Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD) and Novagold Resources (TSX: NG) (NYSE: NG) announced Thursday an update and drill results on their 50/50 co-owned Donlin gold project in Alaska.
The 2020 drill program is currently advancing with four drills turning at the site, and all are operating within the framework of stringent safety measures, which include protocols to prevent the spread of covid-19, the companies said in a joint statement issued by Barrick.
With measured and indicated resources of about 39 million ounces of gold, Donlin is considered one of the largest open-pit gold deposits in Alaska.
The Donlin gold drill program began in February and was temporarily paused in early April due to travel restrictions and other covid-19 prevention measures in the region.
Drilling activities resumed following the reopening of certain aspects of the States’ economy by Alaska’s Governor, and after consultation with employees, contractors, and regional villages regarding safety measures.
With 80 holes planned, totaling 22,000 meters, to be drilled in the ACMA and Lewis deposit areas, the 2020 drill program is the largest in 12 years.
The project faced controversy when an allegedly “error-laden” report was published by J Capital Research at the end of the last quarter. J Capital Research in May accused 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.
Almost 60% of the drilling at Donlin has been completed to date, Barrick and Novagold said Thursday, with assays reported from approximately 10% of the planned drilling. The primary objective of the 2020 drill program, the largest such campaign at Donlin since 2008, is to validate recent geological and resource modeling controls developed by the owners, they said.
A total of 47 core holes have been drilled or are in progress (13,795 meters), as of August 4, with assays reported from 2,246 meters of drilling.
Significant distinct high-grade intervals were intercepted in multiple areas, including good intervals near surface. Five of the top intervals so far include DC20-1871 intersected 41.91 m grading 11.61 g/t gold, starting at 30.35 m drilled depth; DC20-1866 intersected 45.91 m grading 5.03 g/t gold, starting at 35.39 m drilled depth; 23.36 m grading 4.15 g/t gold, starting at 108.30 m drilled depth; and 30.28 m grading 4.20 g/t gold, starting at 226.53 m drilled depth and DC20-1873 intersected 7.66 m grading 18.40 g/t gold, starting at 60.88 m drilled depth.
“Diligent exploration and detailed geological modeling are essential in establishing a strong foundation on which to deliver optimal value from an asset the size of Donlin,” Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said in the media release.
“These early drill results have improved our understanding of the orebody, supporting the more recent geologic modelling. They also underscore Donlin Gold’s significant potential as well as extraordinary optionality to the gold price over multiple cycles and in a mining friendly jurisdiction,” Bristow said.
“We have ensured that our operations are working as safely and responsibly as possible alongside our Native Corporation partners, Calista and TKC, providing extensive resources and support in Alaska, particularly in the remote Yukon-Kuskokwim region closest to the project,” he said.
“These are great early results and I’m particularly encouraged by the high-grade mineralization encountered near-surface. This is an exciting time for Donlin Gold, said Greg Lang, Novagold’s president and CEO said.
Lang added that Donlin is on track to complete the drill program in the fourth quarter.