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Vol. 15, No. 47 Week of November 21, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

Mining News: Yukon’s mining talent spans the globe

International faces at Minto Mine, various exploration projects reflect territory’s growing allure as work environment for miners

Rose Ragsdale

For Mining News

As mining heats up in Yukon Territory, professionals from around the globe are finding new roles in the region and employing a host of unique experiences and perspectives in pursuit of exploration, development and production of the territory’s minerals.

This growing international contingent covers the industry spectrum and hails from around the globe. Their presence is most evident in exploration camps scattered across the Yukon; however, the new manager of Yukon’s sole producer, Capstone Mining Corp.’s Minto Mine, is a native of Chile.

Jaime Delgado, mine manager and acting general manager for Minto Explorations Ltd. at the Minto Mine, was trained in geology and rock mechanic engineering in Chile. Minto Explorations is a subsidiary of Capstone.

After working 10 years as exploration geologist, geotechnical geologist and mine geologist at mines in Chile, Delgado was transferred eight years ago by Placer Dome Inc. to serve as senior planner and rock mechanical engineer at the Campbell Mine located in the Red Lake Area of Northwest Ontario. Since then, he has served as senior planner for the Red Lake Gold Mines, project engineer and superintendent at the Snap Lake Diamond Mine in Northwest Territories and project engineer for an underground potash mine in Esterhazy, Sask.

Delgado and his wife and two daughters moved to Vancouver four years ago, and he took up his current assignment at the Minto Mine in August 2009.

“My wife is Chilean as well; she is civil engineer and works for a mining and tunneling contractor company in Burnaby, B.C.,” he said in a recent e-mail. “We have two daughters, one 22 years old, just graduated in kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario, and now she is pursuing a master’s in biomechanics at Western, too, in London, Ont. My second daughter is 11 years old and is doing really well at school, piano lessons, choir, etc.

“We feel so fortunate for our lives, family, professions and thankful for living in this great country!” he added.

In his job at Minto, Delgado not only faces challenges running the open pit mine and mill operation, he is also contributing to planning for new underground mining operations that will allow access to deeper copper and gold mineralization.

During 2010, a property-wide, deep penetrating geophysical survey not only detected all the known mineral deposits at Minto, but also outlined 73 additional targets, 19 of which were deemed high priority. Following up on one of the geophysical targets led to discovery of the shallower “Wildfire” zone and a significant expansion of the deeper “Copper Keel” zone. The company reported a 44 percent increase in measured and indicated mineral resources contained in the undeveloped deposits (i.e. excluding the “Main” deposit currently being mined) based on drilling up to the end of April 2010.

Drilling of the Minto East deposit also defined a high-grade, thick core that tapers out to lower grade and thinner edges.

A “Kiwi” at Kaminak

While a number of mining professionals from Australia have found their way to the Yukon, some of the miners from Down Under come from New Zealand.

Tim Smith, exploration manager for Kaminak Gold Corp.’s Coffee Project in the emerging White Gold District of west-central Yukon, graduated with a master’s degree in geology in 1994 from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Smith moved his family to the Vancouver area after landing the job with Kaminak in 2009. 

Smith spent the first part of his career with a major gold miner in the Archean Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia where he was part of a team that discovered and developed two standalone gold mines in the greenstone belts of the Eastern Goldfields. 

In 2000, he moved into the junior exploration sector with Tanami Gold NL. Starting as project geologist, Smith worked his way up to geology manager, and headed up all geological functions across the company. In this role, he was responsible for the exploration of a major landholding (up to 70,000 square kilometers), and the resource development and eventual mine geology of the Coyote Gold Project, which is now Australia’s most remote operating open cut and underground gold mine. 

As an offshoot to Tanami Gold, Smith also led the geology team for Jabiru Metals Ltd. during the bankable feasibility study into the VHMS copper-zinc-silver Jaguar deposit, also now an operating underground mine. 

At Kaminak, Smith heads the exploration program on the highly prospective Coffee Gold Project where his experience in leading geological teams from initial discovery through resource extension, definition and feasibility to eventual mining, will be invaluable, according to the company. 

