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The Drift: Nickel and gold driving the Timmins exploration boom

Exploration snapshot of the Timmins camp shows land acquisition, expansion drilling, and mine permitting
(Canada Nickel photo)

The Drift is an ongoing editorial series by Northern Ontario Business about the people, companies, technologies, and innovation that encompass the mining industry in northeastern Ontario.

The arrival of summer means exploration activity around Timmins accelerates into high gear for gold and nickel junior miners and project developers.

South of the city, a pair of exploration companies continue to tie into high-grade nickel, particularly Canada Nickel.

The Toronto mine developer keeps hitting high-grade nickel near the surface at its Texmont Project.

Earlier this month, the company released results from the last 11 holes of its 39-hole winter drilling program. Seven of those holes intersected grades greater than one per cent, which is considered high grade.

Drilling reached depths in excess of 440 metres. The company said there’s likely more mineralization deeper down.

In a news release, Canada Nickel CEO Mark Selby said Texmont could be developed as a small, high-grade pit operation that would be complementary to their flagship Crawford Project, north of Timmins. 

A mineral resource estimate for Texmont, along with a preliminary economic assessment of what a mine could look like, will be released later this year.

Canada Nickel acquired Texmont, 36 kilometres south of the city, in 2022. It hosts the former Texmont nickel mine, which operated briefly from 1971 to 1972 and contains a historic nickel resource calculated to be 3.2 million ounces at 0.9 per cent nickel.

Texmont was one of the slew of nickel property acquisitions and earn-in agreements Canada Nickel inked last year in the Timmins, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls and Matachewan areas.

The company’s main focus is Crawford, 40 kilometres north of Timmins. It's one of the largest undeveloped nickel sulphide projects in the world and is currently going through the federal permitting process.

Canada Nickel has been promoting Crawford as a future carbon-neutral mining operation. Come September, the company said it will be publishing an “Integrated Feasibility Study” unveiling the design of an open-pit nickel and cobalt operation and calculate its carbon capture values. 

The company maintains the ultramafic rocks at Crawford naturally absorb and sequester carbon dioxide. That research discovery, the company said, might make them eligible for mine construction funding to be eligible for government investment tax credits.

Canada Nickel reports they are on schedule for receive all of their federal permits to start building a mine at Crawford by mid-2025.

Close to Texmont, EV Nickel proclaimed last week that its W4 deposit at its Shaw Dome Project has doubled in size. It’s the first update on that historic resource in about 13 years. 

The company is aiming to start mining at the site, 25 kilometres southeast of Timmins, in late 2026 or early 2027.

Vancouver’s RT Minerals acquired 51 mineral claims in Sheba Township, 70 kilometres southeast of Timmins, that are prospective for various critical and base metals.

Previous exploration work by other companies revealed samples taken from an outcrop containing promising values of copper, nickel and chromium.

In a June 13 news release, RT said the exploration program being contemplated could be eligible for federal flow-through shares and Critical Minerals exploration tax credit programs.

RT holds 13 exploration properties near Cochrane, Kirkland Lake, Smooth Rock Falls and Timmins where they are on the hunt for rare earth elements, nickel, chromium and base metals. The company said work permitting programs have been submitted on seven of these properties for 2023 and 2024.

Toronto’s Mink Ventures has signed an option agreement on a historic copper property, 35 kilometres west of Timmins.

In a June 13 release, the company pronounces the Warren Project “drill ready” as their geology team has been combing through all the historic exploration data on the 251-hectare property, dating back to the mid 1950s, to select drill targets.

The geology team has identified three distinct copper and nickel zones that will be tested by exploration drilling. 

Mink made the deal with US Copper Corp for the Warren Project, contingent on a number of terms and conditions, including spending $300,000 on exploration within 21 months of the closing date, starting July 4.

Mink’s other property in the camp is its Montcalm Project, next to Glencore’s historic Montcalm Mine, 65 kilometres northwest of Timmins. 

“This strategic acquisition expands our exploration portfolio and discovery opportunity with a very complementary, second gabbro-hosted copper nickel sulphide project which shares a similar geological environment with our flagship Montcalm project,” said Natasha Dixon, Mink’s president-CEO. 

Rockridge Resources cashed up and has started drilling to test the limits of Raney Gold Project, 110 kilometres southwest of Timmins.

The 2,800-hectare piece of ground is the neighbourhood of Newmont’s Borden Gold Mine, near Chapleau.

The Vancouver junior miner discovered a high-grade gold zone during drilling in 2020. The company wants to probe for any extensions toward the east and west, along strike and at depth.

CEO Jon Wiesblatt said in a statement that there’s an “abundance of drill tests” to check out and felt confident they will realize the discovery potential of this underexplored area of the Abitibi Greenstone Belt.

Eighty kilometres east of Timmins, Mayfair Gold contends there are more ounces to be had at its Fenn-Gib Project outside Matheson.

A new estimate was released last week that boosts the gold count at its deposit by 16 per cent over the last gold count in October.

Fenn-Gib now holds 3.38 million ounces of indicated gold as the company builds a business case for an open-pit mine. 

The company holds 4,800 hectares of ground alongside Highway 101 about 20 kilometres east of Matheson. Mayfair picked up the project from Pan American Silver at the end of 2020.

The company is more than three-quarters of the way through a 140,000-metre infill and expansion drilling program.

“The Fenn-Gib mineralization remains open for further expansion in most directions,” said Mayfair President-CEO Patrick Evans, “and we are excited about the potential to further increase the resources with the ongoing drill program supported by three drill rigs. Mayfair expects to provide a further updated mineral resource estimate on the Fenn-Gib open-pit deposit in early 2024.”

One of Mayfair’s neighbours, Moneta Gold raised $26 million in flow-through shares in May for an ongoing exploration at its advanced Tower Gold Project near Matheson.

The Toronto mine developer released a preliminary economic assessment last September showing a 24-year mine life for a combined open-pit and underground mine.

The company hasn’t backed off on its exploration efforts with a 60,000-metre drilling program underway to add more ounces to the existing indicated 4.5-million-ounce deposit.

Northwest of Timmins, Zentek, a Guelph graphene technology company, announced in May that it’s completed the transfer of its Albany Graphite Project, near Hearst, to a newly created spinoff, Albany Graphite Corp.

That news was announced earlier this year.

The deposit has been described over the years as a uniquely pure, one-of-a-kind, prospect that can be converted to a graphene material for use in a variety of modern manufacturing applications due to its electrical resistivity, heat tolerance and corrosion resistance. 

The company provided no development details in a May 23 news release aside from expressing the optimism of Albany Graphite CEO Brian Bosse “now that this legal step has been completed.”

“With graphite demand expected to grow substantially over the next decade, according to the International Energy Agency, especially North American sourced graphite due to EV battery demand and the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States, the timing to resume work on this unique graphite deposit is excellent.”