Exploration snapshot: Eight companies active in BC, NWT and the Yukon

Nickel Creek Platinum's wholly owned Nickel Shaw project in Yukon. Credit: Nickel Creek Platinum.

With a strong outlook for the mining sector and few recent discoveries, companies are turning to low-risk under-explored frontiers in their search for new deposits and future mines. Below, we present eight companies focused on B.C., the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Ascot Resources

Ascot Resources’ Red Mountain project in B.C.’s Golden Triangle. Credit: Ascot Resources.

Ascot Resources (TSX: AOT; US-OTC: AOTVF) is focused on re-starting the Premier gold project in B.C.’s Golden Triangle, 25 km from Stewart. The 25,000-hectare site includes four deposits. Ascot also holds the Red Mountain project, 23 km to the southwest, with an underground deposit.

A feasibility study from April 2020 on a development of both the Premier and Red Mountain projects suggests four underground mines across the two sites. The study outlined a restart of the Premier mill at 2,500 tonnes per day, to support an eight-year mining operation producing an average of 132,375 oz. of gold and 370,500 oz. of silver annually at all-in sustaining costs of US$769 per ounce.

With an initial capital cost estimate of $146.6 million, the net present value for the project, at a 5% discount rate, stands at $341 million with a 51% internal rate of return.

In December, Ascot closed a US$105 million project financing package with Sprott Private Resource Lending and Beedie Investments for development of Premier and to repay existing outstanding convertible notes. The package included a US$80 million senior credit facility and a US$25 million subordinated convertible facility.

In October, the company signed an agreement for the delivery of semi-autogenous and ball mills to the site, which are required to refurbish the concentrator to re-start Premier. The deliveries are expected around mid-2021.

In June, the company started a 15,000-metre exploration program at Premier and Red Mountain. By September, Ascot announced the discovery of a new, high-grade zone of gold mineralization, the Day zone, at Premier, 5 km north of the mill.

Measured and indicated resources across Premier and Red Mountain total 7.3 million tonnes grading 7.85 grams gold per tonne and 29 grams silver per tonne for a total of 1.8 million oz. of gold and 6.8 million oz. of silver. Additional inferred resources across the two sites stand at 5.5 million tonnes at 7.11 grams gold and 27.1 grams silver, for a further 1.3 million gold oz. and 4.8 million oz. of silver.

The Premier mine produced 2 million oz. of gold and 45 million oz. of silver between 1918 and 1952.

Ascot Resources has a $411.6 million market capitalization.

Banyan Gold

Banyan Gold crew social distancing in camp. Credit: Banyan Gold.

Banyan Gold (TSXV: BYN) holds the AurMac and Hyland gold projects in the Yukon.

At 156-sq.-km, AurMac lies in the Mayo mining district in central Yukon, 356 km north of Whitehorse. This property is 40 km from Victoria Gold’s (TSX: VGCX) Eagle gold mine and adjacent to Alexco Resource’s (TSX: AXU; NYSE: AXU) Keno Hill Silver District project.

In May 2020, Banyan tabled an initial inferred pit-constrained resource for AurMac, contained within the Airstrip and Powerline deposits.

The inferred resources total 52.6 million tonnes grading 0.54 gram gold per tonne for 903,945 gold ounces. Airstrip is the bigger of the two, host to 46 million tonnes at 0.52 gram gold per tonne.

In September, Banyan announced that it had staked an additional 401 claims adjacent to AurMac, which expanded the property by 64 sq. km. At the same time, the company also staked a land package 5 km west of AurMac – the 117 sq. km Nitra property.

Later that month, Banyan reported diamond drill results from Airstrip. Highlights included 47.7 metres of 1.02 grams gold from 84.8 metres; 16.5 metres of 0.53 gram gold starting at surface; and 12 metres of 0.55 gram gold starting at 29 metres. According to Tara Christie, the company’s president and CEO, these results demonstrate the continuity of the Airstrip deposit and add 200 metres of strike to the mineralization.

By mid-November, the company announced diamond drill results for the Powerline zone at AurMac. Notable intercepts included 128.5 metres of 0.72 gram gold from 82 metres and 29.8 metres of 0.8 gram gold starting at 29.8 metres. Christie noted that this drilling has added over 500 metres of mineralized footprint south of the deposit.

AurMac also features the 10.2-sq.-km Aurex Hill zone, which is a gold and arsenic soil anomaly.

The 186.2-sq.-km Hyland project in southeast Yukon, 74 km northeast of Watson Lake, also includes a gold deposit. Indicated resources within the Main zone at Hyland stand at 8.6 million tonnes grading 0.78 gram gold and 7.04 grams silver for a total of 236,000 gold-equivalent ounces. Inferred resources add 10.8 million tonnes at 0.77 gram gold and 5.32 grams silver, for a further 288,000 gold-equivalent ounces. The deposit remains open; column leach tests suggest average oxide gold recoveries of 86%.

