Global Exploration Snapshot: The Americas, West Africa and Australasia remain popular

While gold miners have been making substantial profits in recent quarters thanks to rising gold prices and better operational and financial discipline, they continue to seek new ounces via the drill bit to fill their production pipeline. A look at eight majors and juniors exploring for gold worldwide.

BARRICK GOLD

The world’s largest gold miner Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) is also heavily invested in gold exploration, with the company noting that since 1990, it has found 129 million oz. gold at an overall discovery cost of US$29 per oz., or roughly half the average finding cost across the industry.

With its merger with Randgold Resources now completed, Barrick says its investment criteria for greenfield gold projects include a “critical mass of 3 million mineable oz. gold capable of delivering an internal rate of return of 20% at US$1,000 per oz. gold.”

Today, its most prominent greenfield exploration projects are: The 83.3%-owned Massawa gold project in Senegal, where a feasibility study is underway towards a final development decision; the 50%-owned, 39 million oz. gold Donlin Gold project in Alaska, which the company says “represents one of the world’s largest undeveloped gold deposits at an advanced stage of permitting in a stable jurisdiction, underscoring its unique potential”; the Norte Abierto fifty-fifty joint venture in Chile’s Atacama region, where work is advancing an optimized project design, including an updated geological model for the Cerro Casale, Caspiche and Luciano deposits; the Pascua-Lama project at the Chile-Argentina border; and the Alturas project in Chile’s El Indio belt, where the company has completed a scoping-level study for a conventional open-pit, heap-leach operation.

COLUMBUS GOLD

Vancouver-based Columbus Gold (TSX: CGT; US-OTC: CGTFF) is exploring and developing gold assets in French Guiana in South America, which politically is a department of France.

Columbus’ flagship asset is its major interest in the Montagne d’Or gold deposit, which hosts proven and probable reserves of 54.11 million tonnes grading 1.58 grams gold per tonne, or a contained 2.75 million oz. gold.

A 2017 feasibility study envisioned an open-pit mining operation with average annual gold production of 237,000 oz. gold over the first decade of mine life at an average head grade of 1.73 grams gold, and an all-in sustaining cost of US$749 per oz. gold.

Columbus notes there is “considerable expansion potential on strike and at depth,” and that permitting is underway.

In January, Columbus closed a private placement that raised gross proceeds of $2 million, with the funds earmarked for general working capital purposes. Existing shareholder Nordgold of Russia participated in the financing and now holds an undiluted 9.96% interest in Columbus (11.18%, fully diluted).

FIREFOX GOLD

Vancouver-based junior FireFox Gold (TSXV: FFOX) is focused on exploring for gold in Finland, and has a CEO and technical team based in the country.

FireFox notes that “Finland is one of the top mining jurisdictions in the world, as indicated by its number-one ranking in the 2017 Fraser Institute Annual Survey of Mining Companies. Having a strong mining law and long mining tradition, Finland remains underexplored for gold.”

In January at its wholly owned Mustajarvi gold project in the Central Lapland greenstone belt, FireFox reported that initial drill results for its 1,095-metre, first-phase drilling program include hole 18MJ10, with a 2-metre-thick massive pyrite zone from 126 metres downhole that assayed 45.1 grams gold per tonne.

FireFox has also entered into option agreements with Magnus Minerals, a private, Finnish prospect generator, through which it has options to acquire 100% interests in several projects that encompass 1,040 square kilometres. To complete the combined options, FireFox must spend $4 million exploring the properties and make cash payments to Magnus totalling up to $450,000 over the course of the two separate three-year option periods.

FireFox also controls over 260 sq. km of exploration reservations and exploration permits held directly by its Finnish subsidiary.

GRAN COLOMBIA GOLD

Toronto-based, mid-tier gold miner Gran Colombia Gold (TSX: GCM; US-OTC: TPRFF) has as its primary focus Colombia, where it is the largest underground gold and silver producer with several mines in operation at its Segovia and Marmato Operations.

The company produced 218,000 oz. gold in 2018, up 25% over 2017. It also strengthened its balance sheet in 2018, and brought it down to $83.4 million as of Jan. 31, 2019, with a cash position of $33 million as of Dec. 31, 2018, up from $3 million at the end of 2017.

Gran Colombia says it is “continuing to focus on exploration, expansion and modernization activities at its high-grade Segovia operations,” and that there is “blue sky potential with Marmato, Zancudo and Sandspring in the pipeline.”

Gran Colombia executive co-chairman Serafino Iacono says in a release that his firm “got off to a good start in 2019, with almost 18,000 oz. gold production in January, in line with our expectations. Our drilling programs at Segovia continue to yield encouraging results, with the identification of two new zones at Providencia and the down-plunge extension of the main ore shoots at Sandra K, both of which have the potential for additional resource growth. Our 2019 drilling campaign at Segovia will focus more on step-out drilling at Providencia and Sandra K, deep-zone drilling to extend El Silencio another 200 metres below its currently delineated mineral resource, and brownfield drilling on the Cogote vein system, as we increasingly shift our attention towards the blue-sky potential within our Segovia mining title to add production and mine life.”

IAMGOLD

Toronto-based Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) is another international gold major that is heavily invested in exploration and development activities.

