North

'Reactivated' Three Aces project seeks gold near Watson Lake

A small exploration project called Three Aces is again busy outside Watson Lake. The company's CEO believes the 'reactivation' is a sign of Yukon's gold market on the rebound.

Yukon Chamber of Mines claims noticeable turnaround in Yukon gold industry

About 20 workers are on site at the Three Aces project near Watson Lake. The Yukon Chamber of Mines says 'there are indications are that money is starting to move back into the markets' when it comes to Yukon gold. (Golden Predator)

An exploration site outside Watson Lake is again busy after years of being quiet.

Golden Predator CEO Janet Lee Sherriff says it's a sign Yukon gold is on the rebound.

The project, called Three Aces, is about 63 kilometres south of the Cantung Mine up the Nahanni Range Road. For the past month the company has had about 20 workers at the site every day. 

"The market was very slow for a number of years. There wasn't anything going on but we reactivated again this year and raised some money. We've been quite busy in the past month," Sherriff says.

The project site was discovered in 2009 but was mothballed. It was recently acquired by Golden Predator when it merged with another company called Northern Tiger Resources.

The worldwide price of gold has rallied almost 20 per cent since the start of 2016.

Building roads and a bridge

Golden Predator has raised $16 million in venture capital to fund a two-year exploration program at Three Aces. 

The project has approval from the Yukon Socio-Economic and Environmental Assessment Board to build 30 kilometres of roads.

Workers are also taking soil samples and trenching. Bulk sampling could see 10,000 tonnes of earth moved per year. 

Golden Predator is also planning to build a concrete-pillar bridge across the Little Highland River. Sheriff says this will allow heavy drill equipment to reach the site in winter. 

"Bridge access is greatly going to reduce the helicopter needs out here," she says.

'Noticeable turnaround' says Yukon Chamber of Mines 

Three Aces' reactivation is welcome news to Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. 

He says the Yukon gold market is showing signs of promise after a few years in a slump. 

He points to the recent purchase of Kaminak Gold Corporation as an example of investment in the territory's gold prospects.

"We've been bouncing along the bottom for a few years," he says. "But this year, without question there's a noticeable turnaround.

"We expect to see those effects on the front lines — more drills, more work — beginning next year. There are indications that money is starting to move back into the markets."

Yukon mining is currently at its lowest point in decades with Capstone's copper-gold Minto mine being the only hard-rock mine in operation.

'There was no money out there'

Sheriff agrees the gold market has been poor, with investors more scarce in recent years. 

"There was no money out there for projects. Even good ones. That's started to turn around eight or nine months ago," she says.

Sheriff says there isn't yet a clear plan as to whether the Three Aces project would be an underground or open-pit mine. 

"Obviously it takes time to put a mine into production and we're far from that, but we see this as something that is quite large." 

The Three Aces project has a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Kaska Nation. The project is on Liard First Nation traditional territory. Half the workers are members of the Kaska Nation. 

Golden Predator is holding a public meeting Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Watson Lake rec centre.

now