Does Nova Minerals have Alaska’s next great gold camp on its hands?
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Special Report: Nova Minerals’ quest to prove that its Estelle Gold Project can match other Alaskan giants such as Donlin Creek and Fort Knox for size and quality is back to moving ahead at full speed.
Precautions associated with minimising the threat of COVID-19 had resulted in drilling contractor Ruen Drilling temporarily halting resource development and exploration activity at Estelle.
But on Tuesday Nova (ASX: NVA, OTC: NVAAF) announced that Ruen was remobilising and diamond drilling would commence again in the “very near term”.
The campaign aims to add substantially to Estelle’s existing 2.5 million-ounce resource size and to upgrade as much of the resource as possible from the current inferred category to the higher confidence measured and indicated categories.
Nova has good reason to believe it can lift the resource to something comparable to Donlin Creek, the 39 million-ounce operation owned by Novagold and Barrick Gold that lies about 200km to the north-west.
The Korbel deposit that accounts for the current resource is just one of 15 similar targets the company has identified to date on the Estelle property, while the average depth of drilling that has gone into establishing the resource is just 100m.
Geophysical work done by Nova has determined that mineralisation at Korbel extends to at least 300m and the current drilling campaign is testing the extent of the mineralisation to a depth of 500m.
“We have never been more excited in relation to the project and the scope we see to significantly increase the resource and confidence level,” Nova chairman Avi Kimelman said.
“Like I have said in the past, not many opportunities come around to drill a system this large, with an established resource of 2.5 million ounces on a small area and open significantly in all directions.
“And Korbel is only one of 15 known targets, with additional targets expected to be defined as regional exploration progresses on the Estelle claims.”
Donlin Creek might be an apt comparison in terms of the potential size of Estelle, but as far as geology goes, the company believes Kinross Gold’s Fort Knox operation to the north-east is a better analogue.
Like Fort Knox, which poured its eight millionth ounce of gold last year, Korbel is an intrusive-related gold system that supports a significant heap leach operation.
Early metallurgical testwork conducted on Korbel ore showed gold leach recoveries averaging 76%, suggesting that recoveries could exceed what Kinross has been achieving at Fort Knox.
Nova anticipates delivering a resource upgrade for Korbel Blocks A and B based on current drilling in July.
The company is targeting 2021 for the commencement of a feasibility study on the higher grade starter pit at Block B feeding a heap leach operation or a combination of a heap leach and a Carbon-in-Leach (CIL) or Carbon-in-Pulp (CIP) plant for the higher grade pods within Block B.