VANCOUVER — There is a lack of early stage copper deposits in B.C. boasting economic grades under prevailing metal prices, and the team at Prosper Gold (TSXV: PGX) is hoping its Sheslay property — located 105 km southwest of Dease Lake in the Hackett River valley — could be the next addition to the province’s project pipeline.
Sheslay certainly is in the right neighbourhood. The project sits within the Stikine Arch, a geological region that hosts many of B.C.’s large-tonnage, copper–gold porphyry deposits. Sheslay lies 135 km southeast of Imperial Metals’ (TSX: III; US-OTC: IPMLF) in-development Red Chris mine and 105 km southwest of Teck Resources’ (TSX: TCK.B, NYSE: TCK) and NovaGold Resources’ (TSX: NG, NYSE-MKT: NG) massive Galore Creek joint venture.
Perhaps as notable as Sheslay’s jurisdiction is the management team backing the project. Prosper is the most recent vehicle for the brain trust behind Richfield Ventures, which sold its Blackwater gold discovery to NewGold (TSX: NGD, NYSE-MKT: NGD) for US$550 million back in 2011.
Prosper’s president and CEO Peter Bernier and vice-president of exploration Dirk Tempelman-Kluit jointly won the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia’s H.H. “Spud” Huestis Award for Excellence in Prospecting and Mineral Exploration for their work at Richfield.
Prosper optioned Seslay from junior Firesteel Resources (TSXV: FTR) in July 2013 under an agreement that could see the company earn an 80% stake in the project over the next four years for US$1 million in staged cash payments, US$5 million in incurred exploration expenditures, plus 1 million shares.
Firesteel’s portfolio includes the ROK Coyote prospect — located between Colorado Resources’ (TSXV: CXO) North ROK copper discovery and Red Chris — which it optioned to Australia-based OZ Minerals (ASX: OZL) last May.
“I think at the time everyone viewed [ROK Coyote] as a superior asset, so everyone was pursuing it hard,” Bernier notes during an interview. “And instead of getting involved in that bidding environment, we thought: ‘What about the Sheslay area?’ And they told us nobody had shown much interest in the project, so we focused our attention on picking it up. No one was particularly keen on it, but after Dirk and our team looked at it, we thought it could be the better project.”
Sheslay has seen extensive exploration dating back to 1950, so Prosper had a lot of data to sort through. Historic work — including extensive geochemical soil sampling, trenching, geophysical surveys and 45 drill holes — had outlined five core copper–gold occurences on the 68 sq. km property package, namely: Star, Star East, Star North, Copper Creek and Pyrrhotite Creek.
The three areas that have seen the most exploration are Star, Copper Creek and Pyrrhotite Creek. In each case, mineralization has been related to steeply dipping fracture zones near the contact of the Kaketsa intrusives with the surrounding Stuhini Group rocks. The alteration and mineralization demonstrate characteristics associated with alkalic-porphyry, copper–gold deposits.
Due to a lengthy option negotiation Prosper wasn’t able to mobilize its geological team at Sheslay until mid-August. With a shortened field season and rocky market conditions the company opted to stick with a conservative, 2,300-metre drill program.
“We started in the historic area that had already been drilled off. And there were two goals,” Tempelman-Kluit comments. He explains that historic drilling had focused on an area running 300 by 300 metres at Star, which remains open in all directions.
“Firstly, we wanted to confirm the grades we were seeing in these historic results, and secondly, test the extension of the mineralization at depth. Importantly we didn’t stick our neck out on that initial program. We added some tonnes by going deeper, but we haven’t stepped out yet,” he continues.
Prosper released assays from its six-hole program at Star in October, with results highlighted by: 312 metres grading 0.37% copper and 0.24 gram gold per tonne in hole 24; 269 metres averaging 0.42% copper and 0.2 gram gold in hole 25; 334 metres of 0.35% copper and 0.11 gram gold in hole 27; and 144 metres of 0.45% copper and 0.26 gram gold in hole 28. All intercepts start from surface.
“It’s the same package of rocks and alteration you see at all these established copper deposits in the region. If you look at our grades relative to the average resource grades they’re also comparable. We just need to add tonnage and find some high-grade starter material. If you look at the composite-drill intersects there is not a lot of waste,” Tempelman-Kluit adds.
Prosper plans on getting a lot more aggressive at Sheslay in 2014. The company is putting together a second drill program with a US$1-million budget, and Bernier says he would like to see at least 10,000 metres drilled on the project this year. Prosper had US$1.3 million in treasury at press time.
The company will test targets across two main areas defined during soil sampling and geophysical surveys, including: the Star area — which runs from Copper Creek in the south to Star North — and the Pyrrhotite Creek area, located 4.5 km southwest from Star on the opposite side of the Hackett River.
“Around 200 metres topographically below the [Star drilling] area is a historic trench with some really promising copper grades,” Tempelman-Kluit points out. “Now when you’re walking along the area between the drilling and trenching, you see chalcopyrite all over the rocks. At this point I suspect that will connect, and significantly expand the footprint to the southwest. I also want to head west because the gold–silver ratio seems to indicate that’s the way the mineralization could be running.”
Bernier says all of Prosper’s drilling this year will involve stepping out from historic targets and testing new anomalies and showings. The company is hoping Sheslay turns into a bulk-tonnage deposit, with its goal being to outline a footprint that could host a 500-million-tonne copper resource.
Prosper shares have traded within a 52-week range of 25¢ and $1.15, and are up 33% over the first seven weeks of 2014, en route to a 46.5¢-per-share close at press time. The company has 25 million shares outstanding for a $12-million market capitalization.
“We’re always looking at other things, and have a few assets on the table,” Bernier says. “But I think it’s pretty established we do work well as a single-asset company . . . we’ll either find something here or we’ll likely kill it by the end of July. We’re aiming to know if we have a mine here as quickly as possible. We don’t waste our time.”
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