More juniors join search for platinum group metals

Economically interesting deposits of platinum group metals (PGMs) are few and far between on planet earth, with more than 90% of the world’s supply coming from only three mining camps: Bushveld in South Africa, Noril’sk in Russia and Stillwater in the U.S. What’s more, the deposits tend to be lean and metallurgically complex, further reducing their appeal as exploration targets.

Notwithstanding these real and considerable challenges, Ontario is increasingly viewed as prime hunting ground for PGM deposits. It has the right geology — as evidenced by the Lac des les palladium-platinum mine, north of Thunder Bay (Canada’s only primary PGM producer) and new PGM discoveries within the River Valley Intrusive near Sudbury — and access to nearby metallurgical complexes that potentially could handle downstream processing of concentrates. To top it all off, two of South Africa’s largest PGM producers have made deals with juniors actively exploring for the noble metals in the province.

Indeed, PGM exploration in Ontario is one of the few bright spots on the Canadian exploration scene. The sustained rally in platinum and palladium prices has allowed juniors handily to raise funds for their exploration efforts, and prompted others to cut their traditional ties to gold and jump on the PGM bandwagon.

Graeme Currie of Canaccord Capital recently compiled a list of junior companies exploring for PGMs in Ontario and in prospective terrain elsewhere in the world.

In Ontario, Pacific North West Capital (PFN-V) appears to have attracted the most interest of late, with the first three holes of its 13-hole program intersecting strong platinum-palladium mineralization at the River Valley property, 70 km east of Sudbury (T.N.M., April 10-16/00).

The junior’s land package covers a sizable portion of the 30-by-15-km River Valley Intrusive, the layered mafic feature that has attracted most of the exploration attention to date. The company trades at about $3.20 and has 13.9 million shares outstanding.

Pacific North West Capital has also attracted the attention of South African-based Anglo American Platinum. The world’s largest supplier of platinum is funding work in order to earn a 50% stake in the River Valley property and nearby properties held by the junior.

Currie is also monitoring Aquiline Resources (AQI-V), which is a large landholder in the River Valley area. Some of the junior’s properties adjoin Pacific North West’s property. The junior trades at about 75 cents and has 10.1 million shares outstanding.

Mustang Minerals (MMIN-C) is another closely watched junior. It holds 607 claims in the region, of which 96 are being optioned to Aquiline and more than 500 to Impala Platinum Holdings of South Africa, the world’s second-largest producer of platinum. Mustang trades at about $1.10 and has 10.5 million shares outstanding.

Canaccord is also keeping an eagle eye on LMX Resources (LMX-C), which recently completed a geophysical program at its Buck Lake PGM target, near Thunder Bay. The junior, which trades at about 32 and has 24.7 million shares outstanding, recently optioned four claim blocks in the River Valley area.

Juniors working near the Lac des les mine are also on the watch list. They include: Avalon Ventures (AVL-V) and Starcore Resources (SOE-V), each of which holds a 50% stake in ground adjacent to the mine and that will drilled shortly; Houston Lake Mining (HLM-V), which holds ground with known PGM occurrences about 10 km from the mine; and Canadian Golden Dragon Resources (CGG-V), which recently acquired the South Legris prospect near Lac des les (it also holds the McIvor and Grand Bay PGM properties).

Other juniors exploring for PGMs in Ontario include: Bitteroot Resources (BTT-V), with ground in the Lake Nipigon region; partners Flag Resources (FGR.A-V) and Golden Briar Mines (GLB-M), jointly exploring in Rathburn Township (Flag also owns ground overlying the Wanapitei anomaly, east of Sudbury); and Montello Resources (MFO-V), which recently picked up ground east of Wanapitei Lake.

Outside Ontario, Canaccord is monitoring Muskox Minerals (msk-v), which plans a 6,000-metre drill program for its Muskox PGM-nickel-copper project in Nunavut. At least 11 targets will test the Muskox intrusion, where past drilling returned up to 5.8 grams PGMs over 13.74 metres, plus 4.8% copper and 2% nickel.

Uravan Minerals (UVN-V) is being watched for its “mildly encouraging” PGM results from first-phase drilling at the Rottenstone project in Saskatchewan. A 3,000-metre drill program is under way.

On the foreign front, Canaccord’s Currie is watching Altoro Gold‘s (ATG-V) projects in Bolivia and Brazil, and Anooraq Resources‘ (ARQ-C) Platreef project in South Africa, where recent drilling has returned 3.09 grams PGM over 17 metres. Altoro trades at 50 and has 16.6 million shares outstanding, whereas Anooraq has 13.8 million shares and trades at about $1.50.


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