The High-grade Zone (HGZ) was discovered 5000 ft (1520 m) below surface in the hangingwall of the existing orebody, 46 years after the Red Lake mine first went into production. The very rich ore of the HGZ is characterized by a remarkably abundant distribution of visible native gold. The location of this discovery challenged conventional wisdom at the time and its genesis has yet to be fully understood. Textural observations of ore within carbonate veins as well as crosscutting relationships suggest peak-metamorphic emplacement for at least some of the gold. Post-lamprophyre dike remobilization of gold is locally observed in the HGZ. Structure and dilatancy were the key elements for localizing ore at the Red Lake mine. Ore occurs where a fault trend intersected folded ultramafic volcanic rock that created a semi-permeable cap-rock to ore fluids ascending the “feeder” structure. This was enhanced by strong competency contrasts between the eastern ultramafic rocks, felsic volcanic rocks west of the HGZ, and the mafic volcanic host to ore – an exceptional environment for the development of protracted dilatant fluid pathways for gold deposition.
Development in the HGZ began in February 2000 and reached commercial production on January 1, 2001 at a capital cost of US $53 million. December 2001 reserves are 1.9 million short tons (1.73 Mt) at an average cut and diluted grade of 2.05 ounces per ton gold (70.5 g/t) containing 3.8 million ounces of gold. The extremely rich ore presented a unique challenge in grade estimation for the Geology Department at the mine. The historic cutting factor was replaced by a statistical method as more data were collected from mining and mill reconciliation. The mine produced 503 000 ounces of gold in 2001. Exploration at the mine is targeting HGZ-type ore formation within basalts associated with the intersections of fluid pathways and folded ultramafic rocks, as well as other targets.