Far North Snapshot: Eight companies exploring the frontiers
As existing deposits and mines are advanced, companies are looking for new frontiers to secure their long-term production and growth.
The northern portion of this continent, with favorable geology, relative under-exploration and mining-friendly policies is an attractive destination for those willing to venture outside of more established mining camps. Below, we present eight companies with assets in the Far North.
Agnico Eagle Mines
Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX, NYSE: AEM) is a gold producer with mines in Quebec’s Abitibi region, Nunavut, Finland and Mexico.
Prior to withdrawing its 2020 guidance in March due to COVID-19, the company expected to produce 1.88 million oz. this year, with the northern business unit (Canadian and Finnish operations) generating 1.6 million oz. at all-in sustaining costs (AISCs) of $975 to $1,025 per ounce.
La Ronde, Agnico’s flagship asset, is an underground operation and has been in production since 1988.
The 7,000-tonne-per-day mine has an operating life extending out to 2025, with an expansion at depth completed in 2011. The La Ronde Zone 5 underground mine, 2.5 km to the west, started commercial operations in 2018 with on-site processing of the ore.
The Meliadine property covers 1,113 sq. km and is the company’s largest mineral resource with seven gold deposits, six of which are in the mine plan.
The asset achieved commercial production last year and features a 14-year life with both open pit and underground extraction. The first phase of operations includes underground mining, transitioning to a combined open pit and underground operation by 2023.
In the near term, the asset is expected to churn out approximately 350,000 oz. per year.
The company has a 50% stake in the Canadian Malartic open-pit mine in Quebec, Canada’s largest operating gold mine. Yamana Gold (TSX: YRI; NYSE: AUY) owns the other 50%.
The two companies acquired the mine in 2014 through a C$3.9-billion friendly acquisition of Osisko Mining.
The Meadowbank open pit in Nunavut, in operation since 2010, is now winding down production with the Whale pit at the Amaruq satellite deposit, 50 km to the northwest, achieving commercial production last year.
Agnico’s other operating assets include the Goldex underground mine in Quebec, the Kittila underground operation in Finland and the Pinos Altos, La India and Creston Mascota mines in Mexico.
Agnico Eagle Mines has a C$16.5-billion market capitalization.
Group Ten Metals
Group Ten Metals (TSXV: PGE) is an explorer with a portfolio of wholly owned platinum, palladium, nickel, cobalt and gold exploration projects in Montana, Yukon and Ontario.
The company’s most advanced asset is the Stillwater West project in the United States.
Stillwater West, adjacent to Sibanye-Stillwater’s (NYSE: SBSW) producing J-M Reef deposit, covers 25 km of strike within an area that has geological similarities to South Africa’s Bushveld complex.
Soil geochemistry has traced anomalous precious and base metal values over 18 km of strike, with spatial correlation to geophysical conductors, which correspond to historic drill intersections of platinum group metal, nickel and copper mineralization.
Group Ten has narrowed down 14 large exploration targets, which are conductive anomalies with coincident anomalous soil geochemistry. Eight of these are bulk tonnage sulphide target areas with six potential higher-grade platinum group reef-type targets, which may host multiple layered deposits.
In April, the company reported drill results from the Chrome Mountain and East Boulder targets within Stillwater West – highlights include 388 metres of 1 gram total platinum equivalent (TotPtEq), 243 metres of 1.62 grams TotPtEq and 226 metres of 1.58 grams TotPtEq; all of the intercepts start at surface.
Based on these results, the Hybrid unit within the Chrome Mountain target appears to show “Platreef-style” mineralization, and is the third such target within the property.
Group Ten is working to define resources at Stillwater West, expand known areas of mineralization and identify new targets.
In the Yukon, the company holds the Kluane platinum group element (PGE)-nickel-copper project, which includes the Spy, Ultra and Catalyst properties and lies within the Kluane ultramafic belt, a regional structure extending from B.C. into Alaska, host to PGE-nickel-copper deposits.
The Kluane properties are within 15 km of the Alaska Highway and adjoin Nickel Creek Platinum’s (TSX: NCP) Nickel Shaw deposit. Spy, Ultra and Catalyst cover a total of 290 sq. km; Catalyst is the largest and consists of two groups of claims that are on strike with Nickel Shaw.
Group Ten Metals is a member of the Metallic Group of Companies, a collaboration of exploration companies with assets at brownfields sites in established mining jurisdictions.
