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Sault gets in on base metals boom with copper, gold.

One of Sault Ste. Marie's single-largest mineral exploration programs in more than 30 years is set to begin north of the city this spring.

That's when Nikos Explorations Ltd. expects to begin drilling on their CopperCorp property just east of Batchawana Bay. CopperCorp is one of three copper-gold properties held by the Toron-to-based junior explorer.

Some favourable geology and good mining infrastructure have Nikos president Roger Moss excited about finding a large mineable ore body in the Sault district.

"There hasn't been a systematic regional exploration program since the heydays of the 1960s and 1970s," he says.

With exploration still in the grassroots stage, the company will be drilling to identify some targets in early April, with the first rig working in the vicinity of a former working CopperCorp Mine.

Nikos raised $800,000 last year for their upcoming exploration program at Coppercorp and two other properties, Island Copper and Bellevue, both situated just west of Island Lake in Aweres Township, 20 kilometres north of the Sault.

CopperCorp, the company's most active property, was once a producing mine yielding 1.2 million tonnes of copper between 1965 and 1972, with an average grade of 1.2 per cent (considered of moderate value).

Moss, who subscribes to the theory of finding new mines next to old shafts, says "it's an excellent place to start. If they hadn't taken the headframe down, we would be drilling in the shadow."

It will be the first drilling in the mine's vicinity in more than 30 years.

Nikos is looking for an intermediate size and grade deposit in the range of 20 million tonnes, with a grade of two per cent copper.

Moss is encouraged so far by the consistency of the mineralization. An analysis of 22 surface samples indicated values of more than one per cent copper over a 4 km section of the property.

"We've had some values as high as 10 per cent copper, with others as high as 10 grams gold and 120 grams silver."

Very little exploration work has been done in the area since the 1972 mine closure, partly because of declining copper prices and legal issues. The area was also closed off to staking for years by the province as it went after the former mine owners for rehabilitation costs.

Metals under the bridge

But that's all changed with the worldwide commodities boom. At $1.52 per pound, copper prices are on a 16-year high and have more than doubled in the past two years due to demand from China, the United States and Japan.

At CopperCorp, the company is completing their geophysical survey. They will drill in early April to test some anomalies.

If successful, they will continue with magnetic surveying work, followed by more drilling, to pin down what's happening along the length of the old mine. They hope to find ore missed because of the closure.

At their Island Copper property, the company began a program of channel sampling last fall and were successful in identifying good copper-gold mineralization in three areas.

This year, Moss says, they will "connect the dots" to find more mineralization in between by testing for continuity of mineralization in areas they have uncovered. That will be done with a combination of drilling and prospecting.

To the immediate east of Island on their Bellevue property, they have followed a large magnetic anomaly suggesting the potential for a mafic intrusion below surface, very similar to the nickel-copper deposits in Sudbury.

Nikos is a spinoff company of Amerigo Resources where Moss was CEO and vice-president of exploration. When Amerigo decided to focus on processing mine tailings in Chile, Nikos was created as a shell company to band their Northern Ontario exploration properties together.

The company settled on the Sault area while searching Ontario for a specific kind of deposit called iron oxide copper gold. The best-known example of such a find is the Olympic Dam deposit in Australia, the world's sixth-largest known copper deposit.

Incredible infrastructure

Moss says the major crustal faults and continental rifts at Island Copper bear striking similarities in geological composition to Olympic Dam.

"The east coast of Lake Superior does fit that," as an area right on the eastern margin of a Mid Continent rift system. "That's important since major ore deposits are found around major rift systems."

Moss calls the area's infrastructure "incredible" with their properties' close proximity to power and water sources, the Trans-Canada Highway, a deep-water port in the Sault, easy access to the U.S. border and a plethora of mining expertise in Wawa and Sudbury. Their Island Copper project practically overlooks a CN Rail line.

"If we were going to find a mine, I think this would be pretty hard to beat."

Despite the area's geology being more than 2.2 to 2.4 billion years old, it has not been extensively explored.

Ontario Resident geologist Mike Hailstone says exploration in the Sault district goes in spurts. In 2002, the area was extensively staked for diamonds, particularly around Ranger Lake northeast of the city.

In 2004, 693 claim units were staked, with 550 in the Elliot Lake area. Five companies and individuals spent about $1.3 million in exploration in 2004, most of it on diamond and copper exploration.

"The nature of diamond exploration these days is they tend to hang on to the information they have rather than file it for assessment," says Hailstone.

Companies are only required to file information if they wish to retain the claim. Rather than publicly share their results, they let the claims come open after two years and then re-stake the property.

Another company, True Ventures, operates a gold project in Mowen Township, stripping and tunnelling on a property south of the Montreal River.

The Resident Geologist Office has been attempting to promote the area for its gold potential. They say the Batchawana-Greenstone belt north of the city is comparable to the Michipicoten-Greenstone belt in Wawa, an area thriving with gold and diamond exploration.


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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: SAULT STE. MARIE; Nikos Explorations Ltd.
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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