By IAN ROSS
Marathon PGM Corp. is edging ever closer to building an open pit mine on the northeastern shore of Lake Superior.
“We’ve really done a lot in short time and we’re pretty optimistic we can make this work, said CEO Phillip Walford.
“It would be a great benefit to the north shore of Lake Superior if we can get this going.”
The company expects to release a feasibility study in May or June with the expectation of commissioning a PGM and base metals mine by 2011.
In its year-end report for 2007, Marathon PGM defined the past year as one of “exceptional progress” as the junior miner gears up for 2008.
Plans for 2008 will start with a resumption of exploration work on more than 15,000 metres of drilling in Marathon, Ontario in preparation for a feasibility study.
The company raised $6 million in flow-through shares to cover all of the cross Canada exploration for this year, including $3.8 million for drilling at Marathon, with remainder earmarked for their other base metal projects in Manitoba and Newfoundland-Labrador.
Walford says the company was clobbered in August when their share price went down due to the U.S. sub-prime meltdown that affected many juniors.
“That took a bit of wind out of our sails, but nothing’s changed for the company except that we’ve gotten bigger and better.”
For the Marathon project, the junior company released a mineral resource estimate in November forecasting a mine life of 14 years, but Walford said that could be stretched years beyond with three ongoing exploration projects on the property.
Their SG and WD Zones have good economic values for copper and PGMs, despite only a few drill holes.
They also have a large, low grade copper deposit called the Dunlop Zone. “Those are all things that can add mine life.”
The Marathon project has a resource base of 3.5 million ounces of PGM and gold, 585 million pounds of copper and 5.39 million ounces of silver.
The open pit Walford is looking at for the main zone is substantial, three kilometres long and 300 metres deep.
Permitting and environmental work is on track and there’s also design work underway on a processing mill that will be fed 18,000 and 22,000 tonnes per day.
The precious metal copper concentrate (containing platinum, palladium, gold, rhodium, copper and silver) produced in Marathon would then head to a copper smelter.
Sourcing skilled labour shouldn’t be too much of problem from within the Town of Marathon or neighbouring communities as some of the older mines close in the Hemlo Camp.
The workforce requirements for Marathon PGM, published in last year’s preliminary economic assessment, is estimated at 150 for an open pit operation.
Walford says the project has good infrastructure working in its favour with ports in Marathon and Heron Bay, a major railway running through the town and power lines nearby.
“There’s a lot of things going for it,” with the Town of Marathon only an eight kilometre drive away, and the property straddling the local airport and the Trans-Canada Highway.
“As far as locations go for mining, it’s pretty darn good.”
Walford was quite knowledgeable about the area when he acquired the property in 2004, having worked as a vice-president of exploration for Anacoda Canada and Geomaque Resources. Both companies held great hopes on the area’s copper and gold potential going back to the 1960s and 80s.
On Walford’s management team is vice-president of operations, Ray Mason, a former mine manager at Lac des Iles, who’s steering the feasibility study.
David Goode, Marathon’s vice-president of exploration, wrote part of his PhD thesis on the Marathon deposits.
Director George Faught, a former CFO with North American Palladium, is arranging their financing and will be handling their smelter negotiations.
Walford says the company has also been in discussions with the Pic River and Mobert First Nations who are working toward an impact-benefits agreement as the feasibility study moves along.