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Mining the Northwest: Australian junior miner predicts two-million-ounce gold resource at Pickle Lake

Auteco Minerals running 50,000-metre exploration drill program at former Pickle Crow Mine
Auteco Minerals Pickle Lake exploration camp 2
Auteco Minerals exploration camp, outside Pickle Lake in northwestern Ontario (Company photo)

The area around a former Pickle Lake gold mine is hot property for Auteco MInerals.

The Australian junior miner expects to build a considerable gold base by the time a 50,000-metre drill program wraps up later this year.

Auteco believes its Pickle Crow Gold Project has the potential to be a sizeable mining camp based on what they estimate is in the ground, what they see in the assays, and what the geology is telling them.

"This is the asset that keeps on giving," said the company's executive chairman Ray Shorrocks in an Oct. 12 web interview with NWR Communications of Australia.

Within 18 months of arriving in northwestern Ontario, the company published an inferred gold resource of 1.71 million ounces at 8.1 grams per tonne.

Shorrocks confidently predicts they'll reach the 2-million-ounce mark by the time a new resource estimate is published this winter. In drilling down to 300 metres depth, he said, all signs point to significant resources further down.

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The company holds a 496-square kilometre land package that includes the former Pickle Crow Mine with its three shafts and 38 kilometres of lateral underground development. Auteco's exploration camp is a 10-minute drive from the local airport.

Auteco has a 70 per cent ownership interest in Pickle Crow through an earn-in agreement with First Mining Gold.

The area has a long history of gold production.

The Pickle Crow Mine was once one of Canada's richest gold mines. Operating between 1935 and 1966, the mine produced 1.5 million ounces of gold at an average grade of 16.1 grams per tonne.

But the area was never mined out. There was plenty of gold left in the ground when the operation closed in 1966. Gold prices had bottomed out at $35 an ounce.

In working from old drill logs, the company conducted new drilling alongside old areas of exploration. Shorrocks said they are "replicating those high-grade hits" that were historically discovered.

"I'm pretty happy, we've got lots to chase here."

Most of the historic production occurred at Pickle Crow's No. 1 shaft but Auteco made two major discoveries near the No. 3 and Albany shafts.

The Carey discovery, found near Albany, produced one assay showing 5.3 grams per tonne (g/t) over 20.4 metres. The Tyson discovery, at the No. 3 shaft, yielded one drill result of 17.9 g/t over 2.8 metres. These results will be folded into the updated resource calculation coming out in January, Shorrocks said.

Previous miners always worked from narrow, high-grade, veins less than three metres wide. Shorrocks said they're finding broader zones, greater than 20 metres, with lower grades but economic enough to consider bulk mining methods.

A good chunk of the gold resources are within 15 metres of surface and Auteco's geologists have chipped off high-grade gold samples outcropping at surface.

Auteco currently has four drill rigs in the field with plans to go up to six by early in the new year. The company is dedicated about 30 per cent of its current drill program to regional exploration over its huge land holdings.

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Based on the region's geology and other activity nearby, Shorrocks expressed excitement about the rest of the property's mineral potential.

The Pickle Crow Project is situated on the same greenstone gold belt that's spawned the mine complex at Red Lake, owned by Australia's Evolution Mining, plus a number of other prospective projects including First Mining's Springpole open-pit mine project, Great Bear Resources' Dixie Project, and the True North gold project owned by 1911 Gold.

Shorrocks was very complementary about Ontario, calling it one of the world's best mining jurisdictions - outside of Australia - with very prospective areas, some of the best drilling rates and crews, and tax incentives through flow-through share financing to do exploration.

"The most exciting (thing) for me is for $15 to $20 I spend in the ground, I find an ounce of gold. That's very cool."

In the Pickle Lake area, Auteco's has company with another Australian gold explorer.

Ardiden Resources has expansive 870-square-kilometre property containing the former Golden Patricia Mine, which operated between 1985 and 1997, producing almost 620,000 ounces at an average grade of 15.2 grams per tonne gold.

The company has outlined three gold deposits - Kasagimminis, Dorothy, Dobey - and identified four brownfield gold prospects along with pinpointing a number of greenfield gold prospects. But before they can bring in the drill rigs this fall to explore its Western Hub part of the property, they're negotiating to sign an exploration agreement with some area First Nations.