Saturday 14th December 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘lead’

Potosí’s legacy

December 5th, 2019

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

by Greg Klein

Far overshadowed by the political violence plaguing Bolivia over the last several weeks was a slightly earlier series of protests in the country’s Potosí department. Arguing that a proposed lithium project offered insufficient local benefits, residents convinced then-president Evo Morales to cancel a partnership between the state-owned mining firm and a German company that intended to open up the country’s vast but unmined lithium resources.

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

In the heart of the Andes, 4,000 metres above sea level,
the city of Potosí sits beneath the infamous Cerro Rico.
(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Other events overtook the dispute, sending Morales into exile and the country towards an uncertain future that could bring elections, military coup or civil war. Yet Potosí serves as a stark example of Bolivia’s plight: a mineral-rich land that’s one of South America’s poorest countries. That’s one of the contradictions related in Kris Lane’s recent book Potosí: The Silver City that Changed the World.

Unlike so many other New World mineral rushes, the 1545 discovery held enduring global importance. More typically, and probably more dramatically, it was “rife with paradox from the start, a site of human depravity and ingenuity, oppression and opportunity, piety and profligacy, race mixture and ethnic retrenchment,” Lane recounts. “The list could go on.”

Looming over a boom town both squalid and magnificent was the great mountain of silver, Cerro Rico. For their first century of operation its mines and mills churned out nearly half the world’s silver, and then about 20% up to 1825.

The red mountain of Potosí is still producing silver, tin, zinc, lead, and other metals, and it never seems to have stopped doing so despite many cycles since its discovery in 1545. Current estimates range from 30,000 to 60,000 tons of silver produced to date, and geologists estimate that the Cerro Rico, easily the world’s richest silver deposit, contains an equivalent amount dispersed in low-grade, refractory ores that would require sophisticated processing.

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

This huge supply came online just as Europe was suffering a “bullion famine,” Lane writes. More than gold, silver served as the world’s exchange medium. Globalization can be dated to 1571, when Spain launched trans-Pacific trade and Chinese demand for silver “reset the clock of the world’s commercial economy just as Potosí was hitting its stride.”

Yet Spain served as little more than a transfer point for its share. With longstanding armed conflicts on a number of fronts, “the king’s fifth went to fund wars, which is to say it went to pay interest on debts to Charles V’s and Philip II’s foreign creditors in southern Germany, northern Italy, and Flanders.”

As for the rest, “once taxed, most private silver went to rich merchants who had advanced funds to Potosí’s mine owners. They then settled their accounts with distant factors, moving massive mule-loads and shiploads of silver across mountains, plains, and oceans. Global commerce was the wholesale merchants’ forte, and most such merchants were junior factors linked to larger wholesalers in Lima, Seville, Lisbon, and elsewhere. Some had ties to Mexico City and later to Manila, Macao, and Goa; still others were tied to major European trading hubs such as Antwerp, Genoa, and Lyons.”

But wealth wasn’t unknown near the source. Known for its “opulence and decadence, its piety and violence,” the boom town “was one of the most populous urban conglomerations on the planet, possibly the first great factory town of the modern world…. By the time its population topped 120,000 in the early seventeenth century, the Imperial Villa of Potosí had become a global phenomenon.”

It was also a “violent, vice-ridden, and otherwise criminally prolific” contender for the world’s most notorious Sin City.

By comparison the much-later Anglo-Saxon boom towns seem small time, only partly for their ephemeral nature. But the men (and later women) who moiled for Potosí silver weren’t the adventurous free spirits of gold rush legend. Slaves and, to a greater extent, conscripted Andean natives endured the inhumane conditions “perhaps exceeded only by work in the mercury mines of Huancavelica, located at a similarly punishing altitude in Peru.”

Native Andeans and Europeans began a long process of negotiation and struggle that would last beyond the end of the colonial era. Potosí’s mineral treasure served as a fulcrum.

At the same time some natives, like some foreigners, achieved affluence as merchants, contractors or traders in bootleg ore boosted by the conscripts. Andean innovation helped keep the mines going, for example by smelting with indigenous wind furnaces after European technology failed, and using a native method of cupellation.

“Put another way, native Andeans and Europeans began a long process of negotiation and struggle that would last beyond the end of the colonial era. Potosí’s mineral treasure served as a fulcrum.”

