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Gold explorers primed for 'elephant-sized' discoveries in Dubreuilville-Wawa area

Mine construction, expansion and exploration revives historic northeastern Ontario gold mining camp

Gold miners and explorers are talking about discovering "elephant" deposits in the months and years to come in the Dubreuilville and Wawa area of northeastern Ontario.

The archean volcanic rocks of the Michipicoten greenstone belt seem to contain all the right geological ingredients to cook up massive new gold deposits in this historic mining camp that could rival the likes of Red Lake, Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Val d'Or.

Underground expansion is taking place at Alamos' Island Gold Mine near Dubreuilville, surface construction is underway nearby for an open-pit operation by Argonaut Gold, and two exploration companies are finding gold at depth near some past-producing mines.

The Michipicoten belt, near the eastern shore of Lake Superior, has been extensively explored since the late 1800s and mined through its heydays of the the 1920s and 1930s. 

Now a new generation of mining and exploration companies have been steadily consolidating fragmented parcels of land to set the area up to find new discoveries that may deliver wealth to this region for years to come.

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Construction to revive the former underground Magino gold mine property for conversion into an open-pit operation for 2023 is rapidly clipping along, according to Argonaut Gold.

The Toronto mine developer's contractors have cleared ground 10 kilometres southeast of Dubreuilville for the open pit, dug the foundation to begin construction of the processing plant, and built haul roads to the pit and the tailings area.

Argonaut outlined the progress being made in a recent company newsletter.

Company president-CEO Pete Dougherty said construction is on schedule. 

"We have received the majority of pre-production mining equipment on site and have been actively onboarding and training our team as we continue to work with our two major partners: Ausenco Engineering Canada Inc. and Sigfusson Northern Ltd."

Construction of the tailings facility begins in the third quarter. Some of the major project milestones will be reached during 2022 with the mine production fleet arriving, grid power being switched on, and the processing plant fine-tuned in preparation for the first gold pour in early 2023.

Magino enters commercial production by the third quarter of 2023. The mine is expected to create 350 jobs.

On the camp accommodations side, the "Magino Lodge" has been built on the site of the former Dubreuilville sawmill site. One hundred and forty-four rooms are ready for occupancy with the recreation centre and kitchen nearing completion.

With training taking place for the pre-productions, Argonaut said monthly meetings and project updates are taking place with various First Nation and Métis stakeholders involved with the development through impact development agreements.

Over a projected 17-year mine life, Magino is expected to produce approximately 2.2 million ounces of gold. Magino was a former underground mine of the same name, developed after the First World War. 

Exploration drilling continues around and below the future pit to expand the gold resource, especially close to the property line separating them from Alamos Gold and its Island Gold Mine to the east.

Alamos sees plenty of longevity and district-sized mining potential ahead at Island Gold, an underground operation.

The Toronto mid-tier miner continues to reap the rewards from the money it's earmarked for exploration on their extensive 15,000-hectare property. The company believes opportunity abounds to grow the deposit, both laterally and deeper down, through exploration.

Last month, drillers pulled the highest grade gold intercept at Island Gold, dating back over 7,000 holes drilled on the property since the 1930s. Alamos posted a result of 71.21 grams per tonne gold over a 21.33-metre length of core.

It was found close to where a new planned shaft is being constructed as Island Gold undergoes a third phase of expansion since 2017 when Alamos first appeared on the scene, acquiring Island Gold from Richmont Mines.

Since then, Alamos has sunk $45 million into exploration, stockpiling almost three million ounces in reserves and resources in growing from 1.8 million ounces in reserves and resources to 4.7 million ounces today.

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This year's exploration budget is their largest to date, at $25 million, to be spent mostly on exploration within the mine and about $5 million for regional exploration.

Part of the Alamos exploration strategy included acquiring its neighbour to the east, Trillium Mining, and its 5,400-hectare property, which is along strike from the Island Gold deposit. 

Last year, the mine produced 140,000 ounces of gold. Alamos wants to boost that to 240,000 ounces annually when the new shaft is commissioned in 2025.

Alamos is also maintaining a keen eye on what's happening elsewhere the Dubreuilville-Wawa gold camp by making strategic foothold investments in Manitou Gold and Red Pine Exploration.

Not far to the northwest, Manitou Gold is cranking up an 18,000-metre drilling program this summer to find mineralization in an underexplored spot of its Goudreau Project.

The primary focus of the Sudbury junior miner is the Baltimore deformation zone, an 18-kilometre-long corridor on the eastern half of its 350-square-kilometre property which hosts several promising gold zones over a 37-kilometre strike length.

Manitou made its first splash in the area by acquiring ground in 2017. They've since swung seven property deals to assemble this large land base, sandwiched in a very promising gold country between Alamos to the west and the former Renable gold mine to the east, held by Barrick Gold.

The company announced in late June that it has exercised its options to acquire and fully own the Stover and Renabie-Easy Lake properties.

With $4 million in the till, Manitou is compiling a target list to begin drilling next month with anticipated new discoveries to be announced later this year.

“We are seeing the culmination of four years of property acquisition, regional exploration and detailed targeting along the highly attractive Baltimore deformation zone,” said Manitou president-CEO Richard Murphy in a June 29 news release.

“The 18,000 metres of drilling we will be commencing in early August is going to be targeting elephant-sized gold targets in proven elephant gold deposit country. Our exploration team is doing a fantastic job in the field in order to refine individual drill targets.”

Key investors with Manitou are Alamos Gold at 19.9 per cent and O3 Mining – part of the Osisko group of companies – at 9.9 per cent.

Two kilometres southeast of Wawa, Red Pine Exploration is out to make new discoveries on a property that already contains two identified gold deposits.

The company gained 100 per cent control of the Wawa Gold Project by buying out its joint venture partner, Citibar, over the winter. They're turning their full attention and financing toward enlarging the size of their gold resource on the 6,700-hectare property.

Their project contains eight former gold mines, all of which had been individually owned and operated at various times between the 1880s and the 1980s.

By bringing fresh eyes to this historic camp, Red Pine has outlined gold resources at Surlaga, a 600,000-ounce deposit grading at 5 grams per tonne, and Minto Mine South, containing more than 100,000 ounces at 7 grams per tonne.

The company has raised $5 million in financing for a 15,000-metre drill program that's expected to continue for the remainder of this year and into 2022. Two rigs are turning on the property with a third one expected to be added in July.

Their priority is to look for gold beneath the Surlaga deposit. The gold mineralization that Red Pine has found so far extends from surface down to 300-metre depth. There's never been any exploration below that. They'll also be doing some greenfield exploration around some of the old mine sites on the property.