While the gold price erased most of the headway it made in early 2016, it still exited the year up 8.5% at US$1,150.90 per oz., snapping three years of consecutive losses. Despite the modest annual growth for gold, more than a few gold-focused companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange registered huge year-over-year share price gains.
INV Metals (TSX: INV) topped the list, soaring 536% from 11¢ to 70¢ per share. The company’s flagship asset is its Loma Larga gold project in Ecuador, which it acquired from Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) in 2012. Iamgold holds a 36% interest in INV.
In April 2016, INV closed a US$3-million private placement of 15 million shares priced at 20¢ apiece. It said the proceeds would help plan a critical path and long-term items needed to finish a feasibility study at Loma Larga, after a positive updated prefeasibility study.
In July, the updated study, which replaced the 2015 prefeasibility study, proposed INV could build a larger 3,000-tonne-per-day underground operation producing 150,000 oz. gold a year over a 12-year mine life. Using a US$1,250 per oz. gold price, Loma Larga has a 26.3% after-tax internal rate of return. Start-up costs are US$286 million for the project, which also has significant silver and copper credits.
In an email, the company’s CEO Candace MacGibbon said INV intends to start the feasibility study in 2017. It is completing geotechnical and hydrogeological drilling — and more metallurgical test work — to support the upcoming study, which should take 18 months to complete. After permitting and project financing, construction should begin in 2019, with gold production at the end of 2020.
Loncor Resources (TSX: LN) shares jumped 350%, from 4¢ to 18¢. The little-known explorer has two assets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: the Ngayu project in Orientale province and the North Kivu project in the North Kivu province. The latter project is under force majeure due to the poor security situation in most of the province.
Loncor kicked off 2016 by announcing Randgold Resources (NASDAQ: GOLD) had signed a joint-venture agreement on the Ngayu project, where the major would manage and fund all exploration until completing a prefeasibility study on any gold discovery it makes. If Randgold moves ahead with a feasibility study, Loncor would pitch in with costs to keep its 35% interest.
In February 2016, Loncor raised $1 million in a non-brokered private placement of 67 million shares at 15¢ a share. In April Randgold started a regional airborne geophysical survey over Ngayu, with no results yet released.
Loncor closed a non-brokered private placement of 1.75 million units at 12¢ a unit for gross proceeds of $210,000 in June. Each unit comprises one share and half a warrant.
Since then, Loncor has not published news. At the end of September, it had US$14,000 in cash and equivalents and a US$1.1-million working capital deficit.
Golden Star Resources (TSX: GSC; NYSE-MKT: GSS) gained 321% over 2016 to close at 99¢ per share. The operator of the Wassa and Prestea open-pit gold mines in Ghana had a busy year, highlighted by a 10% reserve increase, debt reduction and progress at the Wassa and Prestea underground development projects.
Golden Star raised US$15 million at US66¢ per share in a bought-deal financing in May. In August, the miner closed a US$34.5-million underwritten public offering at US75¢ a share and a US$65-million private placement of 7% convertible senior notes due in 2021. The net cash proceeds of the private placement were US$21.2 million. The company used the August financing proceeds to repay in full its US$25-million loan with Ecobank Ghana Ltd., where US$22 million, plus accrued interest, remained.
The Wassa underground mine began production in July and reached commercial production on Jan. 1, 2017, with production expected to ramp up throughout the year. The Prestea underground mine is on track to produce in mid-2017.
For 2016, Golden Star anticipates delivering between 180,000 and 205,000 oz. gold at cash-operating costs of US$815 to US$925 per ounce.
Marathon Gold (TSX: MOZ) shares increased 293% from 15¢ to 59¢, helped by drilling success at the company’s wholly owned Valentine Lake gold property in Newfoundland. The property hosts four deposits — Leprechaun, Marathon, Victory and Sprite — with existing resources. Combined, the four deposits host in-pit and underground resources of 15 million measured and indicated tonnes of 2.2 grams gold per tonne for 1.06 million oz. gold, plus 2.2 million inferred tonnes of 2.85 grams gold for 199,800 oz. gold. More than 90% of the measured and indicated resource sits in the Leprechaun and Marathon deposits, where metallurgical testing confirmed heap-leaching opportunities.
From the start of 2016 to November, Marathon drilled 14,500 metres into Marathon, Leprechaun and Victory. It also expanded the mineralized corridor of the Marathon deposit to over 1.7 km and confirmed that mineralization continues more than 350 metres deep.
The company closed a $3-million private placement in May and an $8-million flow-through financing in October. Proceeds from the October financing will fund ongoing fieldwork on Valentine Lake, as well as an expanded 35,000-metre drill program, which will continue into 2017 to grow and explore more resources on the property. Marathon plans to table an updated resource estimate in the second quarter.
Kerr Mines (TSX: KER) ended 2016 at 11.5¢ per share, up 283% from its 3¢ close in 2015, as it struggled to improve its finances through debt restructuring and selling its non-core assets.
In July, Kerr reached settlement agreements with trade creditors and some debt holders representing $8.4 million of the $22.6 million of liabilities outstanding at the end of March. It paid $2.5 million in cash, stock and future consideration in settling these debts.
A month later, Kerr reached several other agreements with various creditors to improve its financial position by settling debt for less than face value, converting the debt to common shares, and securing a $2-million long-term debt facility, among other things.
With its books in better shape, Kerr began dewatering and rehabilitating its core asset — the past-producing Copperstone gold mine in Arizona — in October.
After dewatering, Kerr says an initial exploration and development program would help prioritize exploration targets and restore production with improved mining methods.