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NWT & NUNAVUT MINING: Exploration projects abound in NWT and Nunavut

The 2023 field season was rewarding for some metal and mineral exploration companies, but the extensive wildfires in the Northwest Territories forced the postponement of other planned prospecting and drilling activities.
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Geologists Rachel Milligan and Byron Yeung in the core shack at Aston Bay Holdings’ Storm copper project, 120 km south of Resolute Bay. Photo courtesy of Aston Bay Holdings

The 2023 field season was rewarding for some metal and mineral exploration companies, but the extensive wildfires in the Northwest Territories forced the postponement of other planned prospecting and drilling activities.

The summaries below are for companies that released news this year. There are numerous other projects in the NWT and Nunavut that didn’t advance over the past several months.

NUNAVUT

Project: Chidliak

Owner: De Beers

Resource: Diamonds

Location: Hall Peninsula, 120 km northeast of Iqaluit

Status: Chidliak is working its way through the regulatory system. De Beers is proposing to use a “FutureSmart Mining approach for the development and operation of the proposed mine, allowing for kimberlite pipes to be mined using traditional and remote mining techniques and mobile camps to reduce potential environmental impacts. De Beers expects the proposed project to begin in March 2028 and for decommissioning to be completed by December 2051.”

Up to 35 kimberlite pipes will be mined through open pits and underground.

Project: Back River

Owner: B2Gold

Resource: Gold

Location: 364 km southwest of Cambridge Bay

Status: The Goose mine remains on schedule for its first gold pour during the first quarter of 2025, according to a Sept. 18 update from B2Gold.

The company says mine construction expenses are still estimated at $800 million, with an additional $90 million designated for accelerating underground development. That acceleration is expected to yield more than 300,000 ounces of gold annually during the first five years of production.

B2Gold imported 24 million litres of diesel fuel for use during the 2024 construction season.

Project: Storm/Seal

Owner: Aston Bay Holdings

Resource: Copper, zinc, silver

Location: 120 km south of Resolute Bay

Status: American West Metals Limited, which is operating the property, turned up numerous high-grade intersections during a productive summer drilling season at the Lightning Ridge prospect, including 7.6 per cent copper over 1.5 metres from a depth of 77.7 metres and 2.3 per cent copper over 15.2 metres at a depth of 30.5 metres, Aston Bay Holdings announced on Oct. 11.

“The prospective structures that host the high-grade copper mineralization newly discovered at the Thunder and Lightning Ridge prospects extend laterally for more than 10 km and remain largely untested by drilling,” the company stated. “The successful exploration and resource definition drilling of the near-surface copper mineralization, together with regional targets within a dominant landholding of more than 2,200 sq km, underscore the camp-scale copper mining opportunity emerging at Storm.”

Project: Angilak

Owner: Latitude Uranium

Resource: Uranium

Location: 350 km west of Rankin Inlet

Status: Labrador Uranium changed its name to Latitude Uranium in June. In September, the company announced the completion of its phase two drilling program, consisting of three holes and 889 metres. That followed on the heels of phase one and its 4,776 metres over 15 holes.

Phase two highlights included the discovery of two new wide intercepts of 41 metres and 21 metres with radioactivity up to 6,200 counts per second below historical drilling. Hole 18 intersected a similar interval of close to 200 metres of intermittent uranium-bearing structures up to 8,000 counts per second.

Assays were expected in November.

Latitude is planning a follow-up drill program for 2024.

Project: Ferguson Lake

Owner: Canadian North Resources Inc.

Resource: Nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group metals

Location: 250 km west of Rankin Inlet

Status: With results from 39,270 metres of drilling over 145 holes into September 2023, Canadian North Resources Inc. is working on updating its NI43-101 mineral resources estimate for the Ferguson Lake project.

“We expect the results of the remodeling will continue to demonstrate the Ferguson Lake Project has tremendous potential for containing a significant nickel, copper, cobalt, palladium and platinum mineral deposit in North America,” said Kaihui Yang, the company’s president and CEO.

