Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Monster Gold Deposit!

On break for the July 4th celebration in Flat Alaska. Note the staff truck with Dr. Paul Graff and the Flat Alaska recreation center in the background.

The Northern Miner (Feb 11-17, 2013) now describes Donlin Creek as a MONSTER GOLD DEPOSIT with more than 43 million ounces of gold! To get some concept of how big this deposit is, we must compare to one of the more extraordinary gold deposits in history - the Homestake mine in South Dakota. The Homestake operated over 123 years, making it one of the longest lived gold mines in history. Production began in 1878 and ceased in 2001 after the mine produced 39.8 million ounces of gold. The Homestake was one of the longest listed stocks on the NYSE in history!

The Northern Miner reports that the Donlin Creek is a the largest undeveloped gold deposit in the world!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Donlin Creek is one of the largest Potential Gold Developments in the World

The Northern Miner (2012, vol 98, no. 23) and NovaGold reports, "Donlin is one of the largest potential gold developments in the world and NovaGold is moving ahead with the project alongside mega-miner Barrick Gold ...". NovaGold further states, "The Donlin Gold project is an uniquely attractive asset which in terms of size, grade, exploration potential and jurisdictional safety, is quite possibly the most important project in the world today". Due to the extensive project, the mine is now delayed until at least 2015.  And this was discovered by seven geologists in 1988, in alphabetical order: Mark Bronston, Richard Garnett, Paul Graff, W. Dan Hausel, Bruce Hickok, Toni Hinderman and Robert Retherford. Three of these geologists were either alumni or affiliated with the University of Wyoming

Dr. Graff stands with Mrs. Lyman at site of plane crash on Snow Gulch,
Donlin Creek, Alaska, 1989. All survived, and this is common in Alaska.
Gold has been one of the primary reasons Alaska has done so well economically, and with the development of the Donlin Creek gold deposit and possibly the Pebble porphyry copper deposit, Alaska stands to gain two world-class mines located on two world-class deposits. Each of these two deposits eclipse the the amount of gold taken from the total gold production from the famous Klondike. which produced about 18.3 million troy ounces over its entire history to the present. Now that's a lot of gold (Donlin has essentially 41 million ounces of identified gold in place (slightly larger than the famous Homestake ore body), and will likely increase as mining progresses).

I was recently asked, what does it feel like to have been on the discovery of what is now considered to be 'possibly' the most important mining project in the world today? It feels nice, but at the same time, it feels lonely - I guess this is the best way to describe how it feels.


Everyone is talking about Donlin Creek in the mining industry today - a single deposit that will yield at a minimum 120 times more gold than was mined during the entire history of Wyoming. It is an honor to have been recognized for the discovery of this giant deposit and I'm sure that my 6 other team members from WestGold feel the same. I look forward to NovaGold and Barrick Gold developing this mine. I just wish that WestGold would have been able to survive the 1980s and we could all be there working and developing this property we discovered in 1988. We found this giant deposit, but unfortunately, WestGold fell apart before it could develop Donlin into a gold mine.

Back in 1988 and 1989 while working as a consultant for WestGold (while on leave from the Wyoming Geological Survey) I was part of the discovery team of this giant gold deposit. Dr. Graff with Richard and Mark hired me. I made many friends and had a great time in Alaska, especially working with my good friend Paul Graff (even if he can't tell the difference between elk droppings and picroilmenite - a personal joke). I have the greatest respect for Paul as well as Richard and Mark.  And thanks to Richard, we were presented the 2009 Thayer Lindsley Award for an International Mineral Discovery by the largest mining association in the world - the PDAC in Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Paul was unhappy - someone threw his awful - err I mean entertaining
Mills Brothers tape into the pond outside the tent. We tried to find the 
culprit, but no one would confess. Personally, I think it was a grizzly bear
What is a Mills Brothers tape? It is a way to make all other music sound 
much better.
So, how did we find this deposit? It was by using science, geological techniques along with detailed geological mapping, trenching, sampling and drilling.  Unfortunately, we did not receive an royalties for this discovery - only our consulting fees.