A “noisy, crushing, twenty-four-hour polluting killer, a monster that ate men and poisoned women and children” needed some rationale for its existence. Spain’s excuse was the money-burning responsibility of defending the faith. Still “the steady beat of Potosí’s mills and the clink of its newly minted coins hammered away at the Spanish conscience. Priests, headmen, and villagers, even some local elites denounced the mita [forced native labour] as immoral. As one priest put it, even if the king’s demand for treasure was righteous, [the] Potosí and Huancavelica mitas were effectively killing New World converts in the name of financing the struggle against Old World heresy. God’s imagination could not possibly be so limited.”

More practical matters stained the empire’s reputation too, as the 1649 Potosí mint debasement scandal unfolded. World markets recoiled and Spain’s war efforts suffered as money lenders and suppliers refused the once-prized Spanish coins. “Indeed, the great mint fraud showed that when Potosí sneezed, the world caught a cold.”

A renowned but notorious mountain of silver looms over Bolivia’s turmoil

Potosí miners, seen here in 2017, work at
surface with Cerro Rico in the background.
(Photo: SL-Photography/Shutterstock.com)

With the 1825 arrival of Simón Bolívar, “the Liberator symbolically proclaimed South American freedom from atop the Cerro Rico. Yet British investors were close on his heels.”

Foreign owners brought new investment and infrastructure. But “the turn from silver to tin starting in the 1890s revolutionized Bolivian mining and also made revolutionaries of many miners. The fiercely militant political sensibility of the Potosí miner so evident today was largely forged in the struggles of the first half of the twentieth century.”

Those clashes bring to mind events of recent weeks, in which dozens have been killed by police and military.

Lane’s narrative continues to Morales’ “seeming ambivalence” toward miners and Potosí’s transformation into a “thriving metropolis” that hopes tourism will offset mineral depletion. Meanwhile underpaid, often under-age, miners continue to toil in woefully unhealthy conditions.

The breadth of Lane’s work is tremendous. He covers Potosí’s history from global, colonial, economic and social perspectives, outlines different practices of mining and metallurgy, recites contemporary accounts and provides quick character studies of the people involved. All that gives the book wide-ranging Christmas gift potential. It also offers considerable context as the geologically bountiful country once again experiences troubled times.

Northern challenge

November 8th, 2019

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

by Greg Klein

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

 

What happens when a mining-based economy runs out of mines? The Northwest Territories risks finding out the hard way but the reason won’t be a lack of mineral resources. For too long, investors have been discouraged from backing territorial exploration. That’s the message the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines delivered to the legislative assembly in Yellowknife last month. Now the industry group awaits a response, one backed with action, as the newly elected government prepares for its four-year term.

The territory’s three mines, all diamond operations, have passed peak production, facing closures over the coming decade. The NWT hosts only a few advanced projects, none comparing in potential economic clout with the big three. The problem contrasts with the NWT’s two northern neighbours, where the industry continues to thrive.

Projections released in July by the Conference Board of Canada call for Nunavut to lead the country in annual economic expansion, with an average 4.6% up to 2025. “Mining will be the main driver of growth, as Agnico Eagle prepares to bring its Meliadine mine and Amaruq satellite deposit into operation, and Sabina works on its Back River project.”

More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.—Conference Board of Canada

Yukon “will also experience a boom, with growth of 4.6% this year and 6.2% in 2019,” again thanks to mining. But the NWT faces decline:

“Two new metal mines should help offset some of the losses for the mining sector, but not until after 2020,” the Board stated. “More tepid growth in mining will have repercussions on other areas of the economy, with growth in services-based industries remaining flat for much of the forecast. In all, economic growth in the Northwest Territories is forecast to contract by an average annual pace of 1.6% between now and 2025.”

A lack of exploration spending explains the lack of projects in the pipeline, according to the Chamber of Mines. “The NWT has basically been flat-lining for the last 12 years,” says executive director Tom Hoefer. “That’s a problem because that’s the very investment you need to come up with new mines.”

But it’s a problem industry can’t solve without government help, he emphasizes.

“The government goes to Roundup and other conferences with really good marketing tools and they’re putting out all the right messages, such as: ‘Come unlock our potential.’ But if it’s that easy, why hasn’t the industry picked up?” Hoefer asks.

“Well, it’s because these other things happen.”

His group outlined a number of causes in its presentation to the assembly: high cost of living, relative lack of infrastructure, regulatory uncertainty, unsettled land claims and additional expanses of land (over 30% of the territory) deemed off limits for exploration and development.

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

Benefiting from previously built infrastructure,
NorZinc hopes to begin zinc-lead-silver mining
at Prairie Creek by 2022. (Photo: NorZinc)

Hoefer also mentions “contortions” imposed on companies. As examples he cites some early-stage exploration projects that were sent to environmental assessment, “something that would never happen in southern Canada,” and two companies being required to collect data about lakes from which they might or might not draw water in small amounts for diamond drilling, “a totally new requirement, totally out of step with what happens in the rest of the country.

