Shares in Australian-Canadian exploration partners American West Metals (ASX: AW1) and Aston Bay Metals (TSXV: BAY) shot to 12-month highs on Tuesday after announcing a major copper discovery at the Storm property in Canada’s Nunavut Territory.
The discovery comes after the company’s ongoing diamond drilling campaign, led by American West, yielded promising results for copper sulphides.
The discovery sent American West shares in Sydney up 1% to a new 12-month high at A35¢ per share before closing 13% lower at A29.5¢, while Aston Bay jumped 83% to C22¢ per share in Toronto – a fresh 12-month high and up 471% over the 12 months.
The Storm copper project on Somerset Island, Nunavut, has been the focus of intensive exploration efforts. Drilling aims to uncover hidden gravity targets beneath the established near-surface mineralization.
On Tuesday, the company reported the discovery of a new near-surface zone of mineralization, which has been named the ‘Thunder’ zone. This discovery was made through diamond drill hole ST23-03. The ‘Thunder’ zone includes two main zones of visual copper sulphide mineralization, including 76 metres of visible heavily mineralized breccia to massive copper sulphide (chalcocite, bornite, and chalcopyrite) between 32-108 metres downhole, as well as 2 meters of visible breccia and dense vein-style copper sulphide (chalcocite, bornite, and chalcopyrite) between 273-275 metres downhole.
According to the company, one of the most exciting aspects of this find is the resemblance to recognized sediment-hosted copper systems across the globe, such as those found in the Kalahari Copper Belt and Central African Copper Belt. These similarities add to the significance of the findings, suggesting the possibility of tapping into a significant copper resource.
Aston Bay CEO Thomas Ullrich says the discovery has been some time in the making. “Our geological model has predicted the presence of chalcocite in permeable sedimentary horizons, hidden in the subsurface – this discovery proves it. The copper is there,” Ullrich said Tuesday in a news release.
Ullrich added the discovery highlighted the potential of gravity surveys as practical tools for exploration under cover.
And on August 2, Aston Bay reported two significant discoveries from diamond drill holes ST23-01 and ST23-02. Hole ST23-01 returned 45.5 meters of visual sulphides, including a 30.5-metre breccia-style visible copper sulphide section associated with the shallow copper mineralization of the 4100N Zone and a deeper 15-metre breccia and vein-style copper sulphide intersection.
ST23-02, a continuous 37-metre-thick zone of visual breccia-style copper sulphide was intersected between 333–370 metres deep depths.
The consistency of mineralization across these drill holes, combined with the massive size of the gravity anomaly, hints at the presence of a substantial copper deposit beneath the earth’s surface.
The mineralization intercepted by the diamond drill holes is located at the top of a modelled gravity anomaly. This highlights the effectiveness of gravity surveys in pinpointing potential mineralization targets beneath the surface, opening new possibilities for exploration and resource identification.
The vast potential of the Storm has been underlined by the widespread gravity anomalies observed in the region. The positive outcomes of these initial drill holes further amplify the prospects of discovering a significant, region-scale copper system.
As exploration efforts continue, anticipation builds for the imminent assay results from ongoing high-priority copper targets. Additionally, reverse circulation definition drilling is underway on near-surface copper targets, with results from the 2750N and 2200N Zones expected shortly.
The diamond drilling will move to other important areas identified using geological interpretation with different geophysical methods like gravity, induced polarization (IP), and electromagnetic (EM) surveys.
These other targets include a spot where gravity, IP, and EM signals coincide, located west of the high-grade 2750N Zone. In this area, historical drill hole ST00-66 found a section with over 20% copper near the surface. There are also other important locations with strong geophysical evidence.
Around 2,500 metres of drilling are planned, with hole depths ranging from 400-600 metres. The company may add more drill holes to investigate further, it said.
In March 2021, Aston Bay entered into an agreement with American West for the Storm and Seal properties. According to the agreement’s terms, if American West spends $10 million, they will own 80% of the property. Aston Bay won’t have to pay until a feasibility study and production decision are completed.
If Aston Bay decides not to contribute and their ownership drops below 10%, they’ll receive a 2% net smelter royalty. American West can buy half of this royalty for C$5 million when production starts. Aston Bay received C$500,000 in cash upfront as part of the deal.
The findings validate the geological model’s predictions and hint at a colossal copper deposit waiting to be unearthed beneath the Arctic permafrost.