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Gold is where you smell it??


About mid-summer of 1961 the mining company for which I was working sent me as a summer geology student along as an assistant to one Bill Mundle, more recently of Maritime Diamond Drilling fame, to map a property that had been optioned a couple months earlier from a local prospector and his partners. The property was situated near Mink Lake in Ontario ’s Birch Lake area, and to our good fortune had been recently ravaged by a forest fire which had cleaned most of the vegetation off the outcrop.


The present investigation had been initiated as a result of assays of a couple grab samples the prospector and his assistant of Aboriginal extraction had managed to collect from the edge of an outcrop by a small pothole lake. According to the prospector, he had focused on this particular site because his Indian assistant had smelled gold in that location. The four assays had ranged between trace and about 0.24 oz/ton (which is worthy of follow-up) and the sample location had been subject to a plugger and a few sticks of dynamite. The face of the small trench did not look very interesting. It was without the presence of any quartz veins or silicification, although there was a minor amount of disseminated and stringy carbonate present. There was also a 4 inch zone containing numerous small pyrite cubes. Not really the stuff gold mines are made of, but we sampled the trench thoroughly and went on to investigate the rest of the six claim group.


The ground had last been worked in the ‘30’s and boasted some half dozen bedrock trenches ranging up to 14 feet long 6 feet deep and 8 feet wide. I remember being impressed with the size of the trenches and the labour that must have been expended in their development. They had been sunk by hand on a quartz stringer system which, even to our untrained eyes, looked ‘hungry’ for gold. Subsequent assays proved this observation correct. We carried out detailed mapping and sampling on the rest of the property and by noon on Friday were back at the trench where the Indian had smelled the gold.


While Bill put the final touches on the field notes and maps, I found myself back in the trench absent-mindedly working with the pick end of my rock hammer a slab of semi-loose rock in a small 6 inch shear zone that was exposed in the trench face. The loose rock was near the surface and in this location the shear had accumulated considerable surface humus. After about 15 minutes of diligent work I was rewarded with the dirty slab of rock. I set the slab aside on the edge of the trench and proceeded to blow the humus off my left hand. My hand turned out to be covered in fine-grained free gold!


I casually pointed this new development out to Bill, and we simultaneously dove for the slab of rock I had won from the shear zone. There on its surface, partly masked by the humus, was some of the best leaf gold I have ever seen, the largest leaf being about three quarters of an inch wide and curled like a ram’s horn. There was evidence of other similar leaves but they had been damaged by the extraction of the slab. We immediately set to work investigating the small shear in detail, and sampling everything in sight. Adrenaline pumped hard for the rest of the day.


Monday morning we delivered our samples to the mine assay office and awaited results with anticipation. As expected, most of the samples from the property came back trace. The samples from the little shear zone however came back in triple-digit ounces per ton and we certainly had a property on our hands that required further investigation. The guys in the assay office were not very pleased with our efforts however. There had been so much free gold in some of our samples the assay office facilities were salted for three days.


The property was subjected to further prospecting that fall but no extension of our “find” was uncovered. The location was extensively drilled four years later and then dropped. To the best of my knowledge it has not been explored since.


But the remaining question is: “Did that prospector’s assistant really smell the gold??