Tracker - August 14, 2019: In Memory of Julia Lane, Vice-President of Exploration for Atac
Atac Resources Ltd announced on August 8, 2019 that on Tuesday August 6 a small airplane with one passenger making a routine flight from the Rackla airstrip to Mayo crashed with no survivors. The Cessna, which has a dozen passenger seats, went down north of Mayo Lake not far from the Mayo airport. The pilot, Shawn Kitchen, had 4 years of flying experience with Alkan Air. An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway. We (participants in the Yukon Mining Alliance Tour) had flown in a similar aircraft from the Mayo airport to the Rau landing strip and helicoptered to the Rau camp from which exploration of the Bobcat copper-gold skarn play was being staged. It is ironic that the Yukon Tour participants spent the week crisscrossing the Yukon in similar airplanes without incident as we visited various projects.
When Atac's Matt Keevil told me a day earlier the lone passenger was Julia Lane, I was devastated. Julia's death is personal to me because two weeks earlier she and my Yukon Mining Alliance tour group stood on top of the world as she explained what Atac was doing at the Rau project. Julia has been the exploration vice president for Atac since 2015, but she has been involved with the Rackla project since 2009 when she started with the Archer Cathro consulting group. I had closely covered the Rackla project during the 2009-2012 period when Atac first made the Tiger carbonate replacement style gold discovery, and then the Carlin-type Osiris play at the eastern end of the 185 km Rackla Belt. I lost interest in subsequent years when Atac failed to achieve critical mass in the Osiris area. But when Barrick pulled out last year after spending $10 million on the Orion segment and the market smacked the stock below $0.30, I became interested again. Matt put me in touch with Julia to get the geology scoop on the focus shift back to the Rau area and what potential remained with the Carlin-type gold in the eastern two-thirds of the Rackla belt. I was amazed how articulate and knowledgeable she was about the Rackla geology and its exploration history.
At only 33 years old this geoscientist had become the vision-keeper for the Rackla story. A vision-keeper is that key person within any technical team who has absorbed the 4 dimensional geology of a project into his or her head and maintains a mental map to the underlying data. This is easier today with digital compilation technology, but building the vision of a project's potential, adjusting that vision as new information is generated, and keeping the vision alive, that requires training, talent and dedicated hard work. Julia was such a person. Her death is a loss that reaches beyond the premature end of a life with enormous potential. It is a setback for the struggle to pull more women into important roles within the exploration and mining sector. It is a setback for Atac Resources which must cultivate a new vision-keeper for the Rackla story.
It may even be a setback for the Yukon's ambition to become a world class mining district. Apart from the 15 million oz Klondike placer gold bounty, the Yukon does not have bedrock deposits that qualify as truly world class. Almost every other Canadian province or territory has world class deposits. British Columbia has Eskay Creek and the Highland Valley to name a few. Alberta has its metallurgical coal deposits. Saskatchewan has the richest uranium deposits in the world. The NWT has the diamond deposits. Manitoba has the Flin Flon district. Ontario has Red Lake, Kidd Creek, Sudbury and the Abitibi. Quebec has the Abitibi gold deposits. Newfoundland-Labrador has Voisey's Bay and Buchans. New Brunswick has the Bathurst district. Is Yukon the relatively large holdout because its geology just does not have what it takes to host world class deposits, or is it a matter of under-exploration? I think it is the latter. And it could stay that way if the push to declare the entire Yukon Territory a national park gets its way. Julia Lane was part of the opposite push to turn the Yukon into a vibrant year round working community whose population does not shrivel during the long frozen whiteout called winter. Only mining can provide a year-round economic base in the Yukon.
One of the knocks against Atac's Rackla story is its remote location. It really is at the northern frontier of Yukon exploration, though Chuck Fipke's Cantex Mine Development Corp is pushing even farther north with his North Rackla zinc-lead-silver play. Atac has been working since 2016 to get approval for a 65 km tote road from Keno City to the Tiger deposit. Conditional approval already exists, but formal approval is hoped for in early 2020. Once this $11 million road is built it will open up this northern Yukon frontier to lower cost exploration. If this road ever gets approved and built, rather than calling it the Tiger Tote Road, maybe it should be called the Julia Lane Road in memory of Julia's dream that world class deposits will be discovered in this northern exploration frontier of the Yukon.