The best place to find a new mine is in the shadow of an old mine, says a well-known adage, and Nova Scotia’s historic gold camps are proving it’s true.
In Canada, much of the focus for investment opportunities in mining-friendly jurisdictions has been on Quebec, Ontario, the Yukon and BC.
However, it’s important for investors to understand that viable exploration opportunities are available in Atlantic Canada, particularly Nova Scotia, which has a long mining history dating back to Canada’s first gold rush in 1861 — more than 30 years before the Yukon. Since then and 1976, the province produced some 1.1 million ounces, with historic gold-mining grades ranging upwards of 10 g/t.
Nova Scotia is home to many past-producing mining camps left relatively untouched by modern exploration techniques, all surrounded by well-established infrastructure. In fact, the small province hosts a gold inventory, according to existing resource estimates, of more than 1.8 million ounces in the measured and indicated category, with an additional 2.5 million ounces inferred.
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Canada’s first gold rush
Gold was first officially discovered in Nova Scotia in 1860 by John Gerrish Pulsifer, a farmer who turned to prospecting after he learned about the potential discovery of the yellow metal near the Tangier River by Captain Champagne L’Estrange two years earlier. The provincial government’s acknowledgement of Pulsifer’s discovery on the eastern shore kicked off Canada’s first gold rush in the Mooseland and Tangier regions, and it lasted from 1861 to 1874.
Two more gold rushes would sweep the province in the 20th century. The second, between 1896 and 1903, was heralded as a golden age, with mining in Nova Scotia becoming a multimillion-dollar industry dominated by large companies with heavy machinery. Gold was mainly mined from high-grade “nugget” pockets of mineralization concentrated in quartz veins. Rising gold prices in the 1930s sparked the third gold rush, which lasted until 1942, at which time gold mining in the province came to a halt.
The upside to historic mining districts
Today, there are more than 60 historic gold districts in Nova Scotia, many of which have never been fully exploited or explored, especially not with modern exploration techniques.
“The distribution and frequency of historic gold mines in the province speaks to the metals endowment in the district,” said Cooper Quinn, president and director of Osprey Gold Development (TSXV:OS). “In short — there are a lot of old gold mines. This likely means the mineralizing event was widespread and extensive, and there should hopefully be lots more to find.”
As the well-known adage says, the best place to find a new mine is in the shadow of an old mine, and the historic gold camps in Nova Scotia are proving it’s true. “Knowing the rocks are extensively mineralized is a good start — Nova Scotia’s more brownfields than greenfields exploration,” added Quinn. The possibility of hitting pay dirt on a greenfields project is becoming much harder and more expensive for today’s junior resource companies. The past production of those mines shows the gold is there for the taking with the right technology and expertise. Exploring for new discoveries in historic mining camps saves time and money, bestowing significant economic benefits for junior resource companies.
Osprey Gold holds a portfolio of five past-producing properties that are all within close proximity of each other and are interconnected by the same road system — representing a significant land package in Nova Scotia’s gold country.
With the help of modern exploration techniques and historical geological data, companies like Osprey Gold are seeking to unlock the untapped potential in Nova Scotia’s historic mining camps. The properties attracting the most attention are those that encompass a past-producing mine, possess an extensive historical database and have excellent access to infrastructure, including transportation networks.
Goldenville, Osprey’s flagship project, is located about 17 kilometers from Atlantic Gold’s (TSXV:AGB) Cochrane Hill project and 5 kilometers from Sherbrooke in the Goldenville Mining District. The largest historic gold-producing district in the province, it was responsible for 212,300 ounces of gold production between 1862 and 1942. Infrastructure in the area, including roads and power, is well developed.
Intermittent exploration on the Goldenville property between 1961 and 2014 led to the creation of a large database that includes more than 30,000 meters of surface and underground drilling and formed the basis of a NI 43-101 inferred resource of more than 2.8 million tonnes at 3.2 g/t gold for a total of 288,000 ounces of gold.
Nova Scotia: An ideal jurisdiction
Nova Scotia is a favorable mining jurisdiction not only for its mineral wealth. Strategically located along the eastern seaboard of North America, the province hosts deep-water, ice-free ports, along with well-established infrastructure and a skilled workforce.
“Infrastructure in Nova Scotia is a huge advantage over many parts of Canada, especially the north,” said Quinn. “In terms of exploration, we can drive to all of our projects, which means we don’t have to worry about the risk and cost of helicopters, or the expense of a big exploration camp, and we can shorten our downtime. If we get to construction and development, there’s nearby rail, ports and power.”
The province’s streamlined regulatory system rivals its Canadian western counterparts, including BC and the Yukon. In 2012, the Nova Scotia government began a mineral incentive program to help exploration companies in search of new discoveries, including prospector, project funding and research grants.
“Policy wise, Nova Scotia is excellent. Everything from staking information, to government geologists and permitting is very transparent and straightforward,” added Quinn. “There’s recently been an open-pit mine permitted and constructed, showing that it is possible to do so under the current rules and legislation.”
Nova Scotia’s emerging gold producers
Nova Scotia’s mining industry is experiencing a resurgence in activity alongside the government’s support for the sector. According to the CBC, the number of provincial exploration licenses rose from 259 over 35,000 hectares in 2015, to 417 covering nearly 97,000 hectares in 2016. While those licenses cover a variety of minerals, “gold is a target for many,” as per the province’s Department of Natural Resources.
In October 2017, Atlantic Gold announced the start of production and the first gold pour from the Moose River Consolidated (MRC) open-pit project, located in the same geological neighborhood as Osprey Gold’s Goldenville and Caribou projects. Gold was first discovered on the property in the 1860s, and MRC shares similar geology to Goldenville, with both properties being characterized by structurally controlled, slate belt-hosted gold.
The MRC project is expected to produce an average 87,000 ounces per year during its first phase, which includes mining the Beaver Dam and Touquoy properties; together they account for proven and probable reserves of 760,000 ounces of gold at a grade of 1.44 g/t. During the second phase, Atlantic Gold will add in production from the Fifteen Mile Stream and Cochrane Hill deposits, which together contain measured and indicated resources of 850,000 ounces.
Resource Capital Gold’s (TSXV:RCG) Dufferin mine is one of two gold mines currently operational in Nova Scotia. Initial gold production from test milling was achieved in March 2017, and the company has continued with bulk sampling work. The mine is expected to reach full capacity during 2018. Dufferin is a past-producing property with more than 14 east-west trending quartz vein gold-bearing structures open at depth and extending along trend for over 3.2 kilometers. Resource Capital is also advancing the Tangier and Forest Hill gold projects toward the preliminary economic assessment stage, and is located closest to Osprey Gold’s Miller Lake project.
Nova Scotia is also home to a number of advanced exploration and development-stage gold projects, including Anaconda Mining’s (TSX:ANX) recently acquired Goldboro project, located on tidewater approximately 185 kilometers northeast of Halifax. Goldboro is another historic producer dating back to the 19th century and contains NI 43-101 measured and indicated gold resources of 525,400 ounces and an inferred resource of 347,300 ounces. Anaconda is eyeing 2020 for first production, and plans to ship ore for processing at its Pine Cove mill in Newfoundland. Goldboro is located next door to Osprey Gold’s Lower Seal Harbour project.
Nova Scotia may not get as much press as other Canadian provinces when it comes to resource extraction, but it’s hard to overlook the opportunities to be had in its underexplored historic gold-mining camps. With well-established infrastructure, mining-friendly government policies and a resurgence in mining activity in Atlantic Canada, there are sure to be more successes on par with the Dufferin, MRC and Goldboro projects.
This article was first published by the Investing News Network in 2017.