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The Drift: Nickel remains a key exploration driver in the Sudbury basin

Two junior miners look to breathe new life into dormant metal properties
Magna Mining's Crean Hill Project near Sudbury (Company photo)

Nickel remains the driving force in Sudbury’s mineral exploration scene. 

A pair of local junior miners with big ambitions to put two former mine properties into production are posting some encouraging exploration results.

Magna Mining reported high-grade nickel and copper drill hits from a diamond drilling program carried out last fall at its Crean Hill property on the west end of the Sudbury basin. The last of the assay results were released last month.

Magna kicked off the drill program last November soon after acquiring the property in a deal with Lonmin Canada. The Crean Hill Mine, near Whitefish, was closed in 2002 after 80 years in operation. 

The company initially focused on two targeted areas where mineralization was discovered near the surface, Magna believes this area offers the opportunity to go into early production with a start pit by year’s end.

In a statement, company CEO Jason Jessup called the results “impressive” as his technical team dives deeper into the project.

“The 2022 drilling results have provided valuable information that will inform the preliminary economic assessment that is currently underway,” said Jessup. “The close proximity of these zones to surface could make them amenable to both open pit mining and more selective, ramp-accessible underground mining methods. It is exciting to have such a prospective, significant mining project in one of the premiere nickel mining districts in the world.”

The company raised significant dollars in the new year to expand its exploration program.

Further to the west, Magna has an equally promising former nickel-producing property, called Shakespeare, near the town of McKerrow.

Nickel is a highly coveted ingredient in the electric vehicle supply chain. The metal is trading at a healthy $10-per-pound mark.

Not far away from Magna, SPC Nickel has tapped into a minerally rich sweet spot on a newly acquired property.

The company began a first round of drilling early last month after signing a deal with Vale Canada in January to pick up the Crean Hill 3 property. SPC is consolidating it with its West Graham Project.

The two side-by-side properties sit 20 kilometres west of the city, between the Totten and Creighton mines.

Late last month, the company reported one drill hole intersected massive to semi-massive sulphide mineralization, all “very encouraging” to company president-CEO Grant Mourre.

“The intersection adds a lot of support to our initial model that the higher-grade mineralization we encountered during our 2022 drill program on the West Graham Property could extend westward across the property boundary onto the adjacent Crean Hill 3 Property, and further reinforces our belief in the overall potential of the consolidated West Graham Project,” he said in a statement.

SPC has 25,000 metres of drilling on tap for Crean Hill 3 this year. The area hasn’t been drilled since 1960 and the company wants to determine the continuity and grade of a mineralized zone to put out a new resource estimate by year’s end.

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In the Sturgeon Falls area, a palladium exploration outfit is resetting its plans for its River Valley Project, about a 100-kilometre drive east of the city.

New Age Metals said there's too much economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures to proceed to a prefeasibility study. 

For years, the company has been touting River Valley as one of North America’s largest undeveloped platinum group metals projects, a multi-million-ounce resource with district-scale potential.

Four years ago, the company released a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) and floated the concept of a series of open pits with a mill operation. 

Now the company maintains that concept won't hold up to prefeasibility-level “scrutiny,” according to chair-CEO Harry Barr in a newsletter update to shareholders.

Instead, the company said it will do an updated PEA, due out sometime this summer. They'll fine-tune the mine plan, production schedule, and revisit how they’ll process ore and store the waste rock “for a smaller, economic operation with a reduced environmental footprint.”

To get more answers, their technical team is considering going back to the drill bit to check out three “under-explored zones” on the northern part of their property.

The company said it’s seeing “excellent results” from drilling on the promising Dana South Zone. Those results have yet to be included in their current resource calculations for River Valley, the company said.

New Age is further turning its attention to its lithium claims in Manitoba where it’s generating plenty of news flow from its Winnipeg River Pegmatite Field where they are exploring for hard rock lithium and rare elements like tantalum and rubidium. The company recently acquired 19,000 hectares of prospective ground in the McLaughlin Lake area of northern Manitoba. 

New Age bills itself as a “project generator,” meaning its corporate objectives are to eventually option out its properties to larger mining companies to advance into production.

Archer Exploration has been relatively quiet since moving into the Sudbury camp to scoop up Wallbridge Mining’s nickel properties in 2022.

The deal was finalized in November and now the Vancouver company has drawn up a $2-million exploration budget and is planning a 6,000-metre drilling program for its Parkin and Trill properties.

A gold and copper exploration player in the area, MacDonald Mines is looking for a new boss. Greg Romain tendered his resignation on March 30 as president-CEO.

He joined the outfit in January 2021 after a 13-year stint with Gowest Gold in Timmins. A news release said he’ll stay on through the transitionary search for his successor. 

The company’s main project is its SPJ Project, a 19,720-hectare property, 40 kilometres east of the city.