The 1980s were a booming time for the La Ronge gold belt near the town of La Ronge in north-central Saskatchewan, with between 60 and 80 companies exploring on the ground and several hundred thousand ounces mined. But a tough market and mixed success meant that most exploration fizzled out by the decade’s end.
Today, three companies are leading exploration in the region and reviving interest in a neglected gold district: La Ronge Gold (LAR-V), very much the tadpole of the pond, which only began actively exploring the area this past quarter; Golden Band Resources (GBN-V), which has been exploring the belt since 1993 and has several deposits in or near production; and veteran miner Claude Resources (CRJ-T), which has pulled almost 1 million oz. gold from its Seabee operation since 1991, and still owns a global resource of over 1 million oz. gold.
Despite its newbie status, La Ronge has already made a splash in the area, pulling some impressive results in a drill program to confirm historical resources at the Preview SW deposit. Drilled in the centre of the old deposit first established by Cameco in the late 1980s, hole 121 hit 214 metres averaging 1.63 grams gold per tonne starting at 12 metres downhole, and hole 122 returned 197 metres carrying 1.04 grams gold starting at 8 metres depth. The March 1 results were good enough to propel the company’s share price from 36¢ to 88¢ in a day, and the company capitalized on the movement by raising $5.3 million at 65¢ for flow-through shares and 55¢ for regular shares.
Now cashed up, La Ronge Gold plans to confirm the historical resources at Preview and the Twin deposit sitting on its Wedge Lake property. The non-National Intrument 43-101 compliant Preview resource, based on 14,000 metres of drilling, stands at 493,700 tonnes of 12.34 grams gold, while the Twin deposit hosts a historic resource of 612,000 tonnes of 5.14 grams gold.
La Ronge describes the Preview deposit as being made up of several sub-parallel northeast-trending shear zones that total 150 metres in width, and sit within a zone of diorite-gabbro sills extending 5.2 km across the property, reaching widths of 200 metres.
Since unveiling those first eye-catching results, La Ronge has released several more drill results that, while showing significant gold mineralization, have not quite lived up to the heightened expectations. Since its initial spike to a high of $1.01 the company’s shares have slid to a recent close of 29¢.
Infill drilling results include hole 122, drilled along the same section as holes 120 and 121, that hit 40 metres of 2.24 grams gold from 45 metres downhole, and 19 metres of 1.15 grams gold from 127 metres depth. Hole 125 and 126, drilled at the southeast edge of historical drilling, returned several sub-10-metre intercepts grading as high as 2.12 grams gold.
As for the stepout drilling, hole 123, drilled 30 metres farther south than any historical drill holes, returned 33 metres of 6.41 grams gold from 148 metres, and then 20 metres of 8.26 grams gold from 198 metres. Hole 124, drilled on the same section, hit 3 metres of 11.16 grams gold from 55 metres depth, but was cut-off before intersecting hole 123’s deeper high-grade structure.
In stepping out to the northeast, hole 130 encountered 22 metres of 2.87 grams gold from 40 metres depth, and hole 131 cut 20 metres of 2.09 grams gold from 63 metres depth, with both drilled at the northern limits of the historic resource.
The company sees the winter drill results as extending mineralization along strike to the northeast and southwest, with the deposit open in both directions. Pending results from holes 132, 134 and 135, all drilled farther to the northeast, should give a better picture for the deposit’s northeast potential.
Meanwhile, Golden Band finally put its Roy Lloyd and EP mines into production last year and expects to produce 45,000 oz. gold in its fiscal year ending April 30.
The company is also working on a mine plan to put its Komis deposit into production, which could allow a ramp-up of the Jolu mill’s daily throughput to 700 tonnes from 450 tonnes.
Golden Band is looking to put the Golden Heart deposit into production by mid-2013 and possibly increase Jolu’s mill throughput to 1,000 tonnes per day.
Golden Band’s deposits, which sit in La Ronge gold belt between La Ronge’s Preview and Twin deposits, generally host modest resources. The operating Roy Lloyd mine hosts 157,000 measured and indicated tonnes at 13.14 grams gold for 66,000 oz., and about the same in the inferred category; the EP open-pit mine hosts 102,000 measured and indicated tonnes at 3.81 grams gold for 12,500 oz. gold; and Tower East, the company’s biggest established deposit, hosts 5 million measured and indicated tonnes at 1.86 grams gold for 300,000 oz. gold. Altogether the company has established gold resources in nine deposits that total 570,200 contained oz. in measured and indicated and 266,600 oz. inferred. But with an 875-sq.-km land package in the region, the company still has lots to explore.
Claude continues to show that there is the potential for more gold in the area, having recently added significantly to the inferred resources at its Seabee gold operation.
Inferred resources increased 236% in the latest update to 4.2 million tonnes at 6.48 grams gold for 873,400 contained oz. gold over five deposits. Much of the additional resources came from the recently discovered Santoy Gap and L62 deposits.
Reserves, meanwhile, stand at 2.1 million tonnes at 5.37 grams gold for 355,600 oz. gold, and are based on the Seabee and Santoy 8 deposits. By no means slowing down at its Seabee operation, the company plans to spend $7.5 million drilling 130,000 metres this year at the project in an effort to significantly expand gold resources.
The company describes the Seabee and L62 deposits as being situated in the Laonil Lake gabbroic intrusive complex, while the mine itself sits some 60 km southeast of Golden Band’s mill. A network of quartz-tourmaline-bearing, mineralized shear structures cut across the complex, forming a complicated shear system.
Mineralization at Santoy 8 and Santoy Gap, roughly 14 km east of the Seabee mine, is contained in a series of sheeted, shear-hosted quartz veins, silicified biotite-diopside schist and silicified granitic to dioritic dikes.
The company is also moving ahead with its Amisk deposit in Saskatchewan near the Manitoba border. The project hosts 30.2 million indicated tonnes of 0.85 gram gold and 6.17 grams silver, plus 28.7 million inferred tonnes of 0.64 gram gold and 4.01 grams silver.
The company plans to have a resource update out this quarter and a scoping study ready by September. Claude’s share price recently closed at 89¢, with 173.3 million shares outstanding.
Other gold explorers active in the area include Masuparia Gold (MAS-V), which signed a joint-venture deal with Golden Band in early April, and Wescan Goldfields (WGF-V), which started a 2,000-metre drill program on its Jojay project in February.