Freegold hits a vein

It’s a mining company with more women on technical staff than men. And it’s taking off. Despite the competitive market, Northern…

It’s a mining company with more women on technical staff than men.

And it’s taking off.

Despite the competitive market, Northern Freegold Resources Ltd. has had no trouble raising money.

“People believe in our story and what we’re doing,” said Freegold president Susan Craig.

The junior company, drilling on Freegold Mountain outside Carmacks, is socially and environmentally conscious.

“The secret is to think, ‘If this stuff was happening in my backyard, how would I want to be treated?’” said Craig.

Last summer, Freegold tried to wrap up its exploration and drilling before moose hunting season began on August 1st.

“And we’ve been meeting with Little Salmon/Carmacks to build up a relationship with the First Nation — that’s how we do business,” said Craig.

Freegold Mountain is full of historical trails, she added.

“And we want to make sure nothing happens to them.”

That’s why the company went with Kluane Drilling. It’s careful where it drills, she said.

“And Bill and the owner grew up together.”

Bill Harris, Freegold’s chief executive officer, also grew up playing on Freegold Mountain.

“He’s a second-generation prospector who’s been dragged out there since he was five,” said Craig.

“He started liking it at 15.”

By the mid ‘80s, there were more than 80 prospectors with large land packages on Freegold Mountain.

But during the bear market, a lot of these claims lapsed and Harris and his father began consolidating them. They ended up with a 104-square-kilometre land package.

When there were many different owners, everyone had a different approach, said Craig.

“They weren’t working with their neighbours.”

But now that Freegold has consolidated all the claims on the mountain, it “can step back and look at the big picture.”

Using historical data from past prospectors, Freegold started exploring.

So far, the company has diamond drilled 57 holes in six different areas on the mountain.

And it’s rotary-drilled 116 holes in two zones.

The findings are impressive, said Craig.

Usually if samples contain .5 grams of gold per ton “we’re happy,” she said.

“But we’re drilling holes were there are 4.25 grams per ton.”

The gold is so prevalent some of it’s even visible.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Craig.

Heading up a junior mining company was not the life path Craig had planned.

A petroleum geologist by trade, Craig headed to Calgary to work in oil and gas exploration fresh out of school.

But it was before the boom and there wasn’t any work.

Back in Ontario, she started working for junior companies, doing government surveys.

“I liked junior companies, because you learn a bit about everything,” said Craig.

About 20 years ago, she ended up in the Yukon working for Brewery Creek Mine near Dawson.

That’s where she met Harris.

But even two decades ago, it wasn’t all men in mining.

“The Yukon is a great place for a female geologist,” said Craig.

“Being female is not an issue.”

At Brewery Creek, the head geologist was a male, but he had four or five women working with him, she said.

Freegold didn’t set out to hire women, said Craig.

However, nine of its 14 technical staff are female.

“We had lots of resumes and over 50 per cent were from females.

“But we hire people based on their skills and experience, not their gender.”

Freegold has three camps, all a couple of hours from Carmacks.

Because of the large land package, there is the possibility of different deposit types.

There will likely be some open pit mines and some vein systems, she said.

“It’s still in the exploration phase, and we have lots of different models and ideas,” said Craig.

Before they start mining, Craig and Harris need to calculate the resources and reserves then proceed with feasibility studies to see if it would be economic.

And that all depends on metal prices, the availability of labour, infrastructure costs and the viability of the mine’s location.

With the metal market skyrocketing, there’s been lots of competition when it comes to raising money, said Craig.

But Freegold has had no trouble selling shares.

Harris’ history on the mountain all those years helps, said Craig.

“And our mandate is safety, respect for the environment and the locals.

“We want to make sure nothing happens to anyone or the environment.”

By September 2006, the company, which has already won environmental awards, had raised $3.45 million and had 15 fulltime employees; during peak season that number climbs as high as 70.

“If you told me 25 years ago this is where I was going to be I’d have never believed you,” said Craig.