Banyan Gold has a $40.5 million market capitalization.

Benchmark Metals

CEO John Williamson viewing drill core at Benchmark Metals’ Lawyers project. Credit:

Benchmark Metals (TSXV: BNCH; US-OTC: BNCHF) holds the 140-sq.-km Lawyers gold-silver project in northwestern B.C.’s Golden Triangle. The company’s geological model for the site is of a low-sulphidation epithermal system with two styles of mineralization: breccias with mineralized veins and quartz veins containing semi-massive sulphides.

Benchmark’s 2020 exploration program, which included over 87,000 metres of drilling, focused on three zones with near-surface gold-silver mineralization. These are the Cliff Creek zone, extending over 1.2 km of strike, the Dukes Ridge-Phoenix zone, extending over 1 km, and the AGB area, with over 600 metres of strike. Mineralization at Cliff Creek has been traced down to a vertical depth of 550 metres, over 200 vertical meters at Dukes Ridge-Phoenix and across 270 vertical metres at AGB.

In its exploration pipeline, Benchmark has two “advanced discovery targets” – Marmot and Silver Pond. In 2020, the company completed initial drilling at both zones. Additional exploration areas include LaLa and Gifford’s Edge.

The recent exploration efforts are expected to result in an updated resource estimate for the property, expected in the first quarter of 2021, and a preliminary economic study, scheduled for release in the second quarter.

Notable intercepts from 2020 included 128.1 metres of 3.02 grams gold-equivalent per tonne (1.65 grams gold per tonne and 110.02 grams silver per tonne) and 221.5 metres of 1.01 grams gold-equivalent (0.82 gram gold and 15.16 grams silver), reported from the Cliff Creek zone in November; as well as 4.3 metres of 33.52 grams gold-equivalent (22.57 grams gold and 1,036.07 grams silver) reported in December from the northern portion of Cliff Creek.

In August, Benchmark announced that it had discovered a new zone within the 6-sq.-km Marmot area at Lawyers. The 2-km by 3-km area returned rock sample assays that included 109.9 grams gold-equivalent (1.3 grams gold and 3,890 grams silver) and 58.5 grams gold-equivalent (25.9 grams gold and 2,610 grams silver).

Also in August, the company announced preliminary metallurgical test results from the three resource target areas. Combined gravity and leach testing from all three suggests recoveries in the range of 91% to 97% for gold and 59% to 92% for silver. Flotation testing with gravity pre-treatment indicates suggests recovery ranges of 85% to 98% for gold and 39% to 97% for silver.

The 2021 Lawyers exploration program, with a budget of $25 to $30 million, will be focused on advancing the project to the feasibility stage.

Benchmark Metals has a $186.5-million market capitalization.

New Gold

An operator using Sandvik’s AutoMine system to drive an LH410 in the New Afton mine. Credit: Sandvik.

An operator using Sandvik’s AutoMine system to drive an LH410 in the New Afton mine. Credit: Sandvik.

New Gold (TSX: NGD; NYSE-AM: NGD) is a gold and copper producer with two mines – Rainy River and New Afton – in Ontario and British Columbia.

The company’s wholly owned Rainy River open pit mine, 65 km northwest of Fort Frances in Ontario, has been operating since 2017. The company’s revised 2020 production guidance from this asset was at 225,000 to 235,000 gold-equivalent oz. at all-in sustaining costs of US$1,610 to US$1,690 per oz., with 164,960 oz. generated in the first nine months of the year at AISCs of US$1,592 per ounce.

Based on a life-of-mine plan update published for its two producing assets in February 2020, New Gold expects to see open pit operations continue at Rainy River through to 2024, with an underground operation online from 2022 through to 2028. This scenario would generate an average of 289,000 gold oz. annually at AISCs of US$967 per ounce.

In British Columbia, New Gold’s 16,000 tonne per day New Afton block cave mine is 10 km west of Kamloops and has a mine life reaching out to 2030. The 2020 guidance for this asset was most recently at 190,000 to 220,000 gold-equivalent oz. (62,000 to 72,000 gold oz. and 65 to 75 million lb. of copper) at AISCs of US$1,080 to US$1,160 per gold-equivalent ounce. In the first nine months of 2020, the site churned out 152,090 gold-equivalent oz. at AISCs of US$971 per ounce. Based on last year’s mine plan updates, the bulk operation is expected to generate an average of 260,000 gold-equivalent oz. annually over the coming years at AISCs of US$681 per gold-equivalent ounce.

