Far North snapshot: Eight companies hunting for minerals in the north

Studying core at a drill site. Credit: Gold Terra.

In their search for future mines, many companies are turning to the Far North as existing resources are depleted. The North features favourable geology, mining-friendly policies and is much less explored than more established destinations to the south. Below, we provide an overview of eight companies focused on the northern portion of this continent.

Gold Terra

Gold Terra Resource (TSXV: YGT; US-OTC: YGTFF) is completing a 12,000-metre first-phase drill program at the Campbell Shear target, on grounds optioned from Newmont (TSX: NGT; NYSE: NEM). These option grounds are just south of the past-producing Con mine, and adjacent to Gold Terra’s flagship Yellowknife City gold project in the Northwest Territories, 10 km from Yellowknife.

At approximately 800 sq. km, the Yellowknife City project covers an estimated 70 km of the Campbell Shear structure. The historic Giant and Con mines nearby generated a total of 14 million gold oz. from a 7-km section of the shear zone.

In March, Gold Terra announced assays for the first three holes drilled on the optioned grounds; drill highlights includef 4.4 metres of 10.85 grams gold per tonne and 1.1 metres of 2.35 grams gold per tonne. All three holes intersected the Campbell Shear. According to president and CEO David Suda, the option is the company’s highest-priority target. The first-phase, 12,000-metre drill program is testing a 1.2-km southern extension of the Campbell Shear, targeting vertical depths of 250 to 600 metres.

Examining drill core in the core shed. Credit: Gold Terra.

Assays for an additional three holes drilled on the optioned property, released in April, extended gold mineralization at the Yellorex zone within the Campbell Shear. Notable intercepts included 12.4 metres of 5.77 grams gold; and 1.5 metres of 5.69 grams gold.

Based on a September 2020 option agreement, Gold Terra can earn an initial 30% stake in the option grounds by spending $3 million on exploration over three years. In the second phase, Gold Terra can earn an additional 30% share by funding all expenses and completing a prefeasibility study with a mineral resource of at least 750,000 gold oz. on the Newmont property and 1.5 million oz. on the combined option and Gold Terra holdings.

If Gold Terra completes the earn-in phases, Newmont would have a one-time back-in right to earn a 20% share, for a 60% interest in the option property. A total resource discovery of at least 5 million gold oz. on this property would trigger the back-in right.

A March 2021 resource update for Yellowknife City defined a combined open-pit and underground inventory of 24.3 million inferred tonnes grading 1.54 grams gold per tonne, containing 1.2 million gold ounces. This resource includes the Crestaurum, Sam Otto, Barney and Mispickel deposits, within a 3-km radius, with both an open pit and underground mining component.

In March, Gold Terra completed a $2.9 million non-brokered private placement; the proceeds are allocated towards drilling a total of over 20,000 metres along the Campbell shear target south of the Con mine this year.

Gold Terra Resource has a $50.2 million market capitalization.

International Tower Hill Mines

International Tower Hill Mines’ (TSX: ITH; NYSE: THM) is working to deliver an updated prefeasibility study for its Livengood gold project in Alaska, 113 km northwest of Fairbanks, by October of this year. With measured and indicated resources of 525.4 million tonnes at 0.68 gram gold per tonne that contain 11.5 million oz. of gold and 52.8 million tonnes of inferred resources grading 0.66 gram gold, for a further 1.1 million gold oz., ITH says that Livengood is North America’s largest independent gold-only resource.

Existing resources cover an area of approximately 2.6 sq. km within ITH’s 194.2-sq.-km land package.

A 2017 prefeasibility study on the outcropping deposit outlined a 23-year, 52,600 ton per day (47,718 tonne per day) open pit mine producing an average of 294,100 gold oz. over its life (378,300 oz. a year in its first five years). All-in sustaining costs were estimated at US$976 per oz., and, with an initial capital cost of US$1.8 billion, the project did not generate a positive net present value, using US$1,250 per oz. gold and a 5% discount rate.

Hauling drill platforms by helicopter. Credit: International Tower Hill Mines.

In January, the company announced a US$5.6 million 2021 work budget to advance Livengood. ITH started work on the prefeasibility in July 2020. An October 2020 at-the-market offering raised US$10.3 million.

After the prefeasibility release, the developer forecasts a 4.5-year permitting, feasibility and engineering period that could be followed by 2.5 years of mine construction.

Hedge fund Paulson & Co. is ITH’s largest shareholder with a 31.8% stake in the company, followed by Sprott Asset Management at 15.1% and Electrum Group with a 14.2% share.

International Tower Hill has a $284.6 million 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.

