VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Planning is under way for another summer drill campaign at recently-gone-public explorer Orford Mining’s Qiqavik project, in the remote emerging gold belt of Cape Smith, in Northern Quebec.
“We’ve discovered a new gold district in Canada. This is like walking into the Timmins Belt for the first time,” veteran geologist, fund manager and now Orford president and CEO David Christie told Mining Weekly Online in an interview.
He explained that the Cape Smith Belt, especially the southern part, had seen significant exploration in the past few decades for base metals such as nickel. According to him, everyone was focused on nickel and no one considered the gold potential of Northern Quebec, until more recently.
“There’s a bit of a barrier to entry in the region, so unless you are already up there exploring, it’s unlikely to get a foot in the door, since there is really not a lot of government work being done up there and the region is pretty much untouched,” he said.
Still in its private form, Orford (previously Focused Capital Corp and currently 55% owned by RNC Minerals and Dundee Resources 29%) also engaged in base metals exploration in the region, focused around its West Raglan nickel project.
During one of the initial prospecting forays, Christie said the team crossed paths with a local prospector who held rights to a small property to the north of West Raglan, which covered a single drill hole by Falconbridge. Falconridge had drilled into an electromagnetic conductor to condemn the anomaly when they were looking for nickel, at about the same time they were starting up the Raglan nickel mine, in 1996.
“They hit 3.08 g/t gold over 10.5 m, and that is what queued our interest. We liked the alteration and mineralisation in the rock we saw. We staked 40 km of land because we were so impressed by the prospectivity of the rocks for gold, and we became very excited. And so, the Qiqavik project got under way. We took surface samples which returned good results, followed by a summer prospecting programme,” he advised.
This work produced several surface showings close to the end of the campaign, which further intrigued the team. Christie said that the geology team quickly threw induced polarisation (IP) grids on the showings, so that they became bona fide targets for the next drill campaign. Despite being characterised a “less successful” drill campaign due to mechanical issues, the 2016 summer programme still identified the prospective Esperance, Esperance West and Aurora mineralised occurrences, Christie advised.
Following the 2017 drill campaign, Orford had uncovered three new drill-supported high-grade gold discoveries and five new high-grade gold prospecting discoveries at surface at Qiqavik, four of which remain completely untested by drilling.
Importantly, Orford also identified a significant structural break, the Qiqavik break, across the 40-km property, a substantial portion of which is left to be explored.
According to Christie, geological data to date indicates that gold mineralisation appears to be structurally controlled and associated with porphyry intrusions in places. The company is still sifting through the geological, geochemical and geophysical data from the summer 2017 programme, which is currently being studied to identify and locate sites of dilation along structures that were active at the time of gold mineralisation.
This information will be used to target potentially significant gold mineralisation accumulations that tend to vary in these types of structural settings, he advised.
Qiqavik sits in a Paleoproterozoic volcano-sedimentary orogenic belt at the margin of the Superior Craton. It hosts multiple large-scale structures, with complex geometry, which acted as pathways for mineralising fluids, Christie explained.
While the parallel ultramafic Raglan Belt has yielded world-class nickel deposits, the northern volcano-sedimentary portion of the belt remains virtually unexplored. Christie believes that the Cape Smith Belt shows similarities with gold districts with similar tectonic and age settings, such as Flin Flon/Snow Lake, in Canada; the Ashanti Belt, in West Africa; the Tanami Goldfields, of West Australia; and the Tapajos-Parima Belt, in Brazil.
Critically, the 40-km-long Qiqavik Break Shear Zone is thought to have focused gold mineralisation, Christie stressed.
