Exploration and Production on the Rise Across Nunavut

From the Canada Nunavut Geoscience Office


Worldwide mineral exploration and development activities rebounded moderately in 2017, and Nunavut followed the general trend. The territory covers approximately 20 percent of Canada’s total land mass and hosts mineral deposits of gold, diamonds, iron, uranium and base metals spread through its three regions: Kitikmeot, Kivalliq and Qikiqtani. As of September 2017, over 6.5 million hectares of Crown-administered land tenure in Nunavut was held in 3,518 mineral claims, 475 leases and 159 prospecting permits. Production from its three operating mines, development of two new mines scheduled to enter production in 2019, and ongoing activities at early to intermediate stage projects contributed significantly to the territory’s economy in 2017, with demonstrated potential for future growth.


Precious metal development and exploration constituted the bulk of 2017 exploration and appraisal expenditures. Agnico Eagle Mines currently owns and operates three major projects in the Kivalliq region: the Meadowbank gold mine, a satellite operation at Amaruq, and the Meliadine project near Rankin Inlet, investing approximately US $1.2 billion over three years toward project advancement. Meadowbank, located 110 km north of Baker Lake has been operational since 2010. Although nearing the end of its life, the mine produced approximately 180,659 ounces of gold by mid-2017, with higher than expected grades from the Vault pit expansion. The mine life at Meadowbank has been extended through the end of 2018 and production from Amaruq, is planned for late 2019. The two sites were linked in August by a 64 km road that will facilitate the use of existing infrastructure at Meadowbank. The breadth and depth of mineralization was increased at the V Zone and Whale Tail after 65,600 m of drilling in 352 drill holes was completed. A new showing was located at Tugak, west of Mammoth Lake, has conditions similar to those found at Whale Tail. In June, the Whale Tail Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement was signed with the Kivalliq Inuit Association to enhance Inuit access to employment, training, and business opportunities.

The Meliadine project, with an estimated production of 5.3 million oz of gold over its 14-year mine life, is expected to begin operations late in 2019. By the end of June 2017 approximately 2,500 m of underground development was completed, with plans for a further 3,000 m. Conversion and delineation drilling of 12,500 m and 14,000 m  respectively, focused on preparing for underground production at the Tiriganiq and Wesmeg-Normeg zones. Additional opportunities are being evaluated through planned 5,000 m of exploration drilling along the greenstone belt which hosts the deposits at Meliadine.

TMAC’s started production at its flagship Doris deposit in February 2017 and continues exploration of the Madrid and Boston deposits. Commercial production started in May, and the company focused on improving gold recoveries from its processing plant, which were below expectation due to design issues and mechanical failure. A second Gekko processing plant was successfully transported to and offloaded at Hope Bay. TMAC received Type B Water Licences for Madrid North and South in May, and in July for Boston. 

Exploration at Hope Bay concentrated on further defining mineralization in the BTD (Below the Dike) zone, under Doris North, where the company completed over 13,000 m of diamond drilling. Highlights include 21.2 m grading 5.7 grams of gold per tonne (g/t Au) and 33.8 g/t Au over 3.8 m. TMAC also started its first drilling program at Boston with two diamond drills and focused on thicker, higher grade zones which included intercepts of 15.3 g/t Au over 22.3 m and 22.0 g/t Au over 17.6 m.

Sabina Gold and Silver saw major developments on its Back River project. Following last year’s negative recommendation by the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), the company embarked on a limited spring exploration program consisting of approximately 2,700 m of diamond drilling and a ground electromagnetic survey over high priority targets at Goose and Boulder. The drilling campaign targeted the Umwelt Vault zone, the Llama Extension, and the GNS/Convergence zones. Gold mineralization with grades of up to 16.86 g/t Au over 13.5 m at Umwelt Vault and 6.52 g/t Au over 8.3 m at Llama were intercepted during this five-hole program. 

In July, Sabina received a positive recommendation from the NIRB to continue development of the project, which allowed the company to raise additional funding and embark on an expanded, second phase drilling program consisting of 10,000 m of drilling at Umwelt and Llama gold trends, with additional testing of Kogoyok, GNS and Echo zones. In September, Sabina announced the discovery of a new high-grade mineralized zone at Llama with grades of up to 9.48 g/t Au over 38.55 m within strongly altered iron formation.

Auryn Resources entered into an agreement with Goldcorp Inc. for a strategic equity placement of over $35 million. The company acquired 19 prospecting permits along the Gibson-MacQuoid greenstone belt between Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine and Meadowbank deposits. These permits, covering over 300,000 ha, encompass about 120 km of strike length of the greenstone belt that the company planned to cover with high-resolution drone imagery and with a regional geochemical survey consisting of 5,500 till samples. No results from this program had been released by press time. 

The company’s focus remains the Committee Bay property. In June, Auryn released a revised resource estimate for the Three Bluffs Deposit. The new resource of 524,000 oz Au indicated and 720,000 oz Au inferred, was based on the 2013 RPA resource estimate calculated with new cut-off grades based on revised metal prices, operating costs, and exchange rate. The company’s summer drill program consisted of a ground magnetic survey, till sampling, boulder mapping, and over 30,000 m of rotary air blast (RAB) drilling. Highlights of partial drilling results released in September included an intercept of 12.2 m of 4.7 g/t Au hosted in a silicified shear zone at Aiviq prospect located 12 km north of the Three Bluffs deposit, and 4.57 m grading 2.52 g/t Au within banded iron formation at Aarluk prospect, 17 km north of Aiviq.

