Another banner year for mining exploration

It's another big year for mineral exploration, but not, as predicted this spring, the biggest.

It’s another big year for mineral exploration, but not, as predicted this spring, the biggest.

“At the start of the year, it was looking like it was going to be really crazy out there,” said Mike Burke, head of the Yukon’s mineral services branch. “It could potentially have been our biggest exploration season.”

Expectations have been tempered by a few significant delays. For example, it took two months longer than expected for Selwyn Resources to finalize its deal with two state-owned Chinese companies to launch a joint partnership to explore a lead and zinc deposit near the Cantung mine along the Northwest Territories Border.

Those financing delays held up exploration work. But the joint partnership was completed in July, providing Selwyn with $100 million – enough money, the company says, to bankroll its project through advanced exploration and into early construction.

“If they would have signed it four months ago, their expenditures would have been significantly higher,” said Burke. “But that’s OK. That means next year’s expenditures will be high.”

Burke now forecasts exploration spending to exceed $100 million this season. That’s not the biggest year ever, but it’s considerably higher than the annual average over the past two decades of about $35 million, he said.

“It’s a really good year,” said Burke.

The White Gold district near Dawson City continues to be the epicentre of the territory’s staking rush. At least a dozen exploration companies are poking around the area.

Among them, the one that’s so far crowed the loudest about its findings is Kaminak Gold Corporation. Its Coffee property is about 25 kilometres south of the White Gold project, which was gobbled up this spring by mining giant Kinross Gold.

Kaminak started drilling Coffee this summer. Its drill results, said Burke, show some “significant intersections.”

“They’ve made a new discovery,” he said. “How significant is it? We’ll give them a few years to do more drilling and outline what they’ve found.”

Kinross is spending more than $14 million to explore its newly acquired Yukon properties. But, as a major gold producer, don’t expect them to conduct a public-relations blitz about their drill results, as is typical with junior companies.

“A drillhole result isn’t significant to them,” said Burke. “The other day, they did a $7.1-billion friendly takeover of another company.”

Fifty kilometres northeast of Keno City, meanwhile, ATAC Resources continues to make promising finds on its Rau property. The company is digging for gold, but this summer it stumbled across a significant discovery of lead, zinc and silver.

So it can go. Prospectors poking around Voisey’s Bay in northern Labrador in 1993 were looking for diamonds, “but they found one of the world’s biggest nickel mines,” said Burke.

The company has found a new gold zone, too. “Things are progressing there,” said Burke.

And Capstone continues to expand its underground resources with drilling east of its Minto Mine.

Using deep-earth imaging that can peer 750 metres underground, Capstone has also made a new copper, gold and silver discovery this summer. It is called, appropriately enough, Wildfire.

This is all just the start. Assay laboratories are backed up as miners return from the field with soil and drill samples. Announcements will continue through the autumn.

“We’re kind of on the edge of our seats, waiting for results to pour in,” said Burke.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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