In what has been the largest drill campaign at the Donlin gold project in Alaska in 12 years, joint-venture partners Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) and NovaGold Resources (TSX: NG; NYSE-AM: NG) announced they have completed this year’s 85 hole program totaling 23,400 metres.
The companies reported results for nine of the drill holes in early August and released assays from another 16 holes today, with highlights of 4.17 metres grading 80.6 grams gold per tonne starting at a depth of 123.5 metres in drillhole DC20-1877, including a sub-interval of 3.15 metres grading 106.2 grams gold.
Drillhole DC-1888 intersected 6.93 metres of 43.1 grams gold starting from 178.6 metres, including 3.25 metres of 90.5 grams gold; and drillhole DC-20-1878 cut 19.77 metres averaging 11.3 grams gold from 48.86 metres downhole, including a sub-interval of 7 metres of 25.2 grams gold.
Another hole, DC20-1886, cut 33.88 metres of 6.5 grams gold starting from 218.20 metres depth, including 7.94 metres of 11.3 grams gold.
The drilling was in both the ACMA and Lewis deposit areas of the project and the partners intend to continue drilling Donlin next year. The data from the 2020 drill program will be incorporated into an updated model.
“With the latest set of assay results, we continue to encounter intersections of higher grade mineralization than previously modeled,” NovaGold’s president and CEO, Greg Lang, said in a press release Monday.
“With the industry burning through reserves, and grades continuing to decline, great drill results with even higher than modeled grades are exciting for any mining company – and we believe that to be particularly true for Donlin Gold at this late stage of development.”
Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow commented that the drill results from this year’s work program, along with exploration at the project over the last two decades, “continue to highlight Donlin’s world-class potential.”
“A comprehensive geological understanding of any orebody is a foundational step that few companies in the gold industry do well,” Bristow stated in the news release. “With an orebody the size, scale, and quality of Donlin Gold, it is of even greater importance in order for the project to successfully deliver maximum value for all our stakeholders.”
On a 100% basis, the project contains about 39 million ounces of gold grading 2.24 grams gold in the measured and indicated categories, making it one of the largest and highest grade undeveloped open pit projects in the world.
The project faced controversy earlier this year when a scathing report was published by J Capital Research, accusing Novagold managers of “systematically” misleading investors about the Donlin gold mine over the last 15 years.
J Capital, a company founded in China a decade ago which usually targets overvalued media and tech companies for short-selling, had said the Donlin Gold project “will never be built” and “in short, this is a stock promote, not a mining plan.”
Novagold retaliated against the short-seller, issuing an extensive statement, and in July announced that it had served J Capital Research USA with a civil action lawsuit for defamation in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
(A version of this article first appeared in The Northern Miner)