The original NI43-101 compliant mineral resources estimate, including indicated mineral resources, showed 24.3 million tonnes containing 455 million pounds of copper at 0.85 per cent, 321 million pounds of nickel at 0.6 per cent, 37.5 million pounds of cobalt at 0.07 per cent, 1.08 million ounces of palladium at 1.38 grams per tonne and 0.18 million ounces of platinum at 0.23 grams per tonne; inferred mineral resources of 47.2 million tonnes containing 947 million pounds of copper at 0.91 per cent, 551.5 million pounds of nickel at 0.53 per cent, 62.4 million pounds of cobalt at 0.06 per cent, 2.12 million ounces of palladium at 1.4 grams per tonne and 0.38 million ounces of platinum at 0.25 grams per tonne.

A helicopter with drill core from a Bathurst Metals Corp. exploration site in Nunavut during the summer of 2023. Photo courtesy of Bathurst Metals Corp.
A helicopter with drill core from a Bathurst Metals Corp. exploration site in Nunavut during the summer of 2023. Photo courtesy of Bathurst Metals Corp.

Project: Ulu, Hood River, Roma

Owner: Blue Star Gold Corp.

Resource: Gold

Location: 125 km west of Bathurst Inlet

Status: Blue Star Gold carried out ground-based geophysical surveys, ground-truthing pipeline targets, mapping, lithogeochemical sampling, and prospecting at its Ulu property in 2023 in preparation for a 2024 drill program.

The Auma prospect returned 47.6 grams of gold per tonne from a sample with visible gold, the company reported. It also discovered the Mikigon prospect, a structure covering more than 500 metres with a surface sample of 47.1 grams of gold per tonne.

“The discovery of the Mikigon prospect this year, and the high sample grades returned from numerous other areas highlight the exceptional new discovery potential at the company’s projects,” said Blue Star CEO Grant Ewing.

Project: North Thelon

Owner: Forum Energy Metals Corp.

Resource: Uranium

Location: 100 km west of Baker Lake

Status: Assay results from the company’s 2023 summer drill program at the Tatiggaq zone revealed continuity of high-grade uranium mineralization along a 250-metre trend with intercepts of 2.25 per cent triuranium octaoxide (U308, a compound of uranium) over 11.1 metres, 0.4 per cent over 12.8 metres and 1.01 per cent over 6.2 metres.

“Our interpretation from this summer’s drill program at Tatiggaq is that each hole intersected near vertical, high-grade lenses of uranium ranging from 18 metres to 24 metres in width over a length of 250 metres,” said Rebecca Hunter, Forum’s vice-president of exploration. “In total, this near surface, structurally controlled deposit is a minimum of 50 metres wide and we have over one kilometre of the anomaly to drill test. In addition, there are multiple sub-parallel trends within the Tatiggaq anomaly that have intersected extreme clay alteration and uranium values up to 900 ppm, suggesting that additional mineralization could be present. I am very excited to drill this target in 2024 and build on this exceptional discovery.”

Northern lights dance above the Angilak Project’s Nutaaq camp, approximately 350 km west of Rankin Inlet. Photo courtesy of Latitude Uranium Inc.
Northern lights dance above the Angilak Project’s Nutaaq camp, approximately 350 km west of Rankin Inlet. Photo courtesy of Latitude Uranium Inc.

Projects: Turner Lake, McGregor Lake, Gela Lake, McAvoy Lake, Speers Lake

Owner: Bathurst Metals

Resources: Gold, silver, copper, nickel, platinum, palladium

Location: Field crews spent three weeks working on the company’s Nunavut properties in 2023, Bathurst Metals stated in an Aug. 21 letter to shareholders that was signed by CEO Harold Forzley. Geologists performed detailed mapping and rock sampling while technical crews conducted soil sampling surveys.