But I must say, I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I had a great time in Alaska, learned more geology in a state I previously had little experience, and had a wonderful time pulling pranks on my buddy - Paul. I would have liked to have some of the gold, but the experience for me, was worth more than all of the gold at Donlin Creek.

For me, making the discovery with my 6 colleagues was much more important than money. Sure, it would be nice to have some of the gold and go out and buy a Ferrari, but money only lasts until the grim reaper shows up at your door step. After that, what we have done with our lives may live on for a few more generations. So, hopefully, you will all be reading about me in some textbook when I go knocking at the Gates.



Mapping on the ridge overlooking Snow Gulch (part of the Donlin Creek gold discovery) in 1988. I was hired by WestGold because of my expertise in detailed geological mapping and finding mineral deposits.  I thank Paul for bringing me into this project and for all of the constant fun he provided in camp.
Some people think I may have a problem with authority. My boss, Dr. Paul,
came into the field to tell me to get to work. (photo by Paul Graff).

Driving to work along the Queen trench at the Donlin Creek gold
discovery, 1988




















Saturday, September 24, 2011

DONLIN CREEK - one of the largest discovered in the 20th century

Donlin Creek international airport. This is where we lived
in 1988 and 1989 during the initial discovery of the Donlin
Creek gold deposit by members of WestGold.
The Donlin Creek gold deposit in southwestern Alaska is considered to be one of the largest, undeveloped, gold deposits on earth and contains as much gold as the Homestake mine. Resources are likely to expand with continued exploration of the deposit and mining. The gold resource is more than 41 million ounces. To develop this property, it is estimated that capitalization will be as much as $7 billion in that the property is in the middle of nowhere in the Kuskokwim Mountains in southwestern Alaska.
NovaGold reported proven and probable mineral reserves of 33.6 million ounces, measured and indicated mineral resources of 4.3 million ounces and inferred resources of 4.4 million ounces.

The company reports identified gold reserves include 7 million tonnes of proven ore at 2.46 g/t (grams per tonne) and 460.7 million tonnes of 2.23 g/t. The gold resource (exclusive of the reserves) includes 0.2 million tonnes of measured resources averaging 6.61 g/t, 39.6 million tonnes of indicated resources averaging 3.34 g/t and inferred resources at 58.4 million tonnes of 2.35 g/t containing 4.41 million ounces. The total resources are calculated at 4.29 million ounces and reserves at 33.59 million ounces.

Found this nifty dredge at Flat Alaska, but Dr. Paul wouldn't
let me keep it.


Co-pilot Hausel in hunt of other gold
deposits in the Donlin Creek area

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Donlin Creek Gold Deposit - Alaska, One of the Largest in the World

Dredge at Flat Alaska
In 1988, Dr. Paul Graff from Casper, Wyoming stopped by my office on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie. He was heading up a team to explore for gold in Alaska for WestGold (Western Gold Mining & Exploration) and they needed someone with experience in detailed mapping, economic geology and igneous petrology. I had started to build a reputation for detailed geological mapping & unravelling complex geological terrains while working at the Geological Survey of Wyoming at UW, and had already made dozens of discoveries including discovery of what would later turn out to be another major gold deposit - that of the Rattlesnake Hills gold district in central Wyoming, a deposit that is now being compared to the great Cripple Creek gold deposit in Colorado as well as hundreds of others including some major diamond and gemstone deposits (a chronology of many of these discoveries is listed on my GemHunter website).
To be honest, this was a super opportunity and I thank Paul for asking me as I had always wanted to see Alaska. What better way to see this state than to have WestGold pay my way with consulting fees and allow me to focus on rocks while we searched for gold. Besides, it was always an adventure to spend time in the field with Paul.

As mentioned in 'Sarah Palin's Alaska', this state is beautiful with vast resources and few people. It is such a wonderful & honest state that I voted for McCain in 2008 only because he picked an Alaskan as a running mate. McCain, I could care less about. But Palin, I knew she had to be honest (even for a politician)- she lived in Alaska where people had to work for a living unlike bureaucrats in DC. She had my vote! Besides she was much more attractive than Obama and McCain.

