Dec '08/Jan '09

Northwest Territories

Northerly location, northerly growth graph

By D. Williams

Many of the Northwest Territories' operations have to truck supplies to and product from remote locations.

The Northwest Territories has had another busy year with exploration projects moving forward, advanced projects progressing through the regulatory process and mines continuing production. The mineral exploration industry is polishing off old projects and new diamondiferous kimberlites have emerged.

Strong performance in mining

At the EKATI mine, BHP Billiton’s 80 per cent share of production for the year ended June 30, 2008 amounted to 3,349,000 carats. During the year, EKATI processed more and higher value carats from the Koala and Panda (now in full production) underground mines. In December 2007, production started at the Koala mine, which is expected to produce 10 million carats over the next decade. Exploration near the mine site is ongoing.

Producing 4.322 million carats in the first half of 2008, the Diavik Diamond Mine is on track for this year’s target of 10 to 10.5 million carats. Production is currently from the open pit A154 South, the A154 North and the A418 pipes. Underground development work, expansion and upgrading remain on schedule. Underground mining, projected to begin in 2009, will replace open pit mining by 2012.

By mid-2008, De Beers Canada Mining Corporation had spent $1.1 billion dollars ($775.8 with NWT-based businesses, including $520.8 million with aboriginal businesses) at the Snap Lake mine. Commissioned in summer, the main process plant recovered the first diamonds in August 2007. The mine is ramping up to full production at 3,150 tonnes per day. Employing up to 500 people, the mine will produce 1.5 million carats per year over its estimated 20-year life.

North American Tungsten’s CanTung mine produced 206,850 metric tonne units with an average grade of 0.95% WO3 in the three quarters ending June 30, 2008. Reserves suffice to support production until mid-2009. However, exploration has indicated the potential to significantly increase mine life. The mine employs 191 people in a rotating two-week schedule.

Promising explorations

Diamonds: The De Beers and Mountain Province Diamonds joint venture Gahcho Kué project (GKP), with indicated resources of approximately 23.6 million carats, is currently under environmental review. De Beers is expected to release an impact statement in the fall of 2008. With a budget of $38 million, GKP underwent a bulk sampling program, a technical study update and advanced permitting. Initial bulk sampling results are positive.

In August 2008, Patrician Diamonds Inc. recovered micro diamonds from small-core samples from the first test hole on the Hillside kimberlite on its Doctor Lake property in the Sahtu region.

Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. reported NI 43-101-compliant indicated resources of 18.2 million carats (94 cpht) in 19.5 million tonnes of kimberlite for the DO-27 kimberlite. While its development is currently not considered viable, DO-27 could support a mining operation in the future.

In April 2008, a new kimberlite was intersected on the Greenhorn property by Sanatana Diamonds Incorporated at its 5.9 million-acre Mackenzie project in the Sahtu and Inuvialuit regions. The $2.2 million 2008 program includes delineation drilling and sample collection for micro-diamond analysis. A $1.7 million exploration drilling program was planned for the Colville Lake project.

Sanatana will conduct additional geophysical surveys on the Simpson project while seeking land and water use permits. Till sampling and airborne geophysics programs were planned on the Yeltea, Horton and Eastbrook projects. The company has completed 40 magnetic surveys, 14 gravity surveys, four max-min surveys, and nine core holes on seven targets on the property.

Snowfield Development Corporation’s 40,000-acre Ticho project on the north shore of Great Slave Lake includes the diamondiferous Mud Lake kimberlite. Two macro diamonds have been recovered from a 1,044-kilogram Mud Lake sample. In May, Snowfield completed its delineation and sampling program. Summer activities included a detailed airborne magnetic survey, till sampling and prospecting.

Consolidated Goldwin Ventures Inc. (CGV) holds nine claims 50 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife, near the mouth of Drybones Bay. CGV initiated airborne magnetometer and other geophysical surveys in early 2008.

Olivut Resources Ltd. plans a $4.9 million program at its HOAM project, stretching between Fort Simpson and Délîne. The program includes the drilling of 20 to 25 holes and airborne magnetic, helimag and gravity geophysical surveys.

Anglo Swiss Resources’ Fry Inlet property in the Lac de Gras area includes a diamondiferous kimberlite. In March 2008, caustic fusion tests yielded 17 diamonds from a 58-kilogram sample, equating 293 diamonds per tonne. Detailed ground geophysics are now planned.

New Nadina Explorations Ltd. and its partners Chris and Jeanne Jennings and Archon Minerals Ltd. hold the Monument property on the south shore of Lac de Gras. It comprises three mineral leases covering 7,615 hectares. Detailed ground magnetic surveys and 38 diamond drill holes (3,465 meters) produced three new kimberlites. Results are pending on caustic fusion analysis and diamond recovery of more than 2,200 kilograms of kimberlite.

