Now that Fire River Gold (FAU-V) has received promising results about leftover gold in the tailings at its fly-in Nixon Fork gold mine near McGrath, Alaska, the company is evaluating how much it will cost to put a partially constructed carbon-in-leach circuit into operation to process the tailings.
Fire River, which bought the shuttered Nixon Fork in late 2008, is also gearing up for a 20,000 metre drill program and has been busy re-logging thousands of metres of old drill core so it can have a better understanding of the geology.
The program is being led by a new project manager, Richard Goodwin, vice president of mining, who took over from the Greg Myers last December.
Results from the tailings sampling and drill program have recently come in – 34 drill holes returned an average grade of 7.6 grams gold per tonne.
“Because the mine operated at such a high grade, even though they had reasonable recoveries, what they didn’t recover went into the tailings ponds,” Goodwin says. “So what we are left with is a very high grade tailings pond.”
The company plans to put out a resource estimate for the tailings in May when it completes a National Instrument 43-101 report on the project.
Goodwin says that 13 of the holes were drilled in 2004 by a previous operator, each to a depth of about 9.5 feet, while another 21 holes were drilled in late 2009 by the company. They ranged in depth from 8 feet to 30 feet for a total distance of 329 feet.
The entire tailings area couldn’t be drilled because the tailings liquefied quite easily in some areas.
Fire River was originally drawn to the tailings because previous miners, Nevada Goldfields (1995-1999) and St. Andrews Goldfields (1997) mined a total of 145,000 tons grading about 42 grams gold per ton from Nixon Fork but only about 83% of the gold was recovered.
Goodwin says that recently a team of metallurgists, mechanical engineers and milling experts went up to Nixon Fork to see what would be need to fully install the CIL plant. They will also evaluate the potential for expanding its capacity from 250 tons per day to 500 tons per day.
“The plant was only about sixty percent installed (by the previous operator) but all the equipment is there,” Goodwin says.
Fire River has also been releasing the results of a 9,400-metre, 110-hole drill program done by St. Andrew Goldfields that were never made public.
Some of the highlights include 4 metres grading 61 grams gold per tonne, 3.8 metres grading 41 grams gold per tonne and 4.6 metres grading 140 grams gold per tonne.
“The results were quite spectacular,” Goodwin says, though noting that Nevada Goldfields was able to accurately mine the high grade ore while St. Andrews struggled with grade control. “We are looking at how their program failed and how to get the grade back up to where Nevada had it.”
The 20,000 metre drill program planned for the spring includes 12,000 metres drilled from underground and 8,000 metres to be drilled on surface.
“There is excellent potential to expand resources and find additional mines,” Goodwin says. “It’s quite a large claim and it has lots of sniffs.”
All drill results will go in an updated resource estimate in the fall.