Dec '07/Jan '08

Northwest Territories

Gearing up for a northern renaissance in NWT

By Ben Borkovic, mineral development advisor, Industry Tourism and Investment, Government of the Northwest 

The Northwest Territories remains as busy a place as ever for the mining and mineral exploration industries. Diamonds continue to shine, but gold and base metals look ready for a northern renaissance in the near future as high commodity prices and world shortages continue to drive the mineral resource industry.

Mining

The Ekati Mine (BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc. – 80%; C. Fipke – 10%; S. Blusson – 10%) continues to deliver, with production totals of 3,224,000 carats for the year ended June 30, 2007. The Beartooth open pit is in production and sending to the plant. As well, the Panda Underground Project is now in full production.

The Koala Underground Project continues to advance on schedule and is expected to deliver a total of 10.6 million tonnes of ore and recover 9.8 million carats of high-quality diamonds over an 11-year period. Production is expected to begin in December 2007.

In May 2007, Ricus Grimbeek was appointed as the new president and COO at Ekati Diamond Mine.

Diavik Diamond Mine (Diavik) is an unincorporated joint venture between Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. (60%) and Aber Diamond Corporation (40%). Diamond production for the quarter ended September 30, 2007 was 3.12 million carats, grading 4.76 carats per tonne. Production from January to the end of October was 9 million carats.

Production is currently from the open pit of the A154 South kimberlite pipe, and production in the A418 pit is expected to begin by the end of 2007 as crews are currently stripping the overburden to expose the pipe for mining.

Work continued on the underground declines, with the A21 and A418 pipes being reached. The development of the A21 pipe was deferred pending further engineering studies and economic evaluations. The feasibility of the underground development of the A418 and A154 pipes was completed and submitted for internal funding.

In September 2007, Rio Tinto announced the appointment of Kim Truter as Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.’s new president and COO.

De Beers Canada’s Snap Lake Diamond Mine went into production this fall. The first diamonds were produced in October 2007 and the first sale of rough diamonds will follow in January 2008.

This past year was a flurry of construction as work was done on the underground crushing chamber, installing the underground crusher and completing the installation of all buildings and systems. The mine will ramp up production over the winter and is expected to attain its average planned production rate of 3,150 tonnes per day by mid-2008. The Snap Lake Mine will employ 500 people during full production and produce 1.5 million carats per year. The life of the mine is estimated at 20 years.

North American Tungsten’s CanTung Mine produced 80,357 metric tonne units (mtus) of tungsten for the quarter ending June 30. Mine staff are currently reviewing additional pillars and smaller bodies of mineralization to determine if they can be mined economically.

Wardrop Engineering Inc. has been engaged to conduct a full feasibility study of North American Tungsten’s 100%-owned MacTung deposit in the Mackenzie Mountains. Results from the study are expected in nine to twelve months. MacTung has indicated resources of 33 million tons grading 0.88% WO3, making it one of the largest undeveloped high-grade tungsten-skarn deposits in the world.

Exploration

Diamonds

Gahcho Kue Project is a De Beers Canada Inc. (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%) joint venture. Work for 2007 includes an 8,400-metre drill program to define the Tuzo pipe and a review of the 2005 prefeasibility study. Also, five to seven holes are being drilled over 1,500 meters to recover approximately 60 tonnes of material and about 100 carats of diamonds from the 5034 pipe. This bulk sample will be used to confirm the micro to macro relationships on the north lobe of the pipe.

The Gahcho Kue Project is currently under Environmental Impact Review by a panel established by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. De Beers is expected to release an Environmental Impact Statement for the project in the near future.

Diamondex Resources Ltd.’s 100%-owned Lena West Project totals 3.35 million acres and is centered approximately 900 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife. The 2007 exploration plan includes up to 700 follow-up heavy mineral concentrate samples, approximately 10,000 line-kilometres of airborne geophysics surveying and 1,500 to 2,000 metres of diamond drill testing of priority targets. Diamondex has purchased Trigon Uranium Corp.’s diamond properties.

