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Noront expands RoF land-holdings, outlines exploration and development strategies

26th August 2016

By: Henry Lazenby

Creamer Media Deputy Editor: North America

  

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VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Northern Ontario-focused project developer Noront Resources has increased its position as the dominant land-holder in the prospective Ring of Fire (RoF) mining camp after closing the acquisition of 75% of MacDonald Mines’ claims in the region, the company said this week.

Through the transaction, valued at about C$750 000, Noront has increased its claim blocks in the RoF from 375 claim units to 522.

Under the terms of the transaction, MacDonald has a 25% carried interest until a National Instrument (NI) 43-101-compliant resource has been issued on one of the properties, at which time MacDonald will have the option to convert the carried interest into a 1% net smelter return royalty.

Should MacDonald choose not to exercise its conversion right, Noront will be able to buy back MacDonald’s 25% interest for C$3-million, payable in cash or shares. If neither the conversion right nor the buyback right are exercised, the parties will form a joint venture to develop the properties.

These properties comprise two separate blocks of claims, namely the Butler property (77 claim units), covering a prolific belt of felsic volcanic rocks that hosts four known zinc/copper-rich volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) occurrences, and the Sanderson property (70 claim units), which covers a large ferrogabbro intrusion (the ‘Big Mac’ intrusion) and possible footwall ultramafic intrusion, similar in scale to the Black Thor intrusion. The latter is prospective for nickel/copper mineralisation, as well as chromite deposits, the company advised.

EXPLORATION
The start of drilling, marked by a drumming ceremony staged by the local Webequie First Nation in the interests of minimal disturbance to the land and water and for the health and safety of the workers, took place at a geophysical anomaly identified at depth, which could represent a significant sulphide conductor, Noront advised.

The anomaly is close to the company’s flagship Eagle's Nest precious metals deposit at a depth of about 750 m, and Noront stated that modelling had indicated that the cause of this anomaly could be a conductive body with a strike length of 800 m, a depth extent of 500 m and a thickness of 50 m.

Cyr Drilling International and the Webequie First Nation will conduct the drilling programme in a joint venture, providing revenue and job opportunities to First Nations communities.

Noront advised that it expected the provincial government to make a joint announcement with local First Nations regarding plans for a shared regional all-weather access road before the end of the year. A recently completed community-led study is one element that will inform the planning of an integrated road solution, which will link local communities and provide transportation access to Noront's Eagle's Nest mine.

Noront currently has 13 zinc/copper occurrences under its control, ranging from early-stage showings on the Butler property, to NI 43-101-compliant resources on the McFaulds property.

The McFaulds and Butler felsic to intermediate volcanic belts, with a strike length of over 50 km, will be the focus of initial VMS exploration under this strategy.

Noront’s exploration work on the McFaulds property slowed after 2007, when the company's focus shifted to nickel/copper/platinum/palladium exploration with the discovery of the high-grade Eagle's Nest deposit.

DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
Noront’s first development project will be Eagle’s Nest, a nickel/copper/platinum-group element mine with an 11- to 20-year life, capable of providing direct employment to more than 300. According to Noront, the project has the highest-value ore in the RoF and requires a more modest infrastructure commitment than the company’s other bulk chromite-focused projects.

The company expects mine construction to start in 2018, when building of the road is expected to start, with first concentrate production expected to get under way in 2021.

Since acquiring Cliffs Natural Resources’ chromite deposits in 2015, Noront has become the majority owner of all current major chromite deposits in the RoF and has the most significant NI 43-101-compliant measured and indicated chromite resource. Noront has reviewed the technical data acquired from Cliffs and developed a chromite plan that incorporates this information into its development timeline.

Noront plans to start the construction of its Blackbird chromite project once Eagle’s Nest is in production.

The company will employ a phased approach to chromite production, with the initial phase leveraging the infrastructure of Eagle’s Nest. This approach will enable economic development of high-grade ore from the Blackbird chromite deposit, which is located close to Eagle’s Nest and able to use the same surface infrastructure.

The Blackbird mine is expected to produce about 500 000 t/y of ore from underground. A ferrochrome smelter, which will be built for potential expansion, will be constructed at a yet-to-be-determined brownfield site in Ontario, Noront advised. The chromite project has the potential to produce up to 200 000 t/y of high-quality ferrochrome, which represents roughly 50% of current North American demand.

Larger-scale chromite development supported by the Black Thor and Big Daddy deposits will follow, with a timeline dependent on the seaborne ferrochrome market. The larger-scale project has the potential to produce up to 1.5-million tonnes of concentrate and 600 000 t/y of ferrochrome.

Edited by Samantha Herbst
Creamer Media Deputy Editor

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