The 2,800-million-year-old Abitibi Greenstone Belt is one of the world’s largest Archean (one of four eons of geological history) greenstone belts – named for the green-colored minerals in the metamorphic rocks.
Trending in an east-west direction, the Abitibi extends for over 650 kilometers and is 150 km wide – running from west of Timmins, Ontario to Chibougamau, Quebec. As one of the most prolific gold-producing areas in the world, it has proven up more than 170 million ounces.
Among 40 gold deposits with more than 10Moz, five of them – Hollinger-McIntyre, Kirkland Lake, Dome, Kerr Addison and Horne Mines – are in the Abitibi, along with the past-producing Campbell-Red Lake Mines (Goldcorp) and Hemlo Mines, currently operated by Barrick Gold.
The two largest mining camps in the Abitibi are Timmins and Kirkland Lake. Between them they account for almost 100 million of those 170 million ounces of gold.
In the late 19th century prospectors found gold in what is now the city of Timmins. In the early 20th century three large gold mines were found in the Timmins camp – Dome, Hollinger, and MacIntyre.
The Timmins discoveries started a gold rush to explore nearby Kirkland Lake. Seven gold mines were found and these mines established Kirkland Lake as a major mining center.
A recent shake-up in the Abitibi saw Kirkland Lake Gold (TSX:KL) take over Detour Gold Corp. for CAD$4.9 billion. The all-share deal, announced in November 2019, gives Kirkland Lake control of the Detour Lake mine in northeastern Ontario, a 600,00-oz per year producer with around 20 more years of mine life.
Since that deal, a number of gold exploration companies have set up shop in the area east of the Detour Lake mine, looking to hit pay dirt in an emerging area play known as the Fenelon Gold Camp.
Fenelon is in the highly prospective Detour Gold Trend, situated within the Abitibi Greenstone Belt that runs through northern Quebec.
One of those companies, Great Thunder Gold (CSE:GTG), has been quietly buying up properties next to the first mover in the region, Wallbridge Mining (TSX:WM), which earlier this year merged with Balmoral Resources.
For Wallbridge, the main impetus behind the $110 million deal was to take a much larger land position in the Fenelon Gold Camp, from just 10.5 square kilometers, to 739 sq km. The acquisition has given the company significant upside to its flagship Fenelon Gold Project, which Wallbridge has been aggressively exploring since 2016, by adding Balmoral’s Detour-Fenelon Gold Trend Project. The 739 sq km trend, running east along a major structural break from the open-pit Detour Lake gold mine, hosts the company’s Fenelon deposit (Main Gabbro, Area 51 and Lower Tabasco-Cayenne) and six other assets – Detour East, Doigt, Martinière, Harri, Jérémie and Grasset.
Last year WM completed just over 100,000 meters of drilling and took a 33,000-tonne bulk sample; another 70-80,000m are planned for 2020, with exploration having resumed in mid-May. Its goal is to complete a maiden resource estimate, targeting +1Moz, by mid-2021.
Before we dive deeper into Great Thunder Gold, we need to bring in Eric Sprott, a large shareholder in four of the companies that have been making news in the Fenelon Gold Camp: Kirkland Lake Gold, Wallbridge Mining, Balmoral Resources and Great Thunder Gold.
The billionaire resource investor started buying KL when the share price was under $5 and it was an emerging producer. Five years later the gold miner was worth close to $50 a share; In 2015 Sprott was appointed board chairman, and by 2019 he held 10% of Kirkland Lake’s shares. He amassed over 20 million KL shares in 2017 at below $20/sh, and saw his stake grow to over $1 billion over the next three years.
He stepped down as chairman in 2019, and when his stake in Kirkland Gold reached about $1.3 billion, decided to sell, booking some handsome profits. Sprott has been deploying those funds into up and coming junior gold juniors that could become the next Kirkland Lake Gold.
As recalled by The Financial Post, in the spring of 2019 Sprott launched an investment blitz, the likes of which the junior mining precious metals sector had seldom seen, doling out somewhere between $200 and $300 million in a matter of just a few months to acquire large stakes in about two dozen companies…
His investments between May and July accounted for about one in every four dollars raised by junior miners, according to Vancouver-based market research firm Oreninc.
Clearly signaling his interest in the Fenelon Gold Camp, Sprott bought over 15% of Great Thunder, 19.1% of Wallbridge and 19.9% of Balmoral. It doesn’t take a mining guru to see why Sprott would see the potential of this emerging area play.
Now that Kirkland Lake Gold has a beachhead, the Detour Lake mine, why not buy Wallbridge and own everything in between? Own the Detour-Fenelon Gold Trend.
For KL to acquire Wallbridge, and potentially Great Thunder, makes sense in the bigger picture. Great Thunder is a good investment with a tight share structure of only 25.66 million shares outstanding. There is no warrant overhang and the company is fully funded. A substantial opportunity exists for share price appreciation, considering Great Thunder has a market cap of just over $11 million compared to Wallbridge’s $780 million, and has more than 148 square kilometres (11,000 hectares) of prospective land holdings in the prolific Fenelon gold district.