Diamonds North Resources Ltd. continued to explore their Hepburn Project, located 300 kilometres north of Yellowknife, which has potential for both diamondiferous kimberlites and uranium. In the summer of 2007, 21 geophysical targets were drill tested, but no kimberlite was intersected.As well, detailed geophysics surveys are being conducted on the remainder of the property.

Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. concluded a bulk sample program on the DO-27 pipe in June 2007. A final total of 2,651 wet tonnes of kimberlite were extracted with an average recovered grade of 0.89 carats per tonne. In total, 1,724.57 carats were recovered. The diamonds are awaiting shipment to Antwerp, Belgium, for valuation by independent valuators.

Patrician Diamonds’ Dismal Lake West uranium property is located 400 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife in the Hornby Bay Basin, near the eastern shores of Great Bear Lake. Triex Minerals Corporation conducted a seven-hole drilling program on the property this summer.

Patrician’s Sahtu Project is focused around the Doctor Lake property, located 60 kilometres north of Norman Wells. Work on the Sahtu Project has comprised airborne magnetic surveys and auger drilling. There are several magnetic anomalies on the property and Patrician will now be moving forward with the permitting process in order to begin drilling in 2008.

Sanatana Diamonds discovered kimberlite on their Greenhorn property in the northwestern NWT. The company intends to take 750 to 1,000 kilograms of split NQ size core from this kimberlite for caustic fusion analysis of the microdiamond content. Drilling will also help determine the true size of the target and any geological complexity. Heavy mineral concentrate will also be taken from the core to verify that the indicator chemistry matches that in the indicator train.

Snowfield Development Corp.’s Ticho Project is located on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, approximately 55 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife, and includes the diamondiferous Mud Lake kimberlite. The project consists of an approximately 16,000 hectare (40,000 acres) claim group. Snowfield has two diamond drills committed to the Ticho Project, where drilling will continue on an ongoing basis through the remainder of 2007 and into 2008.

Snowfield announced in September that it had completed the crushing and bagging of a 500-tonne bulk sample from its Mud Lake kimberlite discovery. The crushed kimberlite is now being shipped to the De Beers Canada Exploration Ltd. dense media separation plant in Grande Prairie, Alberta, for further processing.

Precious metals

Tyhee Development Corporation continues to advance their major property, the Yellowknife Gold Project (YGP), located 90 kilometres north of Yellowknife. Tyhee also holds several other properties stretching between the Giant Mine property and the YGP.

In June, Tyhee released an updated gold resource for the YGP integrating 477 diamond drill holes and 82,514 assays. The measured and indicated resources totalled 1,203,000 ounces of gold, with an inferred resource estimate of 353,000 ounces.

Tyhee has completed two diamond drill holes totalling 259 metres at the south-end of a newly identified shear zone system on their BigSky Property. Previously reported grab samples from surface exposures in the shear zone returned gold values of up to 18 grams per tonne. Tyhee is mobilizing another two drills on the property.

Avalon Ventures Ltd.’s 100%-owned Thor Lake Rare Earth Elements (REE) Project is located about five kilometres north of the Hearne Channel of Great Slave Lake and approximately 100 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife.

Avalon completed 2,551 metres of delineation drilling over 16 holes on their Lake Zone deposit. The program concluded early due to the arrival of winter conditions, but work will resume in January. Also, 1,160 split core samples were submitted for assay but no results have been released yet.

Base metals

During the first half of 2007, Canadian Zinc Corporation continued a major underground exploration and infill drilling program, drilling 8,217 metres over 41 holes from six underground drill stations. The company is continuing to extend the decline tunnel and will establish an additional five drill stations. They will also support a helicopter diamond drill exploration program.

A NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate for Prairie Creek was released in October with total measured and indicated resources calculated at 5.8 million tonnes at over 20% combined lead and zinc. Canadian Zinc is currently finalizing an application for a Class ‘A’Water License to re-open and operate the Prairie Creek mine.

