired as VP of exploration for Imperial Metals, and his near-namesake Tom McCandless, Dunnedin’s technical adviser. With diamond experience in Africa, Europe and the Americas, McCandless took part in the discovery and assessment of Stornoway’s Renard kimberlites and in earlier work at the Kahuna project.

Still to come are sample results for over three tonnes taken from the Notch and Kahuna dykes as well as other targets. Another 180 concentrated till samples from last summer also remain to be processed, which Taylor hopes will point to additional targets.

There’s a real efficiency in getting those diamonds because of the high grade and the location near town. It’s not going to cost us anything near what it costs other companies to do bulk samples.—Chris Taylor,
CEO of Dunnedin Ventures

But the big question remains: What are the diamonds worth? For that, Taylor would have to send a 1,000-carat package to his family’s former city of Antwerp for evaluation. The resource estimate noted a 2008 description of Kahuna diamonds “as having encouraging value characteristics, with a high abundance of colourless and near-colourless varieties with octahedral shapes being the dominant morphology.”

The PST sample reported November 12 included “an octahedral crystal weighing 0.77 carats and a polycrystalline diamond weighing 2.22 carats. A preliminary examination of the diamonds suggests approximately 50% to 60% are clear and colourless.”

In his previous work McCandless reassembled a 13.42-carat Kahuna diamond that “blew up in a jaw crusher,” Taylor says, leaving fragments as big as 5.43 carats.

Aiding the economics of the 13,000-hectare project is Meliadine, where Agnico Eagle TSX:AEM has underground development underway. An all-weather road linking the site to Rankin Inlet covers about half the 25 kilometres from the hamlet to Kahuna.

“There’s a real efficiency in getting those diamonds because of the high grade and the location near town,” Taylor maintains. “It’s not going to cost us anything near what it costs other companies to do bulk samples.”

Dunnedin has just closed a $158,000 first tranche of a $1.1-million private placement offered in August. Fipke stated his intention to participate.

The company has also held its first consultations with the Kivalliq Inuit Association. “It’s really nice to work with a community that’s knowledgeable,” Taylor says, pointing out that Rankin Inlet began as a nickel mining town and now has Meliadine 25 kilometres away. “They know how to work with mining companies, what the KIA can bring to the table and what the company can bring to the table.”

Mount Polley could re-open within months, Imperial Metals says

April 30th, 2015

by Greg Klein | April 30, 2015

The mine behind a British Columbia environmental disaster could resume operations this summer, according to an Imperial Metals TSX:III spokesperson quoted by Canadian Press on April 30. With a public comment period ending May 2, permission to restart might follow in June. “Within a few weeks we would be able to be up and running,” VP of corporate affairs Steve Robertson told CP. “What we’re proposing is a modified restart.”

The open pit copper-gold mine shut down in August after a nearly 40-metre tailings dam collapsed, spewing 24.4 million cubic metres of effluent into the Quesnel Lake watershed. A January report by an independent panel of three engineering experts attributed the cause to a deposit of glacial till, eight metres below the base of the dam, which the designers failed to understand properly.

You get pulled in both directions. I want to make sure it’s done absolutely flawlessly from a policy point of view. I also want to see those families working.—Bill Bennett,
B.C. mines minister

Then, with little or no long-term planning, “the design was caught between the rising water and the mine plan, between the imperative of raising the dam and the scarcity of materials for building it,” the report stated. “Something had to give and the result was oversteepened dam slopes, deferred buttressing and the seemingly ad hoc nature of dam expansion.”

Following the disaster, the provincial government ordered third-party inspections of 98 tailings facilities at current and former mines. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requested companies report on their uranium tailings facilities.

Robertson made his remarks on April 29, the same day protestors demonstrated opposition at the TSX, B.C. government offices, the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles and Oregon’s Portland State University, the news agency added. Robertson said a restart would initially return jobs to more than half of Mount Polley’s 370 employees.

B.C. mines minister Bill Bennett told CP, “There are a lot of families up there worried about their jobs. You get pulled in both directions. I want to make sure it’s done absolutely flawlessly from a policy point of view. I also want to see those families working.”

March 20th, 2015

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How fares Canada in the Fraser Institute’s global mining survey?

February 25th, 2015

by Greg Klein | February 25, 2015

Saskatchewan’s number two worldwide, Quebec’s back in the top 10 and Manitoba climbed 17 notches. But Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia took a beating in the latest Fraser Institute survey of mining jurisdictions. Released February 24, the study rates 122 jurisdictions (including provinces and states in Canada, the United States, Australia and Argentina) based on 485 returned questionnaires. Drawing on their 2014 experience, mining and exploration companies provided numerical ratings for a number of factors, which the institute tracked on separate indexes.

Most important is the Investment Attractiveness Index, which combines two other indexes—Best Practices Mineral Potential (geology) and Policy Perception (government attitudes). The institute weighs the IAI 60% for geology and 40% for public policy, roughly the same consideration companies reported for their investment decisions.

Here’s the top 10 IAI globally, with 2013 rankings in brackets:

1 Finland (4)
2 Saskatchewan (7)
3 Nevada (2)
4 Manitoba (13)
5 Western Australia (1)
6 Quebec (18)
7 Wyoming (11)
8 Newfoundland and Labrador (3)
9 Yukon (8)
10 Alaska (5)

Here are the Canadian runner-ups:

15 Northwest Territories (25)
21 New Brunswick (23)
22 Alberta (10)
23 Ontario (14)
28 British Columbia (16)
29 Nunavut (27)
42 Nova Scotia (47)

Prince Edward Island wasn’t included.

As for the bottom 10:

113 Sudan
114 Nigeria
115 Bulgaria
116 Guatemala
117 Egypt
118 Solomon Islands
119 Honduras
120 Kenya
121 Hungary
122 Malaysia

The 122 jurisdictions totalled 10 more than in 2013. For inclusion, the institute requires a minimum of 10 responses per jurisdiction.

The anonymous replies also included comments which, for Canadian provinces and territories, note serious but unsurprising concerns.

But for some people, the rankings rankled. B.C.’s 10th-place finish out of 12 Canadian jurisdictions doesn’t jibe with the province’s second-place status for mining investment, according to the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia. Citing data from Natural Resources Canada, AME BC credited Ontario as Canada’s favourite for attracting investment. Fraser Institute respondents stuck that province with ninth place in Canada.

“Furthermore, one of the best indicators of success in exploration is seeing discoveries move through to mine development,” said AME BC president/CEO Gavin Dirom. “In recent years, we have seen a number of new major metal mines constructed in our province, including Copper Mountain in 2011, New Afton in 2012 and Mount Milligan in 2013. Also, Red Chris is being readied for commercial operations, and the KSM and Kitsault mine development projects have received environmental assessment certificates.”

The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines noted the Northwest Territories’ considerable improvement and its breakaway territory’s slight slump. The organization vowed to continue working with federal and territorial governments “to improve the investment climate for exploration and mining in the two territories.”

Download the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2014.