Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Elder, Neil Leonard, has a clear vision for the exploration property he is developing on the traditional territory of his people: he wants to use a percentage of the profits to help members of his community deal with the intergenerational trauma caused by Canada’s residential school system, including the Kamloops Indian Residential School his father attended.

“My late father was a casualty of the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” said Leonard, “He later became a professional saddle bronc rider and most of his education came from travelling. He felt that we, as First Nations people, had to rise up and take it upon ourselves to become even better stewards and managers of our tribal resources. He said we should be active participants, as opposed to being observers or an audience to other people developing resources in our immediate territory.”

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Elder, Neil Leonard in the field on the Copper King property near Kamloops
Roper Hill, Copper King property

Leonard, through Sanctum Metals Inc., took his late father’s advice and is developing a property that hosts the historic Copper King mine, 18 kilometers west of Kamloops. The property is on the northwest margin of the Iron Mask Batholith next to the Trans-Canada Highway, just eight kilometres west of New Gold’s New Afton mine. The Iron Mask Batholith is host to more than 20 known mineralized deposits and mineral occurrences including the New Afton and Ajax propertie

“Geologists often say we’re in elephant country,” said Leonard. Although not a geoscientist himself, Leonard studied a range of materials to learn about today’s technology and best practices for exploration and mining. He did extensive research and sought out numerous industry experts to mentor and help guide him in his efforts to advance Copper King.

Historic records and recent work indicate that the property could host a gold-rich porphyry similar to that being mined today at New Afton, said Leonard. Together with his advisors and mentors, Leonard has reprocessed data from previous geological and geochemical surveys and used artificial intelligence to identify new drill targets.

Image from Minerva Intelligence’s DRIVER software showing the location within Copper King of the overlaps of high Au+Cu (purple), as well as the high Pt (red) and high Pd (green) zones.

Leonard recognizes the importance of early engagement. Drawing on inspiration and life lessons from his father’s teachings, Leonard believes it is time that Indigenous leaders assert a meaningful presence in their respective traditional territories. Realizing that Copper King could become another important re-discovery, he initiated pre-emptive engagement with his Chief and Council. He informed them of his intentions and obtained unanimous support for his business venture.

Looking far ahead, Leonard plans to use the latest methods and technologies available for a “more surgical extraction” of the ore and is looking at using multi-sensor ore sorting technologies for off-site processing. This summer, Leonard is looking forward to UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit conducting a funded geochemical vectoring study to confirm the location and fertility of the potassic high-grade core. From there, he will be able to drill test the targets generated by the latest artificial intelligence software.

If you would like to talk to Neil Leonard about his project, please send an email to [email protected] asking to be connected with him. If you have a story about Indigenous participation in mineral exploration that you would like AME to help tell and amplify, please contact Kylie Williams, AME Director, Communications and Member Relations at [email protected].