Increased critical high-tech mineral activity from Thunder Bay to Marathon.
The north shore of Lake Superior continues to be buzzing with mining exploration and construction activity, spurred by high gold prices and global demand for critical minerals.
Gold mining has always been the backbone of the region’s economy as Greenstone Gold Mines moves forward with the construction of a new open pit mine outside Geraldton this summer .
But exploration companies are also laying the groundwork to discover and prove industrial and high-tech metals.
Metallum Resources wants to put the old Winston Lake zinc mine near Schreiber back into production next year. Meanwhile, Nuinsco Resources is looking closely at its rare earth metals property near Terrace Bay that could be developed into a quarry.
Scattered across the region are a handful of junior mining hopefuls who have entered the fray to see if they can deliver the next wave of mines.
The Hercules Gold Project is proving to be a target-rich environment for the Vancouver-based Gold’n Futures Mineral Corp mining ground near the town of Jellicoe.
The company took over Hercules two years ago, signing an option agreement with Argonaut Gold.
Once heralded as the discovery of the year by the Northwestern Ontario Prospectors Association in 2008, the 10,000 hectare property in the Lake Nipigon region has a long history of exploration.
The company inherited a historical resource of 56,970 indicated ounces of gold, at an average of 14.95 grams per tonne, and an inferred resource of 74,380 ounces at 4.13 grams per tonne.
Gold’n Futures has scoured a mountain of old drill core, samples and other exploration data. Kodiak Exploration has already spent over $25 million on exploration, collecting over 100 kilometers of drill core.
Gold’n Futures’ first drill program around certain Kodiak trenches, launched last December, returned high-grade gold results.
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But the company decided to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to come up with a new exploration model. They hired artificial intelligence experts GoldSpot Discoveries to perform a property-scale geophysical survey last fall and examine the old data with their computer-aided analysis techniques.
The results served up a table of targets showing northwest trending gold extensions, which the young miner wants to test this summer.
Gold’n Futures firmly believes that Hercules can become a “world-class gold deposit”. The property is located on the same Archean greenstone belt as Greenstone Gold Mines, 70 kilometers to the east.
In a recent press release, Gold’n Futures CEO Stephen Wilkinson called this northwest mineralized trend “significant and very encouraging”, suggesting that a “robust” gold system has been developed.
Between Marathon and White River, Palladium One Mining transported a drill rig last month to its Tyko project to start a 15,000 meter program.
The Toronto-based exploration company is looking for high-grade nickel and copper on a 25,000-hectare claim package 25 kilometers north of Barrick’s Hemlo gold mine complex.
Palladium One and its Smoke Lake discovery at Tyko have been chosen as the 2020 Discovery of the Year by the Northwestern Ontario Prospectors Association.
In a recent press release, the company mentioned that it had pocketed three exploration permits to begin drilling and was pushing the province to quickly approve two more.
“With Ontario and Canada’s policy focus on increasing domestic supply of critical minerals, we expect the final two permits to arrive shortly,” the company said in a news release.
Tyko is still in the early stages of exploration, but this year the company wants to build on past exploration successes.
“We are launching the 2022 diamond drill program to extend our high-grade discovery success, where we have intersected up to 10% nickel equivalent over four metres, over a strike length of 430 meters which remains open to expansion,” Chairman and CEO Derrick Weyrauch said in a statement.
“The three licenses will allow us to drill the highly prospective West Pickle Lake and Bulldozer North and South targets.”
The next promising mine in the area is north of Marathon, where Generation Mining is arranging financing for an open pit palladium mine.
The Toronto mine developer entered into a metals stream agreement with Wheaton Precious Metals in January, which provided $20 million in upfront money for construction.
The cost to build the pit is $665 million. Construction could begin in early 2023 if financing for the project can be put in place over the next few months. There’s also an environmental assessment and licensing process going on at the same time.
The company said in a press release that there was no shortage of financing offers that have come forward. There is “significant” interest from more than a dozen lenders, including commercial banks, export credit financiers and private equity firms, potential offtake partners and equipment lessors, all representing total committed capital in excess of US$1 billion.
Export Development Canada is also interested in supporting the project, which will provide up to US$200 million in project funding.
In a statement, Gen Mining Chairman and CEO Jamie Levy said the deal with Wheaton provided the initial support they needed to get into the debt financing markets.
“The procurement of the remaining key components of the project funding continues, and we are pleased and pleased to see such initial interest which we consider confirmation of the strength of the project.”
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Outside of Thunder Bay, Clean Air Metals, a local palladium company, continues to advance its successful Thunder Bay North project along the mine planning path.
A consulting firm, DRA Americas, has been hired to initiate a pre-feasibility study to assess the metallurgy and commercialization of the twin palladium, copper and nickel deposits, 50 kilometers north of the city.
Clean Air Metals is considering an underground mine with an access ramp, but has not yet made a construction decision.
In a May 26 press release, Clean Air calls it “an exciting time in the life of the project” with the pre-feasibility report coming in mid-2023.
A pre-feasibility study is the middle part of the three order-of-magnitude steps usually followed by mining companies in their due diligence process. Each progressive step gives the company more detailed technical and economic information needed to make a final decision on the development of a mine.
The Current deposit is the more advanced of the two on the site. Before Christmas, the company released a preliminary economic assessment estimating a 10-year mine life at Current.
Nearby, the company continues to furiously drill the Escape deposit to fill gaps in mineral continuity. These drill results will be incorporated into an updated mineral resource estimate for the entire Thunder Bay North project to be released by the end of the year.
North of White River, it’s Australian crickets Silver Lake Resources by way of news feed since they acquired the Sugar Zone mine from Harte Gold in an insolvency sale last winter.
However, the company’s careers page shows that it is in the midst of hiring, looking for minor production, maintenance, management and people to fill other positions.