The first Gold Rush might have come and gone more than a century ago, but there’s already another rush and this time it is not for the easily won placer gold. Smash Minerals CEO Adrian Fleming says the junior exploration firm has started the work on a property south of Dawson City, Yukon, that has the potential to add another discovery to the growing explosion of interest in gold exploration in the province.
Smash Minerals is drilling a series of targets in the White Gold District, where it holds one of the largest claim blocks in the area. Smash Minerals’ holdings total 4,177 claims. Despite 100 years of placer gold mining in creeks running through Smash’s claims there has only been hard rock Fleming says there had been no systematic hard rock exploration in Smash’s portion of the district.
Fleming says the first phase of drilling has just been completed, with four different targets drilled to depths of about 150 meters. Considering the conditions, he says, this was better than he expected. “The field team got there; I had suggested that we shoot just three targets this year, and they got short drill holes into four,” he says.
Access is not that easy in some parts of the Yukon but there is road access from Dawson to Smash’s claims. Access is one reason this part of Canada is relatively untested, Fleming says Smash Minerals is excited about the possibilities the White Gold District represents. “I feel good,” he says. “I’ve said from the outset that since it’s such a big property and because we’re starting from zero, it will take us two full years of vigorous exploration before we either find something or we know it’s a bust.”
Reason for Optimism
Work in the White Gold District began with prospectors Shawn Ryan and Cathy Wood in 2004. Their claims were optioned by Underworld Resources, which at the time was led by Fleming. Underworld’s work led to the discovery of the “Golden Saddle” hard rock deposit in 2008.
In 2010, Kaminak Gold Corp. made a discovery in the same district. After Underworld was acquired by Kinross Gold in 2010, Ryan, Wood and Fleming joined forces to continue exploration in the Yukon with other members of the Underworld team that discovered Golden Saddle.
The Golden Saddle discovery was significant, with NI 43-101-compliant indicated resources of 1 million ounces at 3.2 grams per ton of gold. Fleming says it’s possible that Smash Minerals’ holdings will produce a similar find.
“Firstly, the property is quite large,” he explains, adding that the company’s claim block extends more than 60 kilometers.
Secondly, the extensive placer gold mining in the area suggests the source of that gold should be nearby. “Exploration is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, but we use a variety of different tools find that needle,” Fleming says. Underworld’s 2008 discovery started the rush to this area.
“I think there’s been a mindset that this area is a bit remote,” Fleming says.
The district’s perceived remote location has kept prospectors from spending much energy on the White Gold District, and it has contained Smash Minerals and other companies working in the area, as well.
“One of the limitations in this part of Yukon is, in the early stages of exploration, is its very expensive to drill in the winter,” Fleming explains, adding that the harsh winters mean a limited six-month field season. “You work like crazy for six months, sit tight in winter and carefully plan your work for the next summer.”
Adding to the difficulties is the fact that Smash Minerals still hasn’t discovered an effective method of exploring the valley portions of the land. With the mud, gravel and water in those areas, exploration has been tough going in the beginning, Fleming admits.
“We are hammering the hills, but the prize might be under the gravel and sand in the valleys,” Fleming says. That’s a difficulty we’re still wrestling with.”
Despite these idiosyncrasies of exploration, Fleming says Smash Minerals has a lot going for it as it works in the White Gold District. Because much of the team consists of the same people who helped make the Golden Saddle discovery for Underworld, Fleming says Smash Minerals has an advantage of first mover intellectual capital and geologists with a lot of hands-on experience in the Yukon.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Smash Minerals is following a methodology very similar to the one utilized by Underworld. The use of systematic soil geochemistry is a critical component of this methodology, as well as geological mapping, helicopter magnetics and radiometrics.
Even with such methods at its disposal, Fleming says Smash Minerals is committed to moving to the drilling phase as quickly as possible to gather more information about the district. In fact, he says, the firm’s willingness to move quickly to the drilling is another of Smash Minerals’ greatest strengths, especially in a marketplace in which many exploration firms are too risk-averse to drill right away. Fleming says the information an exploration firm gains from drilling is far too valuable to avoid taking the chance.
“One of the key things we do at Smash – and one of the things I promote with the teams I’m involved in – is to quickly move to the drilling phase,” Fleming says, adding that drilling is the only way to gain certain information. “You have to have that third dimension in your database to know what’s going on.
“The drill is really the only thing that gives you the final answer as to whether you’ve found a gold deposit or not,” Fleming adds.
Even though Fleming says he is confident Smash Minerals can strike gold in the Yukon with its project in the White Gold District, he says the company won’t be discouraged if it comes up empty-handed, either.
Based on the experience and comfort level the team has with the Yukon, Smash Minerals plans to continue working in the Yukon, acquiring other properties and creating partnerships with other companies.
Fleming says the company has no plans to abandon the Yukon if the White Gold District turns out to be a bust, because he expects the company to find success there in the immediate future. No matter where the next big play is in the Yukon – whether or not it winds up being the White Gold District – Fleming says Smash Minerals expects to be right in the middle of it.
“This part of Canada is still underexplored and there is a lot of potential in the Yukon area,” Fleming says.