The Abitibi belt keeps giving

Drill rigs earlier this year at NioGold Mining's Marban gold project in Quebec.  Source: NioGold Mining Drill rigs earlier this year at NioGold Mining's Marban gold project in Quebec. Source: NioGold Mining

VANCOUVER — Only a true world-class gold camp reveals new ounces when a sector-wide downturn has quieted so many drills. As such, two estimates offering resource ounces is a good reminder that the Abitibi greenstone belt is one such camp.

In July NioGold Mining (TSXV: NOX; US-OTC: NOXGF) updated the resource at its Marban block property in Quebec’s Abitibi region. The project’s three deposits host 32.1 million measured and indicated tonnes grading 1.48 grams gold per tonne for 1.53 million oz., plus 16.5 million inferred tonnes at 1.13 grams gold for 599,000 oz.

The deposits stretch along a 3 km segment of a regional fault zone, as is common in the Abitibi. All three deposits have been mined, historically producing 600,000 oz.

Marban is a joint venture between NioGold and Aurizon Mines — a wholly owned subsidiary of Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL) — which is earning a 50% stake in the project by funding $20 million of exploration over three years. To date the company has spent $11 million at the site, where NioGold remains the operator.

To complete the earn-in Aurizon would have to pay $30 per oz. for half of the ounces in the measured and indicated resource categories and $20 per oz. for half of the inferred gold count. (The prices bump up by $10 per oz. apiece if the gold price is above US$1,560 per oz.)

Aurizon could then boost its interest to 60% by completing a feasibility study and to 65% by arranging project financing for mine development.

The new estimate is based on 85,000 metres of drilling in 260 holes, all of which were completed over the last few years and funded by Aurizon. Compared to 2010, the new estimate boosts the resource tonnages considerably. However, lower grades in the new estimate mean the contained gold count increased only slightly.

The companies completed preliminary metallurgical test work during this time, which shows Marbon material lends itself to gold recoveries of over 95%.

The property is contiguous with two other NioGold properties, and the entire land package covers a 13 km stretch of the Norbenite-Marbanite structural corridor. The properties are located near the town of Malartic.

The new resource had little impact on NioGold’s share price, which has remained in the 14¢ to 16¢ range since the estimate was released. NioGold has 107 million shares outstanding.

A few weeks later Explor Resources (TSXV: EXS; US-OTC: EXSFF) updated the gold resource at its Timmins Porcupine West (TPW) property, which sits 15 km west of Timmins, Ont.

Explor divides its TPW estimate into open-pit and underground portions. The open-pit count comes in at 4.3 million indicated tonnes grading 1.55 grams gold, plus 1.1 million inferred tonnes averaging 2.09 grams gold. Underground resources now total 4.4 million indicated tonnes at 2.79 grams gold, plus 5.2 million inferred tonnes at 2.36 grams gold.

The resource is contained in three zones spread along 2 km of strike. Explor is planning more drilling that will test the potential to link the zones together.

The TPW property is contiguous with Lake Shore Gold’s (TSX: LSG; NYSE-MKT: LSG) West Timmins mine, and a highway runs through the property. The project has seen intermittent exploration since 1927.

News of the new resource at TPW did not help Explor’s share price, which slid half a cent to 4¢. The company has a 52-week trading range of 3¢ to 20.5¢, with 200 million shares outstanding.


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