By Elwood Brehmer

Alaska Journal of Commerce

The mining exploration company created last summer when it spun off from Constantine Metal Resources, developer of the Palmer Project north of Haines, has started drilling a remote gold prospect inside Lake Clark National Park, on the west side of Cook Inlet.

The prospect had largely sat dormant for more than two decades until Vancouver-based HighGold Mining decided to give it a try. This year’s drilling started June 30, according to a company statement.

HighGold CEO Darwin Green said a small amount of drilling late last summer, combined with historical records, formed the basis for this year’s work. The company announced in late April that it had formed a preliminary resource estimate of 2.1 million metric tons of ore with an average grade of 10.9 grams of gold equivalent per ton, for a resource of approximately 750,000 ounces of gold equivalent.

The Johnson Tract prospect is on Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) inholdings within the boundaries of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Last year, CIRI leased 20,900 acres of the property to Constantine Metal Resources for 10 years. HighGold took that prospect and its holdings in Ontario with it when it spun off from Constantine last August; three former Constantine managers went with HighGold.

Several Southcentral Alaska Native village corporations own surface rights to land at the prospect, while CIRI holds the subsurface mineral rights.

The deposit is about 10 miles from tidewater near Tuxedni Bay, about 125 miles southwest of Anchorage.

HighGold’s 2019 work generated numerous quality drill targets within a 2,600-foot radius of the high-grade (Johnson Tract) deposit, several of which will be drilled for the first time this year, Green said. “Focus is on expanding the mineral resource base and discovering new zones of mineralization.”

Although primarily a gold deposit, Johnson Tract also contains significant amounts of silver and zinc, along with smaller concentrations of copper and lead, according to a resource estimate filed with Canadian regulators.

To help fund the exploration, HighGold said July 6 it would issue more than 6.9 million shares for a total offering of approximately C$12 million.

Between 1982 and 1985, Anaconda Minerals Co. drilled 88 holes at Johnson Tract, totaling almost 90,000 feet. The work revealed gold resources in excess of 10 grams per metric tonne in many areas, as well as high-grade zinc and copper ore, according to HighGold.

The preliminary results of HighGold’s summer work will help determine subsequent drilling. If the decision is made to develop the mine — currently envisioned as an underground operation — CIRI could obtain a 25% interest in the project, according to HighGold. The Alaska Native regional corporation would also receive net smelter royalties of 2% to 4%.