The Chibougamau-Chapais region, 750 km north of Montreal, is part of the largest Archean greenstone belt in the world. The belt, better known as the Abitibi, is 150 km in width, and stretches for 650 km from just west of Timmins in Ontario to Chibougamau in Quebec.
Explorers started travelling through the Chibougamau wilderness, a territory with abundant fur-bearing animals, fishing and hunting as early as the mid-1600s, but it wasn’t until the late-1800s that prospectors began to take note of the region’s mineral potential.
While there was some drilling and a small amount of mine construction in the first half of the 1900s, two world wars, a great depression and the region’s isolation prevented any significant mineral development. But in 1950, the Quebec government finished a 240 km road connecting the Chibougamau camp to St.-Felicien in the province’s Saguenay region.
The minerals boom began with a power line and rail connection built shortly after the road link. In 1953, Falconbridge started producing copper from its Opemiska mine, which grew to include a cluster of four underground copper mines (Springer, Perry, Robitaille and Cooke).
Two years later, Campbell Chibougamau Mines, which had a copper supply contract with the U.S. Defense Material Procurement Agency, built its Copper Rand underground mine.
Over the next 55 years, the Chibougamau-Chapais camp produced three billion lb. copper and four million oz. gold.
Falconbridge’s Opemiska complex eventually shut down in 1991, after mining 1.1 billion lb. copper and 750,000 oz. gold from a high-grade vein system, and Copper Rand was the last copper mine in the camp to close down during the 2008 financial crisis.
But over the last decade, Chibougamau has seen a resurgence of exploration activity, including one junior that has been consolidating ground in the region since 2018, and now controls 130 sq. km and all four of the underground mines that made up Falconbridge’s Opemiska complex.
QC Copper and Gold (TSXV: QCCU) is focused on Chibougamau and is part of CEO Stephen Stewart’s Ore group. The Toronto-based mining executive says he’s thrilled to control the past-producing project, which boasted average grades of 2.4% copper and 0.3 gram gold per tonne.
“We have an outstanding asset given its copper grade and location near rail, road, and power facilities in the heart of mining-friendly Quebec,” he said in an interview. “We are also very bullish on the demand prospects for copper with a global infrastructure boom on the horizon that will be intensified with the electrification trend. Copper is the world’s most versatile metal, and projects like ours in safe jurisdictions are highly sought after. Not to mention we have a nice gold credit too.”
Falconbridge was also a good operator, he says, and it kept great records, with 850,000 metres of historical drill data. QC Copper has digitized and modelled the data and come up with a new model.
QC Copper and Gold acquired Opemiska from Ex-In Inc., a privately held company, which acquired the project after Falconbridge shut it down. Ex-In conducted sporadic exploration there between 1993 and 2016, concentrating on defining the high-grade veins within the unmined crown pillars. One of its high-grade drill holes returned 10 metres of 6.15% copper-equivalent, while another ran 52 metres of 1.85% copper-equivalent.
Ex-In’s drilling showed lower-grade disseminated copper outside high-grade veins that had been completely ignored by Falconbridge, which was later acquired by Glencore (LSE: GLEN).
“I had a theory that there was extensive disseminated mineralization between the high-grade veins and that this would be key to unlocking much more value at Opemiska then just mining high-grade veins near surface that was left behind or undiscovered by Falconbridge,” Charles Beaudry, QC Copper and Gold’s vice-president of exploration, said in an interview. “Potentially, we could mine both the disseminated and high-grade copper veins via an open cut, bulk tonnage operation that could have exceptional economics. The Malartic, Detour Lake and Cote Lake open-cut gold mines have proven very successful doing the same thing.”
Last year, the results of a 3,300-metre drill program to test the theory exceeded Beaudry’s expectations. Nearly all holes hit significant mineralization over broad intersections at shallow depths, and confirmed broad zones of disseminated copper mineralization around high-grade veins.
The disseminated copper showed surprisingly high grades, including 74 metres of 2.54% copper-equivalent starting from 28 metres and 58 metres grading 1.41% copper equivalent from 50 metres, including 9 metres of 5.9% copper equivalent.
“The Chapais-Chibougamau mining camp is known for its copper-gold vein systems which have been shown to be related to the Chibougamau intrusion,” Beaudry explains. “Although structurally-controlled, the Chibougamau deposits show strong affinity to porphyry copper-gold deposits. At Opemiska, however, the veins are not intrusion related although they are hosted by the mafic-ultramafic phases and are thought to be related to later deformation along the Gwillim fault system.”
