Just six months after completing its $45.2-million initial public offering in July 2011, Midas Gold (MAX-T) has firmly emerged as the leading gold explorer in Idaho following the state’s recent resurgence as a prospective mining jurisdiction.
Having established a 5.8-million-oz. gold resource last year at its flagship Golden Meadows project in Idaho’s Valley County, Midas decided to start 2012 with a bang – initiating a US$17-million work program for the first half the year.
The work will see Midas carry out approximately 17,000 metres of drilling prior to the spring thaw, including definition, step-out and exploration drilling, as well as complete a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) by the third quarter of 2012. The study will use an updated mineral resource estimate Midas expects to finish in the second quarter, based on both the current drill program and last year’s results.
The previous estimate in June 2011 outlined three separate deposits containing 40.8 million indicated tonnes averaging 1.58 grams gold per tonne and 54.1 million inferred tonnes averaging 2.14 grams gold. Midas says much of the work going into the PEA is being done to prefeasibility standards, reducing the time frame needed to take Golden Meadows to the next stage of development.
Despite the market downturn, Midas’s success helped raise its share price from $3.25 at the time of its IPO to a high of $4.80 in November 2011. At presstime on Jan. 12, 2012, Midas’s 105 million outstanding shares were trading for $4.30 apiece, valuing the company at $480 million.
The valuation places Midas in a league above the dozen other Canadian-listed companies exploring for gold in the northwestern state, most of which trade for less than 25¢ a share.
Among Midas’s competitors with projects in Idaho, Northern Vertex Capital (nee-v) and Marathon Gold (moz-t) have had the next-best year in terms of stock performance. Northern Vertex’s shares last traded for $1.45 on Jan. 12, up from 50¢ this time last year following successful drilling on its Moss gold-silver project in Arizona and optioning a 75% interest in the Lehmi gold project near Salmon, Idaho. Northern Vertex has agreed to pay US$9.5 million in stages for the interest to a private company named Idaho State Gold Co., which consolidated four contiguous properties to form Lehmi, including the Humbug gold deposit formerly owned by Yamana Gold (yri-t, auy-n). It now plans to spend US$7.7 million over the next 18 months on a multiphase infill drilling and resource confirmation program at Lehmi.
Marathon Gold last traded for $1.10 on Jan. 12, down from a high of $1.80 in February 2011. It is busy completing a 10,000-metre drill program at its historic Golden Chest gold project in northeastern Idaho, and has plans for another 25,000 metres in 2012. After completing a small amount of underground mining at Golden Chest several years ago, Marathon is now looking into the project’s open pit potential. It is also completing more than 40,000 metres of drilling at its main gold projects in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Next up at 31¢ a share comes Western Pacific Resources (wrp-v), which plans to drill 30,000 metres this year at its Mineral Gulch gold project in Idaho’s historic Black Pine mining district. Its shares are down from 69¢ earlier this year, with the best intersection from 2011 drilling returning 1.6 grams gold over 24.4 metres.
Terraco Gold (ten-v) and Otis Gold (ooo-v) are following close behind at 23¢ and 21¢ a share, respectively, while Premium Exploration (pem-v) is lagging further still at 14.5¢ a share.
Lastly, Atlanta Gold (atg-v), Thunder Mountain Gold (thm-v), Velocity Minerals (vlc-t), Azteca Gold (azg-v) and Nubian Resources (nbr-v) all have gold properties in the state and have recently traded at or below the 10¢ level.