This year’s drilling will keep core shacks busy on at least three Rockcliff properties.
Grade is king to Ken Lapierre, so he proudly describes his company’s portfolio as “the best of three worlds—high-grade copper, high-grade zinc and high-grade gold”—the highest-grade unmined deposits in Manitoba’s Flin Flon-Snow Lake region, he adds. But the Rockcliff Copper TSXV:RCU geologist/president/CEO also emphasizes the properties’ location. “They’re beside excellent infrastructure, in a world-class mining camp, a mining-friendly jurisdiction and a politically stable country. You really can’t get any better than that.”
Ken Lapierre considers Rockcliff’s portfolio to hold the camp’s highest-grade unmined deposits.
Active in the region for about a decade, the company began by going after non-core assets of Hudbay Minerals TSX:HBM. The pace of property acquisitions picked up late last year, leaving Rockcliff with about 45,000 hectares.
Included are two copper-polymetallic deposits with resource estimates, four zinc deposits with historic, non-43-101 estimates and a gold project on the site of a former high-grade mine. The properties sit within trucking distance of two Hudbay plants, one for gold, the other for base metals.
Four projects have work planned this year.
Now underway at Talbot is a program recently increased from 6,000 to 7,500 metres on a project that’s undergone over 13,000 metres in the last 18 months. Lapierre describes it as a “high-grade VMS copper deposit with a high-grade gold tenor.” A January 2016 resource for three zones showed an inferred total of:
-- 2.17 million tonnes averaging 2.8% copper, 2.4 g/t gold, 2.2% zinc and 54.6 g/t silver for 133.6 million pounds copper, 165,400 ounces gold, 107.4 million pounds zinc and 3.81 million ounces silver
The average copper-equivalent grade comes to 5.5%, Lapierre points out.
“Talbot has room to grow because it’s open in all directions and there’s a host of conductive plates that could represent more deposits,” he says.
Besides hoping for expansion along strike and at depth, Lapierre sees possibilities for new discoveries on the approximately 12,000-hectare property.
“The attractive thing about this deposit is that it looks and feels like all the other large deposits that became large mines in this camp. You have a series of geophysical anomalies close together with base metals present. As well as three zones of mineralization that create the deposit, it has additional geophysical conductive plates along strike and at depth that have never been tested. So we wouldn’t have to go far to make a new discovery.”
The current campaign’s expected to last until March. That would bring Rockcliff past the halfway point of its 51% option with Hudbay. Lapierre sees Talbot’s resource update possible by year-end.
Although Snow Lake is known as a VMS camp, “in reality it started as a gold camp,” Lapierre points out. That brings to mind another object of his enthusiasm, the former Laguna gold mine acquired last September. “If this property was in Timmins it would have had tens of millions of dollars spent on it.”
One vein mined in the 1930s averaged 20.5 grams per tonne, producing 60,000 ounces. “The attractive thing about Laguna’s gold veins and stockwork systems is they’re a lot wider than we originally thought,” he continues. “The oldtimers followed narrow, high-grade veins running over an ounce to the ton…. The reality is these high-grade veins are associated with quartz stockwork systems. We sampled an old trench where five metres averaged about 7.5 grams per tonne. Back then that would have been waste, but today it’s not. There’s a series of these vein systems and they’re associated with a long structural fault system.”
Grab sampling late last year suggested a trend covering over six kilometres on the 3,499-hectare property.
“There’s multiple veins but the last time it was drilled was in 1944 and the last time it had any decent science was never.”
That changes this winter, as a helicopter-style drone flies a high-res magnetic survey over the property. The plan is to “outline and identify potential structural traps where gold likes to hang its hat,” Lapierre explains. “Then we’re going to follow with a surface induced polarization survey which will give us hotspots. The gold that’s on this property is associated with sulphides, so the IP survey will find where there’s an accumulation of sulphides.”
Back to VMS deposits, another 2017 drill priority is the Bur zinc project, optioned from Hudbay in September under a four-year, 100% earn-in. The 3,979-hectare property came with a 2007 resource that Rockcliff considers historic and non-43-101:
-- indicated: 1.05 million tonnes averaging 8.6% zinc, 1.9% copper, 12.1 g/t silver and 0.05 g/t gold
-- inferred: 302,000 tonnes averaging 9% zinc, 1.4% copper, 9.6 g/t silver and 0.08 g/t gold
The deposit remains open in all directions. “If our first phase drill program is successful, we’ll put that into a 43-101 resource which would be done by the end of 2017 as well.”
The near-surface Rail deposit remains open in all directions.
This year also calls for four to six holes totalling about 2,500 metres at the Rail deposit. In 2010 Rockcliff compiled a resource with an indicated category showing:
-- 822,000 tonnes averaging 3.04% copper, 0.9% zinc, 0.66 g/t gold and 9.25 g/t silver for 55.09 million pounds copper
“Rail has huge room for growth,” Lapierre says. “The deposit is still open along strike and at depth, it has a large untested geophysical plate below the deposit and for the most part it’s only been drilled down to about 250 metres.”
Among other projects with historic deposits is the 1,662-hectare near-surface MacBride zinc deposit. The December purchase came with a 1977 non-43-101 estimate of:
-- 1.82 million tonnes averaging 8.8% zinc, 0.3% copper, 0.1 g/t gold and 4.5 g/t silver
A 1.5% NSR in the Tower T-1 copper deposit might bring in over $1 million a year, Lapierre says. Rockcliff optioned its 70% stake to Akuna Minerals, which has a feasibility study scheduled for December. Lapierre hopes to see Akuna begin production by 2018.
As for more acquisitions, “we feel we’ve plucked the best there is to pluck in this camp,” he says. “But you always look because the minute you stop looking you eliminate opportunities to find a mine.”
Meanwhile the 2017 agenda calls for exploration on four properties, with drills turning on at least three.