It is not often that a mining company finds itself headlining space publications and astronomy journals, but that is exactly what happened to North American Nickel (NAN-V, WSCRF-O) when the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland announced that the company’s Maniitsoq nickel-copper project was the site of the Earth’s oldest-known meteorite impact, dating back 3 billion years.
Maniitsoq is located on Greenland’s southwestern coast — around 160 km north of Nuuk, the country’s capital — and consists of 4,800 sq. km of exclusive exploration licences. Data on the site reaches as far back as the 1960s, including geophysical work by Falconbridge and Cominco in the late 1990s.
“What impressed me about the project was that Falconbridge reviewed all 119 drill holes that a company from Denmark had completed in the sixties,” chairman and CEO Rick Mark explains. “It’s really unusual for a company of our size to get our hands on solid information for a land package that big. Sometimes you see rock sampling, but to have that much historic core was quite something — I mean, it is literally ten years’ worth of work.”
Historic drill work was completed by a private company from Denmark called Kyrolitselskabet Oresund in the mid-1960s, and includes 6,287 metres of drilling at an average depth of 60 metres.
The work focused on exposed sulphide mineralization and associated electromagnetic anomalies. Historic assay results include: 10 metres grading 2.7% nickel and 0.6% copper at the Imiak Hill target in hole 9; 5 metres carrying 2% nickel and 0.43% copper at the Quagssuk target in hole 3; and 13 metres of 2.24% nickel and 0.63% copper at the Fossilik target in hole 1.
Cominco flew a large portion of the Greenland norite belt in 1995 with a Geotem fixed-wing airborne electromagnetic system. The company discovered limited anomalies at the time, though resampling of the historic core by Cominco and Falconbridge demonstrated a relatively high nickel tenor in the sulphides — with Falconbridge’s work showing 8% nickel in 100% sulphide. According to Mark the companies were on the right track, but lacked the necessary technologies.
“We looked at the historic airborne data, and figured probably two-thirds of the Cominco stuff wouldn’t have seen a thing because they had to fly too high and too fast,” Mark comments. “We were sort of familiar with that because we’ve worked with the Geotech’s VTEM system in the past, and we’ve told the ‘low and slow’ story with helicopter technology for years. So with the helicopter-born electromagnetic technology and modern computing power, suddenly these anomalies are popping up.”
The story’s focus shifted slightly following news that North American Nickel was sitting on a major meteor impact site. Anyone familiar with the Sudbury basin in Ontario can attest to the potential geological implications of a large-scale meteoritic event. Major mining outfits like Vale (VALE-N) and Xstrata (XTL-L, XSRAF-O) are still active in what has become one of the richest mineral jurisdictions in the world for nickel-copper and platinum group metal deposits.
“What we ended up looking at was the original thesis of a long-lasting igneous event. We hadn’t thought too much about the impact story in the beginning because frankly, we weren’t sure the markets would be interested in that side of it,” Mark explains. “Of course, it would be interesting to look at something similar to the mineralized camps in the Sudbury basin, but we were worried it would distract from the story. But when we made the announcement it ended up on these space-related websites and all over the place, so we’re getting some more exposure because it is a neat idea.”
To fund its 2012 exploration program, North American Nickel closed a US$3.4-million private placement with Sentient Global Resources Fund in late May. Sentient received 20 million units at 17¢ per share.
The company’s first step was to complete helicopter-flown VTEM surveys. North American Nickel received the results from its airborne geophysical work on July 24, and found that Maniitsoq contained 50 conductive zones, many with promising strike lengths. The company identified 12 high-priority zones it intends to target in a drill program scheduled for mid-August.
“The nickel tenure graph is strictly diagonal, which means it is consistent across the entire seventy-five kilometres,” Mark concludes. “Now, at six- to eight-percent nickel, that can only happen if there are multiple events contributing to the structure. We’re seeing some light nickel mineralization at surface, and according to our model the mineralization should drop. And sure enough, one hundred sixty metres down there are three football-field sized anomalies sitting there, and we’re hoping for nickel sulphide.”
Mark says working in Greenland is similar to working in the Canadian Arctic, though he is quick to point out that transporting fuel and supplies to camp is easier because of the area’s nearby international airport, and the regional port is ice free year-round. The company has a four-month exploration window similar to operations in the Canadian North, though it’s possible to set up winter camps and extend work to 10 months, if the project moves to more advanced stages.
North American Nickel maintains a tight share structure with the Sentient group and VMS Ventures (VMS-V, VMSTF-O) — a company exploring similar deposits in Manitoba and Ontario that shares much of North American Nickel’s geological and management teams — holding nearly 50% of the company’s fully diluted position. VMS and Sentient also retain a first right, which lets the companies maintain their share structure.
North American Nickel has bounced around the 12¢ to 18¢ range since early April. The company received a bit of a boost on results from its airborne geophysical results on July 24, when shares jumped 19% to a quarterly high of 22¢ at presstime on above-average, 231,000-share volumes. The company has 77 million shares outstanding for a $10.5-million market capitalization.
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