The other big strike of 2009

Much ink has been spilled over Underworld Resources' strike in the White Gold District outside of Dawson City, and for good reason, as that discovery has triggered Yukon's biggest staking rush in a decade.

Much ink has been spilled over Underworld Resources’ strike in the White Gold District outside of Dawson City, and for good reason, as that discovery has triggered Yukon’s biggest staking rush in a decade.

But Underworld isn’t the only company to make a significant strike in 2009. There’s also Atac Resources, which hit paydirt at its Rau Gold Property, about 50 kilometres northeast of Keno City.

Exploration there is still in its early days. But drillwork over the summer dug up rock samples bearing as much as 24 grams of gold per ton.

And Atac’s crew didn’t need to dig deep to find gold. At the zone of the property dubbed Tiger, even the red, oxidized rubble cleared to make room for drillpads yielded between one to 10 grams of gold per tonne in the lab.

“This is essentially low-hanging fruit. Usually it’s been picked,” said CEO Graham Downs. “It’s just barely covered. We’re lucky to have found it.”

Early tests also showed 97 per cent of the gold was recoverable from the ore – results Downs calls “exceptional.”

Just how much gold lies beneath the ground remains unclear. But Atac says the deposit is at least 650 metres long, 150 metres wide, averages 40 metres deep, and remains open in three directions.

The company should be able to start estimating its resource size in about a year, after it completes the ambitious drillwork scheduled for this summer.

Atac plans to drill more than 18,000 metres. The company already has $12.5 million banked for the work.

This means that at least 50 workers will be out on the field this summer, operating four drills and staffing Atac’s growing exploration camp.

The company is working with Archer, Cathro and Associates, one of the Yukon’s most venerable mineral exploration consultants.

Some of the firm’s veteran geologists working on the property probably flew over Rau “thousands” of times over the decades without suspecting the property’s potential, said Downs.

Until recently, the surrounding area had been mostly explored for silver and zinc—the stuff mined at nearby Keno Hill.

“Nobody thought much of the limestones, and that’s what we’re in,” said Downs.

Atac’s geologists now say Rau’s rock formations look awfully like what’s found in gold-rich Nevada. “You don’t see these rocks anywhere else in Western Canada,” said Downs. “But there’s a small window in the Yukon.

“It’s been drilled so much it’s like a pin-cushion down there. And we have something that could potentially be similar.”

As Downs tells it, the company has kept a low profile because they’ve been too busy drilling to kick up much publicity. And he suspects Atac is about a year behind the drillwork performed by Underworld.

But Mike Burke with the Yukon Geological Survey notes that Atac used its quiet time to gobble up nearby properties, so that it now has title to more than 600 square kilometres of land.

“These guys tried to avoid the staking rush,” he said.

Given Atac’s early results, Burke sees potential for an open-pit gold mine opening at Rau one day.

“Certainly by the end of next year, with that kind of money spent, we’ll have a much better idea of the significance of this discovery.”

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