Rio Tinto preps plans for 2020 at Janice Lake

Drill core from hole FEM-01 at Janice Lake. The hole returned 18.5 metres grading 0.94% copper and 6.7 g/t silver. Credit: Forum Energy Metals.

Following up on a positive 2019 exploration program, Rio Tinto is planning 2,000 metres of drilling, plus mapping, prospecting and geophysical surveys this year at the Janice Lake copper-silver project in northern Saskatchewan.

The major is earning up to an 80% interest in the project from Forum Energy Metals, which has optioned the property from Transition Metals.

Last year’s program at the sedimentary copper-silver project, located 55 km southeast of Key Lake, included 21 drill holes totalling 5,209 metres.

Drilling targeted the Jansem target (nine holes), the Janice target (nine holes), and the Kaz target (three holes), with drilling at Jansem and Janice returning copper mineralization at good grades and continuity over significant thickness, starting at surface.

Under an option agreement signed last May, Rio can earn an initial 51% in Janice Lake by spending $10 million on exploration over four years

Highlights included a hole at Jansem that cut 5 metres of 1.32% copper and 3.42 g/t silver within a longer 51.8-metre interval grading 0.57% copper and 1.5 g/t silver (starting at 116 metres depth).

Jansen is currently around 650 metres long by 200 metres wide with thicknesses of up to 66 metres.

The Janice target, which has returned 22 metres of 0.37% copper and 2.82 g/t silver starting at 185 metres, is so far 1.2 km long by 400 metres wide, with thicknesses of up to 66 metres intersected in drilling.

Both targets are open along strike and at depth.

In addition to core drilling, the 2020/21 campaign will include the use of a rotary air blast drill rig as a prospecting tool to drill short holes into the bedrock on copper showings and other targets generated by mapping and prospecting.

The 52-km extent of the property will also be systematically mapped by a mapping and prospecting team, initially on 2-km traverse lines.

Forum says the focus of this year’s initial exploration program will be to evaluate the regional copper/silver potential of the 52-km-long sedimentary basin in preparation for an extensive summer and winter drill campaign.

A drill permit application for the program has been submitted to Saskatchewan’s Environment Ministry.

Rio Tinto plans to build a 50-person drill camp this summer to support its exploration program.

The company completed a 110-km winter haul road in March to bring in building supplies. But the exact timing will depend on safety considerations related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Rio Tinto intends to commence operations as soon as possible by adjusting its planning while remaining committed to the original program to explore Janice Lake,” said Forum Energy president and CEO Rick Mazur, in a release.

“They have an industry leading health and safety protocol and will undertake this program with the utmost in care for the employees, contractors and communities engaged in this project. I am particularly looking forward to the regional focus of copper mineralization at Janice which has never been undertaken before on this property.”

Under an option agreement signed last May, Rio can earn an initial 51% in Janice Lake by spending C$10 million on exploration over four years.

For an 80% stake, Rio must spend C$30 million over seven years. The company met its obligations for the first 18 months of the agreement by spending $3.7 million last year.

The Janice Lake property saw limited historical drilling by Noranda and Phelps Dodge that identified 20 copper occurrences over a 6 km trend. The 382.5 sq.-km project encompasses the entire Wollaston Copperbelt district.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)