Copper deposit north of La Ronge will get further drilling

·2 min read

A mining giant has expanded its multi-million dollar search for copper in northern Saskatchewan.

Rio Tinto Exploration Canada Inc., one of the world’s largest miners, is set to start winter drilling in January near the Janice Lake copper deposit north of La Ronge. The move will build on previous exploration of the region, while also includes nearby Rafuse — a new target that mapping found this summer.

Rafuse will go straight to drilling this winter, said Rick Mazur, CEO of site owner and junior miner Forum Energy Metals Corp. He added the new target was “quite prospective,” with copper mineralization stretching over three kilometres.

If it’s successful, he said it might mean a “real shot at the discovery of an economic mineral deposit and the potential development of (a) mine,” translating into jobs for local residents.

Mazur said drill results from exploration in the summer are pending, but mapping found a second prospective area about 18 kilometres southwest of the area’s Jansem target.

Recently elected La Ronge Mayor Colin Ratushniak said he was unaware of the project, but he welcomes potential economic development in the north.

The winter activity will come roughly four years after Forum acquired the property in 2017. Last year, Rio Tinto signed a deal with the junior miner that allowed it to spend up to $30 million over seven years to take an 80 per cent stake on the property.

Rio Tinto, which was unavailable for comment by press time, hasn’t limited its projects in Saskatchewan to Janice Lake.

In August, it inked a deal with ALX Resources Corp. for a nickel project about 20 kilometres northwest of Stony Rapids. The deal allows Rio Tinto to acquire an 80 per cent stake on it by spending $12 million over six years and by making cash payments to ALX totalling $125,000.

In 2017, the company signed a similar agreement with Shore Gold Inc., now called Star Diamond Corp., over a possible diamond project in the Forte à la Corne forest east of Prince Albert.

Under the agreement — which is now the subject of a lawsuit — Rio Tinto could spend $75 million to acquire 60 per cent of what would be the province’s first operational diamond mine.

As one of the mining giant’s few partners in the province, Mazur said he is optimistic that the long-term prospects for the Janice Lake project will benefit from a slow transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles.

“All of those new things for the green economy, if you want to call it that, (are) going to have a lot of demand for copper,” he said, noting its price recently crept up to roughly $3.15.

He expected the first results to arrive from winter drilling in mid-February

Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix