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Agnico Eagle exploration spending to hit record $163 million in 2021

Advancing the underground ramp at the Whale Tail deposit in Nunavut. Credit: Agnico Eagle Mines

Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) is on track to set a record with its 2021 exploration spending. This year’s budget is now $163 million, compared to $113 million in 2020.

The focus of work will be on expanding reserves and resources at operating mines and pipeline projects. New target areas at LaRonde, Kittila, East Gouldie Santa Gertrudis, and Hope Bay will also see exploration work, the company said.

“The 2021 exploration program is the most ambitious in Agnico Eagle’s 64-year history,” said CEO Sean Boyd in a media release.

“We are continuing to see positive results from this initiative, with significant extension of the East Gouldie deposit, high-grade mineralization at Upper Beaver that we expect to have a meaningful impact on the project update in 2022, and results confirming the potential to expand the Doris deposit and make a new discovery near the Madrid deposit at Hope Bay.”

Agnico is in the middle of an all-stock merger with Kirkland Lake Gold (TSX: KL; NYSE: KL), expected to close in late 2021 or early 2022. Kirkland Lake Tony Makuch will lead the new merged company, and Sean Boyd will become executive chair.

Exploration plans

At the LaRonde gold mine in Val d’Or, Quebec, three new exploration drifts are being developed to test extensions of zones 5, 6 and 20N. Mineralized zones beneath the past-producing Bousquet mine are also being drilled.

Drilling at depth, 464 metres, near the East mine discovered the 20N Zinc South zone returned 9.3 g/t gold 114 g/t silver, 0.9% copper and 2.6% zinc over 4.6 metres. There may also be potential for westward expansion of the LZ5 mineralization.

The Odyssey underground project at the Canadian Malartic gold mine in Quebec (a 50:50 joint venture of Agnico and Yamana Gold) is at the infill drilling stage.

Wide, high grade intersections in the core of the East Gouldie deposit are frequent. Recent results included 41.4 metres grading 6.8 g/t gold, including 21.7 metres at 10.2 g/t gold. Drilling on the Rand Malartic property 1.5 km east of the current resource shows excellent potential to grow the size of the East Gouldie deposit.

Conversion and expansion drilling at the Upper Beaver gold deposit near Kirkland Lake, Ontario, included a highlight intercept grading 8.7 g/t gold and 0.81% copper over 18.2 metres at a depth of 1,435 metres in the East Porphyry zone. Intersections of high-grade gold mineralization have extended the Footwall and Porphyry zones at depth.

At the Meadowbank complex 70 km north of Baker Lake, Nunavut, exploration at Amaruq is focused on the area between the Whale Tail and IVR underground resources. Drilling there has returned 26.6 g/t gold over 2.6 metres at 247 metres below surface. Drilling in the western extension of the Mammoth zone returned 36.4 metres grading 4.4 g/t at a depth of 264 metres.

The Hope Bay gold mine that Agnico acquired when it took over TMAC Resources in February 2021 has been the site of more than 71,000 metres of drilling so far this year.

Results from the Doris deposit confirm the potential to expand the BTD Extension zone and West Valley zone along plunge with 32 g/t gold over 3.2 metres and 19.1 g/t gold over 8 metres at less than 320 metres depth.

At the Madrid deposit, exploration drilling has discovered a new zone in Naartok West with results including 10.3 g/t gold over 5.9 metres and 6.6 g/t gold over 8.3 metres, both less than 285 metres from surface.

International projects

Agnico is drilling a new target below the shaft sinking project at the Kittila gold mine in Finland. Exploration drilling returned 12.8 g/t gold over 3.1 metres at 1,209 metres depth in the Main zone and 3.3 g/t gold over 3.5 metres at 1,390 metres in the Sisar zone. Both these zones are near planned underground development.

The advanced exploration Santa Gertrudis gold project 180 km north of Hermosillo, Mexico, is the site of busy exploration drilling. The Amelia deposit has been extended at depth. The oxide mineralization has been extended along strike at the Santa Teresa deposit.

A new discovery at the Centauro target returned 5.8 g/t gold and 9 g/t silver over 15 metres beginning at 252 metres below surface, including 14.9 g/t gold and 14 g/t silver over 3.9 metres and a second intercept of 15.1 g/t gold and 13 g/t silver over 5.8 metres.

Across all of Agnico’s operations, the total measured and indicated mineral resources are 425.3 million tonnes averaging 1.32 g/t gold (18.1 million contained oz.) and the total inferred resource is 249.9 million tonnes grading 2.67 g/t gold (21.5 million contained oz.) at Dec. 31, 2020.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)