During the doom and gloom of mid-2015 Charles Desjardins saw a hopeful sign in zinc. A search for prospective sources led the president of Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST to the volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits of western Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt. There he found different operators left what he considered a mixed legacy—work that was very impressive but carried out in a rather unco-ordinated manner. Now, with a commodity that’s justified his optimism and a portfolio that’s poised to be the belt’s largest, his company’s launching an ambitious new program to take a region-wide approach to Confederation Lake.
“Even though there’s been a lot of money spent in that region there really hasn’t been a lot of continuity in exploration programs,” says Desjardins. “For example we found 8,000 rock geochemistry samples that Noranda did. In today’s terms that’s about $300,000 worth of work just for the analysis, never mind actually acquiring all those samples. We don’t know if Noranda did anything with this, it might have been right when they were getting out of there. But it showed us some obvious things, including a couple of new, big, big targets and extensions of known targets.”
That’s just part of the inspiration for a two-tiered program to begin in January. Drilling would start with about six holes and a few thousand metres, he says. “Beyond that, the plan is to do a regional airborne survey with new technology that can see VMS-style mineralization at 600 to 700 metres. When you look at Flin Flon and Snow Lake, geophysics there found two major deposits at the 500-metre level.”
Confederation Lake characterizes the tendency of VMS deposits to appear in clusters, Desjardins points out. He attributes the region’s largest mine, South Bay, for around 354 million pounds of zinc, 57.6 million pounds of copper and 3.74 million ounces of silver produced between 1972 and 1981. Grades averaged about 11.06% zinc, 1.8% copper and 72.7 g/t silver.
Pending exchange approval for a four-year option on AurCrest Gold’s (TSXV:AGO) regional holdings, Pistol Bay’s turf comprises 7,050 hectares along a 43-kilometre stretch of the 60-kilometre-long belt. The projects include four historic deposits.
Already under a four-year option is a contiguous group of properties named Dixie 17, 18, 19 and 20 that’s been consolidated into a single project. Dixie comes with a 1992 historic, non-43-101 “mineral inventory” from Noranda estimating 150,000 short tons with an average 14% zinc.
Some eight kilometres southeast, the Dixie 3 property, formerly called Snake Falls, hosts another historic, non-43-101 Noranda estimate, this one 91,000 short tons averaging 1% copper and 10% zinc.
Roughly 20 kilometres northeast sits the Arrow zone, one of the acquisitions waiting approval. Arrow comes with a 2007 resource compiled by AurCrest predecessor Tribute Minerals that Pistol Bay isn’t treating as 43-101 and intends to re-do. Using three cutoff grades, the estimate showed:
3% zinc-equivalent cutoff
-- indicated: 2.07 million tonnes averaging 5.92% zinc, 0.75% copper, 21.1 g/t silver and 0.58 g/t gold
-- inferred: 120,552 tonnes averaging 2.6% zinc, 0.56% copper, 18.6 g/t silver and 0.4 g/t gold
5% zinc-equivalent cutoff
-- indicated: 1.76 million tonnes averaging 6.75% zinc, 0.79% copper, 22.3 g/t silver and 0.61 g/t gold
-- inferred: 51,631 tonnes averaging 3.86% zinc, 0.79% copper, 23.9 g/t silver and 0.58 g/t gold
10% zinc-equivalent cutoff
-- indicated: 633,000 tonnes averaging 14.3% zinc, 1.11% copper, 31.7 g/t silver and 0.85 g/t gold
That acquisition includes the contiguous Copperlode A or Fredart zone, with its historic, non-43-101 estimate of 425,000 tonnes averaging 1.56% copper and 33.6 g/t silver.
Obviously these deposits cry out for 43-101 treatment. Pistol Bay intends to begin with Arrow, the most recent resource but with another 16 holes to consider. Desjardins hopes to have that done within six months.
He points to assays that followed historic estimates on the other deposits, like 7.34% zinc and 1.4% copper over 9.5 metres, and another 15.44% zinc and 0.43% copper over 4.3 metres at Dixie. Intriguing zinc-copper intercepts also came from the Joy-Caravelle area, part of the AurCrest package. Historic sampling at Copperlode A found molybdenum grading up to 1.46%.
Then there’s the 8,000 geochemistry samples left by Noranda. Additionally, Pistol Bay has MPH Consulting at work on an extensive review of previous geophysics. Add to that the new airborne and drilling to begin in January and Desjardins looks forward to a wealth of data with considerable potential waiting to be unlocked.
There’s strong community support too, he adds. “One First Nation invested I think about $600,000 in AurCrest,” he says.
In Saskatchewan’s uranium-prolific Athabasca Basin, Pistol Bay JVs with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIOsubsidiary on the C-5 project. Having earned 75% of its option already, Rio has stated its intention to acquire the full 100% by the end of 2019. That would bring Pistol Bay $5 million and a 5% net profit interest.
The company expects to soon close the first tranche of a private placement offered up to $810,000. Other financings would follow, as Confederation Lake’s regional exploration continues in stages.
“We already have significant deposits that might be developed with one central mill,” Desjardins says. “But we’ll be looking for an elephant too.”