From investigating grassroots gold prospects in the Yukon Territory to ensuring the Red Dog Mine has sufficient stores of high-grade ore to remain a top global zinc producer for decades to come, Teck Resources Ltd. 2012 is continuing a century of discovery in Alaska and Canada’s Northwest.
This broad spectrum of exploration across Alaska, British Columbia and Yukon Territory exemplifies the Vancouver, B.C.-based major’s objective of accessing “high-quality, sustainable growth opportunities through the discovery or acquisition of top-tier mineral deposits.”
To reach this goal, Teck extends an open invitation to prospectors and explorers.
“Teck has a team of exploration professionals focused on finding new mines and who will assess the potential of every opportunity presented, regardless of the stage of exploration. If you are interested in partnering with us, we are interested in hearing from you,” reads the miner’s website.
B.C. copperFrom grassroots exploration to studying the feasibility of building a mine at the colossal Galore Creek deposit, Teck’s exploration in northern British Columbia is focused largely on porphyry copper-gold systems.
One of the primary targets of Teck’s search in this region in 2012 is GJ, a porphyry copper-gold project about 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of Highway 37. The senior miner, which optioned GJ from junior explorer NGEx Resources Inc. in 2010, can earn a 51 percent interest in the project by spending C$12 million by the end of 2014, a stake that can be raised to 75 percent with an additional C$32 million in expenditures by the close of 2020.
GJ has a measured and indicated resource of 153.3 million metric tons grading 0.321 percent (1.09 billion pounds) copper and 0.369 grams per metric ton (1.82 million ounces) gold. An additional inferred resource is 23 million metric tons grading 0.26 percent (132 million pounds) copper and 0.31 g/t (230,000 ounces) gold.
Teck, as both operator and funder of the project, budgeted C$4.7 million for exploration at GJ in 2012. This program and the some C$4.5 million of exploration carried out in 2011 did not focus on the resource area but investigated adjacent zones with the potential to expand the porphyry potential of the project.
The 2012 exploration campaign included some 4,000 meters of drilling, a 684-line-kilometer ZTEM airborne geophysical survey, geological mapping, surface geochemical sampling and re-logging of historic drill core. Wolf – a 900-meter-long geophysical and geochemical target located northeast of the main resource – was an initial target of the drilling. Three holes drilled at Wolf in 2011 cut distal porphyry-style alteration. Subsequent deep penetrating geophysical surveys suggest that these holes did not reach the primary target.
Teck also has an indirect interest in the Schaft Creek copper-gold-silver project about 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of GJ. Teck optioned Schaft Creek to Copper Fox Metals Inc. in 2002, and has the right to buy back a 75 percent stake in this project by funding additional work there.
A prefeasibility study completed for Schaft Creek in 2008 outlines a mine producing 4.76 billion pounds of copper, 4.5 million troy ounces of gold, 32.5 million troy ounces of silver, and 255.2 million pounds of molybdenum over a projected mine-life of 22.6 years.
Copper Fox anticipate the completion of a feasibility study for Schaft Creek by year’s end.
About 70 kilometers (45 miles) further southwest, Galore Creek Mining Co.– a partnership held equally by Teck and NovaGold Resources Inc. – budgeted C$35.4 million for 2012. This work program includes 20,000 meters of exploration drilling and 5,000 meters of geotechnical drilling. The partners also continued environmental and engineering work.
According to a prefeasibility study completed in 2011, Galore Creek has proven and probable reserves of 528 million metric tons averaging 0.6 percent copper, 0.32 grams per metric ton gold and 6.02 g/t silver.
The PFS includes an enhanced plan that envisions adding some 200 million metric tons to these reserves by upgrading resources and expanding the pit to encompass the adjacent Bountiful zone. This work began with an 18-hole program carried out in 2011. Highlights include:
•GC11-0824 cut 185 meters grading 1.29 percent copper, 0.51 g/t gold and 9.5 g/t silver;
•GC11-0835 intersected 108 meters grading 1.25 percent copper, 0.81g/t gold and 10 g/t silver;
•GC11-0833 intersected 162 meters grading 1.09 percent copper, 0.54 g/t gold and 8.1 g/t silver; and
•GC11-0831 intersected 176 meters grading 0.90 percent copper, 0.42 g/t gold and 7.7 g/t silver.
If put into operation as contemplated by the partnership Galore Creek is on track to be Canada’s largest producer of both copper and silver.
Golden opportunitiesThough industrial minerals are its mainstay, Teck is back in the business of finding gold in the Yukon Territory and Alaska.
