Skip to content

Exploration roundup: The search for battery metals charges up these Temiskaming junior miners

Untapped resources of silver and cobalt bring out the drill rigs to historic northeastern Ontario mine properties
Castle Silver Cobalt Works Castle Mine
The former Castle Mine near Gowganda (Castle Silver Cobalt Works photo)

A surge of exploration activity is taking place in the historic mining camps of the Temiskaming area as junior miners poke holes and survey ground in looking for new veins of silver and bypassed stockpiles of cobalt, needed for the electric vehicle market and to feed the critical minerals supply chain.

A steady diet of high-grade silver results have been emanating from a former Temiskaming silver mine where Vancouver junior miner Brixton Metals has been exploring an unmined portion of its 3,200-hectare property.

The company released the last batch of drill results from an 18,000-metre fall and winter drilling program at its Langis Project, situated just north of Lake Temiskaming and very close to the Québec border.

One drill hole in the Shaft 6 area yielded 187 grams per tonne (g/t) of silver over a 24-metre length, including 356 g/t over 10 metres.

Langis produced 10.6 million ounces between 1908 and 1980 with at a grade of 25 ounces per ton, including 358,340 pounds of cobalt. The place was shuttered in 1990 due to a drop in silver prices.

"The miners didn't get it all," said Brixton's CEO Gary Thompson in an interview last month on Crux Investor.

While the company shifts focus to its flagship Thorne gold project in northwestern B.C.'s Golden Triangle, they'll take the summer to pore over the data from Langis and decide their next moves to advance it toward a first-time resource calculation. The company is keeping its options open on selling the project or doing a joint venture.

Langis contains 10 kilometres of underground workings, which are currently flooded.

The company has another project in the camp, Hudson Bay, where they've generated high-grade numbers on the property near the town of Cobalt. The former mine generated 6.5 million ounces between 1905 and 1957.

In a statement, Thompson said the drilling program was a success in identifying "silver bonanza zones" near the old mine workings, with broad zones of silver and cobalt mineralization including a large, emerging nickel anomaly.

"We are in the process of modelling these results to further define next steps for the project with a primary goal of moving a number of targets into a maiden resource category. The nickel mineralization appears to be wide open and we believe it warrants further exploration.”

Want to read more stories about business in the North? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Close to the town of Cobalt, Vancouver's Cruz Cobalt has contracted APEX Geoscience of Edmonton to assist in the company’s upcoming drill and field work programs.

The company has six separate cobalt and silver exploration properties – Bucke, Johnson, Coleman, Hector and Lorraine North and South – totalling 11,570 acres, situated to the north, west and south of the town of Cobalt where, the company points out, a cobalt refinery is being established.

With other cobalt, lithium and diamond projects in British Columbia, Idaho and Nevada in the fold, company president Jim Nelson is expecting 2021 to be a "transformative year" for Cruz with a steady flow of upcoming news to be released.

“We are pleased to have engaged Apex for our upcoming drill/work programs at a time when we have seen a significant surge of global investor interest into the battery metals sector as the demand for electric vehicles continues to rise at an unprecedented rate," said Nelson in a June 10 news release.

Sign up for the Sudbury Mining Solutions newsletter here.

Near Gowganda, Canada Silver Cobalt Works is more than half way through a 60,000-metre underground drilling program on a past producing silver property while in the midst of permitting and doing environmental work for a proposed silver mine.

The British Columbia-headquartered company has been steadily expanding a high-grade silver discovery, called the Robinson Zone, on its Castle Mine property, northeast of town.

The 78-square-kilometre property is 30 kilometres south of Alamos Gold’s Young-Davidson mine and 100 kilometres southeast of Timmins. Aris Gold's Juby gold deposit is 30 kilometres to the west.

The company's property hosts three former silver mines, the largest being the Castle Mine, which sporadically produced 9.5 million ounces of silver and 300,000 pounds of cobalt between 1917 and 1989. There's also strong exploration upside for cobalt, nickel, gold and copper.

Last spring, the company published the first-ever resource estimate for the Robinson Zone, posting 7.56 million ounces of very high-grade silver in the inferred resources category.

The company claims this area is wide open for potentially more high-grade silver finds. They've discovered five veins since this round of exploration began, including a new one in late May.

In a recent news release, company president Matthew Halliday said environmental permitting and baseline study at Castle East is underway.

"By initiating these activities early, we will ensure that the permitting process will be smoother and accomplished in a timely manner to take full advantage of this silver cycle."

Besides ramping up to become Northern Ontario's first silver miner, they're also working the battery metals side of the street with the goal of producing a cobalt sulphate for the electric vehicle industry.  

The company is testing a processing technology that takes cobalt concentrate and converts it into a cobalt sulphate compound that can be used to make lithium-ion batteries.

Near Elk Lake, Battery Mineral Resources started a first-time drill program on its Mapes target in mid-May, looking for extensions of cobalt and silver mineralization in an area that once hosted more than 30 operating mines at the turn of the last century.

The Vancouver explorer is one of the area's largest exploration landholders with very ambitious plans on the mining and processing side.

Toronto's Kuya Silver kicked off an initial 2,500-metre drill program, south of the town of Cobalt, at the end of April.

A relative newbie to the area, Kuya is busy putting a dormant Peruvian silver mine back into operation but the Silver King Project is also high on their agenda.

The company closed a joint venture partnership with First Cobalt this year to set foot on the 10,000-hectare holdings, which stretch from the town of Cobalt in the north to the mining ghost town of Silver Centre in the south, and features dozens of old silver mines.

Key to the deal was Kuya acquiring full ownership of the Kerr Project within this larger land package.

At Kerr, the company's focus was on drilling around the former Drummond, Kerr Lake, Crown Reserve, and Silver Leaf mines. The four mines produced more than 52 million ounces of silver, most of it before 1920.

The company sees "tremendous potential" to find silver vein extensions from these mines below 100 metres depth.