Anyone wondering how to be a successful prospector may want to approach John Tugak, who will be Agnico Eagle’s guest at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit April 9-12.
Tugak is the first Inuk to sign an option deal with Agnico Eagle. The mining company has agreed to explore his Fat Lake property, which shows promising signs of visible gold, located between Tugak’s home community of Arviat and Whale Cove, to the north.
“They’re going to do the work for me,” he said of Agnico Eagle.
The terms of the option agreement are confidential but it involves cash payments to Tugak during the length of the deal and, if the property ever hosts an active mine, he would also be entitled to a royalty, he said.
Tugak is also in negotiations for another potential deal with a second mining company at a different property – Turquetil Lake – where he’s shown that it would be worthwhile to drill for gold.
A third property he has explored at Heninga Lake features copper, gold and silver, and he has received an offer on it too, he added.
While there is potential for considerable riches, Tugak said his motivations are not just based on personal financial gain.
“I’ve been a bookkeeper for the past 15 years and I’ve seen a lot of people search for jobs,” he said. “Part of my goal is to create jobs for my people (through mining).”
He added that he’s a hunter and he believes balance between industry and the environment can be achieved.
“It’s possible to do some mining and to protect our animals and our land,” he said.
Tugak’s strategy has been to revisit properties that had encouraging exploration results by other parties many years ago but were abandoned for one reason or another.
“What we really do is just confirm old historical showings,” Tugak said, adding this his 19-year-old daughter Corrine also has surface exploration rights on a couple of properties.
They are both passionate about prospecting.
“When we go to our hunting grounds, if we don’t see any animals, we start looking at the geology of the land there,” he said.
Prior to signing the option agreement with Tugak last summer, Agnico Eagle – owner of the Meadowbank gold mine and currently constructing the Meliadine and Amaruq gold mines also in the Kivalliq region – had acquired its existing mining properties through junior mining companies Cumberland Resources and Comaplex Mining.
“It is a very encouraging for the mining industry when local prospectors are out working the land to identify potential new mineralized zones,” said Dale Coffin, Agnico Eagle’s corporate director of communications and public affairs. “With the Fat Lake property, John has provided us with an opportunity to expand our knowledge of the area and to gain access to a property that has shown some interesting indicators that caught our attention.”
Tugak completed the Nunavut Prospectors Program in 2013. He said the course, which is offered over five weeknight evenings, taught him how to locate mineralized zones and gave him a better understanding of mining reports. He has also learned how to differentiate between real gold and pyrite, also known as fool’s gold.
Another benefit to the program is that those who finish it can apply for up to $8,000 to pay for basic expenses related to prospecting.
The prospectors program has been delivered 116 times to 1,100 people since 1999, according to the Department of Economic Development and Transportation.