“This summers’ successful field programs will further the technical understanding of our properties and

will improve our focus on maximizing successful exploration activities and shareholder return,” Forzley stated.

In March, SPC Nickel announced it entered into an option agreement with Bathurst Metals for the potential to earn 100 per cent interest in the McGregor Lake and Speers Lake sites with an aim of controlling 650 square km of the Muskox intrusion and its nickel, copper and platinum prospects.

Project: Bathurst Inlet lithium

Owner: North Arrow Minerals

Resource: Lithium

Location: 80 southwest of the Doris gold mine

Status: North Arrow acquired 100 per cent interest in a Bathurst Inlet lithium property in late February. The site, formerly held by Panarc Resources, is within nine kilometres of tidewater and 12 km from Sabina (now B2Gold’s) port.

“With the help of recent satellite imagery, we’ve been able to prioritize target areas for follow up detailed mapping and prospecting for lithium mineralization in early summer 2023,” said Ken Armstrong, President and CEO of North Arrow.

NWT

Project: Colomac Gold

Owner: Nighthawk Gold Corp.

Resource: Gold

Location: 200 km north of Yellowknife

Nighthawk Gold Corp. announced its first Environmental, Social and Governance Report on Oct. 23.

“We have a duty to protect the environment surrounding the Colomac Gold Project, collaborate with the Tlicho Nation and other Aboriginal neighbours, and ensure that our organization continues to be diverse and empowered,” said Nighthawk president and CEO Keyvan Salehi.

In September, Nighthawk revealed that drill results from its 24/27 deposit, located two kilometres northeast of the Colomac Main Deposit, turned up 16.14 ounces of gold per tonne over 0.5 metres and 10.22 ounces of gold per tonne over 0.4 metres. Salehi described these as “excellent results” that would make the 24/27 deposit a priority for future drill programs.

Project: Yellowknife City Gold

Owner: Gold Terra

Resource: Gold

Location: 10 km northeast of Yellowknife

Status: Drill hole GTCM23-055 intersected the upper portion of the high-grade gold-bearing Campbell Shear at a downhole depth of 2,080 metres from surface to test for gold mineralization below the Con Mine underground workings on the Con Mine option property, Gold Terra announced on Oct. 16. Drilling was to continue at the time.

“A long-awaited moment for all Gold Terra shareholders to intersect the beginning of the prolific Campbell Shear below the former Con Mine underground workings and approximately 250 metres away from existing infrastructure and the Robertson shaft,” said chairman and CEO Gerald Panneton. “The presence of alteration and veining in the core at the start of the Campbell Shear intersection in hole GTCM23-055 confirms the potential to delineate additional ounces beneath the former Con Mine. Once this hole is completed some 50-100 metres past the Campbell shear, additional wedge holes will allow us to further evaluate the Campbell Shear structure.”

Con mine historically produced 5.1 million ounces of gold at an average grade of 16 grams of gold per tonne.

Project: Pine Point

Owner: Osisko Metals

Resource: Lead, zinc

Location: 42 km east of Hay River

Status: Osisko’s 2023 drill program “met expectations when compared to previous drilling and the continuity between the M67 and L65 deposits has been confirmed and is welcomed news,” according to Robert Wares, CEO and chairman of the board, said on Oct. 12. “This new data will be incorporated into the mineral resource update planned for later this year. We also look forward to launching the feasibility study in the new year.”

In a Sept. 5 news release, Wares stated, “We are also happy to report our progress towards permitting initiatives and potential construction of a mine at Pine Point with our JV partners Appian Capital Advisory LLP. Meetings with local communities and regulators are ongoing to keep everyone up to date regarding the permitting process as we advance the Pine Point Project.”

The Pine Point mine could produce 329 million pounds of zinc and 141 million pounds of lead per year over its 12-year mine life, according to an updated preliminary economic assessment (PEA) that Osisko Metals released in 2022. The estimated cost to build the mine is $653.3 million, while the overall gross revenue from the project is pegged at $5.6 billion, after royalties.

