A well-established mining region with a rich geological environment, the Abitibi gold belt offers plenty of opportunities for new discoveries.
Straddling the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s Abitibi gold belt is a 450 kilometer long by 150 kilometer wide mineral-rich geological belt that stretches from Foleyet, Ontario, to Chibougamau, Quebec.
The Abitibi is what makes Ontario and Quebec Canada’s most prolific gold-producing provinces. In 2018, Ontario and Quebec together accounted for more than 75 percent of mined gold production in the country. A well-established mining region with a rich geological environment, the Abitibi offers plenty of opportunities for new discoveries.
Prolific gold production in the Abitibi gold belt
The Abitibi is an assemblage of Archean-age volcanic, sedimentary and intrusive rocks hosting a variety of economic mineral deposits that support mining and exploration for gold, silver, copper, zinc, nickel, other specialty metals and industrial minerals. As the largest greenstone belt in the world, the Abitibi contains a gold-mining history that is unsurpassed by most gold districts. The belt has given rise to more than 100 mines and yielded more than 180 million ounces of gold since the first mining camps were discovered in the early 1900s. In the Quebec region of the belt, the Abitibi is home to a number of significant mining camps where clusters of gold deposits occur proximal to major structural breaks, including Val-d’Or, Rouyn-Noranda, Cadillac, Malartic, Chibougamau and Casa Berardi.
The Casa Berardi, LaRonde and Canadian Malartic mines are all prime examples of what this region has to offer. Hecla Mining’s (NYSE:HL) Casa Berardi mine produced approximately 2.5 million recovered gold ounces since commencing production in 1988 until the end of 2018. In 2019, the mine produced 134,409 ounces of gold at a cash cost of C$1,051 per ounce after by-product credits. Hecla’s exploration efforts at Casa Berardi continue to prove fruitful, with proven and probable mineral reserves of 1.7 million ounces at the end of 2019.
The deepest mine in the Americas, Agnico Eagle Mines’ (TSX:AEM,NYSE:AEM) flagship LaRonde mine, has been in production since 1988. In 2019, LaRonde produced 343,154 ounces of gold, 883,000 ounces of silver, 12,292 metric tons of zinc and 3,390 metric tons of copper. By year-end 2019, the company’s proven and probable gold mineral reserves at LaRonde was 2.9 million ounces.
Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold’s (TSX:YRI,NYSE:AUY) 50/50 JV Canadian Malartic mine entered commercial production six years after its 2005 discovery by Osisko Mining. Today, Canadian Malartic is Canada’s largest gold mine and the world’s 10th largest gold producer. The 55,000 metric ton per day open-pit operation produces roughly 650,000 ounces of gold each year.
Abitibi still a hotbed for gold exploration
Even with a mining history that spans over a century, Quebec’s Abitibi region is still a hotbed of recent exploration and development activity. In 2015, Osisko Mining (TSX:OSK,OTC Pink:OBNNF) sparked a staking rush in the region with the discovery of multiple significant zones of gold mineralization at its Windfall Lake project. Today, the property is one of the highest-grade resource-stage gold projects in Canada. The project currently has a mineral resource estimate that includes indicated resources of 2.87 million metric tons grading 8.17 grams per metric ton and inferred resources of 10.35 million metric tons grading 7.11 grams per metric ton. Osisko’s ongoing exploration at Windfall is aimed at increasing that mineral resource estimate.
“The Abitibi is an excellent geological environment for exploration,” David Watkinson, P.Eng., president and CEO of Emgold Mining (TSXV:EMR,OTC Pink:EGMCF,FRA:EMLM), told Investing News Network. “The region remains fairly underexplored despite its long history and there is ample opportunity for new discoveries even near producing districts, especially along geological structures like the Casa Berardi fault zone.”
Emgold acquired a 100 percent interest in the Casa South early-stage exploration project in June 2019. The property covers over 100 square kilometers immediately south of Hecla’s Casa Berardi mine. The geological structures found on the Casa South property share similar lithology to the Casa Berardi mine. Following the first discovery of gold in the Casa Berardi fault in 1981, historical exploration work at Casa South included various geophysical surveys as well as soil and rock chip sampling and drilling looking for similar targets. Emgold’s exploration work to date at Casa South has focused on the Kama Trend gold-bearing structure near the property boundary with the Casa Berardi mine. Discovered in the 1980s, this structure hosts numerous anomalous gold mineralized zones with historic assays above 300 parts per billion gold.
Casa South is also north of IAMGOLD’s (TSX:IMG,NYSE:JAG) Gemini-Turgeon property, operated by IAMGOLD along with joint venture partners Yorbeau Resources (TSX:YRB) and Vale (NYSE:VALE). The Gemini fault runs north from the Gemini-Turgeon property onto Casa South, where it intersects the north-east trending Harricana fault, creating what appears to be a major structural wedge off the Casa-Berardi fault on the Casa South property. Emgold intends to explore these other structural areas and geophysical targets in the future.
In December 2018, Emgold announced it had obtained options to acquire up to a 55 percent interest in the East-West property located in the Val d’Or Mining Camp on strike, west of and adjacent to Wesdome Gold Mines’ (TSX:WDO) Kiena Complex property, which hosts the past-producing Kiena mine. The Kiena Complex produced more than 2.8 million ounces of gold from 1981 to 2013 and has a permitted 2,000 metric ton per day milling and refining complex currently on care and maintenance. It is also on strike, east of and adjacent to Osisko Mining’s (TSX:OSK) Marban Block property, which contains three past producing mines (Marban, Norlartic, and Kierrans) that produced more than 590,000 ounces of gold.
In 2018, Emgold acquired the Troilus North property in Quebec and within months was able to produce a technical report, complete an exploration program and then sell the property to Troilus Gold (TSXV:TLG) for C$250,000 in cash and 3.75 million Troilus Gold shares.
“Quebec is one of the best mining jurisdictions in the world,” said Watkinson. “The government has funded regional studies for various geological areas in the province and annual assessment reports on historic exploration are also readily available from government sources. Resource companies are using this data to better focus their exploration efforts. If you’re looking for new discoveries from which to unlock resources and create value for shareholders, you can’t beat Quebec.”
Combining its geological and structural setting with over a hundred years of mining history and expertise, Canada’s Abitibi Greenstone Belt is a treasure trove of mineralization that may continue to hold more secrets within its ancient rocks. Based on local mineralization and production, the Abitibi is one of the leading regions for gold exploration in Canada.
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