By the Saskatchewan Geological Survey (SGS) – Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources
SSR Mining Inc.’s (SSRM) Seabee gold operation, comprising the Seabee and Santoy underground mines, remained Saskatchewan’s sole gold producer over the past year. The operation continued its trend of strong production levels over recent years, setting a new annual production record in 2017 of 83,998 ounces (oz) of gold from 330,415 tonnes (t) of ore grading 8.25 grams per tonne (g/t) gold. This strong performance has carried over to the current year, with production of 75,130 oz through the first three quarters of 2018. This includes third quarter production of 27,831 oz, representing an all-time quarterly production record for the operation. After 27 years and over one million oz of produced gold, the original Seabee mine was decommissioned in early 2018. As such, all current production from the Seabee operation is from the Santoy underground mine.
Gold exploration took place at several locales around Saskatchewan over the past year, and it is estimated that gold expenditures for 2018 will be approximately $3.4M. The majority of recent exploration work was done by SSRM in and around the area of the Seabee operation. For 2018, plans for exploration included 45,000 metres (m) of underground drilling and 20,000 metres of surface drilling, with the objective of increasing and converting Mineral Resources into Mineral Reserves near the Santoy mine. Underground drilling focused on several targets, including Santoy Gap, Santoy 8A zone and Santoy Gap hanging wall zone, whereas surface drilling focused on areas close to the Santoy mine area, including the CRJ and Santoy 3 zones. SSRM, along with option partner Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. (Eagle Plains), also undertook surface drilling on the Fisher property, located to the south of the Santoy mine along the southern ex-tension of the Santoy shear zone. This followed surface-based exploration activity on the property in 2017, which generated several gold-in-soil anomalies and identification of visible gold mineralization in two areas.
Eagle Plains, with joint venture partner Roughrider Exploration Ltd., also commenced gold exploration on its Olson project, located 120 kilometres east of La Ronge. Work at Olson consisted of soil geochemical sampling, rock sampling, prospecting and geological mapping. Taiga Gold Corp. (Taiga), a recent spinout company of Eagle Plains, was active on its Orchid project in the Santoy mine area. Work conducted this year on the property included a 500-line-kilometre, high-resolution airborne (drone) magnetic survey, as well as geological mapping, prospecting and soil sampling. Taiga also conducted early stage exploration work at its SAM project, located just west of Flin Flon, that included geological mapping, prospecting, rock sampling and soil geo-chemical surveys.
Gold exploration in the Flin Flon area was also undertaken by Searchlight Re-sources Inc. (Searchlight, formerly Can-yon Copper Corp.) at its Bootleg Lake project, which includes the past-producing Rio and Newcor gold mines. Search-light conducted a 97.7-line-kilometre drone aeromagnetic survey targeting priority areas on the property, followed by a drilling program comprising 1,446 metres in four holes. Searchlight has also entered into a consulting agreement to develop a plan to establish access to the historic Rio mine workings.
In the La Ronge area, Comstock Metals Ltd. completed metallurgical test work on sample materials from its Preview southwest deposit. Results of this testing indicated no significant metallurgical is-sues related to gold recovery, and better defined the potential processing options for the project.
Base metal exploration expenditures for Saskatchewan are forecast to be just over $12M for 2018, up four-fold from last year’s actual expenditures of $3.5M (Table 1). The two projects that have seen the most consistent exploration activity over recent years are Foran Mining Corpora-tion’s (Foran) McIlvenna Bay project and Murchison Minerals Ltd.’s (Murchsion) Brabant-McKenzie project. A new project is CoEX Metals Corporation’s West Bear Co-Ni prospect (CoEX is a subsidiary company of UEX Corporation), located in the eastern Athabasca Basin. Minor exploration activity has also been reported from several other base metal projects scattered throughout the province, including Transition Metals and Forum Uranium Corp. announcing results of a short autumn diamond drilling program on the Janice Lake sedimentary copper property in the Wollaston Domain, and Durango Resources Inc. reporting on anomalous grab samples from their Dianna Lake Ag-Cu-Co property northwest of Uranium City.
Foran’s wholly owned Zn-Cu McIlvenna Bay deposit, which is located 60 kilometres west-southwest of Flin Flon, is a volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit. The deposit, a 25-million-tonne (Mt) resource, consists of several distinct zones of mineralization, including two massive to semi-massive sulfide lenses (Main Lens and Lens 3), as well as the underlying copper stockwork mineralization. In addition to zinc and copper, the deposit also contains appreciable amounts of silver and gold. The results of a Preliminary Economic Assessment, released in 2014, were positive. The assessment had been based on a 5000 t/day underground mine and concentrator, with a 14-year mine life.
