Ross McElroy may call Kelowna, B.C., home, but his heart lies in Saskatchewan, where he has played a key role in four major discoveries in the Athabasca basin.
The geologist was part of the small, early stage geological team that made the discovery of Cameco’s (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) McArthur River, the world’s largest high-grade uranium deposit. He also headed up the technical team at Fission Energy that made the J-Zone discovery at Waterbury Lake, and found Fission Uranium’s (TSX: FCU; US-OTC: FCUUF) Patterson Lake South.
But McElroy, who remains Fission Uranium’s president, chief operating officer and chief geologist, and whose awards include The Northern Miner’s “Mining Person of the Year” in 2013 and the PDAC 2014 Bill Dennis Award for exploration success, also spent parts of his early career in gold and base-metal exploration in the province and still keeps an eye out for properties that could lead to more metal discoveries.
In August, McElroy noticed there was ground coming available for staking in the Watts Lake area of Saskatchewan, 65 km northeast of the town of La Ronge and 20 km northwest of the village of Missinipe.
He staked as much of the ground that he could for Edge Geological Consulting Inc., a company he founded in 2016, and now controls 132.5 sq. km on the eastern margin of the Crew Lake Belt of the LaRonge Domain.
The property covers several electromagnetic conductive trends. These include the entire 14 km of strike length of the Borys Lake conductive trend that hosts the historic Borys Lake lead-zinc deposit, as well as mineralized occurrences of zinc, copper and silver, in addition to anomalous gold, nickel and cobalt found in drill holes, surface trenches and outcrop samples along strike and on parallel conductive trends.
“When I saw it was a significant deposit and was available, my eyes lit up right away,” McElroy says in an interview. “We like it because this is shallow, near-surface, high-grade mineralization on a property that has great blue-sky potential to expand a known deposit, put it into current 43-101 categories and find more mineralization along this trend.”
The history of the property dates to 1956, when the first outcrops were discovered. The earliest drilling around Borys Lake occurred in the 1960s, but most of the work was done in the 1970s by companies like Husky Oil, which at that time had a mineral exploration division.
Husky drilled 10 holes in 1972, finding a historic resource at 30 metres’ vertical depth. Husky calculated that the Main Zone of the deposit contained 1.34 million tonnes grading 1.91% combined zinc and lead, with a zinc-to-lead ratio of 10 to 1. The oil company also concluded that the mineralization was open along strike and at depth.
“It’s not 43-101, so we have to be very cautious, but nonetheless they were all well-mineralized holes and they only take the deposit down to 30 metres — that’s all they extrapolated from the drilling — so Husky outlined a cohesive mineralized trend about 950 metres long in strike length,” McElroy says. “They could see it extended down 30 metres, but I suspect it’s going to be much deeper than that, so that’s one area where there’s great opportunity for growth.”
In addition, Husky only looked at zinc and lead, McElroy says, and says he will see significant silver results, as well. “We’ll be adding silver and copper if it’s significant,” he says, “so that’s part of the work to be done, but I do think we’ll start to see other elements come in to play.”
There were other companies working on their own sections of the historic trend, as well, he says, and there had been “some pretty encouraging airborne geophysics done in 2008 that showed there was a large conductive trend and mineralized showings along it that stretched for 14 km and was available to be staked, too.”
“It’s been an area that we knew of that was important for hosting high-grade deposits, primarily with zinc and copper and silver anomalies,” McElroy continues. “The other three zones that other companies were working on at the time were equally mineralized, but nobody did a resource estimate.”
The four zones from west to east are called Can, Main, Will A/B and Mac.
“When you line up the four zones there is about 4.5 km of trend,” he explains. “So [the Main Zone] is just under a kilometre, and then you have 3 km of trend that you don’t have a resource estimate on. I think the Main and the Will zones probably merge into each other — there may be a little bit of a gap. Then there may be a bit of separation, of about a kilometre, between the Can Zone on the far west and the other mineralization.”
At the end of October, McElroy entered into a letter of intent to sell the Watts Lake property to Ironside Resources (TSXV: IRC), a company headed by Dev Randhawa, chairman and CEO of Fission Uranium.
Once the transaction is completed, McElroy will assume a senior role in Ironside’s executive management team and will be responsible for all technical aspects of the project. Ironside can earn a 100% interest in the property — subject to a 2% net smelter return royalty — by issuing 10 million shares and paying $100,000 in cash over two years, and completing $1.2 million on exploration within the first 24 months.
It’s a “great plus” when you can start with a project that already contains a known deposit, McElroy says.
“This takes it much further down the road right out of the gate,” he says. “There hasn’t been any further drilling since 1972 — a 45-year period where no holes were put into the ground — partly a function of the commodity cycle and what commodities you could raise money on.
“They barely scratched the surface here, and there is every reason to think that this project has good potential. You never know on these things until you start doing the work yourself, but I think this has potential to be a very notable project and to turn into something significant.”