After announcing a non-brokered private placement in the first week of April, Nickel Creek Platinum (TSX: NCP) plans to complete a six-week drill program in the third quarter of this year at its Nickel Shaw sulphide project in southwest Yukon, 317 km northwest of Whitehorse. The 146-sq.-km Nickel Shaw project is accessible year-round through the Alaska Highway and, based on Nickel Creek’s corporate presentation, the Wellgreen deposit at the site is one of the world’s largest undeveloped nickel-copper sulphide and platinum group metals (PGM) deposits.

Wellgreen hosts a measured and indicated resource of 323.4 million tonnes at 0.26% nickel, 0.16% copper, 0.015% cobalt, 0.25 gram platinum per tonne, 0.26 gram palladium per tonne and 0.05 gram gold per tonne, for a total of 850,000 tonnes of nickel, 500,000 tonnes of copper, 50,000 tonnes of cobalt, 2.6 million oz. of platinum, 2.7 million oz. of palladium and 500,000 oz. of gold. Inferred resources add 108.1 million tonnes grading 0.29% nickel, 0.15% copper, 0.016% cobalt, 0.26 gram platinum, 0.28 gram palladium and 0.04 gram gold.

Nickel Creek estimates that nickel makes up approximately 55% of the value contained in the deposit, followed by platinum group metals (PGMs) and gold at 25%, copper at 13% and cobalt at 7%.

Existing resources are based on 386 drillholes and lie within an 18-km long ultramafic host unit. Targets around the deposit include Arch, 2 km to the northwest, as well as Burwash, 5 km to the southeast of Wellgreen. Last year’s geophysical program testing these two areas identified 11 potential massive sulphide conductive anomalies.

Nickel Creek is aiming to raise between $2.5 and $3.5 million in the private placement. Largest shareholder Electrum Strategic Opportunities Fund plans to subscribe to the offering units pro-rata to its 30.6% share in the company.

Nickel Creek Platinum has a $43.1 million market capitalization.


Novagold Resources (TSX: NG; NYSE: NG) holds a 50% interest in the Donlin gold project in southwest Alaska, 16 km from the village of Crooked Creek and 450 km west of Anchorage, within the Kuskokwim gold belt. Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) also owns a 50% share of the project.

With measured and indicated resources of 541 million tonnes grading 2.24 grams gold per tonne, that contain 39 million oz. of gold and inferred resources of 92 million tonnes at 2.02 grams gold per tonne, for a further 6 million oz., Donlin is “one of the highest-grade known open-pit gold deposits,” according to Novagold.

The resource pits cover 3 km of an 8-km trend, which, in turn, covers less than 5% of the total land position at Donlin.

The camp at the Donlin Gold project in Alaska. Credit: NovaGold Resources.

Results from an 85-hole, 23,361-metre drill program completed last year suggest higher grade-thickness intervals than would be predicted by existing geological models. Highlights announced in March included 51.2 metres of 4.6 grams gold from 148.9 metres; 47.7 metres of 4.8 grams gold starting at 101.6 metres; and 22.6 metres of 8.7 grams gold from 161.5 metres. Additional drilling is planned for this year, to test the continuity and controls of the mineralization and to collect geotechnical and geometallurgical data.

In addition to drilling, with most of the federal permits in place, current work at the project is focused on permitting at the State level.

In December 2011, the company announced the results of an updated feasibility study for Donlin, which outlined a 27-year, US$6.7-billion mine; the capital cost quote included the construction of a natural gas pipeline for power generation. At a throughput of 53,500 tonnes a day, the mine would generate an average of 1.1 million gold oz. a year at an average cash cost of US$585 per ounce. Based on the study, Donlin would generate a refractory gold concentrate that would need to be treated in an autoclave before cyanidation. Using a base-case gold price of US$1,200 per oz., the after-tax net present value estimate for the project stands at US$547 million, at a 5% discount rate, with a 6% internal rate of return.

Novagold has a $3.9 billion market capitalization.

Palladium One

After closing a $15 million bought deal financing in February, explorer Palladium One (TSXV: PDM; US-OTC: NKORF) is drilling 27,000 metres this year at its properties in Finland and Canada.

In Finland, Palladium One’s flagship road-accessible Lantinen Koillismaa (LK) project, 190 km from the port city of Oulu, is a palladium-dominant platinum group metal (PGM) and copper-nickel sulphide project. LK covers 38 km of the basal phase contact of the Koillismaa layered igneous complex in north-central Finland that is geologically similar to the Bushveld igneous complex in South Africa.