Teck can trace its Yukon heritage back more than a century. This long lineage in the territory provides the company with an extensive in-house database to guide its search for gold in the territory.
Wolf – a series of four claim blocks that stretch some 55 kilometers (35 miles) east from the White River in southwestern Yukon – is one such gold prospect the company is investigating.
In late May, Teck filed an application with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board to obtain the permits required to conduct up to 60,000 meters of drilling in three areas of its Wolf property over the next five years. According to the application, two of the areas Teck proposes to drill are on the two westernmost claim blocks. The diversified miner has identified an area about 45 kilometers (25 miles) farther east as a third drill area and site for a 35-man camp.
The application – which includes permissions for trenching and geophysical surveys – indicates a 2,500-meter drill program will start in 2013.
In its search for gold in Alaska, Teck has forged an exploration alliance with Millrock Resources Inc. on the Estelle project about 170 kilometers (105 miles) northwest of Anchorage.
Though Estelle lies in the heart of the Kahiltna Terrane – an assemblage that hosts enormous copper-gold deposits such as Northern Dynasty Ltd. and Anglo American plc’s Pebble project and Kiska Metal Corp.’s Whistler property – the primary metal here is gold.
Since forging the partnership in 2010, Teck has advanced Estelle at a rapid rate – earning a 55 percent stake in the gold project by the end of 2011.
A 1,500-meter reconnaissance drill program carried out across the 77,300-acre (31,300 hectares) property in 2011 narrowed the focus to Oxide, a prospect area discovered by Millrock geologists in the northern portion of Estelle project.
SE11-01 cut 450.7 meters averaging 0.38 g/t gold at Oxide Ridge.
The 1,500-meter drill program carried out at Estelle in 2012 included five shallow holes seeking the heart of gold mineralization at Oxide Ridge.
SE12-04, drilled to the southeast of the discovery hole, cut 41.5 meters averaging 1.1 g/t gold, indicating the partners are narrowing in on the higher grade zone they are seeking. A strong geophysical anomaly further southeast is the planned focus of drilling in 2013.
The 2012 program also tested a geochemical anomaly at the RPM showing located at the south end of the Estelle claim block.
SE12-008, the RPM discovery hole, cut 102.1 meters averaging 1.02 g/t gold, including 2.07 g/t gold over 21.9 meters.
Zinc discoveriesWhile many of the other large zinc mines around the globe may be nearing the end of their reserves, Teck’s Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska has enough ore to continue supplying the industrial metal to global markets for at least another 20 years, and the miner is actively seeking other SEDEX ore-bodies in the region.
Exemplified by Main, a deposit that averaged some 20 percent zinc over the two decades it provided ore to the mills at Red Dog, the SEDEX deposits in this distant corner of Alaska are renowned for their fantastically high zinc grades.
Mopping up the last of the Main Pit, Teck and its Red Dog partner, NANA Regional Native Corp., are now mining Aqqaluk, an adjacent deposit that is anticipated to provide feedstock for the mills until 2031.
Though slightly lower grade, the 51.6-million-metric-ton Aqqaluk deposit still averages 16.7 percent zinc and 4.4 percent lead, or 8.6 million metric tons of contained zinc and 2.3 million metric tons of contained lead.
Anarraaq-Aktigiruq, a deep zinc-rich prospect that lies about 11 kilometers (eight miles) northwest of Red Dog, is shaping up to be another massive zinc deposit with grades comparable to those currently being mined.
According to a 2004 report written for the Society of Economic Geologists, Anarraaq consists of a barite body, estimated to be as big as 1 billion metric tons, hosting a zone of massive sulfide zinc-lead-silver mineralization.
Teck discovered the deposit in 1999, subsequently establishing an inferred resource of about 17.2 million metric tons grading 15.8 percent zinc, 4.8 percent lead, and 71 g/t silver.
Hole 1109, drilled at the north end of a 9,000-meter-long geophysical target, intersected 4 meters averaging 29 percent zinc. Hole 1114 – drilled about 3,000 meters southeast – cut 14 meters grading 17 percent zinc, including five meters at 46 percent zinc. Another 4,000 meters south, hole 1150C cut 32 meters averaging 11 percent zinc, including 3.4 meters at 32 percent zinc.
In addition to continuing to expand Anarraaq, Teck is drilling a new region to the west of Red Dog called Noatak. Integrating modern geophysics, stream sediment sampling and detailed geological mapping – Teck has produced around 20 drill targets on these state of Alaska mining claims.