VANCOUVER — Things look to be heating up for junior explorer WCB Resources (TSXV: WCB) on the small island of Misima, 630 km southeast of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The company has laid low for nearly a year, but it seems to have spent this time wisely, releasing a maiden resource from its Umuna zone on Oct. 7 that includes eye-opening gold and silver numbers.
WCB is spending around US$8.5 million to earn a 70% interest in 180 sq. km of Misima Island from Pan Pacific Copper, which is owned by JX Nippon Mining and Metals and Mitsui Mining & Smelting. Though the company initially chased copper porphyry deposits — owing to a high-order copper stream-sediment anomaly — it turns out there is precious metal potential across the mineral concession as well.
The company acquired the Misima mines database from Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: ABX) in late 2012. Barrick had picked up the property through its acquisition of Placer Dome in 2006. Between 1989 and 2004, around 86 million tonnes were mined on Misima at an average grade of 1.46 grams gold per tonne and 15.6 grams silver per tonne, with recoveries of 92% gold and 44% silver over the mine’s life.
Barrick’s databases gave WCB access to an array of surface sampling, including: 11,846 soil samples, 2,941 rock samples, 4,853 trenches and 25,980 channel samples. Also included were 2,640 exploration drill holes, with 2,613 holding assay data and 467,316 having located blast-hole assays.
It took time for WCB to review the data, but it paid off when the company announced an open-pit, inferred resource at its Umuna zone, with 43 million tonnes grading 1.1 grams gold and 6.1 grams silver for 1.6 million contained oz. gold and 8.5 million contained oz. silver.
Seven million tonnes are oxide material with an average grade of 0.8 gram gold and 14 grams silver, while 36 million tonnes are classified as “fresh rock,” at an average grade of 1.2 grams gold and 4.7 grams silver. Cut-off grades for oxide and fresh material are 0.36 gram gold and 0.5 gram gold, while WCB’s conceptual open pit is constrained by a US$1,100 per oz. gold price.
Umuna is a continuous region of gold-silver mineralization that the company says was commercially extracted before, with an open pit over a strike length that exceeds 3 km. Umuna represents a major fault zone, where mineralization develops in areas of increased fracture density and shearing, and occurs as disseminations, stock works, fracture vein networks, breccias, skarns and replacements.
“This resource is a milestone for our company. Firstly, it demonstrates the upside and potential of this project. Secondly, it transforms WCB from a pure exploration group to a company with a potential development and commercialization scenario,” says president and CEO Cameron Switzer. “We have extension potential both at depth and along strike. Amazingly, this is just the gold project and does not include the porphyry copper-gold-silver project or the Quartz Mountain project — both of which continue to impress with early stage exploration results.”
WCB released results from a channel-sampling campaign across its porphyry target in early July. The company reports that mapping and channel sampling have been completed over a 800 by 500 metres, with more than 450 channel samples collected.
Sampling has confirmed continuous, highly anomalous copper-gold-silver geochemistry in the interpreted peripheral levels of a large porphyry copper-gold system, with channel assays highlighted by 171 metres grading 0.36% copper, 0.33 gram gold and 10.1 gram silver across Bench 2.
WCB will likely take its new gold-silver resource to market in a bid to raise funds. The company reported $944,000 in cash at the end of March, and has reported no subsequent financings.
WCB’s shares popped around 22% following news of the Umuna resource before closing at 39¢ per share at press time. The company has traded within a 52-week range of 16¢ and 65¢, and had 31.3 million shares outstanding at press time for a $12.2- million market capitalization.
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