In September 2019, Palladium One released a pit-constrained resource estimate for the Kaukua deposit at LK, outlining 11 million indicated tonnes grading 0.81 gram palladium per tonne, 0.27 gram platinum per tonne, 0.09 gram gold per tonne, 0.09% nickel and 0.15% copper, that contains 635,600 palladium-equivalent ounces. Inferred resources add 10.9 million tonnes at 0.64 gram palladium, 0.2 gram platinum, 0.08 gram gold, 0.08% nickel and 0.13% copper, host to 525,800 palladium-equivalent ounces.

From right, Neil Pettigrew, Palladium One Mining’s vice president of exploration and consultant Markku Iljina at the company’s Lantinen Koillismaa PGE-nickel-copper project in Finland. Credit: Palladium One Mining.

This year, the company plans to drill 17,500 metres to help establish an initial resource at the Kaukua South zone, 500 metres south of the resource, as well as 2,000 metres at the Haukiaho zone, 12 km south of Kaukua, that includes a historic resource estimate. A further 6,500 metres of reconnaissance drilling is planned to test for strike extensions of Kaukua South.

In mid-April, Palladium One released drill results from Kaukua South, reporting “significant continuity of open pit grades and widths,” according to a press release. Highlights included 46.9 metres of 2.32 grams palladium-equivalent; 52.7 metres of 1.5 grams palladium-equivalent; and 45.4 metres of 1.58 grams palladium-equivalent. Drilling is focused on defining mineralization to depths of 200 to 300 metres over the 4 km of strike at Kaukua South. The explorer also sees potential for a satellite pit at the Murtolampi area, two kilometres northeast of the Kaukua deposit; last year’s intercepts from this zone included 64 metres of 1.38 grams palladium-equivalent.

Initial metallurgical results suggest potential for the LK project to produce a saleable concentrate using a bulk flotation process.

In Ontario, Palladium One is drilling 4,000 metres this year at its Tyko nickel-copper magmatic sulphide project, 25 km from Hemlo. In April, the company started a 2,000-metre phase two drill program at the Smoke Lake discovery, where last year’s drilling returned intercepts such as 7.5 metres of 6.1% nickel-equivalent from 5.3 metres and 3.2 metres of 6.3% nickel-equivalent from 36.6 metres.

Palladium One has a $67.4 million market capitalization.

Pembridge Resources

London-based Pembridge Resources (LSE: PERE) holds an 11% interest in the Minto underground copper-gold mine in the Yukon, 240 km north of Whitehorse. Pembridge acquired a 100% interest in the asset in June 2019 from Capstone Mining (TSX: CS) for a total of up to US$20 million, based on Minto production hurdles and copper prices. Minto was on care and maintenance at the time of the acquisition, and Pembridge restarted the operation by October 2019.

Minto includes a 4,000-tonne-per-day processing plant that is expected to ramp up to full production this year. In the first quarter of 2021, the site produced 7,023 tonnes of concentrate, compared with 5,143 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2020, with US$20.8 million in payments received from Japan-based publicly traded offtake partner Sumitomo Metal Mining. Minto generates a copper concentrate grading between 35% and 40% copper with gold and silver by-products that is exported out of Skagway, Alaska.

Pembridge Resources Minto copper-gold-silver mine in the Yukon. Credit: Pembridge Resources.

Measured and indicated resources at the site total 15 million tonnes grading 1.4% copper, 0.5 gram gold gold per tonne and 5 grams silver per tonne and inferred resources add 2.4 million tonnes at 1.68% copper, 0.6 gram gold and 6 grams silver. Although existing reserves of 2.4 million tonnes grading 1.68% copper, 0.6 gram gold and 6 grams silver suggest a four-year mine life, Pembridge expects to extend this production timeline due to the size of the resource base within 250 sq. km of claims.

In February, Pembridge released drill results from the 2019 and 2020 definition and step-out program completed at the Minto North II, Copper Keel South, Copper Keel West and Copper Keel North areas. Drill highlights included 38.9 metres of 1.66% copper and 0.51 gram gold from Minto North II; 15.8 metres of 1.44% copper and 0.35 gram gold from Copper Keel South; 21.6 metres of 1.16% copper and 0.64 gram gold from Copper Keel West; and 8.5 metres of 3.13% copper and 0.87 gram gold from Copper Keel North.

A preliminary economic assessment, expected in the second quarter of 2021, is underway. Planning for this year’s exploration drill program is also ongoing; the drilling will target both resource growth and near-mine and regional targets in the Minto Copper Belt.

Pembridge Resources has a £4.6 million market capitalization.

Seabridge Gold

Seabridge Gold (TSX: SEA; NYSE: SA) holds a gold-focused portfolio of projects in North America. Its KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell) gold-copper project in B.C.’s Golden Triangle, according to Seabridge, is the world’s largest undeveloped gold-copper project by resources. Measured and indicated resources across five deposits at the site total 4.4 billion tonnes grading 0.54 gram gold per tonne, 0.18% copper, 2.4 grams silver per tonne and 48 grams molybdenum. Inferred resources add 5.4 billion tonnes at 0.38 gram gold, 0.28% copper, 2.2 grams silver and 29 grams molybdenum.

