My Take on Snow Lake - Dec. 19, 2014

Lalor lesson: never stop learning or looking

What could possibly be said of the Lalor deposit that hasn’t already been put forward? It’s been studied and mapped, drilled and surveyed, and looked at from the air and from underground. One would think by now, the ore body would have given up all its secrets. Not so! If one thing was learned from a recent case study of the deposit, it is … you never stop learning or looking. As long as there are people wishing to advance new technologies and learn from the past, knowledge will continue to flow, and the people who search for the answers will bring home the benefits for those of us who choose to live and work here.

There were a number of revelations, hunches, and facts put forward at the Lalor Symposium (and a few afterwards in putting this story together). It was a long day of talk about geoscience, geophysics, and general geology, with many of the terms made up of the latter consonants and vowels of the alphabet. But it was all interesting information. Dave Koop, owner and president of Koop Geotechnical, was one of many presenters on this day, and he put forth a few of the facts and revelations.

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Koop seemed just a bit nervous prior to his presentation during the event … rightfully so; he’s a technician, not a politician. Nevertheless, he performed admirably and got his points across well, while imparting his vast knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the deposit he helped found. Having done an immense amount of research on his topic, Koop imparted it in the fervent and active manner he is noted for. He began with a bit of his own experience; then moved swiftly into the background of the area.

The geotech in him traced mineral exploration in the area back to 1794, when Hudson’s Bay Company (not Hudbay) explorer David Thompson first recognized the unique geology on Reed Lake while wintering near Reed. He followed this up with an overview of the contributions of Billy Todd, Dick Woosey, Mike Hackett, Kate Rice, Joe Kerr, Charlie Krug, and Christopher Parres.

Koop also covered some of the early history of the Edwards/Chisel/Lalor area. From his research he found that HBED’s (Hudson Bay Exploration and Development) first foray into the Chisel Basin came in 1939, when they acquired a group of six claims – “Edward” and “Windfall” – through a lawyer from The Pas, Fleet Witaker. These claims had been staked on different occasions by both Joe Kerr and Dick Woosey.

Skipping ahead to 1956, HBED did a Boliden EM survey (two hoops, 200 foot cable, four-person crew) around the area of a small lake east of Cook Lake, which at the time was called “Little Cook Lake.” This lake was of course renamed Lalor Lake in 1974. The information gleaned from the Boliden survey apparently warranted more work and three short holes were drilled in the Cook Lake area; one of them at the northwestern edge of the current ore body. They hit graphite.

However, that year there were bigger fish to fry slightly south east of “Little Cook.” This happened when the Lost Lake and subsequently the Chisel Lake ore bodies were discovered after drilling weak anomalies over the two deposits.

Koop reported that from the years 1969-1974, HBED was reducing the number of claims they held and in that process gave up the area over Lalor. Falconbridge (now Extrata) staked it and subsequently did Heli-EM (Helicopter Electro Magnetic) and a ground IP (Induced Polarisation) survey over it. They likely determined the area was void of minable minerals and consequently dropped it. HBED re-staked the ground in 1977.

Koop said that numerous surveys were done in area over the ensuing years; however, the drills were targeting mostly shallow anomalies, closer to surface. “Not much could be seen below the Gabro,” said Koop. “Deep detection was needed.” From 1956 to 2005 the following flavours of mineral detection were used in the area: Geochem, Mercury vapor survey, IP, Heli-EM, Boliden, HLEM, EM16, EM17, EM37, Turam, MT, MAG, Moving Loop TDEM, Titan 24, Geonics Protem 67, and Spectrem.

Nevertheless, Lalor’s saga carried on. Koop reported that during the 1980s Jerry Kitzler, Alan Bailes, and Alan Galley recognized an extreme amount of hydrothermal alteration present in the Basin. They were “supported by Neil Provins, Ted Baumgartner, Dan Ziehlke, Darren Simms, Tony Spooner, Bill Salahub, Dan McKeachnie, and Brian Janser,” Koop said.

In 1984 the Crone Borehole EM System was adopted by HBED, with Bob Frazer playing a key part in this. Koop said that the Borehole EM system proved its worth by being able to see a 200-metre radius when immersed in drill holes and the technology had early success at Spruce Point Mine. “In 1987 Jerry Kitzler used the new Borehole EM system with his original Deep Chisel Fence drilling program and Chisel North was discovered,” he added.

Based on that initial success (finding Chisel North), a much larger program was designed in 1990, but funds ran short. However, in 1992 a deep drill hole DUB-33 was the first indication of Lalor’s greatness.

In a 2007 interview with Marc Jackson for the book, Headframes, Happiness, and Heartaches (by James R.B. Parres and Marc Jackson), Kitzler explained what happened in respect to DUB-33 thusly: “We were so keen on this prospect that we kept proposing it, trying to get even one hole at a time if we could… and we did get a few holes that way,” Kitler said from his kitchen table in that May 2007 interview. “One of them was Dub-33.

