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Exploration roundup: Fall brings a frenzy of drilling for gold, nickel in the Timmins district

Fresh approaches on well-trodden exploration ground reveal new discoveries
McEwen Black Fox 5
McEwen Mining's Fox Mine Complex (Company photo)

The Timmins district remains one of the hottest gold and base metal exploration grounds in the world. Fall exploration programs are running at a brisk pace across this historic northeastern Ontario camp as junior miners are eager to develop the next generation of mines.

Class 1 Nickel and Technologies want to bring a former nickel mining property back to life.

On the site of the former Alexo Mine, halfway between Timmins and Matheson, the company is performing environmental baseline studies in advance of filing for government permits to move its Alexo-Dundonald Project toward production.

The Toronto-based company controls 2,857 hectares of land, 45 kilometres northeast of Timmins, and has identified four nickel deposits, Alexo North and South, and Dundonald North and South.

The property has an extensive production history with two mines which were in operation for nickel and copper intermittently around the time of the First World War, during the Great Depression and the Second World War, and lastly between 2004 and 2005. Operations came to a halt in the last decade due to low nickel prices.There's also a historical resource of copper, cobalt, platinum and palladium.

Last fall, Class 1 released an updated indicated mineral resource of 1.25 million tonnes with an average grade of 0.99 per cent of nickel, and a total estimated inferred mineral resource of 1.01 million tonnes with an average grade of 1.08 per cent.

The company has been drilling all summer and into this fall to find extensions to the existing resource in building a case for a mine. A preliminary economic assessment comes out in early 2022.

The environmental baseline studies involve surface water sampling and running a groundwater monitoring program in the vicinity of two historic open-pit mines on the property. This work is required if the company hopes to obtain the necessary permits to proceed with a mine and to file a mine closure plan with the province.

Last March, the company inked an exploration agreement with Matachewan First Nation and later made them shareholders in August.

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North of Timmins, Canada Nickel Company continues to push the pace in proving up its Crawford nickel sulphide project.

Since arriving on the scene two years ago, the Toronto company has completed a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) projecting a 25-year mine life, picked up more ground, aggressively drilled, and made more discoveries.

This week the company released encouraging numbers on the projected metal recoveries from Crawford from testing done on some samples. The nickel recovery is 62 per cent, iron recovery is 45 per cent, and the cobalt recovery is 70 per cent, all improvements from what was listed in the PEA last summer.

In a news release, company CEO Mark Selby called the results a "step change" in the metallurgical performance that add value and improve the economic metrics of the project.

Crawford is being proposed as a large-scale, low-grade, open-pit nickel sulphide operation with huge exploration upside, according to the company.

With exploration continuing, the company is expecting big things by this time next year when the project feasibility study is out.

Selby expects Crawford to become one of the biggest nickel sulphide projects in the world. 

"We have five drill rigs at site, two of which recently began geotechnical drilling to support the feasibility study. Our infill drilling at Crawford and exploration drilling programs remain inline with our expectations. Unfortunately, assay results remain very delayed with results from one provider now 16 weeks delayed."

He's been actively promoting Canada Nickel as a future supplier of nickel concentrate to the electric vehicle battery market and iron concentrate to the stainless steel sector.

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The news flow has been steady from Moneta Gold since launching a 70,000-metre drill program this year soon after acquiring some new ground next to its Golden Highway Project outside Matheson.

Now dubbed the Tower Gold Project, the property hosts a gold mineral resource estimate of 4-million ounces indicated and 4.4-million ounces inferred that the company believes can be a substantial mine operation on a district scale with multiple deposits at hand.

The company is testing extensions of its Westaway gold deposit with the intention of upsizing the current gold base. Drilling is intersecting new mineralization deeper down and to the south and west of the deposit.

One drill hole result showed 2.95 grams per tonne (g/t) over a 13.50 metre length at a depth between 369 and 383 metres. Another hole revealed 3.21 g/t over 16.10 metres, deeper down between 638 and 654 metres.

"These recent drill results confirm higher-grade intersections at depth and along strike in the Westaway Deposit," said Moneta CEO Gary O'Connor. "There is also significant gold mineralization in large step-outs to the south, at depth and to the west toward the 55 Zone deposit, which is located 200 metres away."

The Westaway deposit on its own contains 662,000 ounces of inferred gold.

West of Timmins, Galleon Gold said it's pushing back the release of a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of its West Cache Project until late fall or early winter.

New gold discoveries on the 3,765-hectare property has given the company pause for thought before revealing what a potential mine could look like. The property sits 13 kilometres west of the city. Highway 101 runs through it.

Galleon delivered an updated resource estimate for West Cache in September, boosting the resource base by 20 per cent from a 2012 technical study. These new numbers will be folded into the PEA due out now in the mid to late fourth quarter.

The company had been drilling this year to confirm and prove up historic and known areas of mineralization. But along the way, high-grade gold, close to surface, was discovered in a spot dubbed Zone #9,  "with some of the widest zone thicknesses on the property," along with other discoveries on their holdings.

Their consultants tell them West Cache could be developed into two open pits with four mineable areas underground. The company wants to examine the scenario of an all-underground mine. Galleon said West Cache is a large ore body, spanning a distance of two kilometres by 0.5 kilometres offering a number of ramp and shaft options.

"While the company is eager to publish its PEA, we fully support as much detailed engineering, modelling and costing as is required to give an accurate interpretation of West Cache," Galleon said in a release.

Saskatoon's GFG Resources recently inked an agreement to acquire the Montclerg Gold Project from International Explorers and Prospectors.

The property is 48 kilometres east of Timmins and covers 10 kilometres of a mineral-rich geological structure called the Pipestone Deformation Zone, considered prized ground in the Timmins gold camp and surrounded by multiple current and  historic gold mines.

GFG president-CEO Brian Skanderbeg is looking forward to applying their exploration strategy to advance Montclerg.

“The acquisition of the Montclerg Gold Project is a great opportunity to add a more advanced and drill ready exploration project that has a robust and underexplored gold system outlined," he said in a release, "In addition to the known gold zones, we believe there is significant exploration potential to extend the system and discover additional mineralized zones."

GFG is also running an exploration program at its Pen Gold Project, 40 kilometres west of the city, in a partnership with Alamos Gold.

On the production side, McEwen Mining reported that its Fox Complex, east of Timmins, produced 8,300 ounces of gold during the third quarter. That's up from 5,800 ounces posted during the same period last year.

Mining at the Matheson-area operation has shifted into the Froome deposit, where commercial production started Sept. 19, three months ahead of schedule. The underground infrastructure at Froome is expected to be fully developed by next June.

The company said the average gold grade so far is 3.8 grams per tonne (g/), better than the 3.2 g/t predicted in the mine plan.

The drill results from near-mine exploration at Froome are also encouraging, McEwen said in a news release. This program is intended to extend the mine's life and provide a bridge to eventually tap into more gold at the nearby Grey Fox and Stock deposits.

An updated mineral resource and life-of-mine plan for Froome is due out by year's end when McEwen will release a preliminary economic assessment plan for the entire Fox Complex.

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