Big Ridge Gold recently entered into an earn-in Agreement with First Mining Gold Corp. on the Hope Brook Gold Project, located in southwest Newfoundland. The earn-in is comprised of two phases, in order to exercise its right to earn 51% in the Hope Brook Gold Project, Big Ridge must incur expenditures on the Hope Brook Gold Project of C$10 million within three-years and issue an additional 15 million common shares to First Mining. To earn an additional 29% interest in the Hope Brook Gold Project, Big Ridge must incur an additional $10 million in expenditures on the project by the end of the fifth anniversary and issue up to 10 million common shares to First Mining. In the process of making this acquisition, Big Ridge gains a strategic partner in First Mining, who participates in Big Ridge Gold’s success by receiving a 20% interest in The Company by the time the earn in agreement is complete. This was a very intelligent acquisition on behalf of the company that truly is transformational in every sense of the word.
The property currently has a 43-101 compliant mineral resource estimate containing 5.5 million tonnes grading 4.77 g/t in the indicated category containing 844,000 ounces of gold and 836,000 tonnes grading 4.11 g/t in the inferred category containing 110,000 ounces of gold. However, it does not include the value of the granite aggregates overlaying the gold deposit, which may be sold as a by-product and/or the contained copper that previous operators tapped into from the northern part of the deposit. Interestingly, the tailings may also hold some value of their own which is why they were tested and the inferred numbers are pretty decent at 4.9 million tons with a grade of .85 g/t Au and .09% copper, containing 134,500 ounces of gold and 9.5 million pounds of copper. Most importantly this is one of just a few 4+ g/t gold mines with an established resource that is not in production today and is currently the highest grade 43-101 compliant resource estimate in Newfoundland.
The Hope Brook Gold Project is home to a past producing open pit and underground mine that was in operation from 1987 to 1997 and produced 752,163 troy ounces of gold. Due to suppressed gold prices in the late 1990’s, the mine was forced to close despite having a head grade of over 4 g/t Au. The mine is located approximately 85 km east of the community of Port aux Basques by sea, along the Southwest coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The Property covers 26,400 Ha of land over 1,056 mineral claims and features; a 30 plus personnel camp powered by provincial electrical and telecommunication grids, intact tailing storage and polishing pond facilities, a 4,000 ft airstrip and a roll on docking facility whereby they can barge heavy equipment to the property. While there is no direct road access at this time, the communities of Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Pasadena, Stephenville and Port aux Basques and Burgeo combine to provide a wide range of services and logistical capabilities for the eventual restart of mining operations at Hope Brook.
The Hope Brook gold deposit is a large, disseminated gold-chalcopyrite-pyrite deposit hosted by highly altered sedimentary and volcano-sedimentary rocks of the late Proterozoic Whittle Hill
Sandstone and Third Pond Tuff successions, and similarly altered felsic porphyry dikes and sills related to the Roti Intrusive Suite. Zones hosting gold mineralization of economic interest
typically bear evidence of intense silicification and occur within a broad envelope of advanced argillic alteration (AAZ) that can be traced for up to 8 km southwest of the deposit (See Figures 2 & 5). The Devonian Chetwynd Granite appears to truncate the alteration zone and associated gold-copper mineralization at its northeast limit. Intensity of the advanced argillic alteration and impact of superimposed Silurian ductile deformation along the Cinq Cerf Fault have obscured original rock fabrics in many areas of the deposit.
The main gold zone at Hope Brook is comprised of a group of smaller zones that show a continuously mineralized, northeast trending strike length of approximately 2 km.
There is a defined mineralized corridor measuring about 100 m in width and has been defined by drilling and mine workings to have an aggregate dip extent that exceeds 400 m (See Figures 3 & 4). The main gold zone is hosted by light grey, massively silicified rocks characterized by 1% to 5% vuggy porosity and <5% to 10% total sulphides occurring as either disseminated phases or as thin veinlets and aggregates that often parallel the dominant deformation fabric present in the rocks. Pyrite is the dominant sulphide present in the first 60 m to 80 m below surface in the main deposit area but below that level increasing amounts of chalcopyrite and bornite are present, often occurring as vug-filling phases. Quartz-chalcopyrite and quartz-pyrite veins and breccias locally cross-cut this silicification stage and in some instances carry strongly elevated gold values.