Group Ten Metals has a $16.3-million market capitalization.
Nighthawk Gold (TSX: NHK) is working to advance the Colomac project, situated within its 899-sq.-km Indin Lake gold property in the Northwest Territories, 200 km north of Yellowknife.
The majority of the company’s current exploration efforts are focused on the Colomac deposit, a past-producing open pit with current inferred resources of 50.3 million tonnes grading 1.62 grams gold per tonne for a total of 2.6 million oz., contained within five near-surface deposits.
The majority of current resources are contained within a 7-km long section of the 9-km Colomac Main sill, situated within a 16-km long underexplored host unit, with additional parallel sills identified.
Nighthawk’s recent exploration drilling tested areas of the Main sill that have not been drilled in the past.
In March, the company released the results of ten holes targeting two zones — reported intercepts include 36 metres of 1.86 grams gold per tonne as well as 29 metres of 1.26 grams gold.
In December, the company first reported an apparent widening of two Colomac zones at depth, which has now been observed within other areas of the deposit and is expected to cover several kilometres of strike.
To examine the economic potential of Colomac, Nighthawk announced earlier this year that it retained JDS Energy & Mining to complete an internal scoping study.
Nighthawk had planned a 25,000-metre drill program this year, but at the end of March temporarily suspended exploration at Indin Lake due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A resource update for Colomac is expected in the first half of the year; Nighthawk does not expect this timeline to be impacted by the work suspension.
Beyond Colomac, Nighthawk has found a number of targets at Indin Lake: four along the northwestern edge of the property, and three along its southeastern boundary.
Four gold deposit settings have been identified at Indin Lake: Colomac Main is hosted by a differentiated mafic sill, while three other targets appear to be structure-related, lode gold deposit types. Three more targets are iron-formation hosted, with one target hosted in a brecciated intrusion.
Nighthawk Gold has a $66.1-million market capitalization.
Seabridge Gold (TSX: SEA, NYSE: SA) holds the KSM, Iskut and Courageous Lake projects in B.C. and the Northwest Territories. In addition, in March, the company announced that it entered into an agreement with Golden Predator Mining (TSXV: GPY) to acquire the 3 Aces project in the Yukon for C$263,000 in cash, 300,000 Seabridge shares and potential future cash payments of C$2.25 million.
In April, the company closed a C$14.1-million private placement. The 3 Aces project features road access and covers 357 square kilometres. The 13.5-sq.-km Central Core area of the project has returned a number of high-grade gold intervals.
The KSM deposit, located within B.C.’s Golden Triangle, is the world’s largest undeveloped gold-copper project by reserves, with a total 2.2 billion tonnes grading 0.55 gram gold per tonne, 0.21% copper, 2.6 grams silver per tonne, with additional molybdenum for a total 38.8 million oz. gold, 10.2 billion lb. copper and 183 million oz. silver.
In March of last year, Seabridge released updated resources for the Iron Cap deposit at KSM, which is closer to infrastructure than the other deposits at the site.
The company sees potential to include Iron Cap early in the mine plan and plans to complete an updated PEA for the project.
Preliminary feasibility study results for the project were released in September 2016 and outlined an open-pit and block cave operation extracting ore from the Mitchell, Iron Cap, Sulphurets and Kerr zones.
Over a 53-year mine life, the first seven would see average annual production of 933,000 oz. gold and 205 million lb. copper, with additional silver and molybdenum.
The analysis suggested a C$1.5-billion, base-case after-tax net present value (NPV) estimate at a 5% discount rate. Total costs were an estimated $673 per oz. gold produced with a $5-billion capital outlay.
Seabridge also released the results of a PEA in October 2016, which examined the option of developing inferred resources at the Deep Kerr and Iron Cap Lower zones.
The PEA focused on block-cave mining with reduced surface impacts from the open pits. This iteration would see total costs of $358 per oz. with higher peak throughputs, $5.5 billion in initial capital and a resulting $3.4-billion, base-case post-tax NPV at a 5% discount rate.
The company also holds the Courageous Lake property in the Northwest Territories, with reserves of 91.1 million tonnes grading 2.2 grams gold for a total of 6.5 million oz. gold.
A preliminary feasibility study completed on the project in 2012 outlines an open-pit producing an average 385,000 oz. gold annually at cash operating costs of $780 per ounce. The associated capital cost stands at $1.5 billion. Exploration is ongoing at the site.