Mapping in the middle of nowhere with only my .44 magnum as a companion was my idea of peace. It was just like Wyoming, except much wetter, no roads anywhere, no cows, and a plethora of giant mosquitoes, such that if these large buggers were found in Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department would have opened a hunting season for them. Mosquitoes and noseeums would provide much entertainment in camp. For myself, they caused problems. Being a martial artist and exercise nut, I found they became a bit tiresome. I tried practicing kata after working all day and also used tree logs for curl bars and squats. As soon as I started to sweat or breathe heavily, it was a message for the 2 trillion mosquitoes within 100 square feet to start a feeding frenzy. But I continued to train while wearing bug spray - however, bears would periodically show some interest - so much so that we had to shoot one that was interested in trying to snack on one of our other geologists.

In the evenings, our team headed back to camp to spend time pulling pranks on one another and sleeping in our tents while bears came around demanding handouts. I spent my 1988 and 1989 summers mapping in the wilderness of Alaska, thanks to Paul and WestGold. What a great couple of summers - something I would not trade for any amount of money (well depends on how much).

In 1977, I had started on my goal to map most of the Wyoming's gold districts, greenstone belts, kimberlite and lamproite fields and historical gold and copper mines, and to search for diamonds and colored gemstones. By time I left the Survey in 2007 due to Gothic politics, I had mapped >1,000 square kilometers of Wyoming in areas that no one else wanted to work due to the complexities of resolving the structural elements, units, metamorphism and forms of alteration. Most terrains I ended up mapping could be liken to someone ramming an automobile into a light post at 100 mph. Things were bent, broken, wrapped around itself and parts were missing. Even though other geologists avoided these terrains, I loved working with these kinds of puzzles and even before I left the Survey, I was receiving consulting offers from international gold companies for mapping projects in similar terrains around the world. I had also built an unmatched reputation for finding new mineral deposits. While mapping the greenstone belts and mining districts, I also mapped several dozen underground mines that were left by miners as they search for other treasures. In some, I found old mine cars, lamps, many gold anomalies, and in one, I even found where someone had scribbled out the year in mud in the mine rib - 1915. So, I had considerable experience when I headed off to Alaska for two summers in 1988 and 1989.
Gold nuggets from Julian
Creek placer found in 1988.
Largest nugget is 1 ounce.
The mapping of old gold and copper mines and searching for gemstones was fascinating. I published more than a thousand books, articles, professional papers, maps and abstracts. Some of the books I wrote on finding gold deposits (Hausel, 1989, 1991, 1997, 2009; Hausel and Hausel, 2011) and some of the gold articles I published led a few prospectors to find treasures. I was the first person to enter several of these mines in decades. I also had considerable experience in volcanic terrains. When I was at the University of Utah and University of New Mexico, Tertiary and Quaternary volcanic rocks were my specialty. And while working at the Geological Survey of Wyoming, I also explored volcanic rocks associated with the giant porphyry copper-silver deposits in the Absaroka Mountains, gold at the Mineral Hill district and in 1981, I had discovered a few dozen gold anomalies in the Rattlesnake Hills greenstone belt. It is rare for a geologist to discover a new mineral deposit, but even rarer for one to find a whole new district!

The Rattlesnake Hills were missed by everyone else, but I found gold at several locations in the district and in different types of deposits (Hausel, 1994, 1995, 1996). I had predicted the district would yield large-tonnage, low-grade gold deposits due to presence of >40 Tertiary alkalic intrusives that erupted through the greenstone terrain and because of the brittle breccias I found adjacent to Sandy Mountain and Oshihan Hill and the stockworks I found south of Oshihan Hill (Hausel and Jones, 1982a, b). Years later, I also mapped the Leucite Hills volcanic field in southwestern Wyoming (Hausel, 2006). So, I took leave from the State and signed up for another consulting job and headed to Alaska in 1988. I had a great time and it worked out so well that I returned in 1989 - I love Alaska and I can understand Sarah Palin's love for this state! But little did we know, we were about to discover one of the largest gold deposits on earth. And we were optimistic - something that is a requirement (but lacking in most) for good exploration geologists!

