When prospectors talk about the mineral-rich potential of northern Manitoba, they’re referring to properties like the
Snow Lake Project.
Consisting of 283 claims covering an area the size of Winnipeg, the Project has undergone a decade of exploration at a cost of some $25 million.
The goal of any prospecting endeavour is a mine-worthy deposit. And while there are no Scooptrams or loaders on site as of yet, Ken Lapierre believes it’s only a matter of time.
“Our goal has always been to become a mine finder,” says Lapierre, president and CEO of Rockcliff Copper Corporation, which owns the Project. “Rockcliff was formed for that very reason. I feel extremely confident that our actions over the last 10 years have led us down the path to discovery and resource growth, which will ultimately lead us to becoming mine finders.”
If the mine Lapierre envisions is to materialize, it may well be in the form of one of the eight high-grade base-metal and/or gold deposits Rockcliff has identified on the Project.
The company is currently focusing exploration efforts on three of those deposits: Talbot (copper dominant with significant zinc and gold), Bur (zinc dominant with significant copper and silver) and Laguna (gold).
Rockcliff and some outside geologists are particularly enthused by the Talbot deposit, located about 75 km due south of Snow Lake. Hudbay has touted strong drill results from the deposit as far back as 2007.
In 2014, Hudbay optioned Talbot to Rockcliff on the condition the latter company spend $6.12 million on site exploration between 2014 and 2020. Lapierre said his company has now spent more than half of the required total.
Rockcliff took a key step forward at Talbot last year by releasing a guideline-compliant initial resource estimate. Lapierre called the results “encouraging.”
Earlier this year, the company announced a drill hole had uncovered high-grade gold at Talbot. It remains to be seen what follow-up drilling may reveal about the deposit’s gold potential.
Lapierre notes the Talbot deposit as a whole remains open for possible expansion through further drilling.
Cathy Hume, an analyst with CHF Capital Markets, is a big believer in Talbot.
“Having spent the majority of my career studying exploration/mining companies, I have seen hundreds of core boxes showcasing drilled intercepts,” she wrote in an August 2016 blog, referring to the boxes used to store drill cores. “Rockcliff’s Talbot [deposit] core box was nothing short of spectacular because of the high-grade nature of the mineralized material.”
Of drilling to expand Talbot and explore other Snow Lake Project claims, Hume urged readers: “Fasten your seatbelt when drilling results start to come in!”
Through its exploration expenditures, Rockcliff is earning a 51 per cent interest in Talbot, with Hudbay owning the other
49 per cent.
If Talbot were to become a mine, Hudbay would be the operator and provide 35 per cent of the profits to Rockcliff. No production decision has been made at this time.
A Hudbay-Rockcliff option agreement also exists for the Bur deposit, situated about 22 km by road from Hudbay’s Stall concentrator near Snow Lake. As with Talbot, Hudbay has seen promise at Bur for at least a decade.
While Bur lacks a guideline-compliant resource estimate, such a report is anticipated early next year after exploration resumes this fall.
Bur is the highest-grade unmined zinc-rich deposit in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake region, according to Rockcliff. It remains open in all directions.
The Laguna deposit, located 20 km southeast of Snow Lake, is one of the more intriguing deposits in play in the province.
The property hosts the long-defunct Laguna gold mine, which operated in the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s. It was the first mine in Manitoba to have a mill and was the highest-grade lode-gold producer in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone Belt.
Laguna does not involve Hudbay. Instead, the Toronto-based Rockcliff is optioning the property from prospector
Rockcliff is set to spend $1 million on exploration at Laguna between 2017 and 2021. In that same timeframe, the company will spend another $1 million to explore an area gold property known as the SLG deposit.
While Rockcliff is focused on finding the Snow Lake region’s next mine, Lapierre says the actual mineral extraction and processing would be best left to another company.
He says Rockcliff understands the importance of its “strong, positive relationship” with Hudbay, which has mining and milling infrastructure already in place in the region.
“Rockcliff is in the business of exploration and is comfortable in that role,” Lapierre says. “Our initial focus [if a mine is developed] would be to find a senior partner that has the expertise to fund and carry out mining on our assets.”
That type of partnership worked well for another junior miner, VMS Ventures, now part of Royal Nickel Corporation. VMS Ventures has a 30 per cent royalty in Hudbay’s Reed mine outside Flin Flon.
Hudbay has said it favours partnerships that enable junior miners to carry out exploration. In this way, Hudbay limits its own expenditures while maintaining a foothold in potentially mine-worthy deposits.
Yet in the case of Rockcliff, it’s possible a royalty agreement with a different company, Akuna Minerals, will bear the fastest fruit.
Akuna, a privately owned junior miner based in Toronto, is studying the feasibility of a copper mine at the Tower Property, which is situated about 120 km south-southeast of Snow Lake.
While Akuna has said little publicly about the project, and no production decision has been announced, Rockcliff has said a Tower mine could launch operations in 2018.
At a time when exploration companies are less enamoured by northern Manitoba than in years past, Rockcliff has remained very active in the region. So why Rockcliff and relatively few other prospectors?
“Persistence, patience and a belief in what you are doing will make a difference,” says Lapierre. “The Flin Flon-Snow Lake Greenstone Belt is the most prolific VMS (volcanogenic massive sulphide) belt in Canada. …It is a world-class jewellery box in one of the best provinces in one of the best countries in the world for exploration, mining and financing. I can’t speak for others why they are not enamoured by northern Manitoba but am happy to spend every effort I have advancing Rockcliff for the benefit of our shareholders and the community of Snow Lake.”