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The Drift: The hunt for gold, palladium drives exploration frenzy around Sudbury

From River Valley to Massey, junior miners eye old mine sites and underexplored areas in the search for 'green' and precious metals

The periphery of the Sudbury basin is proving to be favourable exploration ground for junior mining companies on the hunt for gold and the 'green' metals needed to drive the global clean energy movement.

One of the area's most advanced projects is 100 kilometres east of Sudbury where New Age Metals expects to release a prefeasibility study early next year for a proposed open-pit mine.

Their 15,800-acre River Valley Project contains predominately palladium, which comes up nearly to surface. It's why the company is contemplating a series of open-pit mines on a district scale as more minerals are discovered.

The company bills River Valley as one of North America’s largest undeveloped palladium projects. Canada's only other palladium mine is Impala's Les des Iles Mine, northwest of Thunder Bay. 

To date, River Valley contains 2.8 million measured and indicated ounces of palladium with more than 1.1 million ounces in the inferred category. Palladium is the dominant metal on the property at 60 per cent, but there's also platinum, copper, nickel and cobalt in the mix. 

These metals are in demand for pollution emissions technology on gas-powered car exhausts and will be critical ingredients to supply electric vehicle battery manufacturers.

Two years ago, a preliminary economic assessment placed a 14-year open-pit mine life at River Valley, but the company believes there's enough exploration upside to eventually become an underground mine.

Most of the 700 drill holes at River Valley go only 20 metres deep. There's not been any concerted effort to do deep drilling, but a handful of drill holes have encountered mineralization past the 450-metre mark.

Drill crews are concentrating this summer on the property's north end where there are more promising targets in an area dubbed the Banshee Zone.

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Closer in to Sudbury, Inventus Mining is drilling and gathering samples from its Pardo Paleoplacer Gold Project with the aim of eventually posting a first-time mineral resource at the property, 65 kilometres northeast of the city.

The Toronto junior miner believes this advanced stage exploration project has "world-class deposit potential."

A series of three-tonne mini-bulk samples were extracted from one spot on its property called the 007 occurrence. The crushed samples were shipped off the assay lab for analysis.

In late July, the company released a smattering of channel sampling results from Pardo with one highlighting intersection showing 10.2 grams per tonne (g/t) of gold over 5.5 metres and 11.8 g/t over 2.0 metres.

Inventus controls 420 square kilometres of exploration ground in the Sudbury area, including its Sudbury 2.0 Project, 45 kilometres to the east of the city, which contains a predominant gold system with copper, cobalt and nickel.

The company said in late July it was planning to fly an airborne magnetotelluric (MT) survey over the property, along with an induced polarization survey, to help pinpoint exploration targets for followup trenching and drilling later this year. 

One spot on this property, known as Rathbun, was mined in the 1890s from a 45-foot deep shaft. Past sampling from around the shaft returned assays ranging from 6.3 to 74.4 g/t palladium, 1.0 to 18.4 g/t platinum, 0.8 to 22.8 per cent copper, 0.1 to 0.5 per cent nickel, 0.5 to 13.3 g/t gold, and 1.0 to 13.0 g/t silver.

Nearby, Toronto's MacDonald Mines Exploration is focused on the former Scadding gold mine, 30 kilometres east of town, where the company had been drilling since last winter.

Scadding produced 29,000 ounces of gold in the 1980s.

The company believes its SPJ Project contains a system of interconnected gold deposits on its large 18,930-hectare land package. A new gold discovery was recently made 800 metres south the mine, named the Glade area.

Last spring and into the summer, the company was consistently pulling favourable gold results from a drilling and channel sampling program at Glade. One highlighted sample in July graded 8.91 grams per tonne gold over 1.60 metres.

MacDonald president Mia Boiridy commented last month that the type of gold mineralization they're finding at Glade is similar to that of Scadding, indicating there is a "large system at play in this area."

North of Capreol, Transition Metals is working its Sawmill gold and copper project with trenching and mapping work to pick out gold targets for the drill on its 825-hectare property. The Sudbury-based company considers this area an underexplored gold district.

Transition has a stable of gold, copper, silver and tungsten properties on the margins of the Sudbury basin.

One of their spinoff companies, SPC Nickel, was drilling off its Janes Project, a nickel, copper and platinum group metals (PGM) property, 50 kilometres northeast of Sudbury. The company believes the 2,800-hectare property may host several zones of PGM-rich mineralization.

