Evidence is mounting that the Yukon’s Selwyn Basin may be the next hunting ground for one of the world’s most productive gold deposit types.
Nevada’s Carlin Trend is home to high-grade, multi-million-ounce deposits—the elusive elephants of the gold mining industry. These are the giant gold deposits that put Nevada on the map as one of the top gold jurisdictions in the world.
Nevada’s prolific gold production is due in large part to the complex tectonic history of the North American Great Basin. The unique geological architecture and mineralogy of the region gave rise to some of the world’s most important gold mining districts and a new deposit classification in the 20th century: Carlin-type deposits.
These gold deposits are not just elephants, they’re kingmakers. A large Carlin-type deposit, with its high-grade, near-surface, easy to process ore, has the potential to turn a junior explorer into a major gold producer.
The vast majority of Nevada’s gold production originates from the Carlin Trend, estimated to be the second-largest gold resource in the world behind South Africa’s Witwatersrand. The region is named after the town of Carlin and the Carlin gold mine, which began operation in 1961 under Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM). Other major gold deposits along this trend include Newmont and Barrick Gold’s (TSX:ABX) Cortez Hills and Pipeline as well as Kinross Gold’s (TSX:K,NYSE:KGC) Round Mountain and Bald Mountain.
While the Carlin Trend has long been dominated by majors such as Newmont, Barrick and Kinross, there is a new exploration hotspot for Carlin-type deposits emerging elsewhere in North America.
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Carlin-type deposits discovered in Yukon’s Selwyn Basin
Outside of Nevada, encountering a Carlin-type deposit is rare. One of the few places they have been identified is in the Yukon Territory’s Selwyn Basin, an underexplored region of Canada ripe with new discovery opportunities.
In 2010, ATAC Resource (TSXV:ATC) made what is considered Canada’s first Carlin-type deposit discovery at its Rackla property along the Nadaleen Trend in the northern margin of the Yukon’s Selwyn Basin and along the same western margin of the North American Craton as the Carlin Trend. The Nadeleen Trend is a part of a wider gold and silver belt associated with the arc of the Tintina Fault that runs from northern British Columbia through the Yukon and up into Alaska. Tintina has given rise to a number of gold rushes including two in the Yukon.
What makes Yukon ideal for Carlin-type deposits?
Nevada’s Great Basin is one of the most geologically diverse regions on the planet. It’s this diversity that’s made the state a leading gold producer. What is it about the geology of Yukon’s Selwyn Basin that makes it an ideal setting for Carlin-type deposits? What geological elements do these two regions have in common?
First and foremost they share a tectonic history, according to a research report by the Society of Economic Geologists, as well as similar processes, mineralogy and geochemistry.
Much like Nevada, the Yukon is a part of an ancient continental margin tectonic setting. As in the Silver State, the environment in which Carlin-type deposits occur in the Yukon are characterized by prominent regional-scale thrust faults, regional-scale antiforms that present structural traps for gold mineralization as well as carbonate-bearing host rock sequences.
Carlin-type mineralization in both Nevada and Yukon occurs as finely disseminated gold associated with arsenian pyrite hosted in calcareous siltstones-sandstones to silty carbonates, with a gold to silver ratio of 1:1 or higher. Carlin-type gold mineralization can also be found in siliceous and siliciﬁed rocks as well as intrusive rocks. Silicification is a common feature in both Nevada’s and Yukon’s Carlin-type deposits.
Associated gold-skarn, quartz and barite mineralization is present in both regions as is the presence of pathfinder elements that correlate with Carlin-type gold mineralization, including arsenic, thallium, antimony and mercury.
Yukon’s emerging Carlin-type gold district
It was these pathfinder elements that helped ATAC’s exploration team locate the first Carlin-type deposit in Canada’s Yukon back in 2010 on what is now known as the Nadaleen Trend. The drilling of one big arsenic anomaly on the Rackla property led to an interval of 65 meters of 4.65 g/t rock and another 21-meter interval grading 8.03 g/t along a fault.
Today, the 1,700 square kilometer district-scale property hosts three separate gold projects: Rau, Orion and Osiris. Orion hosts a baker’s dozen of Carlin-type gold deposits known as the Anubis Cluster, located 10 kilometers west of the Osiris deposit—the 2010 Carlin-type discovery. ATAC has established an inferred mineral resource of 1,685,000 ounces of gold at 4.23 g/t at Osiris.
About 10 kilometers from ATAC’s Osiris deposit, another junior gold explorer has encountered what may also be Carlin-type mineralization. Scott Berdahl, professional geologist and Chief Operations Officer of Snowline Gold Corp (CSE:SGD), says his team views the company’s flagship Einarson gold project as a possible analogue for Nevada’s Carlin Trend.
“Since its recent discovery, the Einarson district has been held privately,” Berdahl told the Investing News Network. “This led to it going largely unnoticed through the last exploration cycle. Today, Snowline Gold has the resources at hand to shed new light on the district and introduce it to the world.”
The 61,000 hectare regional-scale land package hosts multiple kilometers-long geochemical anomalies in carbonate and siliciclastic stratigraphy prospective for Carlin-type deposits. Additional mineralization types at Einarson include structurally controlled quartz occurrences with grab samples grading up to 34.2 g/t gold.
Soil and stream sediment sampling, geological mapping and limited drilling conducted by previous operators revealed large gold and Carlin pathfinder elements (arsenic, antimony, mercury, thallium) anomalies up to 30 kilometers in length and multiple new gold occurrences.
Snowline’s 2021 exploration program at Einarson includes discovery-stage drilling to test multiple zones of high-grade gold found on surface. One of those targets is the Mars NE zone, a 3-kilometer zone of anomalous gold in soils accompanied by at least three interpreted source areas for mineralized quartz float. Based on regional stratigraphy, Snowline expects carbonate units favourable for Carlin-type mineralization to be present within several hundred meters of surface.
The exploration team is also assessing the structural and lithological controls on mineralization in the region through geological mapping, soil sampling and induced polarization geophysics.
In the southeast Selwyn Basin along the Tintina gold belt, Banyan Gold’s (TSXV:BYN) Hyland project in the Watson Lake mining district represents yet another possible Carlin-type mineralization discovery.
At Hyland’s Main Zone, Banyan has delineated an indicated mineral resource of 236,000 gold equivalent ounces grading 0.85 g/t gold equivalent with an inferred mineral resource of 288,000 gold equivalent ounces grading 0.83 g/t.
Banyan interprets Hyland as a distal intrusion-related, sediment-hosted, structurally controlled, gold mineralized target, analogous to SSR Mining’s (TSX:SSRM) producing Marigold mine in north-central Nevada.
For more than half a century, the Nevada desert has generated a lot of heat for multi-million-ounce Carlin-style gold deposits. While the world’s major gold producers have come to monopolize the Carlin Trend, there is growing potential for junior gold explorers to make new Carlin-type gold discoveries in the Yukon’s Selwyn Basin. Exploration projects in this region offer investors an early-stage opportunity to reap the rewards from such discoveries.
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