Fortune Minerals Ltd.’s NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth project is located 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife. In January, Fortune announced that the NICO bankable feasibility study had been completed with proven and probable reserves of 21.8 million tonnes, suitable for a 15-year mine life with a production rate of 4,000 tonnes of ore per day.

This fall, Fortune completed Phase Two of the underground test mining at NICO. Work included extending the ramp to a depth of 200 metres below surface, and collecting a 3,600 tonne ore sample, some of which will be used in a six month long, large-scale pilot plant test that began in October.

Fortune is moving ahead with preparations to relocate material, including the Golden Giant mill, from the Hemlo site in Ontario to NICO.

Kodiak Exploration Ltd.’s polymetallic Caribou Lake property is located 90 kilometres east of Yellowknife near the shores of Great Slave Lake. In 2007, the company continued to test the economic potential of the Caribou Lake gabbro intrusion. Since January, 15 holes were completed, ranging in length from 188 to 966 metres.

Tamerlane Ventures Inc. holds 100% interest in the Pine Point lead-zinc deposit east of Hay River. The company intends to develop a pilot project involving a one million ton bulk sample from the R-190 deposit. The project i undergoing an Environmental Assessment, and is awaiting the Report of Environmental Assessment from the Review Board.

Strongbow Exploration Inc.’s 100%-owned Nickel King property is located approximately 550 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife and 145 kilometres northeast of Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan.

Seven drill holes completed in the property’s Main Zone extended the strike extent of mineralization by an additional 800 metres to the southwest, bringing the total length of the mineralized zone to over 1,600 metres. In total 19 drill holes were completed on the property this year, and additional work included ground and borehole geophysical surveys, mapping and prospecting of the project.

Uranium

Alberta Star Corp.’s Contact Lake property is located five kilometres southeast of Port Radium, near Great Bear Lake. Work for 2007 included 30,000 metres of drilling in 70 to 80 holes. In September Alberta Star staked another four uranium claims totalling 4,177 hectares located just west of their property.

Bayswater Uranium Corp completed a 20,000 line kilometre airborne fixed-wing radiometric and magnetic survey on the west and southeast margins of their South Thelon basin holdings, with preliminary results identifying 25 high priority radiometric targets. As well a 9,500 line kilometre VTEM helicopter-borne geophysical survey was conducted in the central internal portion of the South Thelon Basin. Follow-up exploration was conducted on historical radiometric anomalies and other targets.

In June, Bayswater and Kilgore Minerals Ltd. agreed to a merger between the two companies. Bayswater retained their company name.

Ur-Energy Inc. underwent an Environmental Assessment for a uranium exploration drilling program in the Thelon Basin. The Board recommended rejecting the project without an Environmental Impact Review, and in October the Responsible Ministers decided to uphold the Board’s recommendation.

Uranium North Resources Corp. completed detailed ground surveys over several targets on their Thelon UNR property, as well as 4,250 line kilometres of airborne geophysics surveys. As well, the company collected 64 rock samples and conducted 21,000 line kilometres of airborne geophysics on their Hepburn property, east of Great Bear Lake.

Uravan Minerals Inc.’s Boomerang uranium project is located about 300 miles east of Yellowknife along the southwestern margin of the Thelon Basin. It is a joint exploration effort between Cameco Corporation and Uravan whereby Cameco has an option to earn 60% interest in the property.Work this year focussed on continuing a widely spaced diamond drill program along a major conductive trend on the property, with four holes completed and three more planned for the season.

Pacifica Resources Ltd. became Selwyn Resources Ltd.in June to reflect the company’s focus on advancing the Selwyn zinc-lead project. Also known as Howard’s Pass, this sizeable project is spread over a 40 kilometre long belt of favourable geology on the Yukon/ NWT border.

Selwyn applied this year for a five-year land use permit to conduct a drilling program on their NWT claims but the application has been referred to Environmental Assessment, which is now proceeding.

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