The Hope Brook gold deposit and associated AAZ are of primary importance with respect to the HBGP. However, several other bedrock gold occurrences are present within the HBGP that differ from Hope Brook. The most prominent examples of such were those in the Old Mans Pond, Phillips Brook and Cross Gulch areas. Each of these areas has been investigated through historic exploration programs that typically included geological, geophysical and geochemical surveys, surface trenching and limited amounts of core drilling. The younger style of gold mineralization present within the HBGP is associated with the Bay d’Est Fault (shear zone) system. This large shear zone and its various splays are interpreted to have controlled localization of the disseminated and vein hosted styles of gold mineralization identified to date, both of which are associated with generally well-developed carbonate alteration zones. On this basis, these occurrences are classified for report purposes as examples of an orogenic gold setting.
Prior to the discovery of The Hope Brook Mine, gold in the Northern Apalacians generally came from turbidite-hosted quartz veins or as a by-product of the base metal mining operations in the Buchans mining camp in Newfoundland and the Bathurst mining camp in New Brunswick. Newfoundland was still very much underappreciated for its gold potential, but that started to change with discoveries like Cape Ray and Hope Brook. The first discovery of gold at Hope Brook was in 1902 when prospectors John and Samuel Billard from Grand Bruit searched along the Cinq Cerf Brook, south of what is known as Dinner Box Hill today. This prompted local business man John Chetwynd to stake claims and arrange for additional exploration to be carried out and by 1905, three small shafts had been sunk on the Chetwynd claims. Unfortunately, there are no historical records of any ore been shipped out for processing and it is largely believed the mineral they were targeting was copper.
The story picks up in the 1930’s again when A.L Reading, a Business man from Toronto arranged for a sampling and trenching campaign focused on the main shaft on the Chetwynd claims. This campaign led to the formation of Burgeo Mines Ltd in 1933 and Burgeo was given exclusive rights to prospect the property. Unfortunately the concessions of the arrangement were not met and the agreement was revoked thus leaving the property to sit idle.
It wasn’t until 1954 that Hope Brook would see any follow up work. Studies by J.R Cooper identified 2 stages of sulphide mineralization in the Cinq Cerf Brook area and noted in the 1930’s that pyrite was associated to an earlier stage that predated any gold and copper mineralization. Unfortunately there was not enough information to draw any attention to carry on exploration until the late 1950’s, when Buchan’s Mining Company mapped the area and deemed it as having little chance of containing important concentrations of ore.
Despite several other exploration companies going over the property Hope Brook went untouched for many more years. It wasn’t explored for gold until the early to mid 1980’s and this is when the Selco Division of BP made the discovery which coincided with 2 NE trending conductors. Hope Brook quickly became the point of interest for Maritime explorers largely because the gold was hosted in a different type of geological setting and the scale of the structures hosting mineralization dwarfed anything similar found in the Appalachians. It didn’t take long for the discovery to make headlines and caused a flurry of exploration in the area surrounding the discovery, but to no avail as the Hope Brook Gold deposit seemed to be a stand-alone gold deposit despite the various bedrock alterations within the immediate geological region. Between 1983 and 1991, BP drilled 316 diamond drill holes from surface and an additional 138 holes underground and put the mine into operation in 1987.
In 1992, BP sold the mining rights to Royal Oak who carried on mining and further extending the resource through 161 diamond drill holes at surface and 120 diamond drill holes underground. During operations carried out by both companies between 1987 and 1997, the mine produced 752,163 ounces of gold. Ultimately, operator at the time, Royal Oak Mines Ltd. could no longer sustain the costs of operation and was forced to shut the mine down as gold prices continued to fall below US$300 per ounce. The following year the company pulled equipment off the property and claimed bankruptcy, leaving the provincial government to do reclamation on the mine site and subsequently, no exploration was carried out from 1997-2008.
In 2003, R. Quilan and Quest Inc. started staking some of the ground around Hope Brook which led to talks with Benton Resources Inc. (BRI) and resulted in the assemblage of a large land package by 2008 by BRI. That year they carried out a suite of geophysics including an airborne magnetometer and electromagnetic survey of the entire property, compiled all the exploration data available and carried out an extensive prospecting and bedrock sampling program, However, the company came up empty handed and no new discoveries were made. Subsequently, RBI terminated its option to acquire the project and transferred its exploration licenses back to R Quiland.
