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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gold Occurrences in Nunavut

Nunavut is shown in red.

Eastern Nunavut is dominated by the mountains of the Arctic Cordillera a range of volcanic mountains that extends southwards from Ellsmere Island to the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador and Quebec.  At 8,583 feet (2.616 meters) Barbeau Peak is considered to be the highest point on the east coast of North America.  Many of these mountains are of volcanic origin, and some of them still display cones.  It is the inhospitable nature of the Canadian Archipelago combined with the volcanic nature of these mountains that we must assume there is plenty of gold that hasn’t been discovered yet.

In essence the Arctic Cordillera are reworked rocks of the Canadian Shield and in many respects are similar to the Appalachians although the orogeny that formed them is much younger.  The area is fairly heavily intruded with volcanics that are associated with the orogeny.  To the west of these mountains Nunavut is composed of older rocks belonging to the Canadian Shield.  There are a series of greenstone belts that are found throughout the Canadian Shield including those found in Nunavut.  It is in these rocks that much of the gold in Canada has been found.

The Meadowbank Gold Mine under construction.
Photo by Agrico-Eagle Mining

Nunavut’s first gold mine opened in 2010 operated by Agnico-Eagle it is the first gold mine in the Territory and the first gold mine to become operational here.  The mine is called the Meadowlake Mine that opened in June 2010.  Exploration for other mines is proceeding.  There have been plenty of problems this mine has faced ranging from difficulty in off-loading freighters, leaky dikes, getting permits and delays in completing an airport capable of handling jets.  With these problems it has been estimated that production at this mine is apt to be more then CN$350 per ounce.

At one time in 1999 there were two operational mines in Nunavut both of these mines produced lead-zinc.  One of these mines had the title of being the most northerly mine in the world.  This was the Polaris Mine on Little Churchill Island.  The Nanisivik near the village of the same name produced silver along with the production of lead-zinc.  Both mines are now closed.

There is an active exploration industry and several other mines are in the process of being opened.  Prospecting in Nunavut is expensive but there are grants made available from the territory of $8,000 if you are a serious prospector. The territory also conducts classes for the local population in a program that travels from community to another conducting night and field classes for the people living there. These classes have been conducted for several years, and it was a local prospector who took the classes that found a deposit of gemstones in 2001 that he sold to a mining company.
Mt Aasgard in Nunavut is one example of the terrain you will encounter.  It is located on Baffin Island

Unlike other parts of Canada, Nunavut has not been well mapped so there is plenty of opportunity for prospectors to find valuable mineral deposits. One of the things that you have to be careful of is that it takes about 100 prospects before you can develop a single mine. 

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