Look at the above map, consider how strategically placed Great Thunders properties – Northbound, the Northbound Extension and the Southern Star – are in relation to Fenelon, more on that below.
Upping the ante
Great Thunder Gold started building its position in the Fenelon Gold Camp in February of this year. The first move was to option the Northbound gold property, which is contiguous to Wallbridge’s Fenelon Gold Project. Under the terms of the agreement, by completing a series of payments in cash and shares, and exploration milestones, GTG can earn a 100% interest in 21 claims totaling 1,162 hectares.
The jewel in Northbound’s crown is the Jeremie Pluton, an underlying intrusive becoming increasingly important at Wallbridge’s contiguous Fenelon property. Wallbridge exploration in 2019 tested strike extensions of known mineralization from the metasediments and metavolcanics and gabbro into the Jeremie Pluton. Drilling to date has confirmed the extensions of gold-bearing mineralized zones well into the pluton, and the zones appear to be open.
On March 3 Great Thunder more than doubled its land holdings through the purchase of the Northbound Extension. The 1,582-ha property shares a 2.75-kilometer border with the recently optioned Northbound asset.
The Jeremie Pluton intrusive also lies under the Northbound Extension, and the eastern margin of it is beneath Wallbridge’s flagship Fenelon Gold Project.
In April Great Thunder moved on the South Star property, located 6.5 km south of Wallbridge’s Fenelon/Tabasco deposit. Signing a letter of intent (LOI) to acquire South Star meant a near quadrupling of GTG’s land position to 148 sq km or 11,000 hectares.
The Jeremie Pluton contact is among the most promising areas for discovery potential. Last year, Wallbridge drill-tested the 4-kilometre strike length of the contact, which trends northwest onto Great Thunder’s Northbound property.
Stepping out 800m from the known western extent of the Fenelon Gold System, Drill Hole FA-19-089 successfully extended the target far into the northern part of the property, with 83.18 grams per tonne gold over half a meter.
A second hole 500m northwest of the gold system’s western border resulted in 5.05 g/t over 1.96m.
But Great Thunder, and we at AOTH, are thinking beyond the Jeremie Pluton, to what could be the start of a new gold district containing millions of brand-new ounces.
Not surprisingly, Great Thunder Gold has started its 2020 exploration program at properties close to where Wallbridge and Balmoral found success at the drill-bit.
In early June the company announced Northbound and Northbound Extension – both are adjacent and on-trend with Wallbridge’s Fenelon deposit and Balmoral’s new Reaper discovery – would be the focus.
“We will start with geophysics so we can get a better understanding of the magnetic/geological strike and features of our two properties,” said Great Thunder’s lead geologist, Donald Théberge, in a news release.
“We can then compare these features with the surrounding developments, like the Fenelon Deposit, Tabasco Deposit, Area 51 discovery and the Reaper discovery. The Jeremie Pluton is a multiphase mainly granodioritic pluton. The Area 51 discovery by Balmoral (now Wallbridge) shows that gold mineralized zones extend in the Jeremie Pluton, showing its potential. The area covered by Northbound and Northbound Extension properties are entirely located in the pluton and they have not been explored in the past. With all the data evaluated and analyzed we will plan to have our geological team on the ground shortly.”
The 853 line-km airborne survey is designed to map the dominant magnetic/ geological strike at 50-metre spacings. Of the total 853 line-km, 329 will cover the Northbound property and 524 will be flown over Northbound Extension.
According to Great Thunder CEO Blair Noughty, once the data is assessed, the next steps will be ground-truthing (checking the accuracy of remotely sensed data) and lining up targets for a fall drill program.
“We’re going to keep acquiring land and become a major player in the area,” he told AOTH in a phone interview this week.
Great Thunder Gold has all the right stuff in a well-funded junior, backed by a billionaire, with three properties in an emerging area play in the Abitibi Greenstone Belt, one of the most famous gold-producing areas in the world.
The company’s Northbound property is directly connected to Wallbridge’s Fenelon Gold Project, and shares a 2.75-kilometer border with the Northbound Extension. All three properties have the Jeremie Pluton in common.
Wallbridge has been drilling further to the northwest and has stated on many occasions they feel the mineralized trend is heading in the same direction; the theory is the source of the gold is the Jeremie Pluton.
Wallbridge drilled a total of 101,484 metres in 369 surface and underground holes to the end of 2019. The company has significantly expanded the footprint of the Fenelon gold system to 2 kilometres of strike length, 600 metres of corridor width along the Jeremie Pluton and 850 meters depth confirmed.
Kirkland Lake Gold entered the area with its purchase of the Detour Lake gold mine on trend and to the west of the Fenelon deposit.
This is a hot gold camp that is seeing considerable interest and likely to witness further consolidation in the near future.
With Great Thunder Gold planning its 2020 exploration program adjacent to the Fenelon deposit, this could be a very exciting stock to own.
I actually don’t see Great Thunder Gold being around for long or them spending a lot of money on drilling; they won’t have to, to attract the attention of a possible Kirkland Lake Gold coming into the camp and performing a take-over.
Great Thunder Gold
Shares Outstanding 26,106,660m
Market cap Cdn$15.14m
Richard (Rick) Mills
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