According to the mining history of Alaska, placer gold had been found in the Kuskokwim River basin in the 1800s. Prospectors worked the George, upper Holitna, Tuluksak, Salmon and Kwethluk rivers; the New York, Bear, California, Marvel, Taylor, Forty-seven, Canyon, Crooked, Julian, Donlin and Flat creeks; and Murray, Snow, Ruby, Quartz, Queen and Lewis gulches. The Nixon Fork mine, 30 miles northeast of the McGrath village, had limited production in 1917 and again in the 1950s. The deposit was a high-grade gold-copper skarn with at least 131,500 ounces of gold (Bluemink, 2009). Eighty miles north of the Nixon Fork, placers in the Ruby district yielded sizable nuggets including the largest found in Alaska (294-ounce nugget from Swift Creek discovered in 1998). Nuggets were also found nearby at Long, Poorman and Moose creeks. The presence of large nuggets suggests a possibility of nearby hidden rich lodes.

Location map of Donlin Creek discovery in SW Alaska
Seventy-five to 100 miles southwest of McGrath, gold placers at Snow Gulch and Julian Creek were found in the Georgetown district - these would later become known as the Donlin Creek deposit. Gold is also found in nearby Omega, Lewis, Quartz, Ruby and Queen Gulch. This region attracted the interest of geologists because of pristine the gold flakes found in the streams by prospectors and the fragile gold nuggets which suggested a nearby source. As a result, WestGold began exploration in this region in 1988 which led to discovery of a large, disseminated, gold deposit with associated with anatomizing granodiorite to rhyolitic dikes intruded into graywacke (Hausel, 1988, 1989a). Drilling over several years identified proven and probable resources of 29.5 million ounces with an additional indicated resource of 10 million ounces. This was an Elephant (so to speak in the exploration business)! Donlin Creek has a gold resource similar in value to the legendary Homestake mine in South Dakota which produced 41 million ounces over a century of mining. Donlin Creek also hosts as much gold as has been mined in all of Alaska from 1869 to 2007!

Three geologists of WestGold's Donlin Creek - Snow Gulch
discovery team pose with drillers and samplers at Snow Gulch
in 1989. Rob Rutherford (standing left), Paul Graff (standing
right) and W. Dan Hausel (sitting right). The house was our
country club for the summer.
The Northern Miner reported Donlin Creek to be one of the largest undeveloped gold deposits in the world and the largest undeveloped gold deposit in North America. Based on 2009 plans, the property could become one of the largest gold mines in the world. Mine permit applications were submitted in 2009 and mine construction proposed by 2012.

The deposit consists of felsic sills and dikes that host gold in association with sulfides, quartz veinlets and breccias. Higher gold values are associated with arsenopyrite, stibnite and quartz in dikes and sills that intrude a thick sequence (>5000 feet) of folded Cretaceous graywacke, sandstone and shale. Plans are for a mine to yield 1.5 million oz/yr from ore averaging 0.07 to 0.08 opt Au.

Flying into Flat, Alaska for July 4th
celebration, 1988.
Other interesting anomalies in this region include gold at Julian Creek about 25 miles to the northeast with nearby felsic dikes in a similar setting as Donlin Creek, and mercury-gold anomalies at DeCourcy, about 8 miles west and placer gold at Flat Creek about 25 miles to the north-northeast are also of interest (Hausel, 1989b). While recently watching Gold Rush, Alaska on the discovery channel, I can't help but laugh at the antics of these wannabee miners.

Everything they do is exactly backwards of how gold prospecting and mining is done. It is very unfortunate that the Discovery Channel picked such inept miners to educate the public on gold mining and prospecting. There are lots of good gold prospects in Alaska, but one does not go out and buy a half-million dollars in mining equipment before these deposits are sampled.

At Donlin Creek, we found gold spread over a few miles (visit Donlin Creek, Alaska on Google Earth). Donlin Creek consists of northeast-trending mineralized dikes and sills in a region 1.2 miles wide and more than 5 miles long (T. 23 N., R. 49 W). The lode is Alaska's largest gold deposit which runs along a ridge east of Crooked Creek at the heads of Lewis, Queen, Ruby, and Snow Gulches. The deposit consists of calcareous shale and graywacke of the Upper Cretaceous, Kuskokwim Group which strike west-northwest and dip 10-50 degrees SW and are cut by a swarm of Tertiary age rhyodacite to granite-porphyry sills and dikes that trend northeast (Hausel, 1988, 1989). Late northeast and northwest-striking, high-angle faults offset the mineralized zones (Miller and Bundtzen, 1994; Vaillancourt, 2002; St. George, 2004).