Their flagship is the Aer-Kidd Project, located 20 kilometres southwest of the city, situated between Vale's Totten Mine and KGHM International's Victoria deposit.

Aer-Kidd once hosted three mines which operated from the 1900s to the 1960s.

SPC president Grant Mourre said in a June news release that drilling shows mineralization beneath the former Robinson Mine.

"We are also actively drilling deeper portions of the property at depths similar to those that host the Totten Mine and the Victoria deposit southwest and northeast of the property, respectively. We are excited about the potential of the property and will continue to aggressively drill the property with two active drills.”

To the west of the Sudbury basin, and north of the towns of Spanish and Webbwood, two junior miners are exploring around two dormant mines  both named for the Bard of Avon. 

Graycliff Exploration is looking for a new gold mine beneath a turn-of-the-last-century underground operation.

The Toronto exploration outfit expects to release a raft of exploration drill results next month from the former Shakespeare gold mine, 88 kilometres west of Sudbury.

The company began prospecting, compiling data and drilling there last fall and came to the conclusion that there's a much larger gold system below the previously mined area, which trends northeast across their property.

Shakespeare produced almost 3,000 ounces in its heyday between 1903 and 1907. Because it's roughly halfway between Elliot Lake and Sudbury, the area had been explored extensively for nickel and uranium over the decades, but not for gold.

Three rounds of exploration drilling has revealed high-grade gold near the surface and across a strike length of more than six kilometres. It prompted the company to expand its land package from 517 hectares to currently 2,525 and create two gold projects, Shakespeare and Baldwin.

One drill hole returned a 16.0-metre section with an estimated 16.37 grams per tonne (g/t) of gold. Another hole reveal an even higher grade interval of 67.10 g/t. 

Not far away, Magna Mining of Sudbury is also seeking to revive the Shakespeare nickel and base metals mine, a pit operation from the 2000s.

The dormant mine and 180 square kilometres worth of exploration property, 70 kilometres southwest of Sudbury, was once operated by Ursa Major Minerals. 

Magna acquired the Shakespeare project in early 2017. The company, which began trading on the TSX-Venture Exchange in May, has great expectations of their property becoming "the next significant base metal producer in Sudbury" for nickel, copper and platinum group metals.

Highway 533 cuts through the property which contains a 14.4-million-tonne resource of nickel, copper and platinum group metals and is fully permitted for a 4,500-tonne-per day pit operation, processing plant and mine tailings storage.

The Sudbury junior miner started drilling around Shakespeare and other targets this spring and summer with a 9,000-metre program, and, like many junior miners in Northern Ontario, are awaiting results from their 2,000 samples backlogged at the local assay lab. The company is running electromagnetic surveys to identify drill targets for another round of drilling in the coming weeks.

North of Massey, Grid Metals is deep into the weeds of a summer surface sampling at its East Bull Lake Palladium Property.

In May and June, the Toronto explorer was posting favourable drill results after hitting palladium-rich mineralization its Central Parisien Lake Zone.

Grid started a field program at East Bull in early July to identify targets for its next drill program. They also started a metallurgical test program at an independent lab to look at recoveries of palladium, platinum, copper, nickel and gold, a sign, a determining factor, the company said, "of the prospectivity of East Bull."

Since the early 1950s, the area has been intermittently explored for nickel, copper and platinum group metals by the likes of the Atomic Energy of Canada, Inco and the Ontario Geological Survey.

Close to Grid, Canadian Palladium continues to explore the possibility of an open-pit mine in the Massey area.

Spring drilling at its East Bull Palladium deposit, 90 kilometres west of Sudbury, has produced a solid string of good results in extending mineralization to the west and deeper down at its Garden Zone.

Canadian Palladium acquired the 992-hectare property two years ago, which came with an inferred resource of 523,000 ounces. The company has been steadily drilling to expand that resource base with a 15,000-metre program. In mid-August, a new batch of assay results revealed a new zone of palladium mineralization, they're calling EOH.   

In a statement, company CEO Wayne Tisdale said throughout their drilling they've "consistently produced wide intersections of palladium mineralization" at the west end of the deposit. Once all the assay results come in, the company will be releasing an updated resource estimate for the East Bull deposit this fall.



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