In 2017, Seabridge acquired the Snowstorm gold project in Nevada, located at the intersection of three gold belts and on strike with several gold mines.
In 2016, the company acquired SnipGold, adding the Iskut project to its holdings. Iskut, 30 km from KSM, hosts measured and indicated resources of 187 million tonnes grading 0.12% copper, 0.36 gram gold and 2.19 grams silver. Additional inferred resources stand at 5 million tonnes. Exploration is ongoing at this past-producing site.
Seabridge Gold has $1.1-billion market capitalization.
Strategic Metals (TSXV: SMD) is a project generator and explorer focused on the Yukon with a portfolio of over 100 projects available for option. The Yukon lies within the heart of the prospective Cordillean gold province, extending from B.C. into Alaska.
The company’s 83-sq.-km Mount Hinton project, within the Keno Hill silver district, features both silver and gold mineralization.
Last year, the company discovered a train of quartz and breccia veins at the site, extending for 230 metres from a talus fines sample assaying 2,340 grams gold and 597 grams silver towards an outcrop of oxidized breccia, which assayed 33.3 grams gold and 654 grams silver; a parallel train of veins was identified 150 metres to the east.
Follow-up mapping and prospecting work identified additional mineralized veins within the same drainage basin, and soil geochemistry has identified gold at the site over an area of 6 km by 4.5 km.
In addition to the mineral properties, Strategic Metals has equity holdings in other companies. These include a 36.3% stake in Rockhaven Resources (TSXV: RK), with the 1.6 million oz. gold-silver Klaza deposit in the Yukon.
The company also holds a significant stake in Precipitate Gold (TSXV: PRG), which secured a C$12.7-million investment by Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX, NYSE: GOLD) earlier this month, and owns two gold-copper projects in the Dominican Republic. (Prior to Barrick’s investment Strategic’s stake in Precipitate was 24.3%.)
Additional shareholdings include a 17.7% stake in Silver Range Resources (TSXV: SNG), a project generator focused on the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Nevada; a 42.3% position in GGL Resources (TSXV: GGL), a diamonds exploration company; and a 6.4% stake in ATAC Resources (TSXV: ATC), which holds the district-scale Rackla project in the Yukon.
Strategic Metals also holds 62.6% of Terra CO2, a private company focused on environmentally sustainable cement production.
The company’s project portfolio also features the Hopper copper-gold property within Yukon’s Rancheria silver district and the Meloy project in southern Yukon, with a 7 km by 3 km geochemical anomaly within an established porphyry belt.
Strategic Metals has a C$38.6-million market capitalization.
Trilogy Metals (TSX: TMQ) has a 50% stake in a joint-venture partnership with Australia’s South32 (50%) covering the Upper Kobuk copper-zinc-lead-gold-silver-cobalt properties in northwest Alaska.
These are within the state’s Ambler mining district, which hosts a number of copper, zinc, lead, gold, silver and cobalt deposits. Trilogy’s Arctic and Bornite projects are the most advanced holdings within Upper Kobuk.
The Arctic deposit, 470 km northwest of Fairbanks, features a polymetallic massive sulphide deposit, which, based on a 2018 prefeasibility study, features a reserve of 43 million tonnes at approximately 5% copper-equivalent.
Additional inferred resources consist of 3.5 million tonnes grading 1.71% copper, 2.72% zinc, 0.6% lead, 0.36 gram gold gold per tonne and 28.69 grams silver.
The prefeasibility outlined a 10,000 tonne per day, 12-year open-pit operation, producing a payable annual average of 159 million lb. copper, 199 million lb. zinc, 33 million lb. lead, 3.3 million oz. silver, and 30,600 oz. gold at all-in sustaining costs (AISCs) of 63¢ per lb. payable copper.
The proposed operation would produce separate copper, zinc and lead concentrates, with gold and silver by-products. With an initial capital cost estimate of $780 million, the post-tax net present value estimate for the project, at an 8% discount rate, comes in at $1.4 billion with a 33% internal rate of return.
Bornite, 25 km southwest of Arctic, hosts indicated resources of 40.5 million tonnes grading 1.02% copper, containing a total of 900 million lb. copper, with further inferred resources of 142 million tonnes at 1.74% copper, for an additional 5.5 billion pounds of the metal.
A total of 124.6 million tonnes within these resources is pit-constrained. In addition to copper, the deposit contains 77 million lb. cobalt.
