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Gold Is Where You Find It


It was early Friday morning after a long Thursday night. One of my intentions that morning in my second summer as an underground geologist at Red Lake ’s Madsen Red Lake Gold mine was to mark up a diamond drill target for the weekend packsack drill crew. Madsen had over the years been following a strict regimen of underground exploration, and all intersections of any significance had been recorded on a well-maintained set of level plans and cross-sections. I had noted an interesting intersection in a drill record near the shaft on the 14th level and it appeared that it had never been followed up during the intervening ten years. I marked up two hole locations on the drift wall, one flat for about 100 feet, the other at minus 45 for about 110 feet, and then managed to find the drillers elsewhere underground preparing to move to 14 level. After a brief conversation we had all the details straight between us, and I went back to surface to spend the afternoon following up on yesterdays assay results, and some development mapping I was doing on 16 level.


Monday morning when I arrived at the drill site the drillers were on the last ten feet or so of the inclined hole. As I approached the drill location something appeared to be wrong with the picture, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The paint on the drift from my Friday efforts indicated they were on the right set up on the right level. When I asked how they had made out the driller responded, “Really good, lots of high grade!” That the drillers knew this was not surprising as Madsen had a fair amount of arsenic in its ore, and it was common to smell the ore before seeing it. And sure enough, they were right. The level hole had encountered some 30 plus feet of ore grade material and the inclined hole had a slightly longer intersection.


In the office after lunch I pulled out the maps and started to plot up the initial results. And then it happened! My unease of that morning had been more than a quirk of the mind - I had unintentionally spotted the two drill holes on the north side rather than the south side of the drift. The results of those errant paint marks were quite spectacular however. I had uncovered 60,000 tons of previously unknown ore grading around 0.30 oz. ton, or carrying about 18,000 ounces of gold! The value of that gold then was about $630,000; today about $10.8 million. Three days later I had the drill back on site drilling off the originally intentioned intersection. Again we struck pay dirt, another 60,000 tons of about the same grade.


There are numerous stories told in the bars across the north about drill discoveries that were more luck than good management. There was a time very early in my career when I chalked those stories up simply as tall tales. This experience gave them a whole new sense of credibility. And to this day I can’t remember what I’d been doing on that Thursday night.