“What that says to investors is, ‘You’d better be careful when you come up to the NWT because there are these surprises coming out of the woodwork.’”

Convincing the territorial government calls for a different approach than in most of Canada. With no political parties, the Chamber deals with 19 individual MLAs tasked with working on consensus. They put together collective priorities, Hoefer explains, then create a mandate for their four-year term. His group looks forward to seeing the current mandate, expected to be released soon.

“Candidates don’t run on a platform but on a community-by-community basis, saying ‘this is what I would do for our community.’ So the challenge is pulling them all together to serve the entire NWT and try to keep them on that path over the next four years.”

Should problems remain unresolved, however, the territory risks an unfortunate repeat of late 1990s history.

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

Considerable infrastructure remains at the former
Pine Point operation, where Osisko Metals upgrades
Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”
(Photo: Osisko Metals)

“We were in a similar situation before the first diamond mine opened because the gold mines were winding down. At the same time Nunavut was created, and the new territory pulled a lot of funding away to create a parallel government. The Yellowknife economy really took a dive and housing prices went way down. At the time the government was actually offering $10,000 grants to encourage people to buy homes. We went through a lot of pain then, but I think a lot of people have forgotten that.”

Even Ekati seemed insufficient to buoy the economy. “But when Diavik got its approval the change was palpable. There was this big sigh of relief, money started to flow and the economy turned around.”

Now the challenge is to overturn 12 years of neglect that have made investors “gun shy about the NWT,” he says. “We have to rebuild that trust by showing that things are different now. It’s going to take all of us working together to help make it better.”

With no other industries ready to take mining’s place, “we have to encourage companies to come up here and bring their expertise to do what government can’t do, and that’s turn rock into opportunity.”

 

Current and potential mines: Comparing job numbers and durations

 

NWT prosperity depends on rebuilding investor confidence, miners warn

While updating indicated and inferred resources,
Vital Metals sees near-term potential for a short-lived
operation at its Nechalacho rare earths deposits.
(Photo: Avalon Advanced Materials)

Employment numbers reported by the Chamber for the NWT’s existing diamond mines in 2018 show 1,625 workers at Dominion Diamond Mines’ majority-held Ekati, 1,113 at Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO)/Dominion’s Diavik and 527 at De Beers’/Mountain Province Diamonds’ (TSX:MPVD) Gahcho Kué.

Projections for the territory’s four likeliest potential mines show estimated average annual employment of 363 workers at Prairie Creek (for 15 years), 300 at Pine Point (13 years), 225 at NICO (21 years) and 30 at Nechalacho (four years).

The NWT’s next mine will be Prairie Creek, according to NorZinc TSX:NZC. Built to near-completion by 1982 but never operated, the zinc-lead-silver project reached feasibility in 2017. The company hopes to receive its final permit, for an all-season road, this month. Should financing fall in place, NorZinc plans to begin production in 2022.

Having operated from 1964 to 1987, the Pine Point zinc-lead camp retains infrastructure including an electrical substation and an all-season 96-kilometre link to Hay River, the head of Canada’s only industrial railway north of 60. A previous operator reached PEA in 2017 but current owner Osisko Metals TSX:OM has been drilling the property to upgrade a 2018 inferred resource of 38.4 million tonnes averaging 4.58% zinc and 1.85% lead, for 6.58% zinc-equivalent, Canada’s “largest pit-constrained zinc deposit.”

Fortune Minerals’ (TSX:FT) NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project reached feasibility in 2014 based on a mill production rate of 4,650 tpd for a combined open pit and underground operation. A further study considered but rejected a rate of 6,000 tpd. Fortune now has several other proposals under consideration to improve the project’s economics and “align the development schedule with the expected deficit in cobalt supply in 2022-23.”

The project sits about 50 kilometres north of Whati, which will have an all-season connection to Yellowknife via the Tlicho road now under construction.

Avalon Advanced Materials TSX:AVL brought its Nechalacho rare earths project to feasibility in 2013 but this year divided the property with another company, privately owned Cheetah Resources which was taken over by ASX-listed Vital Metals in October. Under a $5-million property acquisition that closed soon after the takeover, Vital gets two near-surface deposits while Avalon retains the ground below that. Now working on an update to the indicated and inferred resources, Vital says its deposits show near-term “potential for a start-up operation.”

See the Chamber’s PowerPoint presentation to the NWT government.

