VANCOUVER — Base metals explorer Wolfden Resources (TSXV: WLF) may hold a sizable land package in the historically productive Bathurst mining camp, but according to CEO George Topping the company is all about new discoveries.
In early January Wolfden acquired a 100% stake in the 200 sq. km Tetagouche property 20 km from Glencore’s (LSE: GLEN) shuttered Brunswick No. 12 zinc–copper mine and mill. The land package hosts five historic volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits, but the company’s efforts are focused on finding the bedrock source of a series of high-grade polymetallic boulders on the project’s eastern flank.
Topping joined Wolfden’s management team in December after a 25-year career in the industry, which included time as managing director and senior mining analyst at the Canadian arm of investment firm Stifel Nicolaus. The company’s experienced team also includes chairman Ewan Downie — who helms Premier Gold Mines (TSX: PG; US-OTC: PIRGF) as president and CEO — and president Donald Hoy, who formerly served as vice-president exploration and development for Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF).
“I spent sixteen years as a mining analyst here in Canada, and covered a lot of the senior companies during that time. I also have some experience on the junior side and had covered a good deal of VMS deposits,” Topping recounts during an interview. “When my firm decided to withdraw from Canada I explored opportunities in industry. I knew Ewan previously from his work at Premier, and he had a good reputation in Toronto.”
Wolfden’s first task was to tackle a wealth of historic exploration data that dates back to the 1960s. Topping notes that the company was drawn to the high-grade boulder samples that lie on the eastern part of the project within a series of valleys.
After the tabletop review Wolfden set out on its own ground-prospecting campaign in a bid to nail down targets for a 3,000-metre scout drill program scheduled for September. The work led to discovering high-grade massive sulphide boulders near a large lead–zinc soil anomaly and moderate-strength airborne electromagnetic anomaly.
Prospecting samples were highlighted by 20.1% zinc, 4.2% lead, 0.33% copper and 623 grams silver per tonne from boulder 10-2, and 19.8% zinc, 3.88% lead, 0.33% copper and 595 grams silver from boulder 10-2. Taken in context of historic data Wolfden believes it may have found a high-grade boulder train that has yet to be sourced to bedrock.
“The ground prospecting identified the new, promising boulders. Joining those up with the boulders in Valley 5, we noted they are pretty much identical in terms of mineralogy,” Topping says. “Following the train in a straight line from the east through the new boulders leads us to an area of historic soil anomalies, which is the principal target for our [mid-year]exploration. We’re currently completing a variety of geophysics over that area of interest. We’re following the fold along the Spruce Lake formation because that’s highly relevant to all the significant VMS deposits in the area.”
Geological evidence suggests that the boulders have been moved by glacial and melt-water processes, with the source possibly situated within Wolfden’s claim area. But the polymetallic grades found during prospecting are higher than those found in the historic, up-ice deposits.
The largest of the historic deposits is Canoe Landing Lake, which consists of 22.8 million tonnes averaging 1.82% zinc, 0.64% lead, 0.56% copper, 32 grams silver and 1.17 grams gold. Wolfden’s current interest — outside of the boulder prospectivity — lies around its Armstrong A and McMaster deposits. Armstrong A hosts 3.4 million tonnes grading 2.26% zinc, 0.42% lead, 0.29% copper, 25.4 grams silver and 0.4 gram gold. McMaster holds 250,000 tonnes of 0.75% copper.
“We drilled three holes at Armstrong A that focus in on historic induced-polarization (IP) targets. Since it takes time to do the surface work to determine the bedrock source of the high-grade boulders, we decided to look at some of the historic areas,” Topping says. “Those targets are priority targets that we would need to test at some point in time, so we popped some holes there during the interim. These are large stepouts away from the Armstrong A resource. The deposit isn’t open, so these are prospective holes aimed at finding something new.”
Based on IP surveys and limited diamond drilling Wolfden believes that the stratigraphic horizon that hosts Armstrong A could also host massive-sulphide deposits.
Meanwhile, the company will drill at McMaster to test targets that are associated with a prominent IP anomaly, which is continuous along strike for close to 2 km. Previous trenching 600 metres southwest of the deposit uncovered massive sulphides over a 2-metre width assaying 5% lead–zinc.
“We would be willing to joint venture some of the greater land package to reduce the load on ourselves. The historic deposits are up for negotiation because they are not key properties for us,” Topping notes. “We’d talk to a partner on those. What’s not available is the prospective area where the source of the high-grade boulders might originate. We believe that’s a new discovery and it’s definitely our focus moving forward.”
Wolfden began cutting line at the new target area in late June, with drilling for the bedrock source of the high-grade boulders scheduled for late September after mapping, soil sampling, gravity, max–min and magnetic surveys.
In order to fund its Tetagouche program Wolfen closed a $1.3-million non-brokered private placement in early April. The company issued 6.25 million flow-through units at a price of 20¢ per unit. Wolfden will spend $800,000 on the project this year, with the remaining flow-through dollars earmarked to follow-up on any promising drill results.
Wolfden shares have traded in a 52-week range of 13¢ to 45¢, and closed at 18¢ per share at press time. The company has 57 million shares outstanding — with ownership jointly holding a 20% stake — for a $10.2-million market capitalization.
“From the market point of view, when the investment dollars start to look at pure zinc opportunities, there are very few available. Most of the larger zinc mines are within diversified portfolio, so they are unsuitable for focused investment,” Topping says. “You have Trevali Mining (TSX: TV; US-OTC: TREVF) nearby, and then you’re down into the smaller companies. It’s difficult to get that investment in zinc. The last bull-market cycle in zinc was in 2007, and we think it’s time for the metal to have another run.”
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