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The Drift: Junior miners chasing nickel, palladium and gold in the Sudbury area

SPC Nickel emerging as new nickel player in the Sudbury basin in seeking to resurrect former nickel mine
SPC Nickel Corp
SPC Nickel drilling on its Aer-Kidd property over the winter (SPC Nickel photo)

A new nickel player in the Sudbury mining camp expects great results toward resurrecting a former mine, while two other junior miners pursue palladium and gold at the opposite ends of the basin.

SPC Nickel cashed up over the winter with more than $3 million to go exploring for nickel, copper and platinum group metals (PGM) on its three properties in the Sudbury area.

The local company recently kicked off a 4,200-metre drilling program at its Lockerby East project, located 20 kilometres west of the city, at the site of a former Falconbridge mine.

It’s their most advanced exploration property and they have high hopes it could be brought back into production over the next few years.

Lockerby East contains two nickel, copper and PGM deposits, the most promising being West Graham, a large, low-grade deposit with high-grade potential deeper down. The plan for this year is to do more than 4,000 metres of drilling to better define this high-grade area.

“The coming year is poised to be an exciting year for the company with the potential for discovery on multiple fronts,” said Grant Mourre, SPC’s president-CEO, in outlining the company’s 2022 plans in a recent news release.

Lockerby East contains a resource of 10.5 million tonnes of nickel, copper and PGMs, based on an estimate from a predecessor company, First Nickel, back in 2009.

Last year, the company’s focus was Aer-Kidd where they realized some success from a 14,000-metre drill program that began early last year and wrapped up in February. It’s a choice piece of property located between Vale’s Totten Mine and KGHM’s Victoria Mine Project.

Mourre said their exploration work there “has identified several mineralized areas that would benefit from additional drilling as well as prospective portions of the property that remain untested. Given that the Aer-Kidd Property is located between two world-class (nickel) deposits, including the Totten and Victoria Mines, we feel the property remains a very valuable asset for the company.”

Fifty kilometres northeast of the city, the company has a smaller exploration play with its Janes property, where the company is doing some grassroots work to generate some targets for a 1,000-metre fall drilling program.

East of Sudbury, New Age Metals, a palladium mine developer, is deep drilling to grow the size of its River Valley deposit.

The company is working on a prefeasibility study at the 15,800-acre property to build a case for a potential open-pit mine operation.

Drilling began last summer in a prospective area called the Banshee Zone on the north end of the property, a place that hadn’t been fully explored for 20 years.

One highlighted intercept revealed 2.92 grams per tonne of palladium, platinum and gold over a six-metre length of core pulled from 251 metres down.

The company believes the palladium mineralization at River Valley runs far deeper.

The project is located 100 kilometres, by road, east of the city and is 20 kilometres north of the village of River Valley.

Three years ago, a preliminary economic assessment predicted a 14-year open-pit mine life, but the company believes there’s enough exploration upside for the project to become an underground mine.

“Drilling continues to demonstrate strength and continuity of the palladium mineralization at River Valley,” said Harry Barr, the company’s chair and CEO, in a statement.

“This is the first drilling completed at Banshee Zone since 2004. Intersecting the palladium mineralization after almost 20 years is very encouraging, as we plan to expand the Banshee Zone by drilling multiple down-dip and footwall targets in 2022.”

The project contains 2.8 million measured and indicated ounces of palladium with more than 1.1 million ounces in the inferred category.

Palladium is the dominant metal on the property at 60 per cent, but there's also platinum, copper, nickel and cobalt in the mix.

The company bills itself as a “project generator,” meaning they’re open to another mining company taking River Valley through to production.

Well to the west, Graycliff Exploration recorded high gold grades taken from surface channel samples at its Shakespeare Gold Project.

The company is sniffing around the former Shakespeare gold mine, 88 kilometres west of the city. The mine operated between 1903 and 1907.

One highlighted sample yielded 137.00 grams per tonne of gold over 0,71 metres.

The company is now in its fourth phase of drilling at the site, located halfway between Elliot Lake and Sudbury.

In a statement, James Macintosh, Graycliff's president-CEO, said after completing more than 7,000 metres of drilling at Shakespeare they have identified a consistency of mineralization at surface and at depth. They are eagerly awaiting the results from their last round of drilling.

"We now know that the mineralized zone, which we have expanded dramatically, goes from surface all the way down to over 250 metres and remains open at depth and along strike."

Their plans for the summer exploration program include doing more channel sampling with the goal of expanding their "footprint of the mineralization at surface to identify new zones for future drilling."

The company hauled in a second drill rig this spring and is exploring on a nearby property, called Baldwin, which seems to show all the same geological traits as Shakespeare.