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Winter 2020

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Dominion Workers Return to Ekati Mine

After months of uncertainty, 60 of 400 employees at Dominion Diamond Corporation’s Ekati mine will return to their positions to “prepare for an anticipated restart” in early December 2020. This announcement, made November 13, is good news for workers who have been on a leave of absence for nine months.

In March 2020, Dominion suspended their operations at the Ekati Diamond Mine, located in the Lac de Gras region in the Northwest Territories (NWT) – approximately 300 km from Yellowknife – to protect workers from contracting and transmitting COVID-19 to remote communities around NWT, while preventative measures like social distancing, self-monitoring, and testing were undertaken at the company’s other operations.

As the diamond industry was already in a slump, COVID-19 has proved to be fatal for many diamond mines around the world. By late April, Dominion had filed for creditor protection. The biggest culprit for their financial hardship was the failure of the diamond production line under new pandemic restrictions. According to a CBC report, The Downfall of Dominion Diamond, as COVID-19 closed the polishing and wholesale facilities in India and Belgium essential to the diamond production process, the company went from grossing US$151.3 million in 2019 to being unable to pay two debts totaling US$33 million before May 2020.

CBC later reported that the company was unable to sell roughly US$180 million in diamonds due to the pandemic.

With production halted at Ekati, Dominion announced in a May press release that they had signed a letter of intent for The Washington Companies (Washington) to acquire Dominion’s assets, which equal approximately US$126 million in cash, and the assumption of substantially all of Dominion’s operating liabilities. In return, Washington would give Dominion short-term debtor-in-possession financing. However, the deal fell through in early October.

According to Cabin Radio, a government-funded news outlet in NWT, Dominion will remain in creditor protection until at least December 15, which will allow the company to pause some of its debt repayments and other financial obligations while it restructures and finds new financial backing.

In the November news release, Dominion said it expects to be able to reach a binding agreement in the near future to restructure Dominion’s debt and fund the Company. Dominion also stressed that it would meet the lead time required to mobilize its workforce while meeting COVID-19 isolation protocols.

As the mine reopening approaches, COVID-19 continues to spread, with cases being identified at mine sites in the North.

Dominion Diamond Mines was formed in 1994. The Company operates the Ekati Diamond Mine (in which it owns a controlling interest), and also owns 40% of the Diavik Diamond Mine. It supplies rough diamonds to the global market through its sorting and selling operations in Canada, Belgium, and India and is Canada’s largest independent diamond producer.

Mineral Tenure Holders Receive COVID-19 Relief in Nunavut

In an effort to protect the Nunavut mining industry, the Government of Canada announced relief measures to keep mineral tenure holders afloat. The Government of Canada amended the Nunavut Mining Regulations, allowing companies to waive the payment of annual rent on mineral leases due in the one-year period from March 13, 2020 to March 12, 2021. The payment would be waived for one year upon request in writing to the Department.

This Order only applies to mineral leases on Crown lands in Nunavut under the Nunavut Mining Regulations. The Governments of Yukon and the Northwest Territories (NWT) oversee the management of mineral tenure across their regions separately.

“Clearly, the impacts of COVID-19 have created extraordinary circumstances throughout Canada and across the globe,” said the Honourable Daniel Vandal, PC, MP, Minister of Northern Affairs. “In Nunavut, COVID-19 has created a negative economic environment for the mining industry making it difficult for holders of mineral leases to meet certain time limits established by the Nunavut Mining Regulations.”

The NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines expressed their appreciation in a corresponding press release.

“Mineral exploration is competitive, and Canada’s actions announced today in relation to mineral leases are in line with earlier relief provided by CIRNAC for mineral claims and prospecting permits in Nunavut, as well as with relief being provided by other jurisdictions in Canada,” said Ken Armstrong, President of the Chamber of Mines. “We would like to thank the Minister and his staff for advancing this and we look forward to continuing our work with Canada to create a strong recovery from the pandemic.”

According the press release, there are fewer companies exploring in Nunavut today than in previous years. In February, Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) projected mineral exploration would decline further in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and the appropriate actions taken to protect the territory of Nunavut have further affected exploration investment.