In April 2020, Seabridge announced the results of a preliminary economic assessment for KSM, which outlined an alternate development scenario when compared with a 2016 prefeasibility study. According to the PEA, a 44-year, 170,000-tonne-per-day mine at KSM, with an initial capital cost of US$5.2 billion, would produce a total of 27.6 million oz. of gold and 17 billion lb. of copper over its lifetime at life-of-mine average operating costs of negative US$472 per oz. of gold, net of copper and silver by-product revenues.

A site tour of Seabridge Gold’s KSM project in northwestern British Columbia. Credit: Seabridge Gold.

At the end of December, the company acquired the Snowfield gold deposit, adjacent to KSM, from Pretium Resources (TSX: PVG). Seabridge paid US$100 million in cash for the asset, granted the vendor a 1.5% net smelter royalty on future production with a US$20 million future contingent payment, of which US$15 million may be credited against future royalty payments. Work is now ongoing to establish an optimal integration of Snowfield into the KSM mine plan, and would be followed by an updated preliminary feasibility study for the two projects.

In Nevada, the company’s Snowstorm gold project lies on-strike with several gold mines and, based on exploration results reported in April, the most recent drill program hit pathfinder elements within gold-bearing structures. Drilling is expected to re-start in July.

Seabridge also holds the Courageous Lake property in the Northwest Territories, with reserves of 91.1 million tonnes grading 2.2 grams gold for a total of 6.5 million oz. gold, as well as the past-producing Iskut project, 30 km from KSM. Measured and indicated resources at Iskut total 187 million tonnes grading 0.12% copper, 0.36 gram gold and 2.19 grams silver; inferred resources add 5 million tonnes at 0.07% copper, 0.32 gram gold and 2.19 grams silver. Seabridge’s Yukon asset is the 314-sq.-km 3Aces orogenic gold project.

Seabridge Gold has a $1.7 billion market capitalization.

Stratabound Minerals

Northern lights over the Culvert project. Credit: Stratabound Minerals.

Stratabound Minerals (TSXV: SB; US-OTC: SBMIF) is exploring for high-grade gold at its Golden Culvert project in southeastern Yukon, 25 km north of Seabridge Gold’s (TSX: SEA; NYSE: SA) 3Aces project, and at the McIntyre Brook property in New Brunswick, 80 km west of Bathurst.

Golden Culvert lies in a relatively under-explored part of eastern Yukon, within the prospective Tintina gold belt. Based on a press release from late March, drilling at the site intersected a corridor of gold mineralization that is 970 metres long and 130 metres wide and contains parallel gold-bearing structures with high-grade cores within lower-grade halos. Highlights of the final batch of results from a 17-hole 2020 drill program included 6.8 metres of 10.51 grams gold per tonne from 110.3 metres; 16.4 metres of 0.88 gram gold per tonne starting at 6.3 metres; and 9.1 metres of 1.1 gram gold per tonne from 84.9 metres.

Stratabound is now compiling, interpreting and modelling the results to date to determine the controls on high-grade gold in the system. The mineralized corridor is within a 3-km long by 250-metre wide gold-in-soil anomaly with gold grades in excess of 30 parts per billion.

Sample results from November also defined a defined a 1-km long by 100-metre wide boulder field of surface float-trains (pieces not connected to an outcrop) which, based on 93 samples, average 13.27 grams gold. Sample highlights included 320 grams gold and 155 grams gold. These float-trains are within the gold-in-soil anomaly and near drilled areas.

In January, the company completed an option agreement to acquire a 100% interest in an additional 15.7-sq.-km of claims around Golden Culvert, expanding the property to 99.1 sq. km.

In New Brunswick, the company holds the 59.5-sq.-km McIntyre Brook gold project and the Captain copper-cobalt deposit, also in the Bathurst camp. At McIntyre Brook, the Main showing has returned 40 grab and trench samples between 0.25 gram gold and 41.6 grams gold along 300 metres of strike.

Assays for six Captain holes, released in March, from a 15-hole drill program included 4.5 metres of 1.72% copper-equivalent from 21.4 metres; 12.5 metres of 1.53% copper-equivalent starting at 32.1 metres; and 11.1 metres of 2.26% copper-equivalent from 44.4 metres. Stratabound sees potential for a small-scale, high-grade mining operation at this site, which could direct ship feed for custom processing.

Stratabound Minerals has a $15.6 million market capitalization.


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