The Northway property occurs on the western margin of the Kapuskasing Structural Zone (KSZ), a Proterozoic failed rift and crustal-scale mega-structure which bisects the Archean Superior craton in a complex, northeast-southwest trending zone of uplifted, high grade metamorphic rocks extending for more than 500 kilometres between Lake Superior and James Bay. It is well defined based on regional geophysical maps, and geologic mapping indicates there is more than 20 kilometres of vertical crustal displacement along the KSZ.
The KSZ has a long-lived history of repeated ultra-basic, alkaline and carbonatite intrusions and kimberlite facies diatremes which collectively span more than 1.6 billion years of earth history, to as young as 125 million years ago. Intrusions in and around Coral Rapids and along the western margin of the KSZ where Archean rocks are exposed in major river drainages such as the Abitibi have been explored since the early 1960’s, and many have been age-dated.
The Northway property is near the southeastern margin of the mid-Paleozoic Hudson shelf, a shallow marine carbonate shelf success from Ordovician to Devonian age, with local sandstone and evaporate facies. The Moose River sub-basin developed on the southeastern-most margin of the shelf where Devonian strata lie directly on crystalline basement rocks. A small successor basin less than 50 kilometres across developed on the southeastern most part of the shelf, in the area of the present day Moose River. It is preserved as finely laminated and poorly indurated mudstone and siltstone. These Devonian and Cretaceous strata in the Moose River area were deposited on a gneissic crystalline basement of metamorphosed sedimentary assemblages and lesser volcano-plutonic complexes of the Archean English River domain in what is believed to be the thickest part of the Superior craton in northern Canada. They also lie directly on the kimberlite breccia pipe complex at Northway.
The Moose River region has a long and varied, if not sporadic checkerboard history of mineral exploration during the past 100 years.
Overall, Cretaceous coal seams were the focus at the turn of the previous century, the basement unconformity at the base of the Paleozoic shelf was the focus for base metal exploration in the 1970’s, and there was active diamond exploration through the 1980’s and 90’s, extending and eventually focusing in the region west of James Bay at Attawapiskat, far to the north of Northway.
Overall, exploration in the region is hindered by the lack of outcrop in the boggy, lowland terrain, and by the cover of up to 400 metres of mid-Paleozoic (Devonian) marine shelf strata and Cretaceous in-land basinal strata overlying Archean basement. Archean VMS and Proterozoic orogenic gold deposits occur in the surrounding sub-provinces of the Superior craton, but there are no active base metal or precious metal mines in the Moose River Basin region. The Attawapiskat diamond mine (“Victor”) of Debeer’s located well to the north along the Attawapiskat River has reached the end of its mine life after more than a decade in production.
There are lignite occurrences exposed in the banks of the Abitibi River north of Coral Rapids. The coal seams were first studied in detail by the Geological Survey between 1871 and 1912. They extend westward from the Abitibi River within the confines the Cretaceous Moose River Basin. More than one hundred shallow drill holes were completed by the Ontario Department of Mines between 1926 and 1930 to evaluate the resource, leading ultimately to the completion of two shafts and some 389 metres of interconnecting drifts. Drilling resumed in the early 1950’s with the completion of an additional 182 holes. In 1981, the Ontario Energy Corporation re-visited the potential of the coal and evaluated lignite stratigraphy farther to the west. Hundreds of shallow drill holes were completed on a lease which exceeded 1 million acres.
Drill holes were completed around, but not on, VR’s current Northway property.
The Aquitane Company of Canada Ltd. completed airborne and ground geophysics between 1972 and 1974 to evaluate the hydro-carbon potential of Paleozoic strata, and twelve diamond drill holes to test for base metal, MVT mineralization. In 1978, Kerr-Addison Mines complete a series of reverse circulation drill holes near Coral Rapids to test exposed basal sandstone at the eastern edge of the Hudson Platform for uranium. These targets were re-visited and re-tested in 2006.
Diamonds were the focus of modern mineral exploration in the James Bay region. Exploration started in the 1960’s by DeBeers (Monoprose Canada), focused initially in the Attawapiskat River region well to the north of the Moose River Basin, and built on the pioneering regional aeromagnetic program of the Geological Survey of Canada. Ongoing and extensive regional till and alluvium heavy mineral sampling and high-resolution magnetic surveys through the late 1980’s eventually led to the discovery of numerous kimberlite pipes, including Victor.
Selection Trust (later named Selco Exploration Company) began alluvial sampling in the KSZ region in 1962, and were joined by Esso Minerals in 1979. The first composite kimerlite – lamprophyry dyke was drilled in 1967, followed by drilling of the Valentine carbonatite complex in 1969. Between 1979 and 1983, the Selco – Esso partnership completed regional heavy mineral sampling of till and alluvium over an area exceeding 100,000 hectares, and an aeromagnetic program launched in 1980 led to the identification of numerous post-Paleozoic, pipe-like anomalies, of which 45 were drill-tested; most were non- copper-bearing, ultra-basic and alkaline intrusions, and four were kimberlite-facies diatremes.
Regional-scale exploration in the KSZ - Moose River Basin region waned after 1983. Various small-scale airborne magnetic surveys and ground-based EM surveys, and local alluvium sampling programs were completed at the property-scale between 1983 and 2006, with the focus mostly on previously known, ultra-basic and alkaline intrusions and diatremes exposed at surface in and around Coral rapids, but also on limestone for industrial mineral applications.
Some 40 years later, VR has taken the opportunity to be the first company to apply new exploration technologies and modern mineral deposit models to explore the region for large footprint mineral systems in the presence of both Archean tectonic suture boundaries of the Superior craton and the Proterozoic KSZ, a crustal-scale failed rift and host to a myriad of intrusions and hydrothermal and volcanic breccia bodies which span some 1.6 billion years of earth history.