Related:

Emerita Resources announces positive legal outcome in disputed Spanish tender

November 6th, 2019

by Greg Klein | November 6, 2019

A lengthy legal battle has reached a favourable decision from Spain’s Supreme Court, Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO reported November 5. The company says judges affirmed its appeal and rejected a counter-appeal regarding the tender process for the Paymogo zinc project in the country’s southwest.

Emerita Resources announces positive legal outcome in disputed Spanish tender

The dispute dates back to a 2014 public tender decision that awarded the property to another company. Emerita challenged the process behind that decision, alleging procedural errors and a lack of impartiality. In 2017 the Upper Court of Andalusia ordered that the two companies’ bids be reconsidered under altered criteria. The following month, Andalusia’s regional government appealed that order to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now upheld the regional court’s decision. Emerita maintains the court-ordered tender process would award the company 34.46 points over 29.37 points for the rival bidder.

Emerita is “prepared to begin work on the Paymogo project as soon as the tender can be finalized, in line with the instructions from the courts,” said CEO David Gower. “We are highly encouraged by public statements from senior officials of the new government in Andalusia that they will abide by the rulings of the court and that they look forward to seeing the economic activity and potential job creation such a project can generate. The Paymogo project is highly prospective in our view and we are excited to work on its development.”

With paved road access to the port of Huelva about 50 kilometres away, the property sits within the Iberian pyrite belt, one of the world’s most highly mineralized VMS terrains, Emerita states. Extensive drilling at Paymogo has probed two areas about eight kilometres apart, La Infanta and Romanera. The latter hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate dating to the 1990s that showed 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 2.2% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44.4 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold. The deposit reportedly extends from surface to about 350 metres in depth.

Within that deposit is a higher-grade resource, again historic and non-43-101, showing 11.21 million tonnes grading 0.4% copper, 2.47% lead, 5.5% zinc, 64 g/t silver and 1 g/t gold.

The Infanta zone has been drilled from surface outcrops to about 100 metres in depth, with historic, non-43-101 reports from the 1980s of several high-grade copper-lead-zinc-silver intervals.

In another disputed tender, last month the company announced the Appellate Court of Seville ordered an investigation into the process for the Aznalcollar zinc-lead property, which Emerita argues was wrongfully awarded to another bidder.

Reporting on summer drilling at its Plaza Norte project last August, Emerita released an initial result of 4.57% zinc over 9.5 metres. The company holds a 50% stake in the JV near the northern Spanish coast.

Belmont Resources expands its presence in B.C.’s Greenwood camp

October 30th, 2019

This story has been updated and moved here.

Belmont Resources announces B.C. gold-silver-cobalt samples, appoints Greenwood veteran to BOD

October 17th, 2019

by Greg Klein | October 17, 2019

Recent surface sampling at southern British Columbia’s Greenwood camp brought further encouragement to Belmont Resources’ (TSXV:BEA) Pathfinder project. The field program follows a summer campaign that yielded samples grading up to 29.2 g/t gold, as well as silver, copper and lead, from the historic mining region. The current batch shows anomalous cobalt as well:

  • 4.999 ppm gold, 35.86 ppm silver, 20700 ppm copper, 45.1 ppm cobalt
Belmont Resources announces BC gold-silver-cobalt samples, appoints Greenwood veteran to BOD

  • 0.153 ppm gold, 6.46 ppm silver, 6234 ppm copper, 148.8 ppm cobalt

  • 1.329 ppm gold, 14.07 ppm silver, 6540 ppm copper, 1486.8 ppm cobalt

  • 4.374 ppm gold, 19.5 ppm silver, 6667 ppm copper, 31.7 ppm cobalt

  • 2.172 ppm gold, 14.31 ppm silver, 6551 ppm copper, 931.6 ppm cobalt

  • 5.228 ppm gold, 17.39 ppm silver, 7302 ppm copper, 47.9 ppm cobalt

Further plans call for an airborne VTEM survey to identify drill targets. Three sides of the 296-hectare project border claims held by Kinross Gold TSX:K subsidiary KG Exploration.

Belmont also announced George Sookochoff’s appointment as director. Coming from a southern B.C. mining family, Sookochoff has served as president of GGX Gold TSXV:GGX and executive VP of Golden Dawn Minerals TSXV:GOM, two other companies active in the Greenwood camp. He’s also served as president/CEO of International PBX Ventures, now Chilean Metals TSXV:CMX, which holds copper and gold projects in Chile.

“Throughout my long career in the junior mining sector and having worked on numerous exploration projects around the world, it has always been my strong belief that the Greenwood mining camp, with its rich history in mining, still remains to be one of the best exploration areas in the world,” Sookochoff commented.