During 2018, Iamgold’s attributable gold production was 882,000 equivalent oz. gold, including record gold production of 405,000 oz. at Essakane in Burkina Faso, at all-in sustaining costs of US$1,057 per oz. sold.

The core shack at Iamgold’s Rosebel gold mine in Suriname. Photo by John Cumming.

As for its gold-exploration criteria, Iamgold says it will “focus only on projects with a target threshold potential of at least 1 million oz. of mineral resources, capable of reaching 100,000 oz. in annual production.”

At year-end 2018, Iamgold’s attributable proven and probable gold reserves were 17.9 million oz. — up 23% from the end of 2017 — while attributable measured and indicated resources (including reserves) were 27.9 million oz. gold. Attributable inferred resources were 8.7 million oz., up 13%, and down 1% from the end of 2017.

Iamgold’s most prominent grassroots exploration projects include: the 1.6 million oz. Boto gold project in Senegal; the Pitangui gold project in Brazil’s Iron Quadrilateral; the Siribaya gold project in Mali; and several joint ventures, such as Monster Lake in Quebec with Toma Gold, and Eastern Borosi in Nicaragua with Calibre Mining.

NEXUS GOLD

Vancouver-based Nexus Gold (TSXV: NXS; US-OTC: NXXGF) is developing several gold projects in Burkina Faso, including the 178 sq. km Niangouela gold concession on the Boromo greenstone belt; the 39 sq. km Bouboulou gold concession (previously explored by Riverstone Resources and Roxgold); and the 250 sq. km Rakounga gold concession, which is contiguous to Bouboulou.

In Canada, Nexus has newly acquired the New Pilot gold-copper project in B.C.’s Bridge River Mining Camp and McKenzie gold project in Ontario’s Red Lake camp.

Nexus says it is “concentrating its efforts on establishing a National Instrument 43-101 compliant resource at one or more of its four current Burkina Faso projects, which total over 560 sq. km of land located on active gold belts and proven mineralized trends.”

Comments Nexus: “Burkina Faso is a mining friendly jurisdiction that has a relatively recent history in modern mining. It is one of the reasons we chose to work here. Another significant reason is that it’s a place where a smaller company like Nexus can find and work highly prospective ground that hasn’t already been picked over and ‘drilled out’ by others.

“Another perhaps equally important reason we work in West Africa is that we have the requisite experience there. Our management and geological teams bring significant experience and successful track records in Burkina Faso and neighbouring countries in all aspects of exploration, including discovery, project development, mine operations, and much more.”

OCEANAGOLD

OceanaGold (TSX: OGC; US-OTC: OCANF) has major gold mines on three continents: the Didipio gold-copper mine on Luzon Island in the Philippines; the Macraes Goldfield mine on New Zealand’s South Island; the Waihi gold mine on New Zealand’s North Island of New Zealand; and the Haile gold mine in South Carolina.

It says it also has a “significant pipeline of organic growth, and exploration opportunities in the Australasia and the Americas.”

On the exploration front, OceanaGold announced the tabling in February of a high-grade mineral resource at its greenfield WKP prospect, located 10 km north of its Waihi mine.

Indicated resources at WKP stand at 0.41 million tonnes grading 18.0 grams gold per tonne and 22.7 grams silver per tonnes for a contained 234,000 oz. gold and 296,000 oz. silver on the East Graben vein. Inferred resources tally 1.05 million tonnes grading 11.9 grams gold and 16.8 grams silver for 401,000 oz. gold and 568,000 oz. silver on the East Graben and T-Stream veins.

OceanaGold president and CEO Mick Wilkes says he is “very pleased to announce this major milestone for the company at our newest high-grade discovery at WKP. This quality resource further demonstrates the strong organic growth potential of our business and the prudent investments we’re making in exploration to create value for shareholders. This significant discovery at WKP is also a tremendous outcome for New Zealand, as it has the potential to create additional employment opportunities and generate significant socio-economic benefits for the country and communities.”

YAMANA GOLD

Yamana Gold (TSX: YRI; NYSE: AUY) is another Toronto-based international gold miner that puts an emphasis on exploration.

In 2019, Yamana expects to mine 940,000 oz. gold, 10 million oz. silver and 120 million lb. copper, or 1.06 million oz. gold equivalent.

Yamana says exploration is the “lifeblood of mining through the discovery of new ounces,” and that its exploration programs continue to deliver on the discovery of mineral resources and reserves. It notes that in 2018, its exploration program at the Yamana mines (excluding those assets sold in 2018) replaced gold reserves, while increasing resources in the measured, indicated and inferred categories. The company also boosted its copper resources.

In 2018, Yamana says its exploration program is “focused on finding higher-quality ounces, improving mine grade, infill drilling to replace production by upgrading existing mineral resources, and exploring the Yamana property portfolio for new exploration targets.”

Yamana was exploring in 2018 at the Chapada gold-copper project in Brazil; the El Penon gold-silver project in Chile; the co-owned Canadian Malartic gold mine in Quebec; the Cerro Moro gold project in Argentina; the Jacobina gold mine in Brazil and the Minera Florida gold project in Chile.

(This article originally appeared in The Northern Miner)