Is the key to a new Yellowknife gold mine beneath an iconic shaft?

Gold Terra, the company trying to start a new gold mine in the immediate vicinity of Yellowknife, says the key to that mine may lie beneath one of the city’s mining icons.

The Robertson shaft at the former Con Mine extends nearly two kilometres beneath the surface. The shaft’s headframe formed one of the city’s best-recognized features until its demolition in 2016.

Gold Terra is now starting to drill beneath the Robertson shaft, to a depth of 2,300 metres or more. Drilling began on April 17 and will continue in the weeks ahead.


The company thinks huge amounts of gold may lie below the depths of the old Con operation.

Gerald Panneton, Gold Terra’s chairman and chief executive, said the company needs to demonstrate that at least two million ounces of gold are available before the project has a chance of developing into a mine.

“This is where we think we can find the extension of the mine and basically find another one, two or three million ounces, potentially – below the mine,” he told residents at a public meeting in Yellowknife last week.

“This is basically our best target … it’s a very educated guess.”

Panneton points to a square of land that he says produced five million ounces of gold at Con Mine between the 1970s and 2003. He says former owner Miramar left to pursue a new project, Hope Bay, without coming close to fully tapping that area’s potential.


“As a geologist,” he said, pointing at an underground map of Con’s shafts and the estimated remaining gold, “when you look at this, you wonder: where is next, and why did they stop?”

An aerial view of the Robertson Headframe and part of the Con Mine site in 2006
An aerial view of the Robertson Headframe and part of the Con Mine site in 2006. YK Times/Wikimedia
A Gold Terra graphic shows a target drilling area beneath the Con Mine's Robertson shaft
A Gold Terra graphic shows a target drilling area beneath the Con Mine’s Robertson shaft. Area of green, yellow, red and purple indicate existing knowledge of where gold is believed to be.

If large reserves of gold are found below and around the Robertson shaft, the shaft itself can be repurposed and used to restart mining at Con, Panneton said. Gold Terra plans an underground operation with no open-pit mining. If not enough gold is found, he said, the company will simply drop its option to buy the former Con site.

Panneton said drilling nearer to the surface at Con has identified around 540,000 ounces south of the old mine, and is likely to end with around a million near-surface ounces, “but that doesn’t cut it.”

If enough gold is found to resume mining at Con, a new mill will be built elsewhere. Panneton said the company would be likely to use its Crestaurum site, north of Yellowknife, as a mill site.


A Gold Terra graphic shows the Con Mine property, in Yellow, and Gold Terra's other properties outlined in green
A Gold Terra graphic shows the Con Mine property, in yellow, and Gold Terra’s other properties outlined in green. A mill is planned at the Crestaurum site north of Yellowknife.

He said the company would not want to disturb most of the newly reclaimed Con site at surface level, and would seek to avoid disrupting the lives of residents.

“If a new road is needed – even if it’s a truck an hour that goes by – we will. We’re not there to disturb the town,” he said.

“Would you rather see two trucks travelling to a mill north of town, or a mill in town that would create dust and noise, reuse the tailings and be so close to Great Slave Lake?”

Even if enough gold is found at depth, the process of finding someone with enough money to open a new mine – and receiving the relevant regulatory permits – would take years, if not a decade or more.

More: View Gold Terra’s 3D graphics of the Con site

Panneton acknowledged that getting hold of the money even to continue exploring was not straightforward.

“The money supply is very tight,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to advance our project, these days, but we’re trying our best.”