A plane is unloaded in July at North Arrow Minerals’ LDG lithium exploration site, which is less than five kilometres from of the winter road infrastructure connecting Yellowknife with the Lac de Gras region. Photo courtesy of North Arrow Minerals
A plane is unloaded in July at North Arrow Minerals’ LDG lithium exploration site, which is less than five kilometres from of the winter road infrastructure connecting Yellowknife with the Lac de Gras region. Photo courtesy of North Arrow Minerals

Projects: DeStaffany, LDG and MacKay

Owner: North Arrow Minerals

Resource: Lithium

Location: Approximately 115 km east of Yellowknife, on the shore of Great Slave Lake; within 5 km of the winter road infrastructure connecting Yellowknife with the Lac de Gras region; and 15 km south of Lac de Gras, north of McKay Lake, respectively

Status: North Arrow Minerals is among numerous companies that are part of a rush to find viable NWT lithium deposits, which is a critical metal used in making rechargeable batteries.

New spodumene mineralized pegmatites were found at North Arrow’s LDG and MacKay lithium projects, an Oct. 12 news release stated.

“Recent exploration of North Arrow’s LDG and MacKay lithium projects has resulted in the discovery of new spodumene mineralization at both properties and increased our confidence in the size potential of this new spodumene-bearing lithium pegmatite field,” said Ken Armstrong, the company’s president and CEO. “Ground magnetic, high-resolution drone imagery and bedrock mapping surveys will significantly aid in ongoing interpretation and modelling of priority pegmatites, including planning for exploration drilling in 2024.”

In August, assay results from channel samples at North Arrow’s DeStaffany lithium property included 1.81 per cent Li2O over four metres and 1.42 per cent Li2O over four metres from channels MS1-1 and MS1-2, respectively.

Project: Yellowknife Lithium

Owner: Li-FT

Resource: Lithium

Location: 60 km east of Yellowknife

Status: Assays from five drill holes at the Big East and Shorty pegmatites intersected significant intervals of spodumene mineralization the company announced on Oct. 24. Highlights included 1.79 per cent Li2O over 18 metres and 1.58 per cent Li2O over seven metres.

Francis MacDonald, CEO of Li-FT, said, “Big East has delivered the highest grade intersects from across the project to date in hole YLP0092 across excellent width. Our expectations from Big East in terms of grades and widths continue to be exceeded.”

Project: Yellowknife Lithium

Owner: Gold Terra Resource Corp.

Resource: Lithium

Location: East/northeast of Yellowknife

Status: Midas Minerals can earn up to 80 per cent of the 718-square-km Yellowknife lithium project, which it has optioned from Gold Terra Resource Corp. In August, Midas announced results from 147 assays with approximately two-thirds showing “strong fractionation of pegmatites,” including 4.65 per cent Li2O and 4.12 per cent Li2O.

Seeking further upside, Midas announced in October that it staked 15 claims totalling 157-square-km, known as the Reid-Aylmer Lithium Project, 180-300 km northeast of its Yellowknife lithium project.

Project: Hidden Lake

Owner: Loyal Lithium/Patriot Battery Metals

Resource: Lithium

Location: 45 km east of Yellowknife

Status: Loyal Lithium took a 60 per cent stake in Hidden Lake, the company revealed on April 12. Patriot Battery Metals and Far Resources hold 40 per cent ownership in the project.

“The acquisition includes a 2,500-hectare land position across six contiguous claims containing 14 mapped lithium spodumene bearing pegmatite outcrops, with four drill tested spanning a cumulative strike length of 2,250 metres,” Loyal Lithium stated.

In an Oct. 19 update, the company stated that its summer field program assay results extended the cumulative pegmatite surface mineralization by approximately 1,000 metres to 3,250 metres - a 44 per cent increase. As well, samples from the property contained up to 3.31 per cent lithium oxide.

