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Harte Gold gets creditor protection as Silver Lake closes in

The Sugar Zone mine began commercial production in 2019 and has an anticipated mine life of 13 years. (Image: Screenshot from Harte Gold’s video.)

Troubled Canadian miner Harte Gold (TSX: HRT) has been granted creditor protection after rushing its Sugar Zone gold mine into production without a feasibility study two years ago and encountering a series of problems at the Northern Ontario mine.

The gold miner, likely to fall under control of Australia’s Silver Lake Resources (ASX: SRL), has faced issues at the operation from the near-beginning.

On top of dealing with poor ventilation underground, Harte has faced equipment failures, the freezing of its tailings due to severe weather, higher costs, and both the quantity and grade of gold recovered at the mine being lower than expected.

In May, the Toronto-based company announced it would not generate sufficient cash from the operation to fully fund its planned investment activities, including a tabled expansion of the mine, and its debt service obligations to French bank BNP Paribas.

Harte Gold resolved to put itself up for sale, but no offers were made. The company was in danger of running out of funds in the next weeks, which would have forced it to halt operations.

Perth-based Silver Lake Resources last month acquired $63.3 million (C$80m) in credit facilities BNP granted to Harte. It has also committed to loan the Canadian miner up to C$10.8 million ($8.6m) to fund mining operations through the creditors protection proceedings.

Shareholders out the window

Under the arrangement, Harte’s common shareholders will be eliminated. These include Appian, its largest shareholder, as well as Canadian wealth managers Goodman & Company Investment Council, and Mackenzie Financial.

Trading of Harte’s shares were suspended on Tuesday after the Toronto Stock Exchange placed the company under an expedited delisting review process. The TSX said a decision on whether or not to delist Harte Gold will be made on December 15.

The company’s shares cratered on the news, closing 50% lower on Tuesday at just C$0.010, which leaves the miner with a market capitalization of about C$10.8 million ($8.6m).

The Sugar Zone underground mine has 797,000 ounces of gold reserves at 7.18g/t, similar in nature to the Rothsay and Mt. Monger mines Silver Lake operates in Australia, where it produces around 250,000 ounces of gold a year.

Silver Lake’s Canadian foray is the latest incursion into North America for Australia’s mid and large cap gold miners.

Northern Star (ASX:NST) bought the Pogo gold mine in Alaska from Sumitomo in 2018. Newcrest Mining (ASX, TSX:NCM) followed suit, by securing the Red Chris mine in British Columbia for $1.1b in 2019 and buying Pretium Resources in November for $2.8 billion.

Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) and St Barbara (ASX:SBM) have also been acquiring properties and juniors in the maple leaf country, but has yet to score a major buy.