Kivalliq Energy Corporation completed the acquisition of a previously explored land package of nearly 409,000 ha along the Foxe Fold Belt on central Baffin Island including land optioned from Commander Resources. The company planned a July start to a $775,000 summer exploration program to corroborate historic data through rock and till sampling, prospecting, geological mapping, and drone surveys to produce high-resolution air photos and digital elevation models.

Cache Exploration acquired 100 percent of the Kiyuk Lake gold project in the southwest corner of the Kivalliq region, 350 km west of Arviat. The 59,000 ha property comprises 70 mineral claims predominantly over Proterozoic sedimentary rocks of the Hurwitz and Kiyuk groups. Cache planned a 2017 exploration campaign consisting of 2,000 m of drilling, till sampling, and prospecting. By mid-September five drill holes were completed with intersections containing visible gold at the East Gold Point showing and at the Rusty zone, with a best intercept of 26.4 g/t Au between 108 and 116 m depth.

Silver Range Resources continued to expand its land position in Nunavut with eight properties in the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions. The company explored three of these properties – South Kitikmeot Gold, Hard Cash and Yandle – during 2017 field season. Horizontal loop electromagnetic field and total magnetic field surveys coupled with prospecting and geological mapping were completed on all three properties. The company also planned a three-week, shallow diamond drilling program at Hard Cash at the end of July, but no results were released at press time.

Nordgold, through its wholly owned subsidiary Northquest Ltd., planned a drilling program similar in size to that conducted in 2016, on its Pistol Bay project near Whale Cove. No results have been released to date.


The Mary River Mine, operated by Baffinland Iron Mine Corporation, located above the Arctic Circle on northern Baffin Island, budgeted $4.2 million for exploration in 2017. Work this summer involved infill drilling and ore characterization at Deposit No. 1, ground geophysics, sampling, and additional staking. As part of the Phase 2 proposal, Baffinland has applied for permission to upgrade the tote road to a rail line and construct a second ore dock and ship loader to accommodate Cape-sized vessels, allowing an increase in ore transportation capacity to 12 million tonnes. 


Aston Bay’s Storm Copper and Seal Zinc projects saw limited activities this year. The company’s option agreement with BHP Billiton, signed in early 2016, was terminated in January 2017, prior to the release of the 2016 exploration program results. The program, consisting of soil sampling and drilling, confirmed previously known copper-in-soil anomalies and delineated several new areas with anomalous metal concentrations. The best drill hole intercept consisted of 16 m of 3.07% Cu and 12.36 g/t Ag.

Following the termination of the agreement with BHP, the company raised $2 million in financing and commenced an abbreviated summer exploration program consisting of a surface geological reconnaissance program and core review as well as 14,700 line-km of an airborne gravity gradiometry survey. Aston Bay expects the results of this survey in October 2017 together with the initial mineral resource estimate for the Seal Zinc Project.


Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. continued work at its Chidliak property, located approximately 120 km northeast of Iqaluit. The 2017 field season focused on diamond drilling at the CH-6 kimberlite hosting a 4.64 million tonne inferred resource averaging 2.45 carats per tonne to 260 m depth. Peregrine completed three drill holes totaling 1,474 m to delineate the kimberlite pipe margins and sample below 260 m for potential resource categorization down to 500 m. The longest drill hole ended in kimberlite at 536 m below the surface and demonstrates the vertical continuity of CH-6.

Dunnedin Ventures Inc. expanded its land position for a second year since acquiring the historic Kahuna property in 2014, adding 36 claims totaling 42,128 ha in 2017. Dunnedin collected nearly 3,500 till samples in 2017 to accurately define targets for a winter drilling program. Additionally, the project area has proven prospective for gold, with gold-in-till results confirmed from samples taken in the Kannuqa gold belt, less than 15 km east of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine project.

North Arrow Minerals Inc. completed a $2 million field program at the Naujaat (formerly Qilalugaq) Diamond Project, 7 km north of the hamlet of Naujaat. The program saw 3,469 m of diamond drilling in 11 holes to improve the geological model of the Q1-4 kimberlite, which hosts fancy orangey yellow diamonds. Drilling facilitated the delineation of the kimberlite and evaluated the potential for additional resources below 205 m depth. A 234 wet tonne mini-bulk sample was collected by excavator from the Q1-4 kimberlite and will be analyzed for indicator minerals and micro-diamonds. North Arrow has already cached fuel and drilling re-supply materials for a 2018 program. 

North Arrow reported on their 2016 campaign at the Mel Project, 140 km south of Hall Beach and 18 km west of tidewater. The company identified up-ice cut-offs for kimberlite indicator mineral trains and followed up these results with more detailed prospecting, and has attained permits to allow drilling in 2018.

In March 2017, Crystal Exploration announced a planned exploration program consisting of drilling, ground geophysics and till sampling on six potential targets within the company’s Muskox, Hood and Contwoyto properties in southern Kitikmeot. No progress update was provided by the company at press time.

New Players

Early in 2017, new uranium player ISO Energy Ltd. staked 5,625 ha over the historic Mountain Lake deposit in the Hornby Basin, SW of Kugluktuk, which has a non 43-101 compliant inferred resource of 8.2 million lbs. of U3O8 at an average grade of 0.23%, based on 22,000 m of drilling. No plans for exploration there have been announced for 2017. 

In late 2016, Lancaster, now NxGold, signed an earn-in agreement with Meliadine Gold Ltd. for the Kuulu Project (formerly Peter Lake), which straddles the Dickson-Pyke fault, 20 km along trend from Agnico’s Meliadine gold project. The company planned a maiden exploration program over the property consisting of a geophysical survey, aerial drone imagery, and till sampling, but postponed a planned 4,000 m diamond drill program while awaiting permits. MN

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