Australia’s largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining, (ASX: NCM), is expanding its footprint in Ecuador by signing an agreement with Cornerstone Capital Resources (TSX-V:CGP), a Canadian junior with several assets in the country, including a 15% stake in SolGold’s Cascabel copper-gold project.
Under the deal, a subsidiary of Newcrest will have the option to earn up to a 75% interest in two early-stage gold, copper and silver projects — Caña Brava and Tioloma, located in south-central Ecuador.
The Aussie gold miner would be the operator of the proposed mines in phase one, which extends to 18 months after receiving a drill permit.
Newcrest already owns a 27.1% interest in Lundin Gold (TSX:LUG), the company behind the Fruta del Norte gold project, and has an agreement to form a joint venture to explore eight early stage concessions near the mine.
It also holds a 15.3% interest in SolGold (LON, TSX:SOLG), which is developing the Cascabel copper-gold project in the country’s north. Its new partner, Cornerstone, has a 15% interest in Cascabel, but SolGold is working hard to put an end to that.
Ecuador has gained ground as a mining investment destination over the past two years, with top miners entering into joint ventures or investing in juniors to gain exposure to projects in that country.
Anglo American (LON:AAL) also landed in the South American nation through a deal with Canada’s Luminex Resources (TSX-V: LR). The company plans to develop two copper and gold concessions there.
Currently, Ecuador’s emerging mining sector employs 5,000 people, but estimates the figure will rise to about 16,000 by 2020.