KETCHIKAN (KDN) — A Canadian mining company last month completed its first batch of exploratory surface drilling near the site of the abandoned Niblack gold and copper mine on the Southwest coast of Prince of Wales Island and expects to resume drilling in February.

Heatherdale Resources Ltd. announced the news in a press release on Wednesday. The company is exploring for copper, gold, silver and zinc at several sites near the Niblack mine, located about 27 miles southeast of downtown Ketchikan.

"We are exceptionally encouraged with our first round of drilling, targeting some of the highest-grade massive-sulphide mineralization that has been recognized on the property," Heatherdale President and CEO Robert McLeod said in a prepared statement.

The exploratory surface drilling began in mid-November, targeting land to the east and west of the Niblack mine.

Though Heatherdale is still awaiting analysis of the drilling samples, the exploration has confirmed a new geological theory that ore deposits around the former mine are stacked underground in the shape of a U, rather than a lowercase n, according to the press release.

"This confirmation has significantly increased the exploration potential of this area and the entire Niblack Property," McLeod said in a prepared statement.

Heatherdale plans to conduct further drilling to the north and south of the Niblack mine site to determine the extent of the mineral deposit.

The Niblack Project, as Heatherdale terms it, has been a project of interest to Ketchikan in recent years. In August of 2012, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough entered a memorandum of understanding with Niblack Project LLC — in which Heatherdale has a 100% interest — to set out a process by which the company would consider using land on Gravina Island for off-site processing of ore extracts.

The project could potentially see financial support from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. Under Senate Bill 99, passed in 2014, AIDEA is authorized to issue bonds to finance up to $125 million of infrastructure for the project. (That bill also allows AIDEA to finance infrastructure developed at the Bokan Mountain rare earth element deposit currently being pursued by Ucore Rare Metals Inc.)

But even with AIDEA's backing, Heatherdale notes on its website, "AIDEA must still go through its conventional project evaluation and due diligence process prior to authorizing the infrastructure financing for the Niblack Project."