Initial assays from Gatling Exploration’s (TSXV: GTR; US-OTC: GATGF) 25,000-metre drill program at its Larder gold project in northern Ontario are validating the company’s decision to shift its exploration strategy to focus on near-surface mineralization, says president and CEO Jason Billan.
The results are “starting to pay off” Billan said in an interview, adding that he believes there is “significant upside potential” drilling shallow holes at the project.
“Historically, exploration of the project had predominantly focused on targeting narrow vein high-grade mineralisation at depth,” he said. “We are now shifting our focus to identify widespread mineralisation closer to surface, as both types of mineralisation could indicate the presence of a large gold system on Larder.”
The 3,370-hectare property, 35 km east of Kirkland Lake and 6 km west of Virginiatown in northern Ontario, includes 9 km of strike length along the Cadillac-Larder break on the prolific Abitibi greenstone belt, and is just 7 km east of Gold Candle Ltd’s past-producing Kerr-Addison mine, which produced 11 million oz. of gold from 1938 to 1996.
Larder comprises three gold deposits: Fernland, Bear, and Cheminis, a past-producing mine that mined 235,868 tonnes of ore at a recovered gold grade of 3.25 grams gold per tonne between 1991 and 1996. All three deposits are open at depth and along strike.
“Gold systems in the region typically have deep structures sometimes starting at or close to surface and continue to multiple kilometres at depth,” he said. “For example, the Kerr-Addison was well over a kilometre in depth and informed our previous exploration rationale, which was to explore the depth potential of Larder.”
All three deposits on Larder, he continued, host mineralisation near-surface and at depth, which is also the case for numerous other deposits in the region, he noted. These include Agnico Eagle Mine’s (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) Upper Beaver deposit, Moneta Porcupine Mine’s (TSX: ME) Golden Highway deposits, and QMX Gold’s (TSXV; QMX) Bonnefond deposit.
Highlights from the 2020 drill program include drillhole GTR-20-088, which was drilled on zone 1 at the project’s Fernland deposit and intersected 101.3 metres grading 1.1 gram gold per tonne starting from 26 metres.
Drillhole GTR-20-072, drilled on zone 2 at the deposit, cut 41.5 metres of 0.6 gram gold from 3.5 metres, including a higher grade interval of 14.9 metres of 1.7 grams gold.
Fernland consists of three zones of mineralisation displaced by faults containing multiple gold-bearing lenses and shows strong continuity from surface to a depth of 300 metres, the company says.
Drilled on zone 2, GTR-20-078 intersected 12.7 metres of 1 gram gold from 114 metres, GTR-20-074 cut 3 metres of 4 grams gold from 145.5 metres, and GT20-073 returned 50.7 metres of 0.4 gram gold from 185.2 metres.
These initial drill results, Billan said, suggest that the deposit contains both high-grade gold and continuous, near-surface gold mineralisation. There is also potential, he noted, to add a fourth zone, with drilling now focused on near-surface gold mineralisation to the west of the current zones.
Gatling also believes that all three deposits at Larder form one system. Drilling from 2019 to 2020 between Fernland and Cheminis confirmed that the project’s three known deposits are connected along 4.5 km of strike length. (Previous operators, Billan said, had viewed them as three separate projects.)
Drillhole GTR-20-071 drilled on the North zone at Cheminis extended the zone 200 metres along strike to the west, further connecting Fernland and Cheminis along strike. The hole returned 2 metres grading 7.9 grams gold from 243 metres. The two deposits are approximately one kilometre from each other.
“This is the value of having a high-quality exploration team that has inherited a significant amount of good quality data from prior operators,” he said. “They spent the better part of a year consolidating the data to identify new targets and to understand the geological and structural controls of the mineralisation.”
Larder has seen extensive past exploration. In 1937, Cheminis Gold Mines Ltd undertook a diamond drill program on the property, which led to the sinking of a three-compartment shaft to a depth of 163 metres and the completion of 1,502 metres of lateral work between 1938 and 1940.
Amalgamated Larder Mines Ltd. purchased the property in 1940. From 1940 to 1970, the company recommenced underground development, deepening the shaft to 331 metres. Underground drilling results, however, were disappointing, and the operation shut down.
Various operators undertook sporadic exploration of the property from 1970 to 1990.
In 1990, Northfield Minerals Inc. acquired a 78.5% interest in Larder. Between 1991 and 1996, the company extracted 235,868 tonnes of ore at a recovered gold grade of 3.25 grams gold per tonne.
From 1996 to 2013, several operators conducted further exploration of the property, including diamond drilling, surface stripping, channel sampling, and ground magnetometer surveys.
Highlights of the exploration work include a surface stripping and channel sampling program conducted by the NFX Mining Company Inc. in 1991. The work confirmed the presence of mineralisation at surface over widths up to 25 metres, with channel sampling of trenches returning gold values ranging from 1.8 metres of 4.08 grams per tonne; 2.9 metres of 3.87 grams; 5 metres of 2.11 grams; 2.5 metres of 6.67 grams; and 3.3 metres of 3.65 grams.
A historical resource estimate for Larder in 2011 outlined 335,000 indicated tonnes grading 4.07 grams gold per tonne for 43,800 oz. contained gold and inferred resources of 5.1 million tonnes grading 5.55 grams gold for 917,000 oz. of gold.
Gatling was spun off from Bonterra Resources (TSXV: BTR; US-OTC: BONXF) in 2018.
Bonterra had acquired a 100% interest in Larder in 2016 from Kerr Mines Inc., now called Arizona Gold (TSX: AZG; US-OTC: AGAUF). Bonterra paid $200,000 in cash, issued 10 million common shares, and paid $950,000 over 18 months.
By the time Bonterra created Gatling, more than 220,000 metres of historical drilling had been completed on the property, as well as ground sampling and geophysical surveys.
Billan joined Gatling’s board in April 2019 and was appointed CEO in November 2020.
That same month, the company acquired the Kir Vit prospect from Teck Resources (TSX.TECK.A/TECK.B; NYSE: TCK). The 1,274-hectare claim package, 6 km north of Larder’s three deposits, hosts high-grade gold at surface in numerous outcrops.
A 16-hole drill program at the Kir Vit prospect discovered three new gold trends, with 13 out of the 16 drill holes hitting mineralisation greater than 1 gram gold per tonne.
This year, Gatling will primarily focus on Fernland, where it plans to drill 13,500 metres targeting near-surface mineralisation to test for continuity along strike and at depth.
About 3,000 metres of drilling will target surface mineralisation on Cheminis and 4,500 metres drilled to test up plunge of Bear from 500 metres below surface to tie together two lenses previously identified close to surface.
Drilling will also recommence on Kir Vit, with about 4,000 metres targeting new mineralised horizons and as a follow-up to the 2019 drilling campaign, which is slated to start towards the end of spring this year.
The company plans to complete the drill program by mid-2021, with a resource estimate slated for release in the second half of the year.
“We’re also undertaking a lot of project de-risking ahead of the updated resource, including metallurgy and testing the geological model to accelerate the project,” Billan said.
Billan said the company has enough money to fund some of the work, as it raised $4.6 million in a private placement led by Sprott Capital Partners in mid-December.
But he said Gatling “will likely need to go back to the markets later in the year to raise more funds.”