How much disruption has the coronavirus caused to the mining industry in Nevada?
It depends who you ask, of course, but Newrange Gold Corp (CVE:NRG) is certainly demonstrating that it’s been possible to keep going with meaningful work on the ground.
“The area we’re working in in Mineral County is fairly sparsely populated,” says chief executive Bob Archer.
“At the start of the crisis we had a small team out doing underground sampling. They live locally, in nearby Hawthorne, so they were able to keep the work on track.”
Then, late in May, when the world at least seemed to have got the measure of the virus, if not exactly dealt with it, the company initiated a drill programme, which is still ongoing, with the crew living in a hotel and getting takeaway from restaurants.
The aim is to see whether all the old, but disparate workings on Newrange’s Pamlico project are actually joined up in some way.
“We have a series of little high-grade mines on these hills and we don’t know how they’re connected,” says Archer.
“Ultimately they may or may not have been connected, but clearly they’re related, and we want to better to understand the trends that underly the mineralization – whether they’re following Walker Lane or Pancake Range or if it’s something in the intersection of the two.”
In any jurisdiction other than Nevada, the discovery of Walker Lane would have been the standout exploration event in its history, given how well endowed with mineralization and indeed mines it is.
But this is Nevada, where the Carlin Trend bends to the east and north of Walker Lane, and Carlin in all truth can make a claim to being the most famous gold-bearing trend in the world.
So, to some degree at least, Walker Lane has been overshadowed. But, nevertheless, it hosts several richly endowed and producing mines, including Comstock, Goldfield, Tonopah and Round Mountain, as well as, of course, myriad historical workings dotted all around the area.
To date, indeed Walker Lane has accounted for nearly 54mln ounces in gold production and 519mln ounces of silver. So it’s a pretty good address for any gold exploration company with aspirations for making big discoveries, and Newrange is confident that there’s plenty of potential on its own ground at Pamlico.
That the mineralization could be controlled by the intersection of the northwest-southeast Walker Lane Trend by the east-west trending Pancake Range Lineament opens up all sorts of possibilities, which the drilling is now investigating.
“The primary goal is to get a better understanding of the controls and the continuity of the mineralization,” says Archer.
So, were the mines that the old timers were able to dig out part of the wider Walker Lane structure, part of a structure related to Pancake Range, or of a complex intermingling of the two? Without the modern exploration techniques that Newrange is able to deploy, all they could see in those days was a set of separate shallow occurrences of rich mineralization.
“What we’re seeing is that there does seem to be a north-south trend to the workings and so perhaps the mineralization,” says Archer.
“That’s a different orientation to Walker Lane and Pancake Range and so it could reflect the intersection of the two.”
Separately, but not unrelatedly, the company has also been working with induced polarization data, which shows a large anomaly at a depth of around 300 metres and several of what Archer calls “fingers” running up off it. One of these fingers runs right up to where Newrange drilled a high-grade intercept at the end of an adit in 2017. Another goes up to an old mine called Gold Bar.
Given all this disparate but apparently connected information, the plan is to drill up to 10,000 metres across the area, and start to try to piece the whole thing together.
“If we start to see that the IP is truly reflecting gold mineralization associated with pyrite, I’ll start to get excited,” says Archer.
And his excitement will run two ways: firstly, because the company will be beginning to have a clear understanding of the geological mechanisms at work at Pamlico; and secondly, because the IP anomaly itself is quite big, so there could be a significant amount of untapped gold available to Newrange when it starts to think about putting a resource together.
That’s some way off yet.
“We’re about halfway through the first phase of about 3,000-3,500 metres,” says Archer. “We should finish that by the end of August, but we could continue right through the end of the year.”
The company certainly has the financial capacity, having monetized assets in Colombia recently, with some payments still to come. And there’s Archer’s own track record in raising funds. He’s shown in the past, with companies such as Great Panther (TSE:GPR), that he can be opportunistic when it comes to raising money in a market that’s interested.
And the market certainly is interested – Newrange’s share price has doubled since the start of the year, against the backdrop of a rising gold price.
The only cloud on the company’s horizon is that access to its Ontario properties has been difficult, but with so much potential and interest in Pamlico, and with activity on the ground in Nevada continuing apace, it looks like, against the odds, 2020 could end up being transformative.