In 2010, Costal Gold optioned the property and within 2 years, acquired 100% interest. The company successfully drilled extensions to the known deposit in the Mine zone from surface and and had great success in drilling the 240 zone 1.4 kms to the southwest and along strike of the existing open pit. They had completed enough drilling over 5 years to compile not one but three, 43-101 mineral resource estimates with the final estimate completed in 2015, showing a resource of 844, 000 Ounces Au grading 4.77 g/t of Indicated resource and 110,000 Ounces Au grading 4.11g/t. Additionally, they also tested the tailings and they built an inferred resource of 4.9 million tons with a grade of .85 g/t Au and .09% copper, containing 134,500 ounces of gold and 9.5 million pounds of copper.
Metallurgical testing was also carried out by G&T Metallurgical Services Ltd. in the fall of 2013 to further advance the understanding of the metallurgy of the Hope Brook deposit. This included batch flotation test work focused on the recovery of a saleable grade copper concentrate after the grinding and gravity recovery step. Additionally, scoping level test work was carried out at Tomra Sorting Solutions in Surrey, BC to evaluate the potential of rejecting dilution material before the grinding area using sensor-based sorting. The sorting program results indicated that mafic material is highly amenable to rejection by sorting.
At this point, Coastal Gold began to shift their focus into determining whether they could use the existing underground development to gain access to the mine in order to further develop the underground mineral resource. This was mainly because they had a series of holes that hit significant grades over wider intercepts such as hole HB11-023 which hit11.4 g/t over a true width of 21.90 meters. However, before they got underground, they were acquired by First Mining in 2015. By the end of their tenure, they had drilled 139 total diamond drill holes and made a good case for the restart of the Hope Brook Mine.
Below is a table of diamond drill holes on the property between 1983-2013
Between 2015 and 2021, First Mining Gold Corp. carried out internal mineral resource assessments of the Hope Brook deposit and updated the 43-101 mineral resource as per industry guidelines and are the basis of the most current resource on the property. However, the resource does not include anything outside the Mine and 240 zones, nor does it include the Iron bound hill, the tailings or potential for copper. In the process of doing the resource update, First Mining also assessed the Chetwynd Granite aggregate, because any future open pit development of the Hope Brook deposit would include mining of substantial volumes of Hope Brook Granite as waste material. If this waste could be processed and sold profitably it could reduce unit operating costs for the mining operation.
Additionally, the company drilled 4 holes in the Ironbound hill location 25 kms northeast of Hope Brook and initiated environmental, planning and permitting studies related to construction of a road linking the property with the provincial highway 480, more commonly referred to as the Burgeo Highway. Based on the 2018 engineering design and planning it was estimated that the capital cost for the 58 kilometer road project would be approximately $11,000,000 CAD. Subsequently, First Mining was notified that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared for this undertaking and Draft Guidelines for preparation of that study were made available in December of 2018. However, the EIS has not been prepared or filed.
In June of 2021, Big Ridge Gold Corp took interest in the project, as this was not a primary focus for First Mining and it was in their best interest to see someone advance the project while maintaining exposure. The terms of the deal can be found [here] in the Technical report in more detail for those of you who are interested
*This is important for any investor to review as it covers the finer details of the optioning agreement, ownership structure and responsibilities of Big Ridge as the operator along with associated royalties.
As soon as Big Ridge officially became the operator, they raised 5 million dollars went to work immediately, doing a Controlled Source Audio-frequency Magnetotellurics (CSAMT) geophysics program. Upon completion, they launched a fully funded 25,000 m drill campaign that commenced in November 2021 and will likely extend until July 2023. . The Phase 1 drill program, is aimed at testing the highly prospective ground between the 240 and Mine Zones at surface and at depth, following up on shallow historic drilling completed by previous operators (4.69 (g/t) Au across 14.9 meters and 3.11 g/t Au across 18.0 meters) across 400 meters of strike west of the Mine Zone. They will also be drilling the Northeast Extension which was highlighted through geophysics and historic data compilation.
The 25,000m of drilling will be utilized to update the mineral resource estimate and tie the Mine Zone and 240 Zones together. The upgrade and expansion of the existing mineral resources will then be incorporated into the completion of a Preliminary Economic Assessment. In addition, systematic evaluation of the large, contiguous exploration holding at Hope Brook will be ongoing and the reader is cautioned that a multi-year time frame is required for the completion of all programs, with realized timing being subject to terms of the Earn-In agreement with First Mining and available project financing.
