THE CONFERENCE CALLER: An Australian explorer with two emerging projects in the US does not expect the recent election of the Joe Biden-led Democrat administration will have much impact on the country’s minerals sector – at least not in the short to medium term. By Mark Fraser
Speaking just before his presentation at the 20th RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle last week, Polar X (ASX: PXX) managing director Dr Frazer Tabeart said while the new American government had “a broadly different philosophy about mining than the outgoing administration” – meaning there may, across a longer time frame, be some changes “particularly in areas that are federally-controlled rather than state-controlled” – he suggested it would be manageable.
The Western Australian-based explorer has two polymetallic projects in the US – one in Nevada and the other in Alaska. Both states are globally recognised as being attractive mining jurisdictions.
In Nevada, the company is looking for high grade gold and silver in the Humboldt Range, which sits around 200 kilometres north east of Reno.
Here, Polar X has a low cost exclusive agreement to wholly acquire a mine lease agreement over 177 lode claims in two areas – Black Canyon and Fourth of July.
At Black Canyon, these claims have been owned by the same family since 1950 and exposed to limited modern exploration since mining ceased there in 1927.
Located between Argonaut Gold’s 5 million ounce Florida Canyon gold mine and the 400Moz Rochester silver operation (which also contains 3.5Moz in gold credits) owned by Couer Mining, outcropping quartz veins and historical mines show numerous gold assays over 10 grams per tonne, with peak values of a whopping 3,384 grams per tonne gold, 2,837 grams per tonne silver, 22.9 per cent lead and 3.1 per cent zinc being recorded.
Meanwhile at the Fourth of July just to the south, rock chip sampling has returned some pretty interesting numbers, including 3.38, 15.28 and 12.3 grams per tonne gold as well as 23.4, 2,639 and 838 grams per tonne silver.
As it stands Polar X plans to complete its Humboldt Range due diligence and exercise the option by the end of April before immediately starting exploration in earnest, with the aim of generating drill targets by the fourth quarter of 2021.
Over in central south Alaska, the company is looking at two properties covering a combined 261 square km – the wholly-owned Stella and Caribou Dome, where it is earning up to 90 per cent. Both are located around 250km north east of Anchorage.
Prospective for large porphyry copper-gold deposits, field activities at Stella – which has shown the presence of Zackly skarn mineralisation – have returned intercepts like 102m at 0.22 per cent copper and 0,1 grams per tonne gold (with the hole ending in mineralisation) at the Mars prospect. The Zackly Main deposit is now 1km long and occurs along a structure with a strong magnetic gradient.
Sitting just to the south west, Caribou Dome contains high grade volcanic sediment-hosted mineralisation, where prospective drill intersections occur over 800m of strike length.
It is envisaged a mining scoping study for this project will be completed during the third quarter.
When pressed by Resources Roadhouse whether he thought the defeat of former Republican President Donald Trump last November would impact Polar X’s activities, Dr Tabeart said it was unlikely in the short term given mining was such an important part of both Nevada’s and Alaska’s economic make up.
“Having said that, obviously the new administration has a broadly different philosophy about mining than the outgoing one, so longer term there may be some changes – particularly in areas that are federally controlled rather than state controlled,” he said.
“These will likely be very project- and very area-specific.
“Our projects in Nevada are on federal land and are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the BLF, but as I said – particularly in Nevada where gold and silver mining is such a massive part of the economy – I don’t think we are expecting to see any changes in the short to medium term.
“And in our case we are very fortunate in that Humboldt Range is very close to existing, fully permitted mines. So if we make a discovery there, we will always have the option of working with existing mines in some form of an operating joint venture so we wouldn’t have to permit something like a new processing plant or a new heap leach.
“I think in the longer term it’s the permitting of things like heap leaches that might get further scrutiny, but I can’t see that impacting us in the next 2-3 years.”
In Alaska, Dr Tabeart said, mining was not subjected to the same environmental concerns as the state’s energy sector given it did not potentially impact fragile ecosystems or face permafrost issues.
“There really shouldn’t be a perception that Alaska is anti-mining – it’s a very pro mining state,” he noted.
“In all of the recent polls that have been taken within industry, Alaska is probably second in the US after Nevada, and that puts it in the top 10 in the world.
“We’ve found everybody in Alaska to be really supportive – in the past the state has had such a reliance on royalties from oil and gas that it really did see the need to diversify its economy, because it’s obviously a risky strategy if you are only relying on one source of income.”
Although the development of one of the world’s giant copper-gold porphyries – Pebble, some 310km south west of Anchorage – was recently stopped after years of controversy, Dr Tabeart said this was not reflective of mining in the state as a whole.
“Pebble is a very specific project – the complexities there are multiple types of land ownership, with private land ownership, state owned and federal native corporation ownership,” he noted.
“The project had a very large footprint potentially, and also it was quite sensitive in terms of the large number of commercial fishing ventures involved, so there was quite a lot of opposition to that – and there had been for 10 to12 years.
“But while that was all been happening a lot of other big projects were permitted, so there has been significant progress over that time.”
In short, Dr Tabeart said, Alaska was “open for business”.
“Of course with every individual project there will be specific issues, but you have just got to manage it, and you have to manage it well from day one,” he added.
“So it certainly can be done.”