Nighthawk Expands High-Grade Zone 3.5 at Colomac

On September 29, Nighthawk Gold Corp. (TSX: NHK) reported results for four drillholes (1,896 metres) completed on Zone 3.5 of the Colomac Main Sill, part of the Colomac Gold Project centrally located within its Indin Lake Gold Property in NWT. According to a company news release, these are the first holes to be reported since the company resumed drilling after a three-month suspension of activities due to COVID-19.

Zone 3.5 is one of several areas known to host distinct higher-grade mineralization. The drilling confirmed and expanded on historical drill results, alluding to the possible existence of a higher-grade domain. The company also stated that drilling has continued to advance this opportunity by infilling areas of high-grade shallow mineralization, expanding them, and tracking those areas to new depths.

In addition, active drilling in the “Exploration Target,” a high-profile region of the Colomac main sill, could potentially be added to the current resource at grades between 1.8 gpt Au and 2.0 gpt Au. The company anticipated that by the end of 2020, the current drill campaign of 20,000 metres of the required total will be completed.

“Drilling at Zone 3.5 continues to demonstrate the zone’s strong continuity of mineralization and overall cohesiveness of its higher-grade portions.” Dr. Michael Byron, President and CEO of Nighthawk said, “Two of the four holes reported today from Zone 3.5 were drilled to address gaps in drill coverage, test the zone’s down plunge northern extension, and to explore new areas to depth and south of previous drilling. Both holes returned significant intercepts within new regions and have successfully extended mineralization to new depths, a strong indication of its untapped exploration potential to depth and along strike.”

De Beers Group Donates Laptop Computers to Indigenous Community Schools

De Beers Group has donated 117 new laptop computers to schools in seven Indigenous communities to improve student access to online courses across NWT, and 10 surplus computers to increase public access to the internet at the Yellowknife Public Library.

According to a company news release, the donation is part of De Beers’ $176,000 community response to assist NWT communities dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new 14” HP laptops, equipped with Windows 10 operating systems, are going to Mezi Community School (Whatì), Jean Wetrade School (Gamètì), Alex Arrowmaker School (Wekweètì), Chief Jimmy Bruneau School (Behchok), Łutselk’e Dene School (Łutselk’e), Deninu School (Fort Resolution), and Chief Sunrise Education Centre (K’atłodeeche First Nation Reserve, Hay River).

Lyndon Clark, General Manager of De Beers’ Gahcho Kué Mine, said: “Education is one of our key focus areas at De Beers Group and we are pleased to be able to meet an immediate and practical need as students are preparing to go back to school. Education is important and we want to ensure that students have the tools they need for online courses.”

The 10 surplus laptops donated to the Yellowknife Public Library will enable individuals who do not have access to personal computers or the internet to communicate with loved ones. The library is often a refuge for homeless and marginalized people looking for warmth and safety.

As part of their $176,000 community response, De Beers has donated to the Yellowknife Women’s Centre and the NWT YWCA programs dealing with gender-based violence; food security programs in NWT Indigenous communities; a Yellowknife homeless shelter; provided PPE for a Yellowknife long-term care facility and Indigenous communities; and procured cleaning supplies for the Salvation Army in Yellowknife.

Gahcho Kué Mine is 280 km northeast of Yellowknife. The mine is a joint venture between De Beers Group (51% – the operator) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%).

Gold Terra Enters Exploration Agreement on Former Con Mine

Gold Terra Resource Corp. has entered into an exploration agreement with Newmont Ventures Limited and Miramar Northern Mining Ltd. (jointly known as ‘Newmont’) regarding the former Con Mine.

According to the news release, the agreement contains two earn-in phases. In phase one, Gold Terra can earn a 30% interest by spending a minimum of CDN$3 million in exploration expenditures on the property over a period of three years. Gold Terra will manage, fund, and operate the program. After that earn-in, the parties will become a joint venture.

In phase two, Gold Terra can earn an additional 30% interest (for a cumulative 60%) by solely funding all expenditures and completing a prefeasibility study outlining a mineral resource that contains at least 750,000 ounces of gold on the Newmont Exploration Property. This total would combine with 1.5 million ounces of gold on both the Newmont Exploration Property and on mineral claims from land already owned by Gold Terra in the immediate area. Phase two must be completed in four years.