“It was a big step out to an area that we figured was close to the middle of the Chisel Basin. And we hit five centimeters of sulphide in that hole. We were pretty excited, because this was right on the horizon. This was down at the 1200 meter level and we expected that we were getting out to the bottom of the basin. We did a borehole pulse survey on that hole. And it showed that there was something there that we missed, an anomaly that was huge - because they started seeing this thing right from surface. The Geophysics people said, ‘Hey, if it’s seeing this thing right from surface, at 1200 meters away, whatever is down there is huge!’ So we figured; that’s got to be the mother lode. It certainly had the potential But Anglo (Anglo American – HBM&S’s parent company) just would not come up with any more money to put deep holes out there.”

Koop noted that, “Jerry Kitzler, Darren Simms and Bill Salahub’s sniffers were going off scale, but HBED budgets had to focus on new discoveries.” The 777, Photo Lake and Konuto deposits had just been discovered and despite a number of presentations based on DUB-33, it was not to be.

Time moves on and Koop says that Anglo American decided to make one last attempt at exploration in the Flin Flon/Snow Lake Camp before making the decision to sell off Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting. “They figured the best place to explore was the Chisel Basin,” Koop reported. “They knew the favorable Chisel stratigraphy was getting progressively deeper, so they asked the geophysical group to investigate methods to explore at greater depths.” Koop noted that at that time, Crone Geophysics had just developed a high speed time domain receiver, which was capable of collecting higher quality data in a fraction of the time of their current receiver.

Koop stated that the first order of business was to convince HBM&S management of the need for a high-speed receiver. “Alan Vowles made a wager, with then vice president Ed Yarrow, that if the test was successful and they could see the Chisel North Lenses 600 metres below surface then Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting would buy a high-speed receiver.” It worked … on Nov. 11, 2002 , a survey crew made up of Doug Hancock, Alan Vowles, Robert Black, Peter Dueck, and Dave Koop detected the Chisel Basin stratigraphy at a vertical depth of almost 1,100 metres. “This survey demonstrated that large, extensive conductors could be detected at depths in excess of 1 kilometre,” said Koop.

Koop noted that by this time, Chris Roney was charge of the Snow Lake Geology Department and was asked to digitally compile 30 years of Snow Lake Geology Data. With that daunting task in front of him and the threat of a sale of HBM&S nipping at everyone’s heels, he needed to come up with drill targets quickly. Roney felt the logical thing to do was talk to the man who did the job for decades before him. “He knew the best thing to do was buy a case a beer and talk to Jerry Kitzler,” said Koop of the encounter. “By the end of the night he came up with a program of close to 16 holes and a key area to do follow up on. Roney and Alan Vowles developed the follow up geophysical program based on what Kitzler came up with and by putting the major geological puzzle together. This led to the very unconventional geophysical survey that was needed to possibly prove the theories of numerous geologists correct. It was a first geophysical survey of its kind, but interestingly enough it was using the same geophysical technology from 30 years ago. The breakthrough was in the understanding on how to maximize its capability. This was based on the many incredible geophysical leaders of Hudbay. Moe Prew passed it onto Mike Muzalowski, Mike passed it onto Bob Frazer, Bob took it to a new level and passed it onto Alan Vowles. I was then being mentored by Alan Vowles.

“A very important piece that gets forgotten about, was that from 30 years of improving the way HBED mapped and interpreted geophysics Alistair Callegari developed a new method of displaying the geophysics that came up with the now famous twin bull’s eyes (the survey showing the Lalor occurrences) that hung on the walls of HBED for five years… like two eyes saying what are you waiting for. It tortured geologists for years as the occurrences were brought up in almost every HBED drill program planning session, but after discussing the depth, logistics, freeze up, man power and money needed, they were forever being put on the back burner. Regardless, it was a geological wonderland that laid in wait for geophysics to catch up. Also it took a very long time.”

Nonetheless, things progressed and on Dec. 22, 2004, Anglo American completed the sale of HBM&S. There were still a number of TDEM surveys being done after the sale and there seemed to be a lot more money available for this type of work.

Koop said that by 2007, Kelly Gilmore was Hudbay’s exploration manager and Craig Taylor was in charge of Snow Lake Geology. Between them they decided to drill DUB-168 and fought hard to do so. When the smoke cleared they got their way.

As a result, on that fine day in March 2007 geologist Sara Bernauer, who was looking after the drill on DUB-168, logged the core that was laden with Lalor’s impressive black jack zinc. “She knew exactly what she’d just hit,” Koop said in closing his presentation.

What they did hit was 0.30% Cu, 7.62% Zn over 45.13 metres including: 0.19% Cu, 17.26% Zn over 16.45 metres and further included within that 16.45 metre intersection was a massive sulphide intersection of 7.99 metres of 31.93% zinc! The rest is history … in the making.

[WRITER’S NOTE] Koop notes that he would be remise not to acknowledge the efforts of Glen Gray in this account: “He was the best geotech in the business and played a crucial role in scouting the paths for the drill crews and checking the claim posts that kept the Lalor ground in good standing,” said Koop. “On one occasion in 1997, pushing things to the limit for the project almost took his life. He was trying to find a claim post in the Lalor area and got turned around in -40 weather. If it were not for Doug Hancock’s bear banger, Glen would not have made it home that day.”

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