Since 2019 Rupert Resources (TSXV: RUP) has made six discoveries at its 100%-owned Pahtavaara gold project in Finland’s Central Lapland Greenstone belt – all of them have been under 10-15 metres of glacial till and within a 5 km by 2.5 km area on the property. The junior explorer discovered them using geophysics and base of till sampling and drilling.
The project, which the company acquired in 2016 for about US$2.5 million, contains the permitted Pahtavaara gold mine and mill on a 300 sq. km. land package that sits about 150 km northeast of the town of Rovaniemi and about 50 km from Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) Kittila gold mine. Agnico took a 9.9% stake in the junior explorer in February 2020.
“The reason I joined the company is we have 20 km of the main structure and we see that whole 20 km as being very prospective,” CEO James Withall said in a telephone interview from London. “The key point is we’ve made these discoveries in just 5 km of the belt we own and the more and more work we do and understand it … it really is demonstrating that this is quite a major gold mineralizing system.”
Since drilling the first four holes into the Ikkari target in June, Rupert Resources has completed 24 holes, and Withall says results from the flagship discovery continue to demonstrate broad widths of mineralization and the potential for high-grade. The holes have extended Ikkari’s strike length to at least 650 metres with mineralization believed to extend to a vertical depth of at least 400 metres – a 50% increase on the previous deepest intercept of 274 metres.
Results from Ikkari released in mid-December included drillhole 120097, which returned 3.7 grams gold per tonne over 53 metres starting from 82 metres downhole, including 8.2 grams gold over 13 metres; 5.3 grams gold over 8 metres from 97 metres in drillhole 120102, including 27.1 grams gold over 1 metre and 102.6 grams gold over 1.6 metres; and 2.5 grams gold over 37 metres from 492 metres including 7.3 grams gold over 8 metres in drillhole 1200092 – the easternmost step-out hole and the deepest intercept to date.
“Ikkari has really filled out,” Withall said. “It has proven to be spectacular grades – quite extraordinary – and our knowledge base continues to go up and up.”
In September the company announced a 50,000 metre drill program (it has completed about 15,000 metres since then) and Withall said 2021 “is all about delineating the size and scale of the discoveries we’ve already made and taking them to the resource stage and continuing with our new generation exploration.”
“Daylighting the potential value is a key part of 2021, while 2019 and 2020 have been about discoveries,” he continued. “We plan to make more discoveries in 2021 but also demonstrate what we actually have discovered. The hope is there will be one at the mine we own, an update, and certainly one in what we call Area 1, which is where the six discoveries are, and at least a first pass on one of the discoveries and potentially two.”
Pahtavaara previously produced more than 420,000 oz. gold over a 16-year period of open-pit and underground operations, and last operated in May 2014. The project has an inferred resource estimate from 2018 of 4.6 million tonnes grading 3.2 grams gold per tonne for 474,000 ounces. The resource estimate used a 1.5 gram gold cut-off grade.
The potential for more discoveries in the underexplored belt has Withall and his team energized. “People always talk about this greenstone belt, that it hosts Kittila, with a resource of as much as eight million ounces and the next one down is Pahtavaara, call it a million ounces … but there’s nothing in between,” he said, “whereas other belts have mines between sizes, but there’s just been a lack of exploration and this is why this part of the world is so exciting. This is the first time modern exploration is going on a belt of this size by us and our neighbours.”
The entire Central Lapland greenstone belt is hundreds of kilometres long, he added, and Pahtavaara makes up between 80 and 100 km of the belt.
“People really should look at the region, it’s a pretty exciting one and will be exciting for many years to come,” said Withall, who before joining Rupert Resources in April 2017 spent thirteen years as a partner and fund manager at Baker Steel Capital Managers, one of the largest London-based mining specialized funds.
Withall had looked at the project as a fund manager and said he recognized that the company had a special project on its hands. (Prior to working as a fund manager, Withall worked as an exploration and production geologist in Australia for eight years.)
The Pahtavaara project also sits about 20 km from the polymetallic deposits at Boliden’s Kevitsa nickel, copper, PGM mine, one of the largest ever mineral discoveries in Finland, and Anglo American’s (LSE: AAL; US-OTC: AAUK) Sakatti copper-nickel-PGM project.
The company has about $32 million in the bank, an amount that should pay for the drilling the company has planned, Withall said.
“Our strategy always has been trying to find deposits of scale – 2-3 million plus ounces – the sort of mines that really make a difference in the sector and if you can really find a very economic mine like that it’s often the cornerstone of a great company,” Withall said. “And I’m pleased to say that sitting at the end of 2020 – three years of doing that hard baseline work and trying to understand the region really well – has paid off. We’ve made six discoveries, beyond the historic mine we own, and Ikkari potentially fits the criteria we have and we’re still looking to find further discoveries.”