VANCOUVER – Maybe the best way to find new mineralization is not to look beside an old mine, but to drill right through it. At least that is what the latest drill results from Ascot Resources’ (TSXV: AOT) Premier property suggest.
Ascot has been exploring at Premier in northwest British Columbia since 2007, completing more than 400 drill holes. None of those holes, however, tested the historic Premier mine, which operated from 1918 to 1968 and produced 2.1 million oz. gold and 44.9 million oz. silver.
Ascot held off on probing the old mine until it had fully assessed the historic data, an extensive pile including assays from 4,453 historic drill holes and multiple level and stope plans. Two years of data compiling later, this year the company was finally ready to set a drill turning at the historic site.
"The data was in really good shape but this is the first time we've been able to see it in 3-D and connect it all up," said Graeme Evans, an Ascot consulting geologist. "What it really shows is that there is a tonne of potential for more high-grade targets. The old work left a lot of areas totally untested."
Ascot started by testing for extensions to known bodies of mineralization and the first results suggest there is still a good amount of gold in the old operation, including some very high grades.
Hole 594 hit some of those high grades. The drill returned 78.8 metres grading 20.31 grams gold per tonne and 21.4 grams silver per tonne starting 60 metres downhole, an intercept boosted by the presence of 1 metre carrying 1,395 grams gold and 739 grams silver. Other parts of the hole also carried considerable gold, such as a shallower 4-metre intercept grading 7.95 grams gold and 25.2 grams silver and an intervening 15 metres averaging 5.95 grams gold and 22.6 grams silver.
Hole 591 also returned a weighty intercept: 98.9 metres grading 5.8 grams gold and 4.1 grams silver from 135 metres downhole. Nearby, hole 596 cut 62 metres averaging 4.94 grams gold and 20.3 grams silver from 10 metres depth, while hole 585 returned 78.5 metres carrying 2.01 grams gold and 46.2 grams silver from 104 metres below surface.
Other highlights included 71 metres of 1.71 grams gold and 16.4 grams silver, 66.8 metres of 1.56 grams gold and 9.6 grams silver, and 56.4 metres of 2 grams gold and 9.6 grams silver.
Ascot says it lost several holes because of underground workings or difficult ground conditions. Regardless, the company says the results demonstrate the continuity of the main Premier system, with wide intervals of stockwork gold- and silver-bearing veins shot through with higher-grade quartz breccia bodies.
"The high grades were not unexpected," said Evans. "The historic mine was quite a high grade operation but that has been largely forgotten because in the 1980s Westmin took the project on and they were almost entirely focused on the open pit potential. And that was a bit of a disaster: they had really bad timing, their strip ratio was nasty, and gold prices went down.
"For us the positive that we're seeing is that the high grade breccia bodies are a lot wider than we were expecting, so that is a very pleasant surprise," he continued.
Some of the breccia bodies that the old mine tapped held a lot of gold and silver. From 1918 to 1968 the Premier mine produced 4.3 million tonnes at an average grade of 13.4 grams gold and 297 grams silver. Grades were even higher in the early years, such as the 88,828 tonnes mined in 1922 that averaged 43.3 grams gold and 1,492 grams silver. Ascot recently collected a grab sample from the Glory Hole area that produced that ore in 1922 and it assayed at 113 grams gold and 18,778 grams silver, supporting the historic records.
The Premier property covers more than 100 sq. km near the town of Stewart in northwest BC. The property is long and narrow, extending more than 22 km north to south. The Premier mine is at the south end of the property. Roughly 7 km to the north are the three deposits Ascot has outlined at Premier, which are known as Big Missouri, Martha Ellen, and Dilworth.
In March Ascot updated the resource estimates for those deposits, an effort that boosted the project's resources to 93.5 million indicated tonnes grading 0.82 gram gold and 6.9 grams silver plus 79.3 million inferred tonnes averaging 0.59 gram gold and 7.2 grams silver. All three deposits comprise shallowly dipping sheets that remain open for expansion.
"The north area has some high grade zones similar to what we're seeing at Premier, but the flat geometry there just makes it so favorable as an open pit area," Evans said. "Up there we are focused on expanding out from the latest resource."
Three drills continue to turn at the project, where Evans says Ascot will spend between $3 million and $4 million this year. Ascot is still earning full ownership of the property, which it is optioning from Swedish miner Boliden. Ascot’s remaining earn-in obligations include a $9.55-million payment for Premier and a $4.15-million payment for Dilworth, which is the adjoining land package to the north.
On news of the Premier mine area drilling, Ascot added 8¢ to its share price to close at 92¢. The company has a 52-week trading range of 59¢ to $1.10 and has 96 million shares outstanding.
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