Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business [email protected].
Prospectors and junior miners will be gathering in Sault Ste. Marie in mid-April for the Northeastern Mines and Minerals Symposium.
The Sault and Algoma district isn’t considered a hard core area for mineral exploration in Northern Ontario, so Delio Tortosa, president of the Sault and District Prospectors Association, was expecting the usual crowd of 125 people for the April 16-17 event at the Canadian Bushplane Museum.
While mineral exploration and the prospects of future mines are on the lips of people in Thunder Bay, Dryden and Fort Frances, the Algoma district, despite its rich mining history, is kind of a forgotten and under-explored place when it comes to field activity.
Tortosa said the reason is some of the most prospective ground is privately owned by developers and southern Ontario real estate consortiums, who are more focussed on forestry.
“If they could make an arrangement with a junior exploration company, there would be gold prospects that we could go straight after.”
In the 1980s, gold fever gripped the area with the discovery of the Hemlo complex on the north shore of Lake Superior. The entire Batchawana area was staked solid by companies. With gold prices consistently high today, Tortosa said it would be nice to go back in, but it’s difficult to strike exploration deals with the patent holders in these unorganized townships. And the selling price is beyond the reach of many junior miners.
“There have been a fair number of overtures but it really hasn’t gone anywhere.” While other areas have embarked upon large-scale geophysical and mapping surveys in the last decade to find the next generation of mines – the most notable being the Discover Abitibi initiative in Kirkland Lake and Timmins – Tortosa said the Sault and district doesn’t have the large mining companies that can invest in these initiatives.
But he vows that his association will be lobbying the Ontario Geological Survey to take a long overdue look at Algoma which is rich in copper and silver.
“It hasn’t been remapped in the last 30 years. There is a lot of potential here. “Everybody is going after gold in Wawa (to the north) but people forget that copper prices look like they’re staying at $3.50 (a pound) for some time to come, and may be even go up, so there’s plenty of opportunity to put a focus on copper in this area.”
Tortoso, who works as the consulting geologist for Superior Copper Corp., said it’s the reason why the Toronto-based junior is probing the former Coppercorp Mine in the Batchawana area on the eastern shore of Lake Superior.
The property at Mamainse Harbour, 90 kilometres north of the Sault which includes the Coppercorp – producing a million tonnes of ore between 1965 and 1972 – has other past producers nearby which date back to the 1800s.
Once off limits to exploration, the area has been never been touched with modern geophysics since the 1970s.
“We’re so close to the Mid-Continental Rift and these are copperbearing rocks in the deposits and the mines that have existed in the past,” said Tortosa.
Superior Copper did a fair bit of fieldwork in 2011, drilling off a southern extension to the Coppercorp that was never mined after copper prices tanked in 1972.
Stocked with $800,000 in the exploration budget, the company embarked on a second round of drilling at Coppercorp in early January.
The mine’s underground workings only extend down 150 metres, shallow by today’s standards, so the company is drilling below ground and chasing the mineralization to the southeast, which the company calls its SB Zone.
“We’re testing the whole zone a bit deeper so we’ll have a better sense of it from surface to 200-250 metres on how much mineralization we have.”
Tortosa said the geological picture is characterized by very long vein brecchia systems that are a couple of kilometres long with high-grade copper mineralization of predominately chalcolite.
The previous operators mined a good part of the north end. The southern half of the property was never really touched.
Nearby their neighbour, Boxxer Gold, was working ground in the vicinity of the former Tribag copper mine. The Calgary junior was drilling and flying geophysical surveys to identify future targets over the winter on its East Breccia copper, silver and molybdenum property.
“One of the things we’re aiming for is to move away from rich vein systems and towards a slightly lower grade but larger volume and look at getting some small open pits in the areas. Something that doesn’t create a lot of capital expenditures to get going,” said Tortosa.
“If we can get down to $200 million or less, we can make a profitable case for the Batchawana area.” Tortosa has been pleased with the results so far. One drilling intercepting graded seven per cent copper and 145 grams per tonne silver over five metres.
“That’s a damn good intersection.”
Though very much in the early stages of exploration, the company is considering taking an inferred mineral resource estimate and plans to raise more money to keep drilling in late summer.
While many juniors at last month’s Prospectors and Developers show in Toronto were pleading poverty, Tortosa said the company has been successful – through its enterprising president Judy Baker – in raising both flow-through and hard cash.
Tortosa said their property has captured the attention of larger players like Capstone Mining and HudBay Minerals, the latter having a copper property on the American side of Lake Superior on the Keweenaw Peninsula.
“We’re getting a bit of visibility.”