Ring of Fire Junior Probe Mines Takes the High—and Hard—Ground – by Michael Schwartz

This Corporate Profile Advertorial about Probe Mines originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of the Ontario Prospector magazine which is produced by the Ontario Prospectors Association and published by Naylor (Canada) Inc.

For an extensive list of articles on this mineral discovery, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery

The End of a Joint Venture and 875 Claims Around McFauld’s Lake Make for Exciting Times

No fewer than 875 claims covering around 14,000 hectares mean that Probe Mines controls one of the larger land packages in the McFauld’s Lake greenstone belt stratigraphy. Probe operates four projects in the McFauld’s Lake area: Victory, which is the largest, Tamarack, McFauld’s West and Black Creek. Each offers a unique setting and unique potential within the Ring of Fire.

Probe Mines is confident in its success to date. Its major presence has led to interests in a full range of metals: chromite, nickel, copper, Platinum Group Metals (PGM), base metal Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS), gold and vanadium. Tamarack and Black Creek have demonstrated their potential with the discovery of Cu-rich VMS mineralization and chromite respectively.

In addition to the chromite discovery on Black Creek, considerable untested potential remains on its other properties. They are exactly what Probe Mines CEO David Palmer describes as “grass-roots projects where no major discovery has been made but where the company feels there is still substantial potential for further exploration.”

Probe’s projects lie in sparsely vegetated and subdued topography over a 100 km belt in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario. Very little is known about the geology of the McFauld’s Lake area and most of what is known has come from the company’s own exploration.

Black Creek is, in fact, located directly between two well-known chromite deposits, Black Thor and Big Daddy, and on the only high solid ground in its area. For David Palmer, “This adds to the strategic nature of Black Creek. The James Bay Lowlands, where the McFauld’s Lake discoveries occur, are well known for their soft ground. A property like Black Creek, with a firm footing, thin ground cover and outcrop exposure, is very advantageous for anyone wanting to build infrastructure. You will see cost saving in both mining operations, such as an open pit, as well as infrastructure such as roads and buildings as there will be less ground preparation.”

Two main geologic settings have been targeted by its exploration program, firstly, a mixed volcanic sequence hosting base metal VMS mineralization and, secondly, an ultramafic horizon along the contact of the volcanics hosting nickel-copper, chromite and gold discoveries. The volcanics in turn represent most rock types found in the belt, as ultramafic intrusive has only been identified along a 20km zone near the centre of the belt.

Chromite, of course, is the metal now attracting by far the most interest in the region both because of the sheer volume of the deposit and its long-term strategic role—enough chromite for Canadian stainless steel for the next century. Probe’s initial measured and indicated resource was obtained from Micon International Ltd. It indicates 5,714,000 tonnes (3,729,000 tonnes measured; 1,985,000 tonnes indicated) averaging 40.00% chromite and an additional inferred resource of 2,726,000 tonnes averaging 40.99% chromite. The chromite from the Black Creek deposit represents the second highest grade chromite found in McFauld’s Lake to date.

Mineralization at Black Creek is dominated by three massive chromite layers, with subordinate amounts of banded, semi-massive and disseminated chromite found between and below the massive layers. The cumulative thickness of the mineralized zone averages approximately 65 m. In terms of quality there is a cut-off grade of 30% chromite.

The main VMS deposits occur in two areas of the belt (central and northern) and are respectively distinguished by copper-rich and zinc-rich varieties. Copper is prominent. Some examples do contain zinc-rich zones; most are notable for their high-grade copper.

Break with Noront

On August 9 this year Probe Mines acquired a 100% interest in the Black Creek chromite deposit, dissolving its JV agreement with Noront Resources in the Ring of Fire. No cash or share payments were made as part of the agreement; it was a straight transfer of interests in the mineral properties.

As a result, the two companies divided their JV claims: Probe has not only the 100% interest in Black Creek chromite but also another claim along the chromite trend. Noront now has a 100% interest in claims surrounding the Eagle’s Nest nickel deposit and north of its Thunderbird vanadium deposit.

David Palmer is highly optimistic about this change. He stresses that Probe now has full control over the project, with freedom to set time lines. Perhaps even more important, he will be able to undertake direct exploration without approval from another party. In his own words, “We see this as a very positive step for Probe in the Ring of Fire. With 100% ownership Probe can now focus its attention on the Black Creek chromite discovery, where plans to resume drilling operations designed to extend the massive chromite zone at depth and along strike are currently underway.”

Next Stages

Ground geophysical surveys have now been completed and David Palmer describes the results as encouraging. He believes that geophysical surveys are the most useful: “The area has almost no exposure and other surveys, such as geochemical, can be complicated by the presence of limestone cover rocks in certain areas or wet ground conditions.” There are, in addition, “a number of untested targets on all four projects, including Black Creek.”

The physical drilling involved in the project underwent a change in timetabling. Drilling began on time in early July and kept to schedule. What did change was the order of the projects. When there was a JV with Noront, consultation with the latter had been necessary. The project can now be more finely-tuned as Probe has full independence. In David Palmer’s words, “The drill is now turning on Black Creek.”

Key to the entire project will be infrastructure. At present it simply does not exist; everything has to be flown into a very remote location. Preliminary studies for a railway are underway but there is a real element of urgency as 2015 has been suggested as a start-date for production. Quite clearly, and if the project is to go ahead after receiving a positive decision, work on infrastructure will have to commence well before 2015.

Consultation is yet another factor to be added. The question of First Nations involvement and future benefits has played a crucial role throughout the Ring of Fire. In David Palmer’s words, “Probe has a very positive relationship with First Nations communities near McFauld’s and we maintain an open dialogue with their chiefs and councils.”

Chromite and . . . ?

Probe Mines has recently acquired gold properties at Cree Lake and Borden Lake. First-phase drilling was completed on both properties in June this year. Final results are expected soon and the company will evaluate Phase II programs on both properties. This will probably comprise additional geophysics and more drilling as both projects show promising gold potential and strong technical merit.

Probe did start out by looking at copper-lead-zinc and gold properties. It has since been fortunate to add nickel, and chromite to the list. David Palmer: “Ultimately, you have to be prepared for anything in exploration and we are pretty versatile when it comes to our background in different commodities. We would be willing to look at almost any commodity if the property showed strong potential and we could see value in it.”

Looking Ahead

The Black Creek deposit is significant—it is a high quality chromite deposit strategically located between the Black Thor and Big Daddy Deposits. The grades are among some of the highest in this area, the project representing stable ground and forming a key segment of any mining plans along the chromite trend.

The last words are David Palmer’s, “The initial resource estimate was better than expected and has the potential to grow rapidly given that we have so far only tested it to 175m vertical depth . . . We are very optimistic about this project and have already begun drilling to extend the limits of mineralization and hopefully update the resource estimate in the near future.”