Founders Metals (TSXV: FDR) has been hitting high-grade gold in southeastern Suriname over the past seven months, fuelling hopes that its Antino project could become the tiny South American country’s third producing gold mine.
The C$60.1 million market cap explorer is closing off the year with drill results as high as 13 metres at 14.03 grams gold per tonne at Antino and a technical report under its belt, as it works toward an initial resource in 2025.
Founders, which was previously known as Avalon Works and was focused on gold exploration in New Brunswick, turned its attention to Suriname only last year. In March, it earned an option from Orea Mining (TSX: OREA) to acquire 75% ownership of Antino from Nana Resources, which holds the remaining 25%.
Since then, Founders has mobilized its own drills, completing almost 10,000 metres since July. Drilling has focused on the Buese and Upper Antino targets, along an 8-km northwesterly trend.
The mining activity in the region is an indicator of what’s in the ground at Antino, says Founders CEO Colin Padget.
“Antino has that alluvial mining footprint that’s on the order of the Marian mine and its 7-million-ounce deposit,” he told The Northern Miner in late November, adding that it’s also comparable to the deposit at Zijin Mining’s Rosebel gold mine.
Since it started production in 2004 and until 2021, Rosebel produced 5.6 million oz. of gold, according to Zijin, who purchased the mine from Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) last February for $360 million. Rosebel’s total reserves and resources come to 10.8 million contained ounces. Its mine life has been extended more than once and is now expected to operate until at least 2028.
Newmont’s (TSX: NGT) Marian, Rosebel and Antino mines sit on the gold-rich Guiana Shield that stretches under five neighbouring countries and has been a prolific source of mining since the 19th century. The shield boasts an inventory of 110 million oz. of gold, according to Founders. Antino is on the southern edge of the Marowijne Greenstone Belt, just across the Lawa River from French Guiana.
Padget says Antino stands out in the Guiana Shield for the amount of artisanal mining that has happened in the area.
“We can point to over half a million ounces of gold that has been produced on the property that people have paid a royalty on,” he said, adding that historic results from bedrock intercepts and Founders’ own drill results suggest large scale potential at the property.
Padget said he believes the Antino property as a whole could yield a multimillion-ounce gold deposit.
Upper Antino is close to Founders’ airstrip, near the northwest corner of its 238-sq.-km property, and Buese is southeast of Upper Antino. More than 32,000 metres of historical drilling have been conducted on the property by previous explorers.
Inside Upper Antino, drilling in the Froyo-Connector zone has yielded strong results, with Founders reporting on Thursday that hole FR038 returned 7.6 metres grading 4.5 grams gold per tonne from surface, 9 metres at 3.04 grams gold from 63 metres, and 13 metres at 14.03 grams gold from 77 metres depth. Hole FR040 returned 8 metres grading 12.34 grams gold from 78 metres.
“Froyo-Ginger (is) really just an area that historically no one drilled,” Padget said. “There’s no exploration work done because (it’s) a bit of a wetter area. But with some recent mining, we’ve been able to build a path there and drill it.”
In early November, drilling in the same zone returned 1 metre of 231.92 grams gold within an intercept of 3 metres of 99.51 grams gold from 25 metres depth. It was the highest-grade intercept yet at Antino, Founders said in a Nov. 2 news release.
Much of the Vancouver-based company’s focus this year has been drilling along a 1.2-km strike near historic holes, and its gone deeper than the 40-metre depths of those holes to 150-160 metres, Padget said. Step out drilling is also moving east and further northwest.
Looking to next year, Padget says the company plans to triple its drill program to 30,000 metres, split 60-40 between Upper Antino and Buese. Founders has about C$5.7 million in cash for that program. It has spent C$5.5 million on exploration to date.
Due to the nature of mining laws in Suriname, Founders acquired all its permits for exploration, drilling and mining when it acquired the concession for Antino. With those permits in hand, Padget says he’s looking at a first resource for Antino in 2025, a preliminary economic assessment the following year and a feasibility study shortly afterwards.
“In terms of actual mining, we’re talking surface material or tailings, that can all happen quite quickly,” he said. “That’s a matter of spending the capital or having someone else spend the capital to put the milling facilities on site. And the permits to do the actual mining are there.”