VANCOUVER – Depressed equity markets, a cool spring that kept snow on the ground for ages, and floods in June that washed out major roads meant 2012 was much quieter in the Yukon than was 2011.
In spite of those challenges, explorers worked on more than 80 projects in the territory. At 32 of those projects companies poured more than $1 million into the ground, boosting overall exploration spending for the year to $146 million. That is far less than the $300 million spent in 2012, but roughly equal to 2010’s $160 million.
Another clear illustration of the year-over-year difference in the Yukon is in the number of claims staked. in 2011 staking activity in the Yukon hit a record high, with 110,442 claims staked. In 2012, volumes dropped by 90% to just 11,339. However, the number of claims in good standing remained high, suggesting that companies used the year to evaluate their land positions.
Capstone Mining’s Minto mine remains the Yukon’s largest operation, with over 1 million tonnes of ore processed in the first nine months of the year to produce 27 million lbs. copper, 141,000 oz. silver, and 11,800 oz. gold. The Main pit at Minto is now exhausted but resources at the site are far from expended: open pit mining is underway in Area 2, one of six additional deposits. Capstone grew two of those deposits significantly in 2012, more than compensating for the ore mined during the year.
Alexco Resource produced 2.15 million oz. silver, 18.2 million lbs. lead, and 5.7 million lbs. zinc from its Bellekeno mine in 2012. The company also rehabilitated the old underground workings at two ancillary areas on the property while outlining new resources at two other targets, one of which produced stellar intercepts such as 1,705 grams silver per tonne, 0.46 gram gold per tonne, 6.07% lead, and 10.01% zinc over 4.5 metres.
The third operating mine in the Yukon is Wolverine, an underground polymetallic operation owned by private company Yukon Zinc. The mine entered commercial production in late 2011 and in 2012 reached 80% of it full 1,700-tonne-per-day capacity.
North American Tungsten’s Cantung operation is the fourth and final operating hardrock mine in the territory. Cantung churned out 273,000 tonnes of tungsten oxide in fiscal 2012.
Four Yukon projects are in the permitting phase: Golden Predator is working to restart the historic Brewery Creek gold mine, Victoria Gold completed a feasibility study on its 4.8-million oz. Eagle gold project, North American Tungsten moved it Mactung project past several major permitting milestones, and Veris Gold aims to restart the historic Ketza River mine.
On the exploration front gold was the primary target, and two areas saw particular interest: the Selwyn basin in the central Yukon and the White Gold-Dawson Range region in the west of the territory.
Exploration in the Selwyn is primarily still in the early stages, so the basin saw considerable mapping, prospecting, sampling, and trenching. The most advanced property in the area is ATAC Resources’ Rackla project, the Carlin-style gold discovery that sparked the Selwyn basin gold exploration rush. That was a few years ago but ATAC continues to find gold at Rackla. This year the company focused $19-million exploration program on the Conrad zone, producing a best intercept of 18.44 grams gold over 43 metres.
Ryan Gold was also at work in the Selwyn basin, though its Ida Oro property hosts intrusion-related gold rather than Carlin-style mineralization. Twenty-eight drill holes produced best results of 7.01 grams gold over 8.8 metres and 2.04 grams gold over 51 metres.
Two hundred kilometres to the southeast, drilling at Northern Tiger Resources’ 3Ace property returned several intercepts bearing visible gold. Credit for the original discovery of gold at 3Ace goes to Alex McMillan, who was recognized as Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors’ Association in 2012.
Over in the Dawson Range, Kaminak Gold advanced it Coffee property. A drill program including 125 diamond and 223 reverse circulation holes succeeded in connecting several disparate zones, while metallurgical studies showed that heap leaching extracts more than 90% of the gold from Coffee’s rocks. Late in 2012 Kaminak released a maiden resource estimate for Coffee that pegged the gold count at 3.2 million oz.
Comstock Metals hit into a new discovery in the district that caused excitement in 2012 when the company found oxidized pyrite in quartz veins at it QV claims. Subsequent drilling returned such intercepts as 2.03 grams gold over 30 metres and 9.98 grams gold over 3.4 metres.
Many other companies drilled, trenched, and prospected in the Yukon in 2012, proving the Yukon gold rush that started a few years ago is far from dead – it has simply slowed to a sustainable pace.
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