QC Copper and Gold intends to publish its first in-pit mineral resource estimate for the Springer and Perry deposits after the next phase of drilling and, results permitting, a preliminary economic assessment for Springer and Perry to evaluate the economics of an open pit operation with potential supplemental resources underground.
So far, QC Copper has tested only the Springer deposit but says it plans to employ its exploration concept at Perry, Robitaille and Cooke.
The company notes that Cooke is a gold deposit with copper as a by-product, which provides significant upside for Opemiska. Cooke produced 320,000 oz. gold at a grade of 5.15 grams gold per tonne. The company’s near-term focus is evaluating structural controls on the mineralization in the gold-rich veins.
Stewart says the timing for advancing Opemiska is just right with the world’s increasing appetite for copper.
“Copper is starting to attract an enormous amount of attention,” he said. “It was in a depressed state of around US$2 a pound at the outset of Covid, but has bounced back aggressively to over US$3 recently. Declining grades in copper mines in Chile, the biggest producer in the world, along with increased political risk abroad make Quebec and our Opemiska project an attractive investment proposition for shareholders.”
While the coronavirus pandemic drove copper prices down, the metal has rebounded due to increased demand from China. Electric vehicles use four times as much copper than gas-powered cars and many analysts are predicting higher prices in the medium and long term. In addition, massive green stimulus spending on infrastructure and further electrification is expected in China, the European community and North America in the next few years further increasing demand for the red metal.
“Typically, increases in the price of the physical metal does not impact the share price of exploration companies as quickly as it does for producers. It took about nine months for the jump in gold price to be reflected in the junior gold explorers. I see a similar setup with copper and an opportunity for investors to recognize this trend and get in front of the surge.”
For the original source of this article: https://www.northernminer.com/news/qc-copper-and-gold-injects-new-life-into-opemiska-in-quebec/1003824303/
Some Juniors Working in Chibougamau Camp
Over the past decade, Chibougamau has seen a huge resurgence of exploration activity including but not exclusively the following juniors.
Without a doubt, one of the major discoveries of the camp is the Nelligan gold deposit – located 60 kms southwest of Chibougamau – which has about 100 million tonnes grading 1.02 g/t Au for a current total of nearly 3.2 million ounces of inferred gold (43-101 Report Oct 2019). It is a joint venture between Vanstar Mining Resources (TSXV: VSR) and IAMGOLD (TSX:IMG).
Fifty kms southwest of Chibougamau, the Monster Lake project, a joint venture between TomaGold (TSXV: LOT) and IAMGOLD (TSX: IMG) has also garnered a lot of investor attention. The March 2018 43-101 resource estimate comprises 1,109,700 tonnes of inferred resources averaging 12.14 grams of gold per tonne for 433,300 ounces of contained gold.
Genesis Metals (TSX-V: GIS) is working on its Chevrier gold deposit located 35 km Southwest of Chibougamau. Their March 2019 43-101 resource estimate includes 8,492,000 tonnes averaging 1.45 g/t Au for 395,000 ounces of gold indicated and 6,959,000 tonnes averaging 1.33 g/t Au for 297,000 ounces of gold inferred.
Northern Superior Resources (TSXV: SUP) is exploring on two properties. Croteau Est, contains a 43-101 resource estimate of 11.6 million tonnes grading 1.7 g/t Au for a current total of 640,00 ounces gold with an additional unclassified component of 270,00 ounces gold. Their Lac Surprise property includes the gold-bearing hydrothermal extension of the Nelligan gold deposit.
Doré Copper Mining Corp. (TSXV: DCMC) has consolidated a large land package in the camp that includes 12 former producing mines, deposits and resource targets within a 60-kilometre radius of the Company’s 2,700 tpd mill (Copper Rand Mill).
Kintavar Exploration (TSX-V: KTR) recently announced an option agreement with IAMGOLD Corporation (TSX: IMG) for the Anik Gold Project located 40km to the South-East of Chapais.
Blue Thunder Mining Inc. (TSXV: BLUE) is working on its Muus Project which covers approximately 51,000 hectares in five separate blocks 50 km southwest Chibougamau.