With two drills now turning and the first batch of samples sent out for assays, the first quarter of 2022 should be an exciting time for the company as they will get their first real indication of continuity. If they can connect it together and make a discovery at the Northeast Extension, n, Big Ridge is off to the races in getting this once producing mine with a 4 plus g/t Au head grade back into operation. What will be interesting is to see what value can be placed on the copper and aggregates as they could add substantial value to the project and reduce the capital needed to restart the mine.
We arrived on site around 11 am via an 8 passenger cargo plane, a little later than expected due to freezing rain in Stephenville, but by the time we arrived on site the weather had cleared and I was able to get my first glimpse of the Hope Brook Gold Project. The flight wasn’t very long at just over 30 minutes and upon arrival, I was greeted by Wayne , the project coordinator and immediately brought down to the sea port, where he was needed to offload two pickup trucks and a front end loader from the barge. When we got there the barge was making its approach to the docking area where there was already a crew waiting.
We hung around the port until the equipment was safely offloaded and then made our way up to the camp to meet the team. By the time we arrived it was lunch, and the whole camp was filled with an incredible aroma of home cooked food. After being on the road for 7 days, I was pretty excited. I walked though the door and instantly greeted by about 20 people simultaneously. Everyone was so welcoming, you could definitely feel the family like atmosphere that was prevalent across the board on the East Coast.
You can learn a lot about a company and the project through talking to the people with boots on the ground, and so I always make it a point to spend a bit of time getting to know everyone and hearing their first hand experience about the project.For the next hour or so I toured around the camp, flying the drone, snooping through old cores and talking to the team as they prepped the camp for the winter season, but when I heard the core cutting saw kick on, I made my way to the core shack to see how things were progressing.
They had just got their drilling program under way but already had a team of 3 geo’s and 2 core cutters hard at work logging and sampling the cores. The second drill was about to get started, so there was a clear push happening at the core shack and I didn’t stay to long but while I was in there, all 3 Geo’s were very welcoming and were kind enough to give me some insight into the project as a whole. They all seemed very confident that they were going to tie the Mine Zone in with the 240 zone and insisted that I get to the drill rig before they finished the hole as it would give some context for the opportunity ahead.
It’s one thing to see a project map and see that the 240 zone is 1.4 kms away from the Mine zone pit, but to stand there on the southern shoreline of Newfoundland, overlooking the North Atlantic and seeing what that 1.4 kms looks like in person, really paints the picture of opportunity for this project. While the drill rig was drilling in between the Mine and 240 zone, you can still get a sense of scale from the image below.
We got there just in time as the drill team was hard at work pulling rods and getting ready to move the rig over to the next drill pad location.
Standing at the edge of the pit, It was clear that this was once a decent sized operation at one time and that the work being done by Big Ridge is going to greatly expand the operational footprint of the mine. Mind you, much of the proposed work will ultimately be underground, but don’t be fooled as there is a lot of opportunity to expand that pit and run some of the material left behind by the previous operators. The loose rock surrounding the pit on the southwest side were highly altered, you could quite literally pick up any rock and see characteristics of gold mineralization and for any Geo visiting the property this is an encouraging sight.
Not all exploration companies are equal and you never know what to expect visiting remote sites, so to see a full and active crew moving the project ahead was very encouraging. First impressions are always important and I was impressed. The project features all the infrastructure needed to support the operation with the exception of road access, but the roads on site, the camp, the docking area and airstrip were well maintained and capable of accommodating a restart of the mine. While the site visit was shorter than we would have liked due to weather and shortened days at that time of year, it was very clear to me that there is a great opportunity for Big Ridge to put Hope Brook back into production. It’s well managed, the site was clean, the people carried themselves with pride and were all generally excited to be a part of this project. It has all the hallmarks of a past producing mine headed towards a restart and a project that I very much look forward to re visiting at some point in 2022.
Two additional News releases have come out since this article was published regarding drilling results (Links below)
For more information and original photographs from our site visit please go to https://insidexploration.com/brau/
The information contained in this report came from the company’s technical report, MD&A’s, historical geological reports and various presentations from current and past operators. The information contained within is believed to be up to date and factual but the reader is encouraged to do their own due diligence as this report is for informational purposes only. The Author is not a Financial advisor, nor is this article to be taken as investing advise. Please seek the opinion of a professional Financial Advisor prior to making any investment decisions.