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Prospecting for gold in Pictou County

It could be the beginning of something big and shiny for a Nova Scotian prospector and an Ottawa mining exploration company in Pictou County after they struck gold in the soil of Pictou County.

Patrick Bellefontaine, a prospector from HRM, had been doing research and piecing together information and maps from archives when he felt he had strong enough evidence to put forth the possibility of searching for gold in Pictou County; he made his pitch to Ian Bliss, president and CEO of Northern Shield Resources Inc., when they met through unrelated circumstances.

As Bellefontaine shared a small bit of information with Bliss, his interest was peaked and before heading back to Ontario the next day, Bliss gave Bellefontaine his credit card number and told him to stake what was needed and they would look into it soon.

“We had an agreement so I staked what I wanted to,” Bellefontaine said.

The possible seam was found in the eastern area of the county by the prospector by following up on mineral occurrence data in a database. He shared that a geologist had tried to sell the project previously so his work was online for Bellefontaine to follow up and reinforce with what he could find. He said after years of the research sitting online, all of the original geologist’s work had not been done in vain.

Bellefontaine became fascinated with geology and mining when he was 18 and old enough to buy shares in companies that specialized in this sort of thing. In total, he said he has been prospecting for about 20 years. Although Bliss shared that his company’s forte is usually in nickel, Bellefontaine’s proposal was hard to turn down.

“It’s all early-stage exploration,” said Bliss about what is being completed currently in Pictou County. The minimally invasive drill testing so far has found evidence of epithermal gold that has not been found in Nova Scotia before.

“We began drilling in February this year,” said Bliss. “We did hit some high-grade gold.”

The company is now back in the county for the second round of drilling, a stage of the process that can take quite some time as they explore the area and hope they continue to find enough to continue drilling. Although some concerns have been coming from a small group of local people in the drilling area about a mine being created at the site, Bliss assures that there is a lot of time between the beginning of the drilling in February until anything in that stage.

“Ten years would be considered extremely fast,” he said, about taking a project from the beginning of the drilling to mining. That would be the timeline in which everything went perfectly, which it rarely does Bliss shared, as many exploration projects either never make it to or past the drilling stage.

“We understand the concern, but that’s a concern for another day when we think there could be a mine,” he said. Currently, they are taking 4 1/2 cm rock core samples in areas that look interesting.

In the meantime, the company is taking core samples in the area to assess the rocks and if there may be potential to find more gold in the area. The process requires a number of steps that take place in a makeshift lab once the core samples are taken. Geologist Crystal Smith and Bellefontaine then complete what they call tecking the rocks for magnetization among other things, as well as checking the rock quality and type.

The rocks then move to a logging table where patterns in the rock are noted and structural data taken. Photos and sampling come next and once the photos are logged into the system they use, Smith and Bellefontaine can look at the core as a whole seeing all the layers of rock and compare it vertically to other cores to see patterns that make their way across the area. The rocks are eventually sent to a lab elsewhere to be geochemically analyzed.

“Some of the locals are glad to have us in there clearing,” said Smith about the landowners who have allowed the company to build service roads on their land. “It was 90 per cent positive, most people were happy to hear about the project.”

As many projects do not even make it to the drilling stage, Bellefontaine and those at Northern Shield are excited to see what comes of the project, although even in the drilling stage the process still creates jobs around the community.

Crystal Smith, left, and Patrick Bellefontaine look over some of the core samples that were taken from a testing site in Pictou County where gold has been found. (Brimicombe photo)