Using new technology to see deep into the Earth, Nine Mile Metals (CSE: NINE) is hoping to unlock the secrets of New Brunswick’s prolific Bathurst Mining Camp.
Most times when exploration companies start drilling a new target, they are taking an educated guess. But as drilling begins at Nine Mile Metals’ California Lake project, the team is more confident than usual of their chances of success after not one, but three cutting-edge technologies highlighted the potential of its latest target.
“When our three leading edge independent technologies identify the same target or trend, then we prioritize that specific target and we prioritize them due to several criteria, size, scale, favourable geology, to state just a few,” CEO Patrick Cruickshank says.
Nine Mile has been active in the historic Bathurst Mining Camp in New Brunswick for the last two years, although their team has been there for six, building up a 130-plus-sq.-km land package covering four projects located close to the World Famous Brunswick No. 12, which was the world’s largest underground zinc — lead mines at one time and mined for over 50 years.
For over a century, the Bathurst camp has been one of the world’s most prolific mining centres, with miners identifying 46 volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits so far, more than half of which contain more than a million tonnes of metals. Most are VMS deposits containing a mix of copper, zinc, lead, gold, and silver highly concentrated in a lens of dense metallic ore. They include the historic Brunswick #12, #6, Restigouche, Heath Steele, Startmat, Murray Brook, and Caribou VMS mines.
The known VMS deposits can be up to 10 km apart, raising questions and hopes about what lies between them.
However, finding the missing mineralization can be tricky as they can lie several hundred metres below surface, and with the lens standing vertically and presenting a footprint just 500-1,000 metres across at surface.
Existing technologies, including airborne electromagnetic surveys or electro physics, can identify the possible presence of mineral deposits up to 400 metres deep and use software extrapolation and AI to predict deeper, we need true native geophysics to see deeper.
But usually geologists don’t know whether they have valuable base metals or worthless pyrite until they begin testing the targets with expensive diamond drilling.
“Traditional geophysics (IP & EM surveys) see 300 metres-400 metres deep and present hundreds of targets that you can’t identify until you drill the target,” Cruickshank notes.
To overcome these challenges, Nine Mile has turned to two companies that have developed new ways to look deep below the Earth’s surface without drilling.
Nine Mile was already working with Manitoba-based EarthEx Geophysical Solutions to use its proprietary technology and algorithms and late time conductive response analysis to reprocess legacy MegaTEM data to identify a series of priority targets and target trends across its portfolio of VMS projects.
This year, the company was approached by Earth Science Services Corp (ESSCO), another Canadian firm which uses airborne acoustic electromagnetic (EM) surveys to search for mineral targets over wide areas. The technique has been developed from Magnetotelluric methods, which are widely used by some of the world’s largest energy companies to find oil and gas deposits.
After carrying out a fixed-wing survey over the Bathurst camp, ESSCO identified a handful of target regions which returned similar results using the Brunswick #12 as its computerized baseline model. Nine Mile’s California Lake’s Target Number 10 target was the biggest similar model.
Moreover, ESSCO’s suggested targets lined up precisely with the known mines and priority areas identified by EarthEx.
“This is when we get excited but cautiously optimistic,” stated Cruickshank. “Mother nature can still be cruel no matter how much de-risking and modeling and preparation you complete. But we believe our technical team is pushing the discovery envelop with the latest exciting technologies and apply them to this world class camp.”
ESSCO then used acoustic-transponder reference stations and a drone to fly a local acoustic EM survey to assess the density of the mineral targets. This can help geologists to more quickly discern between the very heavy metallic deposits and the surrounding wall rock. Targets can then simply be tested with a single drill hole allowing worthless false flags to be quickly ruled out.
ESSCO then used artificial intelligence to process existing and new data in a model combining both the probable lithology and density of the deposit.
“What these guys are doing should speed the whole process up and create an economic exploration model, we can test a large trend or target based on potential economic size and not drill the traditional 10-20 holes,” explains Cruickshank.
This work allowed Nine Mile to identify five independent prospective lenses within the Cali #10 target, which the company is now drilling. The first is estimated to be more than 700 metres below surface, a challenging depth to hit such a slender target.
But the drilling is being carried out by New Brunswick specialists Les Forages Chapais, a company with decades of experience drilling VMS-style deposits in the Bathurst region. That means negotiating difficult terrain and keeping holes on track hundreds of metres into the ground.
Cruickshank is cautiously optimistic about the technology’s potential.
“We know EarthEx’s technology works, proven on our last years’ California Lake #8 target,” he said. “Eight successful VMS drill holes on a 2-km trend will be explored further in 2024 now that we have acquired the source target land a few months ago. However, if ESCCO’s density modeling technology is successful, it’s the missing piece we can use to overlap all three technologies for successful target generation.”
“The industry has been looking for a technology that can differentiate and filter out what it finds and that’s what this company believes they have, so it’s exciting to be the pilot,” the executive explains.
The evidence from ESSCO does not end with target Number 10 but points the way to several other potential mineral deposits, providing Nine Mile with a roadmap for its exploration program for the next three to four years.
The knowledge gives Nine Mile Metals a strategic advantage. ESSCO does not intend to make the technology commercially available for at least the next 18 months. By then, it hopes to hold up its success at the Bathurst camp as a billboard for the rest of the industry.
“Whenever there’s new technology breakthroughs, there’s a rash of discoveries. And that’s where we are now,” Cruickshank explains.
The preceding Joint Venture Article is PROMOTED CONTENT sponsored by Nine Mile Metals and produced in co-operation with The Northern Miner. Visit: www.ninemilemetals.com for more information.