An aerial view of Fireweed Zinc's Tom deposit, some 13 km from the Mactung property. Photo: Fireweed Zinc
The company that acquired the Mactung tungsten deposit from the NWT government last year now asserts it is the world’s largest.
The GNWT spent years trying to get rid of Mactung, a deposit in the Mackenzie Mountains that the territory inherited after the last owner entered creditor protection.
Mactung has long been considered one of the largest untapped tungsten resources in Canada, but opening a mine there – on the NWT-Yukon border – has been projected to cost half a billion dollars or more.
Fireweed Metals agreed to buy Mactung in June 2022 for a $1.5-million fee that could reach $15 million, depending on various milestones being reached. The deal ended the territorial government’s seven-year search for a buyer. Fireweed already owned Macmillan Pass, a nearby zinc-lead-silver deposit.
Now, Fireweed says a fresh estimate of the resource at Mactung confirms it to be “the largest high-grade tungsten deposit in the world,” based on comparisons with other deposits in an international database.
“We have taken the historic resource through a process involving relogging, resampling, and a rigorous, modern estimation methodology, and confirmed an impressive and world-class tungsten resource at Mactung,” Fireweed chief executive Brandon Macdonald was quoted as saying on the company’s website.
Projects line up for funding
In making that announcement, Fireweed joins the likes of Vital Metals and Fortune Minerals among northern-based mining firms angling for government critical minerals cash.
The US and Canadian governments have each suggested they will devote hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years to critical minerals projects – mining and processing work that produces minerals currently hard, or geopolitically awkward, to get elsewhere.
China dominates world tungsten production, hence North American interest in finding other sources.
Fireweed said this week that Mactung now represents “a truly strategic critical minerals project for the West, with the underground resource alone able to supply much of North America’s expected demand for decades.”
The company added: “Fireweed is looking forward to collaborating with federal, territorial, and Indigenous governments to advance Mactung through the permitting and detailed engineering stages of this unique project.”
There was no funding announcement attached to the news release.
Vital Metals’ Nechalacho rare earths mine, east of Yellowknife, and Fortune Minerals’ Nico cobalt, gold, bismuth and copper mine near Whatì have also urged governments to get on with handing out funding, while emphasizing that private investment is hard to come by right now.
In May, Fortune posted delayed financial statements that, like other recent statements issued by the company, declared the “existence of a material uncertainty that casts significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
At the time, a spokesperson for the company indirectly declined a request for an interview with Fortune boss Robin Goad, stating by email that there would be “more meaningful news in the near future and [Goad] would be happy to chat then.”
In April, Goad had said the company needed around $15 million in the medium term and an estimated $700 million in the longer term to build the project. Fortune wants Canada to help fund the project as processing would be kept within the country.