After some very difficult years, juniors and producers are once again exploring and in needs of rigs.
After a harsh winter even by Canadian standards, juniors in British Columbia and Yukon are preparing for what promises to be the busiest drilling season of the past four years. It is no news that exploration activity has seen brighter days, but improving financing conditions and more robust capital markets have helped juniors and producers push their exploration programs forward. From copper porphyry environments to high-grade gold deposits, exploration activity is heating up in western Canada, raising prospects for new discoveries, which the industry desperately needs.
The series of mining conventions across Canada, starting with Cambridge House and AME Roundup in Vancouver, and including PDAC and CIM, widely confirmed a turnaround in investors’ sentiment, with attendees coming together to discuss investment opportunities amid a lack of projects feeding the pipeline over the short and medium terms. This has resulted in a number of exploration programs coming to fruition in both British Columbia and Yukon, two jurisdictions that have experienced renewed dynamism and boast some of the most promising projects in the continent.
In British Columbia, the so-called Golden Triangle will host the most extensive drilling programs in the province. Over the past decade, this northwestern region of B.C. has attracted the bulk of exploration investments and has seen major projects move forward, such as IDM’s Red Mountain and Pretivm’s Brucejack. However, there is no shortage of projects feeding the exploration pipeline.
Ascot Resources’ plans for this season include 120,000 meters of surface drilling and 20,000 meters of underground drilling at its Premier/Dilworth property. Ascot’s program is one of the largest in the province, with the company eyeing a 10 to 20 million oz. gold resource in the property. Meanwhile, Seabridge is looking to expand its Iron Cap zone at the KSM property, already the world’s largest undeveloped gold project. Results at Iron Cap from 2016 yielded a gold grade 60% higher than the existing gold reserve grade and a copper grade 20% higher than the current copper reserve grade. Higher-grade material provides a further boost to KSM’s economics. Aben Resources expects to start drilling at its Forrest Kerr property in June. Previous exploration work in the property has focused on finding a VMS style of deposit but the region has opened up to structurally controlled hydrothermal high-grade quartz systems following Pretivm’s success. Similarly, Metallis Resources will embark on a summer drilling program to identify porphyry and shear-vein targets at its Kirkham property. OK2 is expected to complete 3,500 meters of RC drilling program and perform preliminary diamond drilling of up to 2,000 meters at its Pyramid property. Furthermore, Skeena Resources announced plans for a total of 15,000 meters of surface and underground drilling, which should lead to an initial NI 43-101 at its Snip property in late 2017.
Fortunately, activity is not confined to the Golden Triangle, as companies look at projects that could benefit from existing mines and infrastructure elsewhere in the province. Margaux Resources’ drilling plans include a $1 million program on the company’s Jackpot, Bayonne and Sheep Creek properties, located in the Kootenay Arc of southeastern B.C. Likewise, Nicola Mining aims to add from 10 to 15 drill holes to the Embayment zone at its Thule copper property, just north of the town of Merritt. In the Quesnel Terrane in central B.C., ML Gold expects to complete an NQ drilling program at its Pinnacle Reef property, only 50 kilometers northwest of Centerra’s Mount Milligan mine.
The change in seasons also looks promising for Yukon, as the likes of Goldcorp, Agnico Eagle and Newmont enter this vastly underexplored territory. However, majors will not be the only drivers of exploration activity. Golden Predator recently announced the expansion of its drilling program at its 3 Aces property this year, now comprising 40,000 meters. Meanwhile, Victoria Gold will devote a further $3 million for exploration at Olive-Shamrock, while simultaneously preparing for construction at its Eagle project.
Juniors and project generators are already benefitting from increasing investment flows in Yukon. Over the past decade, this territory has seen exploration activity languish, but the entry of majors will certainly serve as a catalyzer for projects moving forward. Yukon is in need of new mines that will ultimately deliver economic opportunities and community development. The recent focus from majors and juniors alike may well be the paradigm change that Yukon needs.
With over 30 companies expected to undertake drilling programs during the 2017 season, exploration is finally picking up in British Columbia and Yukon. These programs will surely result in new discoveries, which will continue to fuel exploration activity. As economic conditions ameliorate, plans are once again turning into actions, thereby promising a very busy season.