After the City dangled an attractive consolidated land package inside a highly prospective former gold camp, it was the Vancouver exploration outfit that emerged from a shortlist of 10 companies.
The 1,100-hectare package contains a checkerboard mix of city and privately-owned land in Van Horne Township, about eight kilometres southwest of the city at the site of two old shallow-depth gold mines.
In collaboration with the private land owners, the City compiled all the historic geological, exploration and mining records and mailed them out to interested juniors to solicit proposals.
“It shows some heads-up thinking,” said company president and CEO Andrew Brown, who gives the municipality and project lead Mike Wood, a city councillor, high marks for their approach.
“We get a project that’s already put together. The review of the data was easy. It was a concise report and everything was available digitally.
“Starting from scratch, assembling this (land package) and doing seven different deals going in there would’ve been hellish. The legwork that Dryden did was fantastic.”
Laurentian signed option agreements to acquire the mining properties. As part of the deal, the company must spend $1.6 million on exploration.
The company also staked six nearby claim blocks to bring its entire Van Horne land package to more than 1,400 hectares.
The 10 kilometre-by-3.5 kilometre strip of land between Wabigoon and Eagle Lakes was one of the earliest gold mining camps in Ontario from 1895 to 1920. The Bonanza and Redeemer mines produced a combined 1,000 ounces of gold before mining activity swung north towards Red Lake. The last exploration effort was in the 1980s.
Now, surging mineral commodity prices have exploration firms back and paying closer attention.
The Ontario Geological Survey lists 55 companies that have active programs or properties staked in the Kenora District (which includes Dryden) looking for base metals, gold, uranium, molybdenum and diamonds. Many have arrived just in the last year.
City councillor Mike Wood said they wanted a junior miner who would actively explore the property, not stake it and forget it.
Though Laurentian is still a fledgling publicly-traded outfit, Wood said its management and geology team have solid reputations for delivering on projects and is well-financed.
Brown’s 13-year mining career includes a stint with Sudbury’s FNX Mining as a geologist who brought its McCreedy West Mine into production within 14 months.
Just days after the June deal was announced, Brown’s geological crew hit the ground for an abbreviated summer grass-roots program to examine old showings and confirm some historical grades.
What sparked the company’s interest in Van Horne Township was the abundance of high grade showings.
“Having gold across the property in multiple rock types, it really suggests there’s a bigger picture here and previous work was literally just scratching the surface.”
And after talking with Dryden and Grand Council Treaty 3 representatives, Brown senses the area communities are very progressive-minded and willing participants. “It’s an ideal situation.”
Highway 502 runs through part of the Van Horne properties and the Trans-Canada Highway is eight kilometres to the north.
As the project progresses, Brown says there will be employment opportunities.
Promoting mineral exploration opportunities is a big part of Dryden’s new strategic plan. The city’s development corporation is assembling a vendors list of area mining and exploration-related services.
Wood said collecting revenues from option agreements is great, but better still are the larger economic spinoffs.
“Exploration is a business unto itself. Whether there’s a mine on this property is not the issue. The fact that this area is being seriously looked at the first time in generations can’t help but have a positive impact on the economy.
“For far too long this town has been single industry and anything we can do to diversify the economy is exactly what we need to do.”
The City of Dryden is hopping on the exploration bandwagon in a big way.
The economic development department is working on a mining resource guide to assist prospectors and exploration firms with labour, products and services provided in the area with a regional online directory. The aim is to make Dryden, a mining service hub for northwestern Ontario.