Nova Minerals’ (ASX: NVA) near-term development hopes for its flagship Estelle project in Alaska continue to soar with drilling consistently hitting incredibly broad gold zones and many more assays are imminent.
Assays from about 15,000m of drilling are due to begin flowing in, with Nova chief executive officer Christopher Gerteisen noting he was “looking forward” to seeing them.
“We are ahead of schedule with our drill program, with about 35 holes now en-route or pending, with some of the best rocks encountered off pad 6 in the southeast extension.”
In October, Nova debuted a 3.3 million ounce resource for Estelle which is based on the Korbel Main deposit.
Mr Gerteisen pointed out the resource was an interim one, underpinned by only 7,200m of this year’s 40,000m program.
Notable drill results from Korbel Main have comprised 303m at 0.4 grams per tonne gold, including 226m at 0.5g/t, 52m at 0.8g/t, and 6m at 2.1g/t.
An exceptionally broad intersection was 429m at 0.6g/t gold, including 101m at 1.3g/t, 82m at 1.5g/t and 3m at 8.2g/t.
Nova anticipates ounces within the project will increase “significantly” as it continues to have exploration success across its priority targets.
“Our 2020 drill program was designed to find the boundary of the Korbel Main deposit which we were unsuccessful finding, it remains wide open.” Mr Gerteisen said.
A further 80,000m of drilling will be carried out in 2021 and Nova is now looking to incorporate other targets into the Korbel Main deposit.
“We have a much larger year planned for 2021 with global resource upgrade to come, preliminary economic assessment completion, and the commencement of a prefeasibility study, keeping in mind this is only for the Korbel main prospect” Mr Gerteisen said.
“In addition, we intend to further expand resource inventory at Korbel Main throughout 2021 with a continued drill program of Korbel Main (Block A and Block B), Block B Southeastern extension, Blocks C and D, Cathedral, You Beauty, Izabela and Sweet Jenny as well as drill out the regional RPM prospect,” he added
Estelle’s footprint continues growing
Recent rock chip sampling has expanded the project’s footprint.
Reconnaissance sampling at the RPM prospect returned 291g/t gold, 103g/t, 13.1g/t, 9.3g/t, 9g/t, 8.8g/t and 5g/t.
In addition to rock chip sampling, Nova re-evaluated a historic drill hole at RPM. The updated analysis returned 177.39 at 0.79g/t gold, including 120.4m at 1.02g/t and 50.17m at 1.76g/t.
Mr Gerteisen said the “spectacular” rock chip grades and resampling of drill core indicated a “significant pipeline” of tier one assets within Estelle.
Preliminary economic assessment and test work
In conjunction with drilling, Nova has completed phase one leach studies on Korbel ore. Studies revealed “exceptional gold leach recoveries” at an average of 76%.
The company is now undertaking phase two ore sorting and metallurgical test work as part of a preliminary economic assessment, which is scheduled for delivery next year.
Nova noted all initial metallurgical test work has supported its plan to develop a future low strip, bulk mining, heap leach operation at Estelle.
Path to production
Estelle covers 220 square kilometres of mining claims in Alaska’s Tintina province. It has access to key infrastructure.
Mineralisation remains “wide open” in all directions.
With a bulk mining, heap leach scenario in mind, Nova is targeting the completion of a feasibility study, with decision to mine anticipated for 2023/2024.