Sunday, October 23, 2011

NANA, NovaGold sign joint-venture deal to explore for minerals

Tim Bradner
Alaska Journal of Commerce

A long-anticipated agreement on minerals exploration in Northwest Alaska has been signed.

NovaGold Resources Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, and NANA Regional Corp., the Kotzebue-based Alaska Native regional corporation, have agreed jointly explore and develop base metals discoveries on lands held by NANA at Bornite, on the upper Kobuk River east of Kotzebue, and by NovaGold in the Ambler Mining District, which is further east but nearby.

NANA’s board gave approval to the joint-venture agreement earlier this year but the deal was not finalized until late Wednesday, Lance Miller, NANA’s vice president for natural resources, told the Resource Development Council Thursday.

NovaGold’s holdings are on state lands while NANA’s lands are its own, selected under the 1971 Native claims settlement act, and patented mining claims that were purchased.

The NovaGold land holdings include the Arctic deposit, a high value copper discovery made originally by Kennecott Minerals and sold to NovaGold. On its lands, NANA owns the Bornite copper deposit, also a discovery made by Kennecott and subsequently sold to NANA.

The two known deposits are about 20 miles apart. Both NovaGold and NANA had active exploration programs in 2011.

Separately, the state of Alaska is doing preliminary feasibility work on an approximate 200-mile road to the Ambler Mining District from the Dalton Highway, an existing road from Interior Alaska to the North Slope. The road is intended to facilitate mineral exploration and mine development in the region.

In addition to work on the Arctic and Bornite discoveries, other mining companies are exploring two other base metals discoveries in the region, the Sun deposit owned by Andover Ventures Inc. and Smucker, a deposit owned by Teck Alaska. Sun is in the eastern part of the Ambler Mining District, while Smucker is in the west.

NANA is also engaged with Teck Alaska at the Red Dog Mine, a large lead/zinc mine in the DeLong Mountains in the western Brooks Range. Red Dog now produces about 1 million tons a year of lead-zinc concentrates. NANA is the land and royalty owner.

“The agreement consolidates NovaGold’s and NANA’s land holdings into an approximate 180,000-hectacre (446,000-acre) land package and provides a framework for the exploration and development of this high-grade and prospective poly-metallic belt,” NovaGold said in a press release Tuesday.

The Arctic deposit holds indicated mineral resources of 17 million tonnes grading 4.1 percent copper and 6 percent zinc plus gold, silver and lead. Expressed in terms of copper-equivalent, a way of representing the value of the combined metals, the deposit is 8.3 percent copper-equivalent. “The Arctic deposit is regarded to be one of the highest grade undeveloped volcanogenix massive sulfide deposits in the world,” NovaGold said in its press release.

The Bornite deposit is estimated at about 50 million tons of ore with copper grades of 1.2 percent to 4 percent.

This article appears in the AJOC October 23 2011 issue of Alaska Journal of Commerce

Republished with the permission of the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

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