Project: Bliss Lake

Owner: ION Energy

Location: 30 km east of Yellowknife

Resource: Lithium

Status: ION Energy gained a foothold in the NWT’s lithium race by acquiring the 5,798-hectare Bliss Lake property in May. Numerous lithium bearing pegmatites in the area have been identified and sampled over one per cent Li2O, according to the company.

In August, ION Energy took over the Little Nahanni claims, which encompass 900 hectares near the NWT/Yukon border, 39 km northwest of the Canada Tungsten mine.

“The company believes the Little Nahanni claims are underexplored for lithium and represent opportunity for lithium discovery and positive partnerships with regional stakeholders, and will complement ION’s current lithium exploration activities in Northwest Territories,” ION Energy stated in August.

Project: Muskox

Owner: Gama Explorations

Resource: Lithium

Location: 40 km east of Yellowknife

Status: Wildfires postponed some of Gama Explorations’ planned exploration activities but the company managed to complete LiDAR and orthophoto survey by flying over the property in August.

“The company intends to re-commence work on the Muskox project as soon as conditions become favourable,” Game Explorations stated.

The Muskox property spans 50 square km in the centre of the Yellowknife Pegmatite Province.

Project: Mon

Owner: Sixty North Gold Mining

Resource: Gold

Location: 40 km north of Yellowknife

Status: Planned underground activities were scuttled by wildfires over the summer, as one of the blazes reached the Mon property.

“Crews were on standby until late June when it became apparent that wildfires were rapidly approaching the mine site. The ZF012-23 wildfire swept through the property in August,” Sixty North Gold Mining sated on Oct. 3. “Fortunately, all mining equipment, plus shops, generators, compressors, fuel tanks and explosives magazines survived untouched. However, the camp and some ancillary pieces of equipment were damaged. In September 2023 Dave Webb, CEO, and an insurance adjuster visited the site to appraise the damage, documenting items for replacement and matching these against our policy.

“We are now preparing for a temporary camp to be installed to allow for a clean-up using our mine truck, loaders and bulldozer, and to prepare the camp site for replacement units to come in. We have examined and received proposals for five different camp alternatives and have provided this information to the insurance adjuster. We are planning to use our temporary camp once the clean-up is complete for subsequent work until a replacement camp is brought in,” the company stated.

A diamond drill program is being planned.

Scores of exploration sites in the NWT and Nunavut were advanced through field work in 2023, but others lagged because of the extreme wildfire season that plagued the southern NWT. Photo courtesy of Bathurst Metals Corp.
Scores of exploration sites in the NWT and Nunavut were advanced through field work in 2023, but others lagged because of the extreme wildfire season that plagued the southern NWT. Photo courtesy of Bathurst Metals Corp.

Project: Gayna and Mactung

Owner: Fireweed Metals Corp.

Resource: Zinc, lead, silver, gallium, germanium, tungsten

Location: Mackenzie Mountains, within the Gwich’in and Sahtu settlement areas

Status: Fireweed Metals announced completion of a geophysical survey at its Gayna project in October. A gravity survey aimed to identify new anomalies and refine known anomalies for drill testing in the future.

“We are very excited to continue work on Gayna; the new interpretations of historical data combined with our geophysical and geochemical surveys show that the project has significant potential to host a similar style of mineralization to the world‑class Kipushi deposit (in the Congo),” said CEO Brandon Macdonald. “With recent surface samples showing high-grade zinc and lead, the 2023 survey work will allow higher resolution definition of targets in preparation for future drill testing.”

In late July, Fireweed Metals declared its Mactung deposit as the world’s largest high-grade tungsten deposit. Mineral resources amount to 41.5 million tonnes of indicated resource at 0.73 per cent tungsten trioxide and 12.2 million tonnes of inferred resource at .59 per cent tungsten trioxide.