In Nevada Belmont holds a 75% interest in the Kibby Basin lithium project, where drill results have graded up to 393 ppm lithium over 42.4 metres and 415 ppm over 30.5 metres.

The company’s portfolio also includes two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties shared 50/50 with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT.

Last month Belmont offered a private placement of up to $510,000. The company closed a $252,000 placement in June and arranged two loans totalling $50,000 in August.

Paved with promises

October 7th, 2019

The North’s infrastructure needs get some attention from campaigning politicians

by Greg Klein

This is the first of a two-part series. See Part 2.

Could this be the time when decision-makers finally get serious about Northern infrastructure? With one territorial election just concluded and a deficit-budget-friendly incumbent federal party campaigning for re-election, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut might have reason to expect definitive action demonstrated by men, women and machinery at work. But while some projects show real progress, much of Canada’s Northern potential remains bogged down in talk and studies.

The North’s infrastructure deficit gets some attention from campaigning politicians

That’s despite some $700 million allocated to the North in Ottawa’s pre-election budget and months of Liberal spending promises since then. Not all that money was intended for infrastructure, however, and even some of the projects labelled that way turn out to be social or cultural programs. Not necessarily new money either, much of it comes out of Ottawa’s $2-billion National Trade Corridors Fund, now two years into an 11-year program that promised up to $400 million for transportation infrastructure in the three territories by 2028.

Yukon, once again home to active mining, has $157 million planned to upgrade the North Klondike Highway from Carmacks up to the mineral-rich White Gold region, where the Dempster Highway branches off towards Inuvik.

The Klondike section slated for upgrades has connections to a new mine and a soon-to-be revived operation. Highway #11 turns east from the Klondike, meeting with a 90-kilometre year-round service road to Victoria Gold’s (TSXV:VIT) recently opened Eagle operation.

The Minto copper-silver-gold mine that Pembridge Resources plans to restart in Q4 has a 20-kilometre access road with seasonal barge service or ice bridge crossing the Yukon River to the Klondike Highway at Minto Landing. From there, the company will ship concentrate to the Alaska Panhandle deep water port of Skagway.

The North’s infrastructure deficit gets some attention from campaigning politicians

With no deep water facilities of its own, Yukon connects
with the Alaskan port of Skagway and, pictured above,
the B.C. port of Stewart. (Photo: Stewart Bulk Terminals)

Intended to increase safety and capacity while addressing permafrost thaw, the North Klondike Highway project gets $118 million from Ottawa and $29 million from the territory. The money will be spent over seven years beginning in 2020.

A July feasibility report for BMC Minerals’ Kudz Ze Kayah polymetallic copper mine foresees concentrate shipment along a 24-kilometre access road to southern Yukon’s Highway #4, part of a 905-kilometre journey to Stewart, British Columbia, the continent’s most northerly ice-free port.

Another project approaching development but more distant from highways, Newmont Goldcorp’s (TSX:NGT) proposed Coffee gold mine calls for a 214-kilometre all-season road north to Dawson City. But with upgrades to an existing service road, the route would require only 37 kilometres of new construction.

In the NWT, work began last month on the Tlicho all-season road to connect the hamlet of Whati with Yellowknife, 97 kilometres southeast. Expected to finish by fall 2022, the $200-million P3 project would replace an existing ice road, giving communities year-round access to the highway system and encouraging resource exploration and development.

[The Tlicho road], which includes Indigenous participation from the Tlicho Government, is great news for our industry and a positive step forward in addressing the infrastructure deficit in the Northwest Territories.—Gary Vivian, NWT and Nunavut
Chamber of Mines president

About 50 kilometres north of Whati, Fortune Minerals’ (TSX:FT) NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project undergoes studies for a scaled-down feasibility update in light of lower cobalt and bismuth prices. Fortune has already received environmental approval for a spur road to Whati, part of a plan to truck NICO material to Hay River where the territories’ only rail line (other than short tourist excursions in southern Yukon) connects with southern Canada.

A much more ambitious priority of the NWT’s last legislative assembly was supposed to have been the Mackenzie Valley Highway, a Diefenbaker-era dream that would link the territory’s south with the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. The subject of numerous studies, proposals and piecemeal construction for about 60 years, the proposal has received more than $145 million in taxpayers’ money since 2000.

A 149-kilometre stretch from Inuvik to Tuk opened in 2017, linking the ocean with the Dempster route to the Yukon. Now underway are studies for a 321-kilometre route between Wrigley and Norman Wells, where further driving would depend on an ice road. Assuming receipt of environmental approvals, native agreements and an estimated $700 million, the NWT’s last assembly hoped construction on the Wrigley-to-Wells portion would begin in September 2024.

