Interest, though waning, still exists
in gold exploration on Woewodski
November 18, 2010
Gold explorations may start up again on Woewodski Island, according to Olympic Resource Group geologist Mark Robinson.
Robinson said that at least one company, at a meeting of the Alaska Miners Association in early November, sounded interested in funding and continuing explorations at the Lost Lake and East Lake basins, located on the northeast corner of the island.
The East Lake and Lost Lake exploration areas are only a mile from Harvey Lake, a Forest Service recreation area much frequented by many visitors.
But Robinson maintained that mining on Woewodski is a relatively environment-friendly way to create jobs for Southeast Alaska. At least in the exploration phase, noise levels are very low, he notes, posing minimal disruption to eco-tourism.
And, even if the mines turn out to be unproductive, he added, “as far as the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service are concerned, if you’re not working on a spot anymore, you can plug the drill hole with swelling clay or bentonite so surface waters and ground water don’t mix.”
After incurring all these risks, there’s no assurance that enough gold can be extracted to make the mining operation worthwhile.
Woewodski Island is located near the Southwest end of Wrangell Narrows. It has been a local prospecting hotspot since the early 1900s.
In 2009, Canadian owned Bravo Venture Group gained 100% control of all claims on the island from Olympic Resource Group LLC, a gold exploration company with many Southeast Alaskan shareholders.
In early 2010 though, Bravo Venture Group pulled investment from their Woewodski projects and returned many claims to Olympic Resource Group.
Renaming themselves Bravo Gold Corporation, the Canadian company started to focus their efforts on another company project located at Homestake ridge, a mountain range in British Columbia parallel to the north end of Revillagigedo Island.
After analyzing cores from many sites along the center of Woewodski island and test drills at the Lost Lake and East Lake basins in the summer of 2009, Bravo dropped the project.
“The results weren’t there,” said Rob McDonald, Bravo Gold Corporation’s vice president of exploration.
“We spent in excess of 6 million dollars at Woewodski over a four to five year time period,” McDonald said by way of explanation. “We examined various areas and we felt that this is as far as we could take our explorations. We had payments to vendors that needed to be made. The economic crisis had just hit and our share price was affected.”
However, Bravo’s withdrawal does not mean there isn’t a mineable deposit on the island, McDonald pointed out.
“There were certainly core samples higher than two or three ounces of gold per ton,” he said. “In one instance we found over 12 ounces a ton.”
One ounce per ton is very rare and considered very high grade, according to Michael Rowley, a consultant to Bravo.
“Half an ounce per ton is considered pretty good,” Rowley added. “Many mines just go with a few grams per ton.”
But one sample of high gold percentage doesn’t count as enough reason to start mining, McDonald cautioned.
“To make something a viable deposit, you need a large deposit of material of a certain grade,” he said. “Tens to hundreds of millions of dollar go to support mining, so you need more than a single assay sample. Several years of tonnage are necessary to do an investment justice.”
But Olympic Resource Group geologist Robinson said there was no need for his company or its local shareholders to be fazed by Bravo Gold Corporation dropping their Woewodski ventures.
“That’s the game in the industry, most deposits don’t become a mine,” he said.
Economic risks are involved but there is still mineable gold on Woewodski, Robinson maintained. In its pitch at the Alaska Miners Association meeting, Olympic Resource Group focused on the 75 federal claims (each of which are 20-acres apiece) it holds in the East Lake and Lost Lake basins.
“The island is in the Alexander terrain, which is in a rock package of the same age and origin as that which the Greens Creek mine near Fairbanks sits on,” he said. “These rock packages are the result of mineralization formed above underwater hot springs from the Late Triassic period.”
If financial backing can be found, Robinson said, the Olympic Resource Group would be using a new technique for explorations. By pumping electric signals into the ground, Robinson explained, Olympic hopes to find and drill for anomalies within the rock that have a lot of positive ions – an indication of the possible presence of gold and lead.
The proposed mines could provide a much-needed economic boost to the region; Robinson is convinced.
“If we find gold, we can create jobs for locals,” Robinson said. “An underground miner can make $70,000 a year plus benefits.”
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