Trilogy also has a local partnership with NANA, an Alaska Native regional corporation, with a framework for exploration and development within the area, with an additional infrastructure partnership with the state and permitting underway for an access road to the Ambler mining district.
This year’s $22.8-million exploration program plans for 10,000 metres of drilling at Arctic, additional drilling within the Ambler belt as well as mapping and sampling at Bornite.
South32 holds an 11.7% stake in the company.
Trilogy Metals has a C$294-million market capitalization.
Triumph Gold’s (TSXV: TIG) flagship property is the 200-sq.-km Freegold Mountain copper-gold project in Yukon. The road accessible site features three deposits with additional porphyry and epithermal zones and showings.
Freegold Mountain, within the Dawson Range gold belt, includes portions of the Big Creek Fault System, which provides pathways for epithermal mineralization and transports porphyry intrusions upwards.
In February, the company released updated resources for the Nucleus, Revenue and Tinta deposits. Total indicated resources for Nucleus and Revenue stand at 42.4 million tonnes grading 0.73 gram gold-equivalent for a total of 1 million gold-equivalent ounces.
Additional inferred resources across Nucleus, Revenue and Tinta total 39 million tonnes at 0.86 gram gold-equivalent for 1.1 million gold-equivalent ounces.
Nucleus and Revenue are the two most advanced deposits within Freegold Mountain.
They are within a 6-km long gold and copper soil geochemical anomaly, where drilling over the past three years intersected porphyry and epithermal-related mineralization. Triumph has identified additional targets within the anomaly.
Last year’s drilling at the Blue Sky porphyry target within the 6-km soil anomaly intersected 304 metres grading 0.64 gram gold, 5.9 grams silver and 0.23% copper.
In addition, the WAu Breccia porphyry target within the soil anomaly returned 602 metres of 0.67 gram gold, 5.2 grams silver and 0.19% copper. The mineralization has been traced over 130 metres of strike and remains open.
Additional discoveries within the soil anomaly include the Drone, Guder and Granger zones. Within the greater 200-sq.-km property, prospects include the 2-km long Irene-Goldstar epithermal gold-silver corridor.
This year, Triumph plans to use 3D geophysical modelling to target high-grade zones and to vector into the core of the porphyry system.
Newmont (TSX: NGT, NYSE: NEM) holds an 18% stake in the company.
Triumph Gold has a C$17.7-million market capitalization.
White Gold (TSX: WGO) holds over 4,220 sq. km of ground within 33 properties in Yukon’s White Gold district, host to gold deposits, new discoveries and early-stage projects.
The company uses a proprietary in-house exploration strategy across its extensive land package.
Existing resources include the Golden Saddle and Arc deposits within the White Gold property, 95 km south of Dawson City, with total indicated resources of 14.3 million tonnes grading 2.26 grams gold per tonne for a total of 1.04 million oz. gold and inferred resources of 10.7 million tonnes at 1.48 grams gold totalling 508,700 ounces.
The Comstock property, acquired last year from Comstock Metals (TSXV: CSL) for a total of C$2.6 million, is contiguous with the White Gold property and hosts the VG zone deposit, with inferred resources of 4.4 million tonnes at 1.65 grams gold totalling 230,000 oz. gold.
Both of these deposits remain open with additional prospective targets on the two properties.
Earlier-stage projects include the Titan area, discovered last year within the Hen property, where reverse air blast drilling intersected 6 metres of 72.81 grams gold and soil samples assayed up to 113 grams gold – the highest value ever recorded in the company’s database.
Titan is within a 650 metre by 650 metre magnetic anomaly and sits within 15 km of the Vertigo discovery with road access.
The Vertigo discovery, within the JP Ross property, is road accessible from Dawson City.
Reverse air blast drilling in 2018 intersected 31 metres of 22.47 grams gold and 11 metres of 17.34 grams gold. Mineralized structures have been traced over a 12-km trend.
Additional areas with gold discoveries include the GS West and Ryan’s surprise discoveries within the White Gold property, with additional high-grade gold zones identified throughout the holding.
Shawn Ryan, the company’s chief technical advisor, has over 20 years of experience with prospecting in the Yukon, and his work led to the discovery of the White Gold, Coffee (acquired by Goldcorp in 2016 through a C$520-million acquisition of Kaminak Gold) and QV projects.
White Gold has a C$74.7-million market capitalization.
(Magda Gardner – This article first appeared in The Northern Miner on April 20)