Precious metals: Drilling continued at Tyhee Development Corporation’s Yellowknife gold project, 90 kilometres north of Yellowknife. This year saw the production of an updated resource estimate as well as a preliminary assessment report and a new application for permits. In June 2008, Tyhee released updated measured and indicated resources of 1.3 million ounces of gold and inferred resources of 374,000 ounces. A revised application was submitted to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in July 2008 for combined underground and open pit operation.

Avalon Ventures Ltd. is continuing work on its Thor Lake rare metals project, 100 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife. Work to date includes 8,724 metres of diamond drilling in 45 holes and the collection of a 1,600-kilogram bulk sample. Results have been encouraging and the company is working to release a prefeasibility study in 2009.

In April 2008, Viking Gold Exploration Inc. completed the winter drill program at its Morris Lake gold project, 70 kilometres north of Yellowknife. The 12-hole, 2,690-metre program sought data for a three-dimensional view of the mineralized zone. Ten of the 12 holes intersected a mineralized zone. Geochemical lake sediment and untested geophysical anomalies have been identified and a significant mineralization zone has been confirmed. No status report is available on a planned summer program.

Base metals: Canadian Zinc Corporation’s Prairie Creek project in the Mackenzie Mountains includes a partially developed underground mine with a 1,000 tonne-per-day mill. Preliminarily budgeted at $7.5 million, planned programs include ongoing permitting, further engineering and rehabilitation of the access road and ongoing exploration. In 2007, NI 43-101-compliant estimates were measured and indicated resources of 5.8 million tonnes grading over 20% Pb and Zn combined. A prefeasibility study reflecting updated resources is to be completed in 2008.

Canadian Zinc, issued a five-year Class B water licence in March 2008, applied for the operation of the Prairie Creek mine in May. The application was referred to environmental assessment in August. The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB) is currently working on a report of the scope of the development and the assessment.

In 2007, Fortune Minerals Limited released a bankable feasibility study for its NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth project, 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife. Proven and probable reserves were 21.8 million tonnes. In July 2008, Fortune selected a contractor to dismantle buildings, salvage equipment and demolish surplus facilities at the Golden Giant mine, for relocation to NICO. The company has submitted land use and water license applications to the Wek’ èezhi’ Land and Water Board and is targeting 2011 to begin producing cobalt cathode, gold doré and bismuth over a 15-year mine life using both open pit and underground mining and hydrometallurgical processes.

Selwyn Resources Ltd. continued work on the Howard’s Pass property, stretching 37 kilometres along the Yukon-NWT border. An updated NI 43-101-compliant estimate pegs the mineral resource at 154.35 million tonnes and the mineral reserve at 18.19 billion pounds of zinc and 6.31 billion pounds of lead. The company received a Type A land use permit and water licence to reclaim and operate an existing road linking Howard’s Pass to the CanTung mine. A planned drill program will help formulate an underground development strategy for proposed test mining and focus on the identification of additional high-grade mineralization along the corridor between the XY Central and Anniv Central deposits.

Work continues on Tamerlane Ventures Incorporated’s Pine Point property, 42 kilometres east of Hay River. A Type A land use permit, issued in July 2008, allowed the commencement of initial construction, which is to include grading and levelling, drilling and installing freeze holes, installation of a freeze plant, shaft-sinking and related shaft infrastructure and surface buildings. In September, the company released its bankable feasibility study and updated NI 43-101-compliant proven and probable reserves of 7.8 million tonnes (6.16% Zn, 3.01% Pb), and measured and indicated resources of 8.0 million tonnes (2.26% Zn, 1.13% Pb).

Uranium: Alberta Star’s Contact Lake/Eldorado permits on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake cover over 117,898 acres. In September, the company completed its 2008 program, the results from which are pending. Two amended five-year Class A land use permits for long-term diamond drilling at both Eldorado and Contact Lake have been granted. Despite a moratorium on uranium exploration on Deline lands, the company has been allowed to proceed with permitting and surface exploration at Eldorado South.

On July 20, 2007, Bayswater Uranium Corp., with interests in over 4.5 million acres in the Thelon Basin, submitted land use permit applications for exploration on the EL Lake and Crab Lake properties. The proposed exploration programs were referred for environmental assessment. MVEIRB’s September 11, 2008 report identifies significant impacts from both projects and recommends the rejection of the EL Lake project. The Crab Lake project could proceed if specific measures were taken to prevent adverse impacts. However, the board has recommended that the project be rejected by the responsible minister. A decision is pending.

At the Boomerang North Uranium project in the southwest Thelon Basin, Uravan Minerals Inc. and Cameco Corporation completed a 600 square-kilometre multi-faceted sampling program, collecting 2,500 samples each of surface soil and vegetation. In 2007, Cameco budgeted $4.0 million on the property. In May 2007, Uravan applied to amend existing land use permits for exploration on the Boomerang Lake North and South properties, proposing a one-year, 30-hole drill program on each property. However, in September 2008, MVEIRB recommended the rejection of both projects by the responsible ministers. While a decision is pending, Uravan is prohibited from carrying out diamond drill programs on its property.

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