(0:24:12): When can we expect Solitario to start drilling at Golden Crest?
Solitario Zinc Corp announced on May 11, 2023 that the US Forest Service has released a draft environmental assessment for a 25 drill site plan of operations at the Golden Crest project in South Dakota. A 30 day comment period ending June 8 has begun. Once that is over the USFS will write a response and then begins an objection period to which the USFS has to respond before making a final decision. Given the timeline involved the earliest approval possible is mid to late August. The exploration season in this area runs from May through November. If Solitario gets a drill permit by the end of August it will mobilize two rigs to get as much done as possible before the snow flies. Meanwhile the company will continue with an intensive program of surface exploration which includes prospecting and trenching.
Solitario expected to be at this stage 2 months ago, with a permit in hand by the end of Q2 2023. What went wrong? The Golden Crest permitting cycle became roadkill thanks to an unrelated controversy that erupted as a result of a private company applying for a plan of operations in the area surrounding the Pactola Reservoir in the South Black Hills which is a key water supply for Rapid City. This created an uproar which apparently attracted the full attention of the USFS, effectively putting work on Solitario's Golden Crest application on hold for a couple months. The USFS dealt with the Pactola problem by proposing a 20,574 acre mineral withdrawal around the reservoir. This is roughly a 9 km by 9 km area. Golden Crest, which is 13,473 ha or about 11 km by 11 km, is located in the North Black Hills which has a mining history that the South Black Hills do not.
Although with permitting anything is possible, the view is that the Golden Crest application will not be rejected. In fact, Solitario two months ago submitted a second application with an additional set of drill sites based on the target development work done last year. The delay is frustrating because Golden Crest is an extraordinary exploration play which represents the last major gold frontier in the United States that isn't buried somewhere under barren cover and difficult to vector towards. It is possible that the western half of the northern Black Hills is a mirror image of the eastern half which hosts the Wharf and Homestake mining district in which 90 million gold ounces have been identified of which two thirds have been mined. The difference is that there is a couple hundred extra metres of younger carbonate rocks at Golden Crest. There is very little evidence of past exploration but Solitario's surface work has revealed widespread evidence that gold bearing fluids pumped this region, fluids that would have the same age as the 50-60 million year old fluids that created the Wharf mineralization that is still being mined. The basement hosted Homestake style gold mineralization is about 1.8 billion years old. Everybody who looks at the results so far generated by Solitario's surface work is stunned that this area has seen only a couple scout holes by Homestake which confirmed the depth of the Precambrian basement rocks that host the Homestake deposit. It would be nice to see approval in place for drilling to start in September, but one has to keep in mind that the debt ceiling problem could result in a shutdown of government agencies, and that would delay the start of drilling to May 2024 at the earliest.
Relative Locations of Golden Crest project and Proposed Pactola Reservoir Mineral Withdrawal
Golden Crest as a Potential Mirror Image of Homestake District?
This conceptual model is key to understanding why Golden Crest is the Last Great American Gold Frontier