North

ATAC Resources rebounds with expanded Yukon exploration plan

ATAC is carrying out its biggest drilling program in more than five years at the Rackla gold property in central Yukon.

ATAC working with Barrick Gold plans extensive drilling at the Rackla property north of Mayo

An ATAC Resources base on the Rackla property in central Yukon. (Cathie Archbould)

ATAC Resources is planning its biggest drilling program in more than five years at its Rackla gold property north of Mayo in central Yukon, according to company president Graham Downs.

The 1,742 square kilometre property consists of three zones — Rau, Orion and Osiris — which in turn contain a number of gold deposits and targets for ongoing exploration.

ATAC plans to "build on and expand on all the gold zones we have out there, and to be able to demonstrate we have, kind of, the critical mass to make things work there," said Downs.

He expects about 50 people will be working for ATAC.

Its drilling will be concentrated on the Osiris zone. Downs hopes the company will be able by the end of the year to issue an estimate of the amount of gold in the zone.

Graham Downs, president of ATAC Resources, says Rackla has some of the highest grades of gold in Canada. (ATAC Resources)

West of the Osiris zone, Barrick Gold Corporation — the largest gold miner in the world — will be drilling in the Orion zone. It's working there through an "earn-in" agreement which allows Barrick to earn a majority share of the zone's ownership through exploration spending.

ATAC says its exploration budget for 2018 is about $7 million, with Barrick spending about $6 million. 

'Great to have a partner like that'

Barrick's participation not only brings money and investor interest, said Downs, it provides knowledge.

"It's great to have a partner like that, we get to gain some of their expertise and they get to gain some of our knowledge about working in the Yukon," he said.

"I think it's all about a learning process for some of these majors as well, being comfortable in new areas."

The Rackla property, north of Mayo, has three zones — Rau, Orion and Osiris. (ATAC Resources)

The Rackla property has been on the radar as a potentially rich mining area since ATAC's gold discovery at the Rau project a decade ago.

Downs said that's for good reason. He said it is has the highest gold grades in Yukon and among the highest in Canada.

"We've always felt like we were on the verge of something," said Downs. "Unfortunately, markets kind of dictate how fast or slowly we progress.

"We went through 2013, '14 and '15, which were pretty challenging years. But now we're getting back at it and having Barrick involved to spend quite a bit of money really should accelerate things," he said.

Downs said the company will continue to explore on the Rau property including work on the Tiger deposit.

The company received conditional approval in March from the Yukon government and the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation to construct a 65 kilometre all-season road from a point near Keno City, to the Tiger deposit.

The company said the project could not be advanced any further without the road. Opponents said the road would bring more people into the area, damaging its wilderness value and threatening wildlife populations.

An ATAC Resources crew at work on a steep slope at the Rackla property. (Cathie Archbould)

The environmental approval contains conditions that the road access be regulated and monitored and that wildlife populations and their habitat be assessed for damage.

"At the end of the day, we want this tote road to be done right and getting it done right is paramount and just kind of trumps just getting it pushed through just for the sake of getting it pushed through," said Downs.

 "I think it is a great example of how industry, governments, the First Nation governments and the Yukon government can work together to do something right," he said.

Downs said the company has more planning to do for the road and won't begin construction of it this year.

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