Exploration company says it’s firming up its copper finds at Somerset Island

Aston Bay Holdings Ltd. said findings justify another season of drilling in 2022.

By David Lochead, Nunatsiaq News - December 16, 2021
Aston Bay Holdings Ltd. says it will conduct more drill work at its Storm Copper project on Somerset Island next summer, following this past summer’s promising surveying results. (Aston Bay Holdings Ltd. via Nunatsiaq News)

A mineral exploration company says it has found promising results in its latest search for copper deposits on Nunavut’s Somerset Island.

Aston Bay Holdings Ltd. announced Monday the results of surveying it conducted in August at its Storm Copper project.

The results suggest there’s enough copper in the ground to justify another drilling operation next summer, Aston Bay CEO Thomas Ullrich told Nunatsiaq News.

“That’s why this is exciting to us as a mineral exploration company,” he said of the survey’s results.

The company used electromagnetic surveying to build on its past drilling results in the area, which it’s been exploring since 2016. That involves setting wires around the area to detect electrical currents in the ground, Ullrich said.

Rock with about 0.5 percent copper is considered worth mining. Aston Bay’s survey, meanwhile, suggests the exploration site contains levels of copper around 2 to 3 percent, he added.

Aston Bay tries to hire Inuit from the nearest community, Resolute Bay, during its exploration seasons, Ulrich said, adding the company has consistently been in contact with the hamlet during its project.

Six Inuit were hired in 2016 and 11 were hired in 2018, with those two years being the busiest seasons. A field season typically lasts a month and a half to two months, Ulrich said.

Jobs that Inuit have had at the project include working as polar bear guards, he added.

Aston Bay is careful to follow the rules to reduce environmental impacts.

“We want to do everything correctly,” Ulrich said.

In an attempt to complete this project, Aston Bay Holdings has partnered with Australian company American West Metals Ltd., who commissioned the survey.

American West Metals Ltd. has an option to earn an 80 percent interest in the project if it spends $10 million on exploration. He added that if the project continues to go well American West Metals could own the entirety of the project while Aston Bay receives a royalty.

From 1964 to 2007 Canadian mining company Teck Resources Ltd. was exploring the area of Somerset Island where Storm Copper resides. In the mid-1990s, Teck found the significant amount of copper Aston Bay is currently exploring.

Aston Bay took control of the Somerset Island exploration site from Commander Resources Ltd. in 2016.