The primary target at Coffee is a near-surface, bulk-tonnage gold deposit analogous to the White Gold Project where the Golden Saddle deposit discovery in 2009 yielded a resource exceeding 1 million ounces of gold for Underworld Resources Inc. (Kinross Gold Corp. acquired the White Gold Project in June.)

The Coffee property is located 30 kilometers, or 19 miles, south of the Golden Saddle deposit.  Work to date at Coffee strongly suggests the presence of Golden Saddle-style mineralization. 

In the spring of 2010, Kaminak conducted the first -ever drill program at Coffee, and two major gold discoveries were made at the Supremo and Latte zones.  Located 1 kilometer, or five-eighths of 1 mile, apart, and on two separate structures, both these discoveries is open at depth and along strike.  Currently, eight gold zones have been identified on the property through soil-sampling, but only 7 percent of the property has been soil sampled.  An extensive soil sampling program and additional drilling was carried out during the 2010 season.

A view from Yugoslavia

Miners from Russia, countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are securing Yukon jobs in greater numbers. Konstantin Lesnikov, for example, is project geologist for the giant Casino copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project in west-central Yukon. A native of Yugoslavia where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology at the University of Belgrade, Lesnikov has worked in Canada and Peru for more than 15 years as a mineral exploration geologist. Formerly project geologist for Pacific Booker Minerals, Manhattan Minerals and Archer, Cathro & Associates, Lesnikov has developed considerable expertise in copper exploration. He became a Canadian citizen in 2001 and joined Western Copper Corp. in 2007.

Western Copper Nov. 1 reported a 90 percent jump in its resource estimate for the near-surface supergene sulphide zone at Casino to 252 million metric tons. The calculation includes measured, indicated and inferred resources. The junior also said its estimate for measured and indicated resources in both the supergene and the deeper hypogene mineralization, at a 0.25 percent copper equivalent cut-off, on Casino totaled 1.06 billion metric tons, containing 1.4 billion pounds copper, 2 million ounces old, 117 million pounds molybdenum and nearly 15 million ounces of silver. The explorer’s estimate of the inferred resource in the mineralization, at a 0.25 percent copper equivalent cutoff, jumped six-fold to 1.7 billion metric tons. The results added 7.4 million ounces of gold, 4.4 billion pounds of copper, and 615 million pounds of molybdenum to the resource at the inferred level.

Lesnikov said the new calculation brings Casino’s resource estimate up to NI 43-101 standards. It also incorporates the 26,000 meters of drilling conducted by Western Copper during the past three years.

In addition to the new drilling, the new resource estimate incorporates a re-interpretation of the geology of the deposit, which included re-logging 90,000 meters of core under the direction of Western Copper Consulting Geologist Jack McClintock.

Calling the resource upgrade at Casino “remarkable,” Western Copper Chairman and CEO Dale Corman said the new resource estimated will be included in a revised pre-feasibility study of the project scheduled for completion in early 2011.”

Gold Dome challenges

Karin Fecova is another geologist originally from Eastern Europe who has made her way to Yukon Territory. Fecova is a member of the exploration team at Golden Predator Corp.’s huge 170 square-kilometer, or 65.6-square-mile, Gold (Scheelite) Dome Project in east-central Yukon. Gold Dome’s geology team is headed by an American, Jeff Cary.

Golden Predator Chairman William Sheriff has said he expects 200,000 people to come to Yukon Territory in the next decade as mining activity intensifies. No doubt many of them will hail from other countries.

Gold Dome hosts one of the largest gold-arsenic-bismuth soil anomalies in the territory. Discovered in 1979 by Cominco, the project had 48 historical drill holes and every one of them encountered gold.

“One of the problems we’ve been having is trying to figure out where to concentrate our drilling,” said Sheriff during an interview in August.

“This property has 16 different targets with known mineralization, and that was before I did some research last week which showed that Kennecott drilled some holes 7 kilometers away that got gold, down in the valley where there is no sign of anything,” he said. “We drilled 18 holes last year, and we got a discovery of 25 meters with 11 grams starting at 10 meters. We’ve been following up on that and some other stuff this year.”

