Gold exploration companies are searching for the next high-grade gold discovery in Ontario’s Red Lake mining district.
The potential for high-grade gold discoveries is attracting resource exploration companies to Ontario’s famed Red Lake mining district.
Australian gold producer Evolution Mining’s (ASX:EVN,OTC Pink:CAHPF) purchase of Newmont Corporation’s (TSX:NGT,NYSE:NEM) Red Lake Mine complex for US$375 million highlights the industry’s belief that this region is ripe for new discoveries like those made at Great Bear Resources’ (TSXV:GBR,OTC:GTBDF) Dixie project.
Gold exploration potential at Red Lake
Evolution Mining has made a move into the Canadian resource sector with the acquisition of Newmont Goldcorp’s Red Lake mine complex in Northwestern Ontario. The deal includes an additional US$100 million to Newmont Goldcorp contingent on a new resource discovery.
The Red Lake mine complex includes the Campbell and Red Lake mines and their associated mills as well as the Cochenour mine. In 2018, the Red Lake complex produced 276,000 ounces of gold. Recent estimates of ore reserves total 9.2 million metric tons grading 7 grams per metric ton gold for 2.1 million ounces of gold, in addition to significant mineral resources. The Red Lake acquisition has the potential to boost Evolution’s total annual gold production by 22 percent, placing the company on the same footing as Kirkland Lake Gold (ASX:KLA,TSX:KL,NYSE:KL), which produced 974,615 ounces in 2019.
Besides adding a producing mine to its portfolio, Evolution is keen on taking advantage of the exploration opportunities on offer in a region that remains underexplored despite a long history of gold production. The Australian miner says it will spend US$100 million on the current mines and another US$50 million in exploration over the next three years, including more than 100,000 meters in drilling. “The camp has significant exploration potential which, coupled with its relatively unexplored recent past, provides significant upside potential for Evolution to extend the longevity of the operation well beyond its current 13-year life of mine plan,” Evolution Executive Chairman Jake Klein said.
Red Lake mining district’s proven gold production
Gold was first discovered in the broader region of the Red Lake mining district by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1897. The discovery of gold on the shores of Red Lake in 1925 led to the past-producing Howey mine and the beginning of the region’s first gold rush. By the 1940s, there were 12 producing mines in the district, including the Campbell and Red Lake mines. Today, the Red Lake mining district is one of the largest and highest-grade gold camps in North America with historical production totaling more than 30 million ounces.
A lesser-known area within the Red Lake mining district is the Birch-Uchi greenstone belt, which covers a 32 kilometer long by 84 kilometer wide north-central portion of the Uchi Subprovince of the Canadian Shield. The Birch-Uchi Belt is highly prospective but is under-explored due to limited access. The only significant past-producing gold mine in the Birch-Uchi greenstone belt, the Argosy gold mine, was responsible for generating 101,875 ounces of gold and 9,788 ounces of silver at a gold grade of 12.7 grams per metric ton. However, the largest known gold deposit in the belt is First Mining Gold’s (TSX:FF,OTCQX:FFMGF,FWB:FMG) Springpole gold deposit, which hosts a resource estimate of 4.67 million ounces of gold in the indicated category.
Red Lake mining district hotbed of exploration activity
More recent discoveries in the Red Lake mining district include the multiple high-grade gold hits at the Dixie project. Great Bear’s success at Dixie has sparked a staking rush in the Red Lake mining district. Great Bear itself recently picked up three additional projects in the region.
“Newrange Gold (TSXV:NRG,OTCQB:NRGOF,FWB:6C) recently consolidated two optioned properties in the Red Lake mining district to form the North Birch property. The 3,850-hectare land package contains a magnetic signature that is indicative of a strongly folded iron formation that is similar to that hosting Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine, another prominent gold producer in northwestern Ontario.
“We have secured what we believe to be the most favorable geology in the northwestern part of the Birch-Uchi Greenstone Belt. Although the main iron formation has never been drill-tested, there is gold in the area and this geological setting is considered to be highly prospective for a new discovery. Iron formation hosted gold deposits are known around the world as a subset of Precambrian gold deposits,” said Newrange CEO Robert Archer.
“Having worked at the Musselwhite mine and the Tucano gold mine in Brazil, I am personally familiar with this geological model. Furthermore, Robert Carrington, Newrange’s President, is familiar with the Springpole deposit from his tenure as CEO with Gold Canyon before it was purchased by First Mining. As such, we are no strangers to northwestern Ontario, which is enjoying a resurgence of exploration success.”
BTU Metals’ Dixie Halo project is adjacent to Great Bear’s Dixie project. BTU believes Great Bear’s discoveries appear to follow a trend that crosses their 19,723 hectare Dixie Halo property as well as other structures proximal to their discoveries that extend southeasterly onto BTU’s property across the Dixie Creek target. BTU’s drill program in the Dixie Creek target area has encountered the rock types found north and south of the LP fault structure on Great Bear’s property.
Prime Meridian has optioned a 100 percent interest in a series of claims in the Red Lake gold district, including the 4,250 acre Bruce Lake project, which is located southeast of Great Bear’s Dixie project, as well as the 6,250 acre Camping Lake project, which is adjacent to Great Bear’s Packwash project. The company has also optioned three additional claims that are contiguous to the Bruce Lake and Camping Lake projects and due south of the TNT target on BTU Metals’ Dixie Halo project. “The Red Lake gold district in Ontario hosts some of the richest gold deposits in the world and, as evidenced by the recent high-grade discovery of Great Bear Resources, the region remains a major gold exploration opportunity,” Prime Meridian CEO Brian Leeners said.
Portofino Resources has recently acquired the 5,120 hectare South of Otter gold property, which is located 8 kilometers east of Great Bear’s Dixie project and within 6 kilometers of BTU’s Dixie Halo project. Portofino initiated the first phase of its 2020 exploration program in February, consisting of approximately 25 line kilometers of ground very-low-frequency electromagnetics geophysics and soil geochemistry surveys. The company is working to delineate mineralized structures related to past gold and base metal discoveries in the region and is expected to outline targets for follow-up trenching and drilling.
The Red Lake mining district’s proven high-grade gold production along with recent notable gold discoveries has ignited a new gold rush in Northwestern Ontario. Gold exploration companies are flocking to the region in the hopes of making the next big discovery.
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