Far more ambitious proposals for the NWT and Nunavut took initial steps forward with funding announcements made just prior to the federal election campaign’s official start. Part 2 of this series discusses the Slave Geological Province Corridor and Grays Bay Road and Port projects.

Mining returns to the Yukon

September 20th, 2019

Advanced projects prepare to follow Victoria Gold into production

by Greg Klein

Advanced projects prepare to follow Victoria Gold into production

Rich geology trumps challenging geography in Yukon’s appeal to miners.
(Photo: Victoria Gold)

 

If John McConnell seemed a tad tipsy it might have been due to giddiness, not the super-sized wine goblet he brandished. Either way, celebration was in order as the president/CEO of Victoria Gold TSXV:VIT took the podium at the Denver Gold Show this week to preside over a ceremonial first doré bar at Yukon’s new Eagle operation. The event marked not only the resumption of mining in one of the world’s most fabled mining regions, but the beginning of Yukon’s largest-ever gold mine. Meanwhile other companies vie to expand the industry’s territorial presence.

The festivities took place one month ahead of schedule and within a revised budget intended to address a capex miscalculation that marked one of the low points during what McConnell called a decade of ups and downs. Expected to produce an average 200,000 gold ounces annually for 10 years, Eagle currently employs about 230 people, half of them Yukoners.

Advanced projects prepare to follow Victoria Gold into production

Minto’s suspension left Yukon without a mine for
nearly a year, but a new owner plans a Q4 restart.
(Photo: Pembridge Resources)

The territory lost its last mining operation in October, but a new owner plans to bring that one back to production by Q4 this year. Capstone Mining TSX:CS put Minto on care and maintenance as acquisition negotiations faltered, but LSE-listed Pembridge Resources closed the purchase in June. Proven and probable reserves totalling 40,000 tonnes copper, 420,000 ounces silver and 45,000 ounces gold give Minto an estimated four more years of production.

Pembridge hopes to extend that, however, noting that “Minto had successfully replaced and grown reserves by 103%, adding new discoveries each year up until 2013.” That’s when Capstone suspended Minto exploration, after buying the much larger Pinto Valley copper mine in Arizona from BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP.

The central Yukon combined open pit/underground mine began operation in 2007. Pembridge wants its new cornerstone asset to achieve annual production of about 40 million pounds copper in concentrate, along with silver-gold byproducts.

Waiting in the wings with a project comparable to Eagle, Newmont Goldcorp’s (TSX:NGT) Coffee now has a territorial environmental/socio-economic review underway. Like Eagle, this would be an open pit, heap leach operation. The 2016 feasibility study by previous operator Kaminak Gold projected 10 years of mining, averaging 202,000 gold ounces annually based on a probable reserve of 2.16 million ounces. But last year, following Goldcorp’s 2016 acquisition of Kaminak, the new owner slashed that number to 1.67 million ounces.

Goldcorp cited different standards for drill spacing, geological modelling and other criteria but expected to rebuild the reserve with an 80,000-metre infill drill program scheduled for this year. More recently, however, the merged Newmont Goldcorp has talked about divesting some assets, casting uncertainty over Coffee’s near-term agenda.

But by far the territory’s biggest proposed mine would be Western Copper and Gold’s (TSX:WRN) Casino, in west-central Yukon. A 2013 feasibility report foresaw a combined heap leach and milling operation with 22 years of annual output averaging 171 million pounds copper, 266,000 ounces gold, 1.43 million ounces silver and 15.5 million pounds molybdenum.

Advanced projects prepare to follow Victoria Gold into production

Even with a recent feasibility in hand, BMC Minerals
wants to build its Kudz Ze Kayah polymetallic reserve.
(Photo: BMC Minerals)

Although the report boldly envisioned construction beginning in 2016 and commercial production in 2020, the company currently has environmental and engineering studies underway prior to submitting an application for an environmental/socio-economic review. Capex was estimated at $2.456 billion.

Meanwhile Western has two rigs drilling a $3.3-million, 10,000-metre program, with a resource update planned for this year and, coming later, a revised feasibility that the company hopes will extend the mine life.

Operating under the stock market’s radar, privately held BMC Minerals brought its Kudz Ze Kayah polymetallic project in south-central Yukon to full feasibility last July. The report sees a $587-million capex and 20-month construction period for a combined open pit and underground operation producing an annual average of 235 million pounds zinc, 32 million pounds copper, 56 million pounds lead, 7.8 million ounces silver and 56,500 ounces gold.