If Gold Terra completes phase two, Newmont has a one-time, back-in right to earn back a 20% interest, resulting in Newmont holding a 60% interest and Gold Terra holding a 40% interest instead of the opposite holdings. The back-in right is triggered if a discovery of at least five million ounces of gold is made within the Newmont exploration property and would result in cash reimbursement to Gold Terra.

“We are very pleased today to announce the beginning of an excellent relationship with Newmont. The achievement of this agreement reflects the shared vision of two companies with the same goal, ‘find more gold,’” Gerald Panneton, Executive Chairman of Gold Terra, stated. “Our agreement allows Gold Terra to better explore the southern extension of the prolific Con Mine, where approximately 5.1 million ounces of gold was produced from the Campbell Shear between 1946 and 2005 at a grade of 15 g/t, and over widths of up to 100 metres. With this transaction, Gold Terra secures the immediate southern extension of the Campbell Shear mineralization, which is immediately north of our 100% owned South Belt property.”

Gold Terra intends to initiate their drilling program by the end of 2020.

De Beers Awards 14 STEM Scholarships to Canadian Women

Diamond producer De Beers Group has awarded approximately US$49,000 to 14 Canadian women enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – otherwise known as STEM – in the 2020–2021 postsecondary school year across Canada. This year, 11 recipients are from the Northwest Territories, one is from Nunavut, and two are from northern Ontario.

According to a press release, the scholarships are part of De Beers Group’s partnership with UN Women and the company’s commitment to stand with women and girls in its host countries.

“As a global leader for inclusion and diversity, it is critical that De Beers Group supports women who want to enter fields that have been traditionally dominated by men,” said Mpumi Zikalala, Managing Director of De Beers Group Managed Operations, which oversees De Beers’ operations in Canada. “We are especially proud that all of these scholarships are supporting women from
our host communities.”

More than 200 women applied for the scholarship, according to award administrator Scholarships Canada. The women are in fields of study ranging from neuroscience, to Bachelor of Science programs, to engineering.

The scholarship launched in 2018 and has honoured 45 students from coast to coast. The press release states that, as a Global HeForShe Champion for UN Women, De Beers has provided US$3 million to support a variety of programs for women and girls in its producer countries, including US$600,000 to support education for women and girls in Canada.

Silver Range Discovers Diamonds and Gold in Tree River Conglomerate

Silver Range Resources Ltd. (TSX-V:SNG) has released an update on the exploration work conducted at its Tree River Property in the Kitikmeot Region, Nunavut, that also details research results from the Tree River Conglomerate (TRC).

In 2018, Doctor Graham Pearson of the University of Alberta and Doctor Jesse Reimink of Pennsylvania University conducted follow-up work to an unverified 1997 discovery of diamonds from the TRC. The subsequent meeting abstract published in October 2020 by the American Geophysical Union reported that the collected samples contained abundant pyrite and were anomalous to high-grade gold. The samples were collected on IOL parcel CO-69 about 300 metres from the boundary with the Tree River Property.

In April 2020, Silver Range collected two panel samples of the TRC from the main zone and the west zone, on its 100% owned Tree River property. According to a news release, samples were extracted with an electric rock breaker and weighed 49.5 and 55.5 kg respectively. Both samples were sent to the Saskatchewan Research Council. At the same time, Silver Range collected a sample from the lower section of the TRC, located mid-way between the main and west zones, for zircon analysis. The results from both areas indicated gold and diamond potential.

The company has now submitted an Expression of Interest to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. to obtain the mineral rights to explore IOL Parcel CO-69. The plan to start a program to test the gold and diamond potential is in development.

Silver Range is a precious metals prospect generator working in Nevada and Northern Canada, with projects in both Nunavut and NWT.

The Tree River Conglomerate is an Archean metasedimentary rock unit in the Anialik Greenstone Belt within the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. The known exposures of the TRC are on permits staked as Silver Range’s Tree River Property and on adjacent Inuit Owned Lands Parcel CO-69.