This year’s headlines haven’t been great for the mineral industry. The Conference Board of Canada called the NWT’s economic future “grim” even before Dominion Diamond Mines shelved Ekati’s Jay Pipe expansion in May. But behind the headlines, explorers have been working steadily away on several projects with big potential. As the territory learned in 1991, when Chuck Fipke and Stewart Blusson discovered diamonds at Lac de Gras and sparked the biggest diamond rush in the history of the continent, anything can happen.
Diavik Diamond Mine
Estimated end of mine life: 2025
Location: 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife
Diavik Diamond Mine’s best products will be showcased in Antwerp, Belgium and Israel this month before bids close on Oct. 25. On Oct. 1, it revealed the three diamonds, which form a series called the Stars of the Arctic: Vega, 177.71 carats; Altair, 59.10 carats; and Capella, 24.82 carats. On Aug. 20, majority owner Rio Tinto opened the mine’s fourth diamond pipe, A21, which will bolster production over the next four years.
Gahcho Kue Mine
Estimated end of mine life: 2027, possible extension
Location: 280 km northeast of Yellowknife
De Beers’ Gahcho Kue Mine, now more than one year old, already has a prospective expansion in mind. Project partner Mountain Province Diamonds announced last month that it had identified additional kimberlite in the corridor between the 5034 and Tuzo sites which Mountain Province president and CEO Stuart Brown said, “… if economic, will contribute tonnage to extend the mine life at Gahcho Kue.” Also, last month, the mine hosted elders from across the NWT to catch and cook fish at nearby lakes, which – in combination with biological monitoring – is an annual marker of how the fish are doing. Lutsel K’e elder Ernest Boucher said the fish he dissected looked to be in good health.
Ekati Diamond Mine
Estimated end of mine life: 2023, with possible extensions
Location: 300 km northeast of Yellowknife
There hasn’t been much news out of Ekati, the NWT’s – and Canada’s – first diamond mine, since it reached an agreement with the Union of Northern Workers in July that saved the jobs of 150 employees it had been threatening to fire. In May, Ekati operator Dominion Diamond Mines announced it was shelving its planned Jay Pipe expansion, which would have extended Ekati’s mine life to 2042 from 2023. Dominion is still exploring the feasibility of a potential expansion into its Fox Deep property.
NICO Cobalt-Gold-Bismuth-Copper project
Estimated mine life: 21 years
Location: 50 km north of Whati
Fortune Minerals – with all its approvals, permits and licences in place for the project itself – is still raising money to begin building its NICO mine, though the proposed all-weather road to the site is still awaiting final approval from federal and territorial ministers. The deadline for this decision is Oct. 29. NICO’s technical report, updated in June, says construction could begin as early as next year. On Sept. 17, Fortune announced it completed successful tests proving it could recover an “upgraded and essentially arsenic-free” cobalt concentrate, which it states should be more easily processed and more attractive on the market.
Nechalacho Rare Earths Project
Estimated mine life: 20 years
Location: 100 km southeast of Yellowknife
Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. has been puttering along steadily since it announced in May the surprise revival of its Nechalacho Rare Earths Project, which had been shelved in 2014. On Oct. 10, Avalon gave a status update on the project, saying it had renewed its Land Use Permit and is expecting approval of lease applications for several adjacent mineral claims by the end of this month. Avalon states that while it was sampling for neodymium and praseodymium (both in high demand for magnetics), as well as lithium, work continued on an independent scoping study on an East Arm-Yellowknife road and hydro power infrastructure corridor. Avalon also suggested the ongoing trade dispute between China, the world’s largest rare earths supplier and the U.S. might make investors more interested in stable sources of these materials – and in Avalon’s view, ideally theirs.
Yellowknife City Gold Project
Location: Within 10 km of Yellowknife
Estimate mine life: N/A
Bolstered by $160,000 from the GNWT’s Mining Incentive Program, last month TerraX Minerals Inc. surveyed by helicopter its Quyta-Bell property to better define potential gold mineralized zones on the property. Quyta-Bell is north of its better-explored Northbelt property. The junior explorer has been snatching up properties steadily over the last few years, including the former Ptarmigan Mine and the Tom and Sickle properties this year, bringing its area to 771.6 square kilometres of connected claims, much of which has shown high-grade gold samples.
Pine Point Project
Location: Pine Point
Estimated mine life: N/A
Since acquiring the historic Pine Point mine in February, Osisko Metals Inc. has been steadily releasing the results of assays to build its zinc-lead resource estimate, aided by the reference materials of historic estimates. While much information remains from Pine Point’s historical production, the materials don’t meet today’s standards, governed by the rules and guidelines in the National Instrument 43-101. The company’s 2018 drilling program has been focused on drilling known near-surface deposits amenable to open pit mining to bring them up NI 43-101 Inferred Mineral Resources standards, “as quickly as possible,” according to an Oct. 9 press release.
Indin Lake Gold Property
Location: 200 km north of Yellowknife
Estimated mine life: N/A
Nighthawk Gold Corp. completed its most expansive drilling program at its Indin Lake Gold Property this year, drilling 32,504 metres. The results of more than half of that program have now been reported. The inferred resource, as of June, is 2.6 million ounces of gold.