The news of late has been filled with both the positive and negative in respect to mining in Northern Manitoba, and the people of Snow Lake know too well the devastation that is wrought when a company is downsizing operations. Over the community’s 72-year existence, it has suffered through two complete closures and several massive downsizes that shook it to its core. People fretted, the community floundered, but many remained steadfast and rode it out. During these low points, they sincerely appreciated the moral support that was put forth by the communities of Thompson, Flin Flon and The Pas … we were reminded by them that we live on the surface of one of the most prolific mining camps in the world, that as long as mining companies are looking for ore … they will eventually and undoubtedly find it. New mines will spring up and life, as we once knew it, will return. I have framed this column like this, as it is unpleasant to tout great news for one area, when so many others are suffering as we once did.
Nevertheless, in addition to positive news from several companies searching for lithium in our area, great news from Hudbay about the startup of the Snow Lake Mine Mill, and optimism from Rockcliff Metals Corp. on several fronts, there comes even more encouraging news from Snow Lake’s major employer.
In a Feb. 26 news release, Hudbay announced the discovery of 35.6 metres of high-grade mineralization including both zinc-rich massive sulfides and gold in a deposit located between the old Chisel North mine and the Lalor mine.
“These zinc-rich and gold-rich intersections highlight the ever prospective nature of the Flin Flon greenstone belt and demonstrate the value of our Manitoba assets,” said Alan Hair, Hudbay’s president and chief executive officer. “The discovery of these new zones within close proximity to our existing infrastructure and at shallow depth aligns very well with our Manitoba strategy and is another example of leveraging our exploration expertise to realize additional value. We look forward to continuing to drill this new discovery, while advancing exploration activities in the gold and copper-gold zones at Lalor and in the broader Snow Lake camp as we pursue our strategy over the next several years to maximize the value of our Manitoba assets and extend both base metal and gold production at Lalor beyond its current mine life,” said Hair.
The intersections occurred less than 1,000 metres from the existing ramp between Chisel North and Lalor, within trucking distance of a crusher at Chisel North, and close to the Stall concentrator. The company says that the mineralization was discovered by following up drilling completed in 2011 and 2012 by Hudbay.
A drill hole, completed in February 2019, intersected a series of mineralized lenses assaying 20.76 per cent Zn, 0.20 per cent Cu, 0.56g/t Au and 24.2g/t Ag over 4.6 metres from 540.7 to 545.3 metres. Located approximately 10 metres below the high-grade zinc lens, a high-grade gold zone was also intersected from 554.4 to 560.6 metres assaying 6.34 g/t Au, 0.70 per cent Cu, 1.21 per cent Zn, and 38.9g/t Ag. Immediately below the gold zone, another thick lens of zinc mineralization was also intersected from 561.6 to 576.3 metres assaying 4.38 per cent Zn, 0.37 per cent Cu, 0.26g/t Au and 8.2g/t Ag.
A second hole, also completed in February 2019, intersected 6.1 metres of massive sulfide with visual estimates of approximately 50 per cent sphalerite from 601.7 to 607.8 metres. This second drill hole intersection is located approximately 100 metres from the first hole’s intersection in the general interpreted up-dip plane of the mineralization, but in a lower position. Hudbay says that this lower relative position in the second hole may be related to folding, faulting or a change in orientation of the sulfide lens … or perhaps a different lens altogether.
The company advises that two drills will continue to operate in the immediate vicinity of the initial discovery in order to further confirm the continuity of the mineralization and its lateral extent, while testing a recently reinterpreted electromagnetic conductive plate west of the two recent intersections. Depending on the success of future drilling, the company expects to develop an exploration drift off the ramp from Chisel North to the Lalor mine in order to drill this new discovery from an underground platform.
Contacted by email, Hudbay’s corporate communications director Scott Brubacher was asked
if the new discovery is proved up with further drilling ... will the life of mine be updated in a near subsequent quarter? “It’s too early to speculate on the potential impact on the life of mine plans,” said Brubacher. “If results are positive, the first step will be to estimate the mineral resource with potential for economic extraction to be followed by the necessary engineering work before we can publish an update of the reserves estimates and of the life of mine plan.”
Brubacher was also queried about current plans for the Stall concentrator. Hudbay has stated that starting in 2022, Stall mill throughput will gradually decrease from approximately 3,200 tonnes per day to approximately 1,800 tonnes per day. “If a new mineable zinc deposit is confirmed, that could extend the time during which we expect to operate the Stall mill at higher throughput levels,” he noted. “There is also significant potential at Lalor mine to maintain Stall at a higher throughput rate for a longer period.”
In a final question, he was asked about surface drilling planned for the Snow Lake area. “Yes we have been drilling at the WIM and PEN II deposits this winter to collect more samples for metallurgical testing,” Brubacher explained. “We are also drilling in the vicinity of the New Britannia mine (Snow Lake Mine) to explore for shallow gold mineralization. In addition we will continue in 2019 our regional program to explore for new deposits (gold and base metals) in the most prospective parts of our claims in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake belt.”