I am just back from five busy days in the Yukon. Visited Victoria Gold, Western Copper and Gold, Alexco, White Gold, ATAC and Nickle Creek and spoke to another eight or nine companies at the Yukon Mining Alliance’s Yukon Mining Conference in Dawson City.
I will be writing about all these companies over the next few weeks and I know that the visits and the conversations will create backgrounds for articles throughout the year. As with any intensive trip, some of the items not on the agenda left lasting impressions. Here are a few.
Putting Peter Tallman of Klondike Gold’s (V.KG) “Guilligan’s Island” tour of the placer fields of Bonanza Creek on an agenda would be great if you could nail him down. Tallman is a keen storyteller and as you drive in the direction of his Klondike property, you learn about how men won fortunes from Bonanza Creek and the creeks which feed it. You get a real sense of the way the first Klondike gold rush created overnight millionaires and you also hear about the modern day “range wars” over disputed claims and placer workings (ask about how “Two by Four” Bob got his nickname). Tallman is a geologist by training but he sees that as including getting the full history of the property and district he’s working in. When you are looking for the source of the gold which filled the creeks you need to know where that gold was found. If you are up in Dawson you can give Peter a call and there is every chance the pick-up truck version of the Minnow will take you up Bonanza Creek and back in the real history of the Klondike. (You can also find out a lot about Murray Pezim who Tallman worked with for years.)
On another axis entirely, it was amazing to meet Heather White, COO of Nickle Creek Platinum (T.NCP). There are very few recent legends in Canadian Mining but Voisey’s Bay Nickel in Northern Labrador is very much one of them. From the Feasibility study to building the mine as the Mine Manager, White ran the project. And she is no stranger to Yukon having been Electrum’s Director on the Victoria Gold Board until last week. It is a hugely impressive career which, to the chagrin of Graeme Jennings, Nickle’s Corporate Development guy, she has to be coaxed into talking about. The repositioning of Nickel Creek from a platinum story to a nickel story – same rocks, different concept – will be driven by Smith’s absolute command of the nickel space and the mining engineering needed to turn the side of a mountain into an open pit producing the right concentrates for the right markets. It is a treat to meet someone this impressive only to discover they are modest to a fault. Like a lot of engineers, White is more about doing than talking but once she gets going you learn the nuts and bolts of nickel mining and processing quickly and painlessly. If there is a mine to be built at Nickel Creek’s Wellgreen Mountain deposit, White’s quiet competence will “get’er done”.
My pal Paul Gray, VP Exploration at Victoria Gold (V.VIT), remains great value. We drove to some of the same spots we went to last year. Where Paul had been pointing to lines of spruce and saying “And that’s where we’ll put the crusher” last year, this year he could point at huge gashes in the forest and really big bulldozers pushing lots of dirt and say the same thing. VIT is now pretty much a construction zone. So much so that Paul and his exploration team will be setting up a satellite camp in the hills behind the Eagle deposit. Explorationists seem to need a level of informality which is impossible, in fact dangerous, in a construction zone.
More or less en passant Paul revealed the not very well kept secret of gold discovery location, “Placer miners are my leading geo-technical indicator.” Which suggests that the Eagle Gold Mine is just the first chapter in Victoria’s Dublin Gulch District. There are a lot of placer operations in the creeks surrounding the Eagle Mine and they are recovering sharp-edged nuggets suggesting that the gold in the streams has not travelled far from the hills Paul is exploring.