“We are continuing to advance the Mactung project towards development and this world-class resource will be the foundation for detailed engineering studies of this unique critical mineral project,” Macdonald said.

Project: NICO

Owner: Fortune Minerals

Resource: Gold, bismuth, cobalt, copper

Location: 50 km northeast of Whati

Status: In late July, Fortune Minerals announced that it once again negotiated an extension to the option to purchase JFSL Field Services’ brownfield industrial site in Lamont County, Alta., for $5.5 million. In the meantime, the company is paying $15,000 monthly to keep the door open to a possible real estate deal.

The former steel fabrication plant on JFSL’s property is located on 77 acres outside of Edmonton.

Fortune plans to construct a hydrometallurgical refinery at the Alberta site to process concentrates from its NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper deposit.

Project: Astro

Owner: Orogen Royalties

Resource: Gold

Location: Along the Canol Road, near the Yukon border

Status: Rackla Metals, the operator of the property, executed 3,039 metres of drilling over 17 holes at the 288-square km Astro complex over the summer.

On Oct. 10, Orogen announced that Rackla Metals exercised its option on the Astro gold project.

“Rackla’s team have been busy over the past year and invested over $1.9 million in drilling and exploration on the Astro property, with a focus on reduced intrusion-related gold systems,” commented Orogen CEO Paddy Nicol. “We are also encouraged by Rackla’s efforts in the capital markets to secure funding for additional work at Astro in 2024.”

Project: O’Connor Lake

Resource: Zinc

Owner: Slave Lake Zinc Corp.

Location: 185 km west of Yellowknife

Status: Slave Lake Zinc acknowledged the bind that southern NWT wildfires created in the latter half of August, not only for the O’Connor Lake project but for all involved in combatting the crisis.

“As much as we want to get on the ground and advance our project, we support and sympathize with the efforts to contain the devastation that our friends are subjected to in the communities that we are associated with in the South Slave,” the company stated on Aug. 21.

“Hay River, Fort Smith and Yellowknife are integral to our partners and our ongoing advancement of our mutually beneficial project to combat the obvious climate change challenges that we all face,” Slave Lake Zinc added. “Our focus is the development of a sustainable project that benefits all our partners and creates sustainable, environmentally-friendly advances in climate friendly materials that will make all of our efforts more fulfilling and sustainable for the future — for our children and their children in kind. It has never been more apparent, I believe, to everyone how important projects like ours are if we are to combat the scourge of climate change and protect the planet going forward.”

Project: Prairie Creek

Owner: NorZinc

Resource: Zinc, lead, silver

Location: 90 km northwest of Nahanni Butte

Status: NorZinc completed construction of the first phase of its all-season access road to the Prairie Creek mine, the company announced on April 20. The full route runs 170 km from Highway 7 and will “ultimately consist of a five-metre wide, single lane road to support the resupply of the Prairie Creek Mine and for concentrate transportation,” the company stated.

Last December, an entity known as RCF VI CAD LLC acquired NorZinc.

Mining front

For more stories from NWT & Nunavut Mining 2023, click this link: https://www.nnsl.com/special-feature-publications/special-feature-pdfs/2023-mining-supplement/

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This is where Li-FT has been actively looking for lithium, 60 km east of the NWT capital. Drill results were still coming in from the Yellowknife lithium project as of late October. Photo courtesy of Li-FT
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A geologist at work at a Bathurst Metals Corp property in Nunavut this past summer. The company has been exploring for gold, silver, copper, nickel, platinum and palladium. Photo courtesy of Bathurst Metals Corp.
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Captivating fall colours set the backdrop at the Nutaaq camp on Latitude Uranium’s Angilak uranium property prior to the drilling season concluding in 2023. Photo courtesy of Latitude Uranium Inc.
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Samples are taken from a channel at North Arrow Minerals’ new MK3 discovery at the company’s MacKay lithium project, near MacKay Lake in the NWT. Photo courtesy of North Arrow Minerals