BMC hopes to lengthen the nine-year mine life by adding reserves and exploring new targets beyond the two zones considered in the feasibility study.

Sharing with Coffee a White Gold district address and a progenitor in legendary prospector Shawn Ryan, White Gold TSXV:WGO holds 35 properties covering some 439,000 hectares. Last June the company released resource updates for its two most advanced deposits. Golden Saddle hosts an open pit resource of 1.01 million gold ounces indicated and 259,600 ounces inferred, along with an underground resource of 12,200 ounces indicated and 54,700 ounces inferred. The Arc deposit adds an open pit resource of 17,700 ounces indicated and 194,500 ounces inferred.

With money from Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM and Kinross Gold TSX:K, each holding 19% of White Gold, the company has a $13-million drilling, trenching and sampling campaign now targeting Golden Saddle and the new Vertigo discovery, along with other areas. Among noteworthy intercepts was 3.59 g/t gold over 68 metres starting from 73 metres at Golden Saddle. Using a method integral to Ryan’s successes, soil sampling surpassed 100,000 ppb gold at the new Titan discovery, the highest value on the company’s database of over 400,000 soil samples.

Taking advantage of a past producer with all permits in place, Golden Predator Mining TSXV:GPY last month stated it began site re-development work and “provided formal notice to the Yukon government to move the Brewery Creek mine into the production phase.” The company has also stated it plans a feasibility study before making a production decision. Located about 55 kilometres east of Dawson City, the open pit and heap leach operation produced about 279,000 gold ounces between 1996 and 2002. The company plans at least 6,000 metres of drilling this year to build on a 2014 PEA.

Belmont Resources moves into Ontario’s Red Lake camp with zinc-polymetallic acquisition

September 4th, 2019

by Greg Klein | September 4, 2019

A newly signed option opens a substantial land package with historic deposits for further exploration. Under the agreement, Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA takes a substantial interest in part of Pistol Bay Mining’s (TSXV:PST) Confederation Lake greenstone belt portfolio.

The Fredart/Gerry Lake and adjoining claim groups sit about 25 kilometres northeast of Great Bear Resources’ (TSXV:GBR) Dixie property and adjacent to Pistol Bay’s Garnet Lake claims in an increasingly busy camp where Great Bear’s drill results have attracted other explorers.

Belmont Resources moves into Ontario’s Red Lake camp with zinc-polymetallic acquisition

The Arrow zone on Pistol Bay’s Garnet Lake hosts a 2017 43-101 inferred resource using a 3% zinc-equivalent cutoff to show 2.1 million tonnes averaging 5.78% zinc, 0.72% copper, 19.5 g/t silver and 0.6 g/t gold. “The geological setting of the Fredart and associated claims is similar to the Garnet Lake claims area,” Belmont and Pistol Bay stated.

Belmont’s acquisition comprises about 6,700 hectares over a 17-kilometre stretch of the greenstone belt. A 2017 VTEM-Plus survey found granitic intrusions in the northeast part of the Fredart area and two or possibly three parallel conductive responses over parts of the Fredart-Gerry Lake trend.

Extensive past work includes 124 drill holes totaling 22,500 metres between 1956 and 2003 on the Fredart zone. Data has yet to be compiled for additional drilling on the Fredart trend’s western extension and the Joy-Caravelle area.

The Fredart zone, also known as Copperlode A, has an historic, non-43-101 estimate showing 385,000 tonnes averaging 1.56% copper and 33.6 g/t silver. The companies describe the property’s mineralization as volcanogenic massive sulphide dominated by zinc, copper and silver, with occasional associated gold values.

The acquisition’s Joy-Caravelle area has historic, non-43-101 drill results that include 21.6% zinc and 0.13% copper over 0.25 metres, 17.17% zinc and 0.28% copper over 0.6 metres, as well as 4.01% copper over 3.55 metres.

Infrastructure includes all-weather roads, a transmission line crossing the property, water and nearby natural gas.

Belmont may earn an initial 65% of the claims for $40,000 and 1.5 million shares on TSXV approval, another $50,000 and 1.5 million shares within one year and an additional $50,000 and one million shares in the second year.

An additional 10% interest would cost $200,000, after which the two companies would form a JV. Two third parties each hold a 2% NSR on separate parts of the claims, with one NSR also including a $10,000 annual advance royalty payment.

Looking at another recent acquisition in another busy mining camp, last month Belmont announced an upcoming field program for its Pathfinder project in southern British Columbia’s Greenwood district. Surface sampling results released in July showed assays up to 29.2 g/t gold, 16.4 g/t silver, 365 ppm copper and 4 ppm lead.

