The Northern Miner presents its top-10 list of the largest U.S.-headquartered mid-tier to junior precious metal companies, by market capitalization:
1. COEUR MINING
Market cap: US$1.5 billion
Chicago-based Coeur Mining (NYSE: CDE) comes in at the top of our list. In a friendly bid in early August, Coeur moved to acquire Northern Empire Resources (TSXV: NM; US-OTC: PSPGF) in a deal valued at $117 million.
Northern Empire’s flagship asset, the 143 sq. km Sterling gold project, is located 185 km from Las Vegas and hosts four heap-leachable deposits that total 709,000 inferred oz. gold grading 2.23 grams gold per tonne.
The acquisition fits with Coeur’s pre-existing Nevada asset, the Rochester gold-silver mine, 13 km northeast of Lovelock. The mine produced 4.7 million oz. silver and 51,061 oz. gold in 2017.
2. TAHOE RESOURCES
Market cap: US$1.3 billion
Tahoe Resources (TSX: THO; NYSE: TAHO) went through some internal reorganizing this June when company president and CEO Ronald Clayton retired. He was replaced by James Voorhees, who had served as a director since the company’s inception in 2010.
Voorhees has publicly addressed the company’s dispute with the Guatemalan government, with the company’s Escobal silver mine in Guatemala having been inactive since July 2017. The government suspended Tahoe’s mining licence under pressure from an anti-mining group, which claimed the country had not consulted with the Xinca indigenous people.
The new CEO said he had sent staff to Guatemala to repair the situation, and would be open to visiting the country and talking with protesters. The company’s second-quarter revenue and earnings are down significantly compared to the previous year as a result of the troubles.
3. HECLA MINING
Market cap: US$1.3 billion
Only a couple hundred thousand dollars separate Hecla Mining’s (NYSE: HL) market capitalization from Tahoe’s. In late July the company acquired Klondex Mines for US$153 million and 75 million shares of Hecla. Hecla was mainly interested in Klondex’s gold mines and exploration assets in Nevada. It spun out the company’s Canadian gold portfolio into Havilah Mining. Hecla subscribed for 3.45 million Havilah shares, spending US$7 million. It owns 13.46% of Havilah.
Shortly after, the company announced it had begun ramping up drill programs in Nevada. It is continuing exploration programs at its Casa Berardi gold mine in Quebec, its San Sebastian silver-gold mine in Mexico and its Greens Creek silver mine in Alaska.
4. ALACER GOLD
Market cap: US$615 million
With its market capitalization less than half of Hecla’s, Alacer Gold (TSX: ASR; US-OTC: ALIAF) marks a turning point in our top-10 list. The company’s flagship asset is the Copler gold mine in eastern Turkey, which produced 168,163 oz. gold in 2017.
The project still contains 49.9 million probable tonnes grading 2.47 grams gold per tonne, 5.58 grams silver and 0.02% copper for 3.9 million oz. gold, 8.9 million oz. silver and 19.18 million lb. copper.
In July the company tabled positive results from one of its regional assets, the Ardich gold prospect, 6 km northeast of the Copler mine. Highlights included 50.2 metres from 43.4 metres downhole grading 3.01 grams gold and 68.6 metres from 36 metres downhole at 2.21 grams gold.
The company ended 2018’s second quarter with US$162 million in cash and US$350 million in debt.
5. GOLD RESOURCE
Market cap: US$394 million
Gold Resource (NYSE-AM: GORO) is drilling its underground Arista gold mine in Oaxaca, Mexico, in an attempt to expand the mine’s vein systems. From underground drill pads on the project’s 14.5 level, the company drilled 23.3 metres at 2 grams gold and 200 grams silver and 9.9 metres at 2.16 grams gold and 95 grams silver.
The company has expanded its Switchback vein system’s strike length by 100 metres. It now measures 1 km in strike and remains open in all directions.