In the fall of 2017, Foran entered into a technical service agreement with Glen-core Canada Corporation to advance the McIlvenna Bay deposit to the feasibility stage. Subsequent, infill drill programs saw the completion of 28 diamond-drill holes (DDH) (totaling 15,215 metres) in the winter, and the summer program was planned to include 33 holes (totaling 12,000 metres). The second part of the winter drill program focused on the deeper portions of the deposit (down-plunge at depths ranging from 500 to 1,000 vertical metres) and impressive intersections were encountered, with better than expected copper-gold and zinc values. Some of the intersections in the winter drill program were reported to include 14.35 per cent Zn over 4.48 metres and 13.20 per cent Zn over 5.26 metres. Intersections of the cop-per stockwork zone included 16 metres of continuous mineralization, consisting of 3.65 per cent Cu and 2.26 per cent Zn. Exploration drilling also continued at Tar-get A, located 1.5 kilometres southeast of McIlvenna Bay, where 11 metres of eight to 10 per cent net-textured pyrrhotite were encountered at a downhole depth of 1385 metres.
Murchison’s wholly owned Zn-Cu-Pb-Ag Brabant-McKenzie project is located 175 kilometres northeast of La Ronge. The deposit is located in the Kisseynew Domain, and comprises two massive to semi-massive sulfide lenses (Upper Zone and Lower Zone).
Based on a 2017 Mineral Resource estimate, the deposit was reported to be a six-million-tonne Zn-Cu-Pb-Ag resource. Murchison commenced its winter diamond-drill program at the end of March 2018, on four drill targets (Brabant-McKenzie deposit, Anomaly C, Anomaly D, and TOM2) for a total of 12,431 metres drilled in 25 holes. In an effort to upgrade the Resource estimate, the majority of the drillholes (19, totaling 9,004 metres) were focused on the Brabant-McKenzie depos-it. Mineralization was intersected in all of the drillholes, and the Indicated Resource was upgraded to 2.1 Mt grading 7.08 per cent Zn, 0.69 per cent Cu, 0.49 per cent Pb and 39.6 g/t Ag. The Inferred Resource was upgraded to 7.6 Mt grading 4.45 per cent Zn, 0.57 per cent Cu, 0.19 per cent Pb and 18.4 g/t Ag. As a result of the continuing increase in cobalt prices, UEX Uranium (UEX Corporation) announced in November of 2017 that it would re-evaluate the West Bear Co-Ni prospect, located immediately east of the West Bear uranium deposit in the eastern Athabasca Basin. During of the initial 2002-2005 UEX drill programs, cobalt-nickel mineralization (uranium-free) at the West Bear prospect was described to cover an area at least 175 metres long, extending down-dip at least 75 metres, and ranging between 15 to 55 metres in vertical depth.
In January of 2018, CoEX Metals Corporation (CoEx) was formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of UEX Corporation in order to commence a winter drill program to grow the size of the known cobalt-nick-el mineralization at West Bear. The program saw the completion of 41 diamond-drill holes (totaling 4457 metres) and one of the best intersections of the program included a composite assay grade of 2.00 per cent Co and 1.26 per cent Ni over a 10.5-metre core length between 46.0 metres and 56.5 metres depth. In July of 2018, the company announced an Inferred Re-source estimate for the deposit of 390,000 tonnes grading 0.37 per cent Co and 0.22 per cent Ni, which equates to 3,172,000 pounds of cobalt and 1,928,000 pounds of nickel.
In 2017, actual expenditures for diamond exploration projects were approximately $6.2 M. Spending in 2018 is anticipated to be $23.1M and will be focused on the Star-Orion South project, about 65 kilometres east of Prince Albert, and on grassroots activity in the Deschambault Lake area (Pikoo district) about 290 kilometres northeast of Prince Albert.
Over the past year, Shore Gold Inc. (Shore) changed its name to Star Diamond Corp. (Star Diamond). In early 2018, Star Diamond and Rio Tinto Exploration Canada Inc. (RTEC) conducted HQ drilling (10 holes) on the Star kimberlite and geotechnical investigations on the overburden.
A total of 1210 metres of kimberlite were intersected in 10 holes. Star Diamond also completed a Prelimi-nary Economic Assessment (PEA) on the Star and Orion South kimberlites, estimating that 66 million carats of diamonds could be recovered in a surface mine over a 38-year project life (i.e., four years of pre-stripping and 34 years of processing). The PEA model is based on developing two open pits (one each at the Star and Orion South kimberlites) with one processing plant. In fall 2018, Rio Tinto established an on-site 90-person camp with on-site communications and security facilities, started upgrading forest access roads and started bulk sample drilling of a proposed 10 holes on the Star kimberlite.
In other news, in the Deschambault Lake area, in late 2017, North Arrow Minerals Inc. continued work on its Pikoo diamond project. The company collected till samples in order to better define some of its kimberlite indicator mineral trains. In the western Athabasca Basin, CanAlaska Uranium Ltd., in early 2018, acquired four new claim groups, with the intent of exploring magnetic features identified from airborne surveys.