Target areas within the trend comprise the Esperance zone, which has been drill tested along 300 m of a1.3 km structure and at Esperance West along 650 m of a 2.0 km structure. The Esperance-Esperance West IP anomaly trend is 2.7 km long and open to the west. Work to date at Esperance and Esperance West has recovered 26 rock samples containing more than 2 g/t gold up to 31.9 g/t gold, 10.3% copper and 1.6% cobalt. At the Aurora and Aurora West zone, which has visible gold in quartz veins over a 2 km strike length, Orford recovered 33 grab and channel samples that contained more than 2 g/t gold and up to 457.36 g/t gold.
Recent drill results included 8.83 g/t gold and 0.49% copper over 0.5 m (or a wider interval of 2.39 g/t gold over 2.5 m), in hole QK-17-008 at the Esperance zone; 13.68 g/t gold over 0.3 m in hole QK-17-009 at the Aurora zone; and 5.6 g/t gold and 3.06% copper over 1 m in hole QK-17-022 (or a wider interval of 2.37 g/t gold and 2.19% copper over 7 m).
Orford has also discovered five new targets this summer, including Aurora Central, Gerfaut South, Central Qiqavik, Horizon, and the Focused Intrusive with only Central Qiqavik partially drill tested.
Meanwhile, Christie expects Orford’s near-term news flow to be dominated by its two options on projects in Carolina, located at the same geological level and in the same rocks as the Haile, Ridgeway and Brewer deposits – known as the Band of Gold.
The properties are located on the site of the North America’s first gold rush in the 1800s. “On our properties no one has bothered to open up the old trenches and pits to look at what the old-timers found,” Christie said.
Orford has signed an option agreement with Carolina Gold Resources to earn up to a 70% interest in the Jones-Keystone/Loflin, and Landrum-Faulkner properties.
Historic results from the Jones-Keystone/Loflin project include 104 m at 1.27 g/t gold and 59 m at 1.25 g/t gold respectively. The best historic results from the Landrum/Faulkner deposit include 11.3 m at 6.6 g/t gold and 2.4 m at 20.2 g/t gold.
Christie stressed that all the properties have seen limited exploration work since 2011. “The Carolina option provides the opportunity for year-round news flow, from an area where there has been limited regional exploration despite the Haile [now owned by OceanaGold] going into production,” Christie advised.
The projects are located on the southern extension of Appalachian Avalon Zone, in metamorphosed volcano-sedimentary terranes.
The company is currently undertaking mapping, trenching and IP geophysics at the projects, and is re-logging historical core at Jones-Keystone and Landrum–Faulkner.
Christie said the company plans to undertake 900 m of drilling at the Jones-Keystone zone early next year, and a 360-m drill campaign at the Landrum–Faulkner project.
Catalysts over the next few months include publication of the results from the work done this year at the Carolina projects, followed by drilling in January and February 2018. The company is planning another round of prospecting at Qiqavik.
Meanwhile, back in Quebec, exploration work to date at the West Raglan project has identified outcropping sulphide mineralisation over more than 35 km of strike, with many of the zones having seen only limited testing.
“The magnetic signatures, lithogeochemistry and geology are the same at Frontier and Raglan. The southern part of the property has magnetic and till anomalies suggestive of Nunavik mine (South Trend) style mineralisation, but with larger tonnage, and high copper and platinum-group metals grades.”
The company is currently on the lookout for a suitable joint-venture partner to take the project further up the value curve, while it would also continue to serve as a platform for its exploration efforts in the emerging Cape Smith Gold Belt.
Aided by its October admittance to the TSX-V market, Christie noted that the company will probably undertake another financing in the next six months.
He noted that the issue for junior miners right now is that demand for speculative trade has flowed elsewhere, which makes it more difficult to attract the right investors.
“Investors are more interested these days in things like Bitcoin and the emerging cannabis trade, detracting from the junior mining sector. On top of that, a lot of precious metals resource funds have gone towards the exchange traded funds, rather than actively managing money, which also affects the ability of junior miners to raise money.
“All that being said, there is renewed interest from retail investors, resource funds as well as from corporate investors such as the major gold producers, because they are all interested to find quality new reserves,” Christie said.