The company began building its Isabella Pearl gold mine in Nevada’s Walker Lane trend in June. It expects to pour first gold next June. The project contains 2.69 million proven and probable tonnes grading 2.22 grams gold and 13 grams silver for 192,600 oz. gold and 1.12 million oz. silver.
6. ARGONAUT GOLD
Market cap: US$313 million
Reno-based Argonaut Gold (TSX: AR; US-OTC: ARNGF) is focused on returning its La Colorada gold-silver mine in Mexico to full production after the country’s secretary of national defense suspended Argonaut’s explosives permit in April 2018.
The suspension came as a result of legal action brought against the Mexican government by four individuals who went unnamed in Argonaut’s press releases, but alleged that the permit should not have been granted.
During the suspension, Argonaut kept operating the mine at a reduced 12,000-tonne-per-day production rate using available pit material and low-grade, stockpiled ore. In 2017, La Colorada operated at 64,000 tonnes per day.
7. GOLD RESERVE
Market cap: US$234 million
One of the more intriguing companies on our list, Gold Reserve (TSXV: GRZ; US-OTC: GDRZF) has been trying to develop its Brisas gold-copper project in southeastern Venezuela since acquiring it in 1992.
The company invested nearly US$300 million developing the project over the next 15 years. However, as it was nearing construction, Venezuela revoked the company authorization to proceed. As a result, Gold Reserve filed a request for arbitration with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2009.
In 2014, it awarded Gold Reserve US$740.3 million in damages. In 2017, the company agreed to sell Venezuela its mining data for another US$240 million — though a year earlier it also formed a joint venture with Venezuela to continue developing Brisas.
Venezuela has so far paid US$187.5 million to the company. The country is behind on its payments, and owes US$177 million from December 2017 to May 2018.
8. VISTA GOLD
Market cap: US$59.3 million
Vista Gold (TSX: VGZ; NYSE-AM: VGZ) is developing its Mt. Todd gold project in Australia, 250 km southeast of Dawson.
In early August, the company announced positive results from its ongoing metallurgical tests. It says that gold recoveries could exceed 90% at Mt. Todd if the final grind stays under 39 microns. It also said testing indicates it can grind fine ore using less power than it previously thought. The company intends to continue metallurgy that could improve the project’s economics.
In 2018’s first quarter the company tabled an updated prefeasibility study for Mt. Todd. The study contemplates a 50,000-tonne-per-day processing facility that would produce 382,000 oz. gold per year over 13 years. The project has a US$679 after-tax net present value at a 5% discount rate and a 20.5% after-tax internal rate of return.
9. SANTA FE GOLD
Market cap: US$29.4 million
Santa Fe Gold (US-OTC: SFEG) has spent the past few months trenching its past-producing Alhambra silver project, part of its newly acquired Black Hawk–Bullard’s Peak district in New Mexico.
Initial results from the project graded as high as 35.8 oz. silver and 29.7 oz. silver. Santa Fe has said it will continue testing the project and aims to release results soon. It says an unaffiliated study by Texas Mineral Resources (US-OTC: TMRC) values the property at US$839 million.
10. GOLDEN MINERALS
Market cap: US$28.3 million
Golden Minerals (TSX: AUMN; NYSE-AM: AUMN) recently discovered more veins through surface mapping and sampling at its Santa Maria silver-gold project in Mexico. The results extend mineralization 600 metres east along strike from previous drilling. Samples taken from surface graded as high as 0.57 gram gold, 347 grams silver and 1.2% zinc.
The company also discovered a new vein, the North vein, 400 metres northeast of the resource. The company has mapped it over 300 metres, taking 38 samples grading as high as 3.01 grams gold, 196 grams silver, 0.4% lead and 1.08% zinc.
It also found another set of veins 800 metres east of the current resource. The company has mapped them over a 700-metre strike strike length, grading up to 1.58 grams gold, 207 grams silver, 0.24% copper, 5.6% lead and 19.5% zinc.