Sheriff said the Gold Dome Project has the potential to host at least 5 million to 10 million ounces of gold and is so large that Golden Predator eventually will need a partner to develop it. Several majors have already expressed interest in reviewing the project’s particulars, he added.

Following up on samples showing low-grade gold mineralization, Fecova said she was able to find some high-grade gold intersections at Gold Dome.

Cary, who signed on as project geologist in August, lives in Colorado. With extensive experience in the Nevada gold fields, he developed expertise in reverse circulation drilling.

Cary said Sheriff favors RC drilling because the bigger the sample taken, the better the chances for finding gold, and RC rigs take much larger samples than core rigs.

Sheriff said he sent for Cary because the Canadian drillers at Gold Dome encountered significant problems with RC drilling.

Cary said the RC drilling proved problematic at Gold Dome because the rocks there are broken up down hole.

Cary advised the drillers to orient the RC holes to be drilled vertically or on a slight incline “so the drill hole stays open better” and to use “a conventional hammer bit instead of a face-return bit.” He also suggested that switching from dry drilling to wet drilling might improve the RC drilling process.

The changes resulted in fewer problems with the drilling and the Gold Dome team resumed its push to complete a C$1.6 million to C$1.7 million exploration program in 2010 with 9,000 meters in a combination of 60 to 70 diamond core and RC holes.

Long-distance relationships

Miners in other lands are also making an impact on Yukon mining from a distance. At Northern Freegold Inc.’s Freegold Mountain Project, for example, Swiss consultant Paolo Constantini worked with the explorer’s geologists and geophysicists to help unravel the mysteries of the Nucleus gold deposit and the much larger and adjacent Revenue copper-gold deposit.

In 2009, Northern Freegold also employed Italian geologist Fabrizio Colombo as exploration manager for the Freegold Mountain program.

“Paolo is a geophysicist who worked with Fabrizio,” said project manager Debbie James. But instead of just working with geophysical maps, Constantini worked with the actual rocks. “He worked with the geology and geophysics and made the two mesh, a lot more,” said James.

In 2007, Northern Freegold employed a Russian-trained geologist and in 2006, a geologist from the Philippines.

“As the Yukon mining industry has gotten bigger, the companies have brought in more people from other countries in the ‘battle for talent’,” James observed.

In mid-September, the junior reported initial results for its 2010 exploration program at Freegold Mountain. Phase 1 of the program included 11 diamond and 5 reverse circulation step-out drill holes in the Nucleus zone, 40 RC holes in the Revenue zone, and a 60 line-kilometer Titan Deep IP survey.

Significant results were intersected in step-out holes from historical hole DD 91-1, which returned 80 meters of 0.87 grams per metric ton gold and 3,243 parts per million copper (1.74 g/t gold equivalent). This hole was re-logged and re-assayed to include silver, molybdenum and tungsten in 2010 and returned 89 meters of 0.73 g/t gold, 9.96 g/t silver, 3,062 ppm copper (1.72 g/t gold equivalent). This interval also ran 179.3 ppm molybdenum and 326.9 ppm tungsten. Also of note is a sample collected from RC 10-20, which returned values of 48 g/t gold, 9.90 g/t silver and 2,660 parts per million copper.

The 2010 program, designed to test the broader mineralized system in the Revenue zone, was successful in identifying significant gold, silver, copper system which may lead to additional resources at Freegold Mountain, and a significant mineralized 800 meters by150 meters x 150 meters zone identified in Discovery Target

“We believe the Revenue zone has great potential for us to add resources to the Freegold Project,” said Northern Freegold Chairman and COO Bill Harris. “We have seen indications of significant mineralization in RC drilling at Revenue this season, so we are excited to be able to get a diamond drill rig into the area to help us test the potential of this large-scale porphyry system. The Titan Survey combined with the reconnaissance RC and diamond drilling will help develop an overall picture of the large-scale mineralized system to depth.”

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