The old adage says the best place to find a mine is besides a mine, but Westhaven Gold Corp. (WHN:TSX.V) is finding gold driving distance from Vancouver. Could it be that no one thought there could be gold so close to home?
The company's Shovelnose project is a mere two and a half hour drive from Vancouver. "You could go up there, spend the day, and even go as far as our Prospect Valley Gold Property, and be back home at nighttime," Westhaven President and CEO Gareth Thomas told Streetwise Reports.
"A lot of people can't believe that we are unearthing high-grade gold that close to Vancouver that had never been discovered before," Thomas said. "Location is key, and our properties are just off a major highway and all are road accessible; we have a unique advantage."
Ed Balon, who serves as a technical advisor to Westhaven, is credited with discovering the Spences Bridge Gold Belt, where Shovelnose and Westhaven's other three properties are located.
"In the late 1990s, early 2000s, Ed realized that this area had potential to host gold and the first drill hole ever was in 2005, on the Skoonka property, which we now own 100% outright," Thomas said. They drilled 12.8 meters of 20.2 grams per tonne (g/t) gold in 2005; that was the first drill program ever on this belt. And that definitely got people interested in the area." Despite this, no further work was done on the property after 2007.
"When we acquired Shovelnose, which had never been drilled, we began getting high-grade drill intercepts, and believed that there's got to be more on this belt. So we started acquiring our other three projects: Prospect Valley, Skoonka and Skoonka North," Thomas explained.
In 2018, Westhaven hit a discovery hole at Shovelnose of 17.7 meters of 24.5 g/t gold. That was followed in early 2019 with intercepts as high as 12.66 meters of 39.31 g/t gold and 133.11 g/t silver. In late April 2020, the company announced a new discovery of another zone that appears to be on strike parallel with the main zone.
"We've now found two more parallel vein zones, but the main one appears to be much bigger than we initially thought. And we're really excited about our new Franz Zone discovery, which is actually where this outcrops on surface. We hit up to 51 g/t gold and 165 g/t silver from surface samples," Thomas said. "We're drilling there now, to see if there is something of significance underneath that outcrop, but it's our belief that there will be and this is going to change the story, making this a much larger target."
Westhaven currently has three drill rigs turning at Shovelnose. "Our goal this year is to define another South Zone, where we made the initial discovery, and we think we're on the verge of doing that," Thomas said.
Shovelnose is a low-sulphidation epithermal deposit, and Thomas notes that low-sulphidation epithermal deposits constitute some of the highest grade mines in the world, including Kupol in Russia, Hishikari in Japan and Fruta del Norte in Ecuador.
One advantage of Westhaven's project location is low drilling costs. The company reports that its all-in drilling costs are $190/meter, compared to an average of $454/meter for its peers. "The number one factor behind that would be location; we are near a major highway and don't have to use planes or helicopters," Thomas explained. "We're 30 minutes outside of a town of about 10,000 people, so we have everything we need there. We stay in motels, which brings our costs down significantly."
The company is preparing to begin drilling at its Skoonka Creek Gold Property, located north of Shovelnose. In 2017, "Westhaven identified the JJ-West target, which is possibly the continuation of the high-grade JJ Vein zone last drilled in 2007. We look forward to applying what we have learned at our Shovelnose Gold Property to the Skoonka Creek Gold Property," Thomas said.
In June, Westhaven closed a CA$5.175 million bought-deal placement of flow-through common shares. "Right now we have about CA$5 million in working capital," Thomas said.
Westhaven has about 102 million shares outstanding, 115 million fully diluted. About 30% are held by directors and officers.
The company is on the radar of industry observers. Brien Lundin wrote in Gold Newsletter on August 27, "The discovery of the Franz area in outcrop gives Westhaven Gold Corp. yet another key target to follow up on as it continues its drilling efforts at the Shovelnose project. . .the company is also beginning a 2,000m drill program to follow up on high-grade historic assays from its Skoonka Creek project. . .given the high-grade the company is chasing at both projects, quality assays from either drill program could spike Westhaven, particularly if delivered into the next uptick in gold prices."
Eric Coffin wrote in HRA Journal on August 25, "Westhaven Gold Corp.'s management is interpreting Franz to be a potential extension of zone 1, the main vein zone at Shovelnose. . .if Franz does turn out to be the literal extension of zone 1, the overall system scale will be increased to 3.7 km. . .it does give the company room within the system for a lot of ounces."
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