In March, the company closed a US$300 million partnership with the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, with the pension plan acquiring a 46% free cash flow interest in New Afton in exchange for a one-time upfront cash payment.

In August 2020, New Gold closed the sale of the Blackwater gold project in B.C., to Artemis Gold (TSXV: ARTG) for $190 million in cash.

New Gold has a $2 billion market capitalization.

Nickel Creek Platinum

Heather White, Advisor for Nickel Creek Platinum, pictured with one of the drills during the 2020 Exploration season at the Nickel Shaw project in Yukon. Credit: Nickel Creek Platinum.

Nickel Creek Platinum (TSX: NCP) wholly owns the Nickel Shaw nickel-copper sulphide and platinum group metal (PGM) project in the Yukon.

The road-accessible site includes the open-pittable Wellgreen deposit, host to measured and indicated resources of 323.4 million tonnes grading 0.26% nickel, 0.16% copper, 0.015% cobalt, 0.253 gram platinum per tonne, 0.255 gram palladium per tonne and 0.046 gram gold per tonne. Additional inferred resources stand at 108.1 million tonnes at 0.29% nickel, 0.15% copper, 0.016% cobalt, 0.256 gram platinum, 0.279 gram palladium and 0.04 gram gold.

In 2018, the company provided the results of a second-phase metallurgical program, which was successful at  separating bulk copper-nickel concentrate into separate saleable nickel and copper concentrates. The copper concentrate, at 18% copper, also included 1.1% nickel and 4.7 grams PGMs (platinum, palladium and gold), while the nickel concentrate, grading 6.7% nickel, contained 1.3% copper and 8.4 grams PGMs.

In addition to the existing resource, there are multiple additional target areas within the 146-sq.-km property. In December, Nickel Creek Platinum announced the results of its 2020 geophysics and drilling program completed along an 18-km long mineralized trend that identified 42 conductive anomalies, 11 of which could potentially be massive nickel sulphide units.

In October, the company named engineer Stuart Harshaw as president and CEO and appointed Harshaw to the board. Harshaw has over 30 years of experience with nickel product production and marketing and, until 2017, served as VP of marketing and operations for Asia Pacific and VP of the Ontario operations with Vale (NYSE: VALE).

Nickel Creek Platinum has a $44.6 million market capitalization.

Talisker Resources

Soil samplers in action for Talisker Resources. Credit: Talisker Resources.

Talisker Resources (TSX: TSE; US-OTC: TSKFF) holds over 2,976 sq. km of ground in southern British Columbia across the Bralorne, Spences Bridge and Remington gold projects.

Past-producing Bralorne, the company’s flagship project, is known as one of the highest-grade and longest-producing mines in B.C. Three historic mines at the site – Bralorne, Pioneer and King – generated 7.3 million tonnes of material grading 17.7 grams gold per tonne, for a total output of 4.2 million gold ounces.

There are 63 known veins at Bralorne – of these 30 were mined previously and 29 veins were extracted to a maximum depth of 900 metres. The veins are approximately 50 cm to 2 metres wide.

While historical mining focused only on high-grade quartz veins, drilling has hit lower-grade vein salvage material (ranging between 0.5 gram gold and 2.5 grams gold), which, when extracted together, could increase the overall vein width.

Talisker notes that the Bralorne veins feature “world-class continuity” – many continue for over 900 vertical metres and are, on average, 90 cm wide.

In November, Talisker reported drill results from seven vein targets at Bralorne, which confirm their continuity and hit two additional zones of mineralization (Charlotte and Knight). Drill highlights included 2.25 metres of 227.55 grams gold; 60 cm of 12.75 grams gold; and 60 cm of 62.7 grams gold.

Results from Charlotte suggest an extensive near-surface gold zone with drill highlights of 5.1 metres of 1.37 grams gold and 3.1 metres of 3.73 grams gold.

According to Terry Harbort, Talisker’s president and CEO, these results “highlight the high-grade nature of the Bralorne gold project and continue to confirm our geological model, the accuracy of our targeting system and the extensive structural continuity of the veins.”

The Bralorne project includes an existing near-surface resource of 663,600 tonnes at 9.4 grams gold, totalling 174,400 ounces.

In October, the explorer also provided an update on its greenfield exploration efforts at the Spences Bridge, Remington and Golden Hornet projects, which cover 2,406 sq. km. In 2020, geologists completed an extensive geochemical program as well as mapping at these sites. This  generated 13 prospects at Spences Bridge and led to the discovery of epithermal-style quartz veins at two prospects within Spences Bridge.

Talisker has an $8 million, 15,000-metre drill program planned for 2021.

The company has a $77.7 million market capitalization.

