HIBBING, MN — From the discovery of iron ore to the recent proposals of copper and nickel mining, mineral exploration has been active in our region for well over 100 years and it all began with gold during the Vermilion Gold Rush.
While that didn’t work out the way explorers of 1865 were hoping, it hasn’t stopped current day exploration from taking place.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity.”
Andrew Tyrrell works for AngloGold Ashanti, a global gold mining company.
“We have operations in three continents – we have them in Africa, South America, as well as Australia.”
They eventually hope to add Minnesota to the mix.
“In 2016 we staked some ground, or we went to the DNR, applied for some mineral leases and since then we’ve been conducting early stage reconnaissance exploration work.”
Currently, the company only works with state-held mineral leases. That work includes four stages of exploratory drilling in Itasca County. But, like the explorers before them, Minnesota’s terrain has proven it’s more complex than it may seem.
“This will give you a sense of what we have to kind of look through,” said Tyrrell while showing the amount overburden they have to get through to reach the underlying geology. “This is what makes it difficult and this is probably part of the reason why previous explorers hadn’t spent as much time because it is an extensive method, or it’s very difficult to look through.”
But our neighbors to the north have seen success which has fueled further exploration in our region.
“You have the Abitibi side of it, which is in Canada, that has over 200 million ounces of gold discovered. The concept is that geology extends into Minnesota into what they call the Wawa terrain down through here and so by inference we see this to be quite a well-endowed part of the Superior province. Why would Minnesota be any different?”
While AngloGold continues its research to answer that question, Tyrrell said they have seen some compelling results.
“I can say that the rocks are very interesting and we continue to conduct exploration work or activity to better understand what that geology, what those rocks actually mean. It definitely is intriguing and that’s as much as I can say at this stage.”
While still early in the process, Tyrrell said they still have a lot of work to do with the hopes of making a discovery.
“The long-term goal is obviously ultimately to find a gold system, a gold deposit.”
To give you a better idea of a timeline, Tyrell said the time between making a discovery and going into development can be up to 12 years, then you add on another five years for the early exploration, which is where AngloGold is at now.
At this time, Tyrrell said the goal is to build an understanding of the geology, terrain and the mineral potential of Minnesota.