Belmont’s portfolio also includes a 75% stake in Nevada’s Kibby Basin lithium project, where drilling has found 393 ppm lithium over 42.4 metres and 415 ppm over 30.5 metres.

Additionally, Belmont shares 50/50 ownership with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT on two northern Saskatchewan uranium properties.

Belmont closed a private placement of $252,000 in June and arranged two loans totalling $50,000 in August.

Belmont Resources plans September follow-up to high-grade gold sampling in southern B.C.

August 15th, 2019

by Greg Klein | August 15, 2019

Inspired by recent surface samples as high as 29.2 g/t gold, Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA plans another field program on its recently acquired Pathfinder project in British Columbia’s Greenwood camp. Scheduled to start early next month, the two-week campaign follows encouraging assays released late last month. Out of 15 samples, seven exceeded 1 g/t gold, with the best result bringing 29.2 g/t gold, 16.4 g/t silver, 365 ppm copper and 4 ppm lead.

Belmont Resources plans September follow-up to high-grade gold sampling in southern B.C.

Historic work at Pathfinder included trenching and drilling.

Now, backed by data gleaned from historic records, Belmont plans soil and grab sampling from the Pathfinder zone to the Diamond Hitch zone, on a target area averaging about 2,500 metres by 600 metres. Samples will be collected every 50 metres along the grid lines, with higher resolution possible for some areas.

The results would prepare for possible sub-surface exploration that could include geophysics and drilling. Pathfinder underwent trenching and 17 drill holes from 2008 to 2009. The 296-hectare property is surrounded on three sides by KG Exploration, a subsidiary of Kinross Gold TSX:K.

In Nevada, Belmont’s Kibby Basin lithium project has undergone drilling by MGX Minerals CSE:XMG, which has so far earned 25% of the project. Last May the companies announced a drill hole averaging 100 ppm lithium. Previous holes graded up to 393 ppm lithium over 42.4 metres and 415 ppm over 30.5 metres.

In northern Saskatchewan, Belmont and International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT each hold 50% of two uranium properties.

Belmont expects to close a private placement of $252,000, subject to exchange approval.

Emerita Resources confirms high-grade zinc in historic Spanish camp

August 8th, 2019

by Greg Klein | August 8, 2019

Working a region steeped in zinc mining history, the first hole of a drill campaign adds optimism to high-grade historic assays. The initial result grades 4.57% zinc over 9.5 metres starting at 591 metres in downhole depth, and includes a higher-grade sub-interval of 9.02% over 4 metres (true widths). Joint venture partners Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO and the Aldesa Group plan further confirmation drilling to prove up a 43-101 resource on their Plaza Norte project.

Aldesa is a specialized infrastructure company with over 40 years of experience in major projects. Emerita acts as operator for the 50/50 Cantabria del Zinc JV that holds the 3,600-hectare project. The property covers most of the Santillana-San Román syncline on the Reocin Basin known for high-grade Mississippi Valley-type zinc-lead. One of Europe’s biggest zinc producers was the former Reocin mine, which extracted around 62 million tonnes averaging 11% zinc and 1.4% lead up to 2003.

Emerita Resources confirms high-grade zinc in historic Spanish camp

Plaza Norte’s former Mercadal mine operated from 1850 to 1836 and 1955 to 1978, with reported averages of 10% zinc and 1.5% lead.

Plaza Norte’s new result follows drill reports from the 1980s and ’90s on four areas of the property: Yuso, Queveda, San Miguel and Mercadal, the latter a past-producing mine. The first phase of confirmation drilling targets Queveda, where historic, non-43-101 assays showed:

  • 9.72% zinc over 18.95 metres, starting at 557.8 metres

  • 9.82% over 3.22 metres, starting at 560 metres

  • 5.7% over 6.1 metres, starting at 588.9 metres

  • 7.74% over 5.3 metres, starting at 557.3 metres

As confirmation drilling continues, Emerita focuses on an area covering about 1,500 metres by 600 metres. With tighter spacing than previously used, the results should provide data on the structural controls of mineralization as well as build a 43-101 resource.

Regarding a southern Spain property, Emerita expresses confidence that a court will uphold its acquisition of the Aznalcóllar claims. Pending a successful outcome, the company would move the zinc-lead-silver-copper deposit to feasibility studies for an underground mine.

In another possible southern Spain acquisition, Emerita hopes a review board will award the company the Paymogo property with its two zinc deposits.

Last month Emerita closed the second and final tranche of a private placement that totalled $2.22 million.