Tudor Gold

The mining camp at Tudor Gold’s Treaty Creek project in B.C.’s Golden Triangle. Credit: Tudor Gold.

Tudor Gold’s (TSXV: TUD) key asset is a 60% stake in the 179-sq.-km Treaty Creek project in B.C.’s Golden Triangle. The site borders Seabridge Gold’s (TSX: SEA, NYSE: SA) KSM property to the southwest and Pretium Resources’ (TSX: PVG; NYSE: PVG) Brucejack mine to the southeast.

In May, a 20,000 metre drill program started at the site (increased to 40,000 metres in July), focused on the Goldstorm zone. Goldstorm is one of several mineralized target areas on the property and, along with the Copper Belle zone, is one of two advanced drill targets.

The Goldstorm system has been traced over 1,100 metres along the northeast axis and for at least 600 metres across the southeast axis; and the system remains open. Goldstorm includes three separate mineralized horizons – the 300 Horizon, traced over 1,100 metres; CS-600, defined along 1,000 metres; and DS-5, traced for 300 metres.

Copper Belle has been defined over an area of 650 metres by 300 metres.

Goldstorm and Copper Belle are hosted by the same belt of rocks that host the KSM deposit mineralization and lie nearby the Sulphurets Thrust fault, which runs from the KSM property, and, according to Tudor, appears to be a “controlling factor in the formation of the porphyry-style mineral bodies.”

Notable intercepts from the company’s January 2021 release included 1,033.5 metres of 0.76 gram gold, 4.66 grams silver and 0.03% copper (0.86 gram gold-equivalent) from 60 metres and 531 metres of 0.94 gram gold, 1.96 grams silver and 0.02% copper (1 gram gold-equivalent) starting at 90 metres.

Highlights from 2020 drilling at Goldstorm reported in December included 354 metres of 1.12 grams gold, 4.14 grams silver and 0.03% copper (1.22 grams gold-equivalent) from 36 metres, within a 1,225-metre interval of 0.7 gram gold-equivalent; and 351 metres of 0.97 gram gold, 3.56 grams silver and 0.03% copper (1.05 grams gold-equivalent) starting at 113 metres, within a 928.5-metre interval of 0.74 gram gold-equivalent.

According to Walter Storm, the company’s president and CEO, results from the 2020 drill program will be used to derive an initial resource for the property, with additional drilling planned for 2021 to “locate the limits or edges of the mineralized system.” Tudor expects to complete this initial resource over the coming months.

American Creek Resources. (TSXV: AMK) and Teuton Resources (TSXV: TUO) each hold a 20% interest in Treaty Creek, carried through to a production decision.

Tudor Gold has a $444.3-million market capitalization.

White Gold

White Gold (TSXV: WGO; US-OTC: WHGOF)) holds over 4,220 sq. km of ground within 33 properties in Yukon’s White Gold district, 95 km south of Dawson City. The explorer holds over 40% of the White Gold district and is the largest landholder in this area.

Existing resources include the Golden Saddle and Arc deposits within the White Gold property, with total open pit indicated resources of 15.4 million tonnes at 2.26 grams gold per tonne, containing 1.1 million gold ounces. Open pit inferred resources across the two deposits stand at 8.7 million tonnes grading 1.28 grams gold, for a further 356,800 ounces. Golden Saddle also includes an underground deposit.

The Comstock property, contiguous with the White Gold property, hosts the VG zone deposit, with inferred resources of 4.4 million tonnes at 1.65 grams gold totalling 230,000 ounces.

In October, White Gold announced trench, probe and soil sample results from its JP Ross property and these identified additional gold mineralization at multiple targets. Trenches completed within the Stage Fright target returned a 2.5-metre interval grading 8.88 grams gold as well as two 2.5-metre mineralized zones grading 1.06 grams gold and 1.83 grams gold. Five of seven trenches completed at the Sabotage target returned gold mineralization, while trenching at the North Frenzy area traced a mineralized quartz vein breccia over 600 metres of strike.

According to David D’Onofrio, White Gold’s CEO, there are at least 14 gold targets at JP Ross, within an area of 14 km by 11 km.

Also in October, the junior released diamond drill results from the Ryan’s Surprise target, with drill highlights such as 3.5 metres of 17.4 grams gold and 12.3 metres of 8.69 grams gold. The Ryan’s target, with mineralization traced over an area of 250 metres by 130 metres and down to a depth of 300 metres, is 2 km west of Golden Saddle and sits within an 11 km by 5 km mineralized trend.

In June 2020, the company closed a $6-million private placement financing led by Eric Sprott. Kinross Gold (TSX: KGC; NYSE: K) and Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) maintained their respective 17.1% interests in the company.

White Gold has a $106.8 million market capitalization.



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