Since NovaCopper (NCQ-T, NCQ-X) started drilling the South Reef Zone on its Bornite concession in northwestern Alaska this year, sixteen of the nineteen holes returned high-grade copper — a success rate of 84%.
The mineralization is consistent over a northeast trending zone of about 300 metres wide by 700 metres along strike and remains open to the north and east and to the southwest, said the junior explorer, which was spun out of NovaGold (NG-T, NG-N) earlier this year.
The Bornite concession is one of three volcanogenic-massive-sulphide (VMS) deposits that make up the Upper Kobuk project, about 322 km west of Teck Resources’ (TCK-T, TCK-N, TCKRF-O) Red Dog zinc-lead mine. The other two concessions are called Arctic and Sunshine.
In July, NovaCopper published the results of a resource estimate on Ruby Creek, just west of the South Reef Zone and, like the South Reef Zone, is a target on the Bornite concession. Ruby Creek contains 6.8 million tonnes grading 1.2% copper for 179 million contained lb. copper in the indicated category and inferred resources of 47.7 million tonnes, averaging 0.84% copper at a 0.5% copper cut-off for 883.2 million contained lb. copper.
At South Reef, NovaCopper drilled 22 holes (15,457 metres) during its 2012 drill program. The most recent batch of assay results were released on Nov. 1 and three of the four drill holes intersected high-grade mineralization. (The fourth hole, drilled about 500 metres to the east of the South Reef Zone, did not hit any significant mineralization.)
Hole RC12-211 intersected four mineralized intervals for a combined 44.2 metre composite interval, with a weighted average grade of 6.06% copper. The hole consisted of 8.2 metres grading 7.91% copper; 5.3 metres of 4.08% copper; 17.5 metres of 5.10% copper; and 31.2 metres of 6.96% copper.
Hole RC12-212 intersected two mineralized intervals for a combined 16.8 metre composite interval, with an average grade of 4.31% copper. It was made up of 8.7 metres grading 4.95% copper and 8.2 metres grading 3.64% copper.
Finally, hole RC12-213 hit one mineralized interval of 3.6 metres at 3.97% copper. Results from the most recent batch of assay results released Nov. 1 include 8.2 metres carrying 7.91% copper. All of the results used a 0.5% copper cut-off grade.
NovaCopper hopes to complete a revised resource estimate for the Bornite property that will include both Ruby Creek and the South Reef Zone in the first quarter of next year.
Earlier this year NovaCopper filed a preliminary economic assessment of its Arctic deposit, also part of the company’s Upper Kobuk mineral project in Alaska’s Ambler mining district. The PEA envisioned an underground mine with annual production of 67 million lb. copper and 80 million lb. zinc, including precious metal credits. The 4,000-tonne per day operation would cost US$262 million to develop and would have an after-tax net present value of between US$500 million and US$1 billion, depending on metal price assumptions.
In Toronto, NovaCopper was trading at $2.54 within a 52-week range of $1.62-5.16. The company has about 47 million shares outstanding.
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