Talk of a newly discovered mineral district may be premature, but interest is growing in an area roughly 150 km northwest of Anchorage, Alaska, thanks largely to Kiska Metals‘ (KSK-V) efforts there.
Referred to alternatively as the Rainy Pass, Kahilt, Yentna or McGrath mining district by prospect generator Millrock Resources (MRO-V) and recently created Brixton Metals (BBB-V), Kiska simply calls its 527-sq.-km wholly-owned land package there the Whistler project.
Kiska (then Geoinformatics Exploration) only came to the region in 2007 after optioning the property from Rio Tinto (RIO-N, RIO-L) subsidiary Kennecott Exploration, but the company has since established a major deposit as well as several early stage gold-copper porphyry discoveries there.
In January Kiska released an updated resource on the Whistler deposit that now stands at 79.2 million indicated tonnes grading 0.51 gram gold per tonne, 1.97 grams silver per tonne and 0.17% copper for 2.25 million contained gold-equivalent oz., plus an inferred resource of 145.8 million tonnes grading 0.4 gram gold, 1.75 grams silver and 0.15% copper for a further 3.35 million gold-equivalent oz.
For 2011, Kiska is forging ahead with a 31,000-metre drill program in the area to follow up on the 16,600 metres it drilled in 2010, but for the first time its drillers will have some company.
Teck Resources (TCK.B-T, TCK-N), for one, has agreed to fund a US$3.4-million exploration program as part of an option agreement on Millrock’s Estelle project, adjacent to the west of Kiska’s property.
The option allows Teck to earn 55% of the 24,600-ha property by spending US$3.6 million on exploration, while Teck has the right to earn another 10% by spending US$5 million more on exploration and paying Millrock US$400,000 in cash.
Millrock will actually be the manager of the exploration program, with plans to drill on the Oxide Ridge, Shoeshine, RPM and Stoney prospects looking for an intrusion-related gold deposit. The claim block has seen a fair bit of sampling but no drilling to date.
Joining Teck, newcomer Brixton Metals has also optioned some Millrock claims, this time adjacent to the southeast of the Whistler project, and hopes to drill it later this year.
Brixton can earn 100% of the 21,200-ha claim block known as Cristo by spending US$5 million in exploration, as well as making US$330,000 in payments and issuing two million shares and two million $1 warrants to Millrock. The claims are subject to a 2% net smelter return royalty on gold and 1% on other metals that go to Altius Minerals (ALS-T), a strategic partner of Millrock. Once Brixton fully earns into the option it has to issue a further 1% gold royalty and 0.5% royalty on other metals to Millrock.
Along with the 328 claims from Millrock, Brixton has also staked 531 of its own claims, giving it a total of 557 sq. km in the area. The company maintains it is the largest landholder in the area, with rights to about 30-sq.-km more land than Kiska’s current holdings. The company has already picked its drill targets within the Millrock option agreement, with an ambitiously proposed $10-million program including 16,000 metres of drilling and 20,000 soil samples.
It is not yet clear, however, what Brixton will actually be able to afford to spend this year. The company only formed at the beginning of 2010 and went public in December after completing a reverse takeover. Brixton raised gross proceeds of $1.1 million from an initial private placement at 25¢ at the time, while it had 22.3 million shares out and $600,000 in working capital in mid-February. The company recently launched a best-effort private placement to raise further capital, with the stock trading at 23¢.
Gary Thompson, chairman and chief executive of Brixton, said the company plans to start drilling in the summer and will take a staggered approach to raising capital and drilling.
Once Brixton has money to explore, it will be targeting the St. Eugene porphyry copper-gold prospect and the Monte Cristo intrusion-related gold prospect. Neither has seen any drilling, but St. Eugene has a possible 700-metre strike length based on samples with grades as high a 1% copper and 2.1 grams gold, and work on Monte Cristo has found rock samples grading as high as 4.2 grams gold and soil samples as high as 3 grams gold.
Thompson estimated that drilling costs would be in the $400- to $450-per-metre range, as the area is mountainous and requires airlifting equipment and helicopter support.
Kiska’s exploration costs will be lower thanks to the use of a winter ice road and also because Kiska’s property takes up most of the valley floor, while Brixton’s and Millrock’s claims are in steeper mountain terrain.
For its part, Kiska has launched a $15-million bought-deal financing to fund its exploration efforts this year. The company will be issuing 13.1 million units at $1.15 each, with each warrant containing one share and a half warrant, with each full warrant exercisable at $1.60 for 24 months; underwriters also have a 15% over-allotment option.
Kiska is targeting four early-stage gold-copper porphyry discoveries on the southern portion of its Whistler project, and will also be looking for more gold-copper discoveries in a 5-km radius around the Whistler deposit that it refers to as the Whistler Orbit.
In the “Orbit,” the company will be further exploring the Raintree West, Raintree East and Rainmaker discoveries. In 2010 the company hit 83 metres grading 1.2 grams gold, 11.8 grams silver, 0.06% copper, 0.54% lead and 1.08% zinc in hole 10-24 at Raintree West, which is 1.5 km east of its Whistler deposit.
The company will be surveying then drilling on the Island Mountain prospect, 23 km south of the Whistler deposit, to follow up on 2010 holes. Last year’s hits included hole 10-013 that returned 362 metres carrying 0.56 gram gold, 2 grams silver and 0.11% copper from 42 metres, and within that, 114.9 metres grading 1.25 grams gold, 4 grams silver and 0.23% copper from 50 metres.
Underpinning all this exploration excitement is the presence of the giant Pebble copper-gold porphyry deposit in the same geological belt. With a measured and indicated deposit containing 55 billion lbs. copper, 67 million oz. gold and 3.3 billion lbs. of molybdenum sitting 300 km over the horizon to the southwest, explorers in the area can be forgiven for dreaming a bit.
Between the extensive drill program from Kiska, a new drill program funded by mining major Teck, and fresh and eager junior Brixton hoping to drill, the area will see a lot more activity in 2011 and explorers will have a better picture as to how big they should actually dream.
Now all the district needs is a proper name.