In 2014, many junior exploration companies work to preserve capital by undertaking modest exploration programs. The injection of funding into the Yukon Mineral Exploration Program continues to be a valuable source of seed money for prospectors and juniors. The Government of Yukon increased its 2014 program funding to C$1.4 million from C$1.17 million in 2013. Forty-eight placer and hardrock exploration projects received funding in 2014. The program also has increased its limits from C$35,000 to C$50,000 matching dollars per project, offering companies strong backing for their programs.
Exploration spending is forecast to be approximately C$65 million for 2014. Nine programs are spending more than C$1 million and 10 programs involve drilling. Although numbers are down from the peak activity of 2011, exploration spending shows healthy increases from 2013 and the activity level is well above the average for the past two decades. Gold continues to be alluring, with two-thirds of exploration programs searching for this precious metal. The remaining programs are searching for lead, zinc, copper, nickel, silver and platinum group elements.
Despite current equity markets, a few exploration companies had enough cash or were able to raise the money to undertake substantial programs. With a budget of C$6.8 million, Atac Resources continued exploring its Rackla Gold project along the northern margin of Selwyn basin. Kaminak Gold Corp. continued to drill its multi-zone Coffee Gold property and began a feasibility study after posting a positive preliminary economic assessment in July 2014.
Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd. is carrying out an ambitious C$65 million exploration and development project on its massive lead-zinc property in eastern Yukon. The program includes infill drilling, geotechnical drilling, and upgrading a historic road to a full access road connecting the property to the Nahanni Range Road near Cantung mine.
Wellgreen Platinum Ltd. (formerly Prophecy Platinum Corp.) announced a new NI 43-101 mineral resource estimate on its Wellgreen PGM-Ni-Cu project in southwest Yukon in July 2014. Measured and indicated resources increased to 330 million metric tons at 1.67 grams per metric ton platinum equivalent at a 0.57 g/t platinum-equivalent cut-off. The new resource estimate, along with metallurgical testing results, will be incorporated into a PEA to be released this year.
After a hiatus from drilling in 2013, Rockhaven Resources has resumed its drilling program at its Klaza epithermal gold-silver property, located in the historic Mt. Nansen district. The 21,000-meter drill program includes definition drilling on the high-grade western BRX and Western Klaza zones.
Mining and DevelopmentThe territory is home to three hard rock mines. Capstone Mining’s Minto (copper-gold-silver) mine continued to produce at capacity, producing over 37 million pounds of copper from open pit production in 2013. Capstone began underground mining at Minto in 2014 after exhausting the reserve in the Area 2 open pit and is in the process of permitting all known mineral reserves with the expectation of mining the high-grade Minto North pit by 2015.
The Wolverine (lead-zinc-copper-gold-silver) mine of Yukon Zinc Corp. achieved full production in early 2013 (1,700 metric tons per day), but then reduced production by 40 percent six months later due to uncertain economic conditions and declining metal prices. The company has since ramped up to 75 percent production capacity.
Alexco Resource Corp. temporarily suspended its mining operation at Bellekeno (silver-lead-zinc) mine in the historic Keno Hill Mining District in September 2013 due to low silver prices. Alexco filed a PEA technical report in December 2013 for its operations at Bellekeno, Lucky Queen and the new Flame & Moth property. The company successfully renegotiated its silver purchasing agreement in June. Production decisions, including the re-opening of Bellekeno mine are expected to be made in 2015. The company continued to explore its property in 2014 with a budget of C$5 million and a plan for 10,000 metres of surface drilling.
Victoria Gold received permits to begin development of its Eagle gold deposit, but has deferred a production decision until equity markets recover. In the meantime, Victoria Gold has undertaken a metallurgical sampling program at the Olive Zone, a drill target located two kilometers (1.24 miles) north of the Eagle deposit, and begun the second phase of drilling at Olive. Phase 2 is following up on high-grade intersections from the phase 1 (19 holes, 3,000 meters) program. The company plans to calculate a resource estimate at Olive to be later incorporated into an updated feasibility study.
Golden Predator Mining Corp is advancing its Brewery Creek gold deposit with a PEA anticipated for the fourth quarter 2014. The PEA will assess open-pit mining of several shallow oxide deposits on the property.
North American Tungsten Mines Ltd. is undergoing the final stages of assessment for its Mactung tungsten deposit near the Northwest Territories border at Macmillan Pass.
Western Copper and Gold Corp has begun the assessment process for its massive Casino copper-gold porphyry deposit in western Yukon.
Yukon’s commitmentThe Yukon government’s commitment to supporting a strong mining and exploration industry continues to be reflected in its Yukon Mineral Exploration Program, which provides a portion of the risk capital required to locate, explore and develop mineral projects to an advanced exploration stage. YMEP has also proven to be a strong vehicle for companies to leverage additional funding from investors.
The Government of Yukon is committed to providing an attractive investment climate. This is achieved through a strong regulatory system, a consistent and comprehensive mining regulatory framework, good access to markets, and engaged First Nations partners. The Government of Yukon and Government of Canada have signed modern land claim agreements with 11 of the 14 Yukon First Nations. These agreements contribute to clarity for industry in regard to engagement and potential for First Nation partnerships and opportunities.
The Yukon Geological Survey supports mineral exploration and mining by providing information that helps to reduce exploration risk. Projects underway this year include ongoing bedrock mapping in the easternmost Rackla belt, in the Hyland Group in southeast Yukon, and in southwestern Yukon in rocks that are correlative to the Juneau gold belt. In addition, they initiated a new study to assess the porphyry potential of Jurassic-aged granitic plutons in south-central Yukon. New data releases this year include a gravity survey in the Dawson area, a three-dimensional geologic model between Aishihik Lake and Carmacks, and some new interpretive maps generated from stream sediment geochemical data.
For more information on Yukon’s Mineral Resources, visit
Lara Lewis is an economic geologist at the Yukon Geological Survey, Department of Energy Mines and Resources, Government of Yukon.