The Keno Hill Silver District has a rich history as one of the world’s highest-grade silver districts. Located 330 kilometers north of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon, the District lies within the traditional territory of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun (“FNNND”) and comprises 233 square kilometers characterized by numerous mineral occurrences and more than 35 mine sites with a history of production.
According to the Yukon government’s Minfile database, between 1913 and 1989 the Keno Hill Silver District produced more than 217 million ounces of silver from over 5.3 million tons of ore with average grades of 1,149 g/t (37 oz/t) of silver, 5.62% lead and 3.14% zinc, making it the second-largest historical silver producer in Canada. In 1989, with falling metal prices and increased environmental standards, the former owners of the Keno Hill Silver District, United Keno Hill Mines Limited, terminated its mining activities in the District.
Today, the Keno Hill Silver District is owned by Alexco and it continues to boast significant mineral resources at grades far higher than most of the world’s primary silver producers.
Alexco’s Bellekeno silver mine, one of the world’s highest-grade silver mines with a production grade of up to 1,000 grams per tonne, commenced commercial production at the beginning of calendar year 2011 and was Canada’s only operating primary silver mine from 2011 to 2013. The opening of Bellekeno marked the rebirth and rejuvenation of one of Canada’s most famous and prolific historic mining districts.
Following suspension of operations at Bellekeno in 2013 and subsequent discovery of two new high grade silver deposits, Alexco published an updated Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) in March 2017 which anticipates the sequential development of four high grade silver deposits over an eight year mine life to produce more than a million tonnes with an average silver grade of 843 grams per tonne (g/t), 3.3% lead and 4.2% zinc. Silver production is anticipated to be approximately 3.5 million ounces per year.
Alexco is now focused on achieving its next goal: moving the Keno Hill Silver District back toward production with the advanced exploration and development of a series of silver-dominated deposits. In March 2017, Alexco published a new PEA stating indicated mineral resources of 58 million ounces of contained silver and inferred mineral resources of 17.9 million ounces of contained silver. These numbers showed a district-wide indicated mineral resource increase of approximately 22%. The mine plan currently contains 1,021,000 tonnes with an average silver grade of 843 g/t, 0.4 g/t Au, 3.3% lead and 4.6% zinc.