MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Canadian mining company said sample drilling indicates a rich gold find in southern British Columbia, adding to concerns about natural resource development just north of Glacier National Park.
Max Resource Corp. drilled 26 sample holes on a ridge about 10 miles north of Glacier over the summer and announced that some of the samples are rich in gold. The company said it found more than 19 grams of gold per ton of ore at one site, including a 5-foot section that rated at 50.26 grams per ton.
Luke Popovich with the National Mining Association estimated the average concentration for an operational mine is 2 to 3 grams per ton.
“We are extremely pleased with our initial exploration results at Crowsnest,” said Clancy Wendt, vice president of exploration at Max. “Not only have we intercepted high-grade gold at Crowsnest, but we have also extended the known area of high-grade mineralization.”
The find is not good news for several Montana interests that have long opposed industrial development in the headwaters of Glacier National Park.
For three decades, the province and state have battled over development in the Canadian Flathead. Past proposals have included coal and coal-bed methane projects. Opponents are concerned about their effect on water quality, fisheries and wildlife.
Max Resource’s “ongoing and active mining exploration in the headwaters is certainly another cause for concern,” said Will Hammerquist of the National Parks Conservation Association.
In response to the Max announcement, Montana’s two U.S. senators sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging permanent protections for the Flathead.
Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester in August requested that the Obama administration conduct bilateral discussions with Canada on the issue. In a Thursday letter, they wrote that the gold discovery was in the same area where an open pit coal mine had been rejected by an international commission in 1985.
In 1995, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization declared Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park as a world heritage site. This fall, UNESCO sent a team to the area to determine if it should be labeled a world heritage site in danger. No determination has been made.
Max Resource plans to continue sampling in 2010, Wendt said. The Crowsnest includes 15 claims over about 7,760 acres south of Fernie, British Columbia.
“There are many other areas at Crowsnest where significant gold values were reported by prior operators that have never been followed up,” he said.