The deposit is developed in felsic dikes and sills, with lesser amounts of mineralization in graywacke, particularly where north-northeast trending fault zones intersect mineralized felsic intrusions and graywacke host rocks. The ore minerals are primarily gold-bearing arsenopyrite and arsenian pyrite which are disseminated in the felsic igneous rocks and in veins and networks of veinlets in the igneous and sedimentary rocks (Hausel, 1989b). The veins and veinlets consist of quartz and carbonate gangue, with gold and several ore minerals. The gold occurs mainly in arsenopyrite and stibnite (Hausel, 1989b). In addition minor chalcopyrite, cinnabar, cassiterite, covellite, galena, marcasite, molybdenite, native arsenic, pyrrhotite, sphalerite, scheelite occur in minor amounts.

Dr. Paul Graff admires old hydraulic 'Giant' at Fullerton
Alaska in 1988.
The gangue and alteration minerals include crystalline and chalcedonic quartz, carbonate minerals and dickite. Garnet and high tin in some granite porphyry dikes indicate that at least part of the intrusive suite is peraluminous. Based on crosscutting relationships, altered carbonated mafic dikes initially intruded followed by intermediate and felsic dike intrusion. Other than clay, weak sericitic alteration and disseminated sulfides, there is little evidence of thermal alteration of the host rocks (Bundtzen and Miller, 1997). Miller and Bundtzen (1994) report that the felsic dikes vary from 65 to 71 Ma. Gold is disseminated in sulfides, sulfide veins, and in quartz-carbonate-sulfide veining in sericitically-altered igneous rocks (Hausel, 1989b, Szumigala and others, 2000). There is a positive correlation between high fracture density, alteration, and the amount of gold.

Ore shoots are developed in dilatant zones along normal faults where faults steepen in felsic intrusions and graywacke. Alteration assemblages include sericite, illite, kaolinite. dickite, carbonate and pyrite (Hausel, 1989b, Szumigala and others, 2000). Current drilled resources places this deposit in the top 30 gold deposits known in the world (Novagold Press release, January 28, 2002). Its as large as the Homestake deposit, where more than 41 million ounces of gold were mined over a 100 year period.

Rehealed breccia of Kuskokwim graywacke adjacent to mineralized dikes.







Unusual nugget of gold. A rough gold nugget projects from
rounded granitic stream-worn pebble. Paul Graff considered
this type of gold may have grown in place in an organic rich
environment. According to placer miner Spencer Lyman,
several nuggets like this were found over the years in the
Kuskokwim Mountains.  Other prospectors reported an unusual
regeneration of some gold placers that had all ready been mined.





After finding such a major gold deposit, some people think our group of geologists became rich. Nope! Due to complexities of ownership and our company going defunct, the geologists on this project received 2 million mosquito bites, consulting fees and lots of fond memories.

But, in 2009, a group of seven geologists were awarded one of the greatest honors in economic geology - the Thayer Lindsley Award for a Major International Gold Discovery for our work at Donlin Creek. This honor now hangs in my dojo in Mesa, Arizona.

The Award presented at the PDAC in Toronto to recognize the accomplishments of Mark Bronston, Richard Garnett, Paul Graff, W. Dan Hausel, Bruce Hickok (RIP), Toni Hinderman (RIP) and Robert Retherford. At today's gold prices, this 40 million ounce deposit is worth about $70 billion. And like any world-class property, once it is finally put into operation, more gold resources will be found and identified.

GOLD PROSPECTING WEBSITE



Dedicated to a good friend, Ray E. Harris (RIP) who passed away at about the same time as Bob Lyman (RIP) at the Wyoming Geological Survey in 2005 (we only had a staff of 26). You would think someone would have investigated (instead of covering up) a nearly 8% death rate, a 23% heart related difficulties in staff members, a 45% staff resignation, retirement and transfer rate and a 40% resignation rate of advisory board members.