Few investors are keeping up with news from this rapidly emerging gold and copper district.
By Lawrence Roulston
The 24 million ounces of gold outlined by drilling at the Treaty Creek project in northwestern British Columbia’s Golden Triangle region caught many investors by surprise. That initial resource estimate, announced earlier this year, is just the beginning for the latest world-class discovery to emerge from this aptly-named region.
Treaty Creek already ranks among the top gold discoveries of the past three decades and with multiple target areas yet to be tested, there is potential for that deposit to get even larger. Further drill results announced on September 27 highlight that upside potential, with long intersections outside of the resource area.
The Golden Triangle is evolving so quickly that investors and even people deeply involved in the region are not up-to-date. That lag in awareness was highlighted in a recent five-day fishing trip with senior management from 10 companies operating in the Triangle: Few were aware of the latest information about this region, highlights of which are summarized below.
First, let’s look at that initial estimate for the Treaty Creek project, a joint venture among Tudor Gold [TUD-TSXV], Teuton Resources [TUO-TSXV] and American Creek Resources [AMK-TSXV]. That resource, encompassing just two of the multiple target zones on the Treaty Creek property, outlined an initial measured and indicated resource of 17 million oz gold and 93 million oz silver plus inferred resources of 7 million oz gold and 41 million oz silver (1). Drill results since that estimate have further expanded the mineralized area and include: 972 metres of 1.265 grams per tonne gold equivalent (2), 130 metres of 2.389 g/t AuEq (3) and 564.0 metres containing 1.09 g/t AuEq. (4)
Treaty Creek is an extension of the Sulphurets hydrothermal system, one of the largest such systems in the world. The Sulphurets system hosts Seabridge Gold’s [SEA-TSX; SA-NYSE] KSM deposit which, on its own, is one of the largest gold deposits on the planet. KSM has combined Measured plus Indicated plus Inferred Resources hosting 142 million oz gold plus 728 million oz silver plus 50 billion pounds of copper.(5) As with Treaty Creek, those figures will continue to expand as exploration on this gargantuan deposit continues. The four individual deposits that make up KSM were all found in outcrop. Seabridge is now beginning to test targets under cover, building on the knowledge gained in drilling off the known deposits.
Adjacent to KSM and part of the same geological system, is the Snowfield deposit also owned by Seabridge. Immediately to the east is the Pretium Resources [PVG-TSX, NYSE] Brucejack deposit, which hosts 32 million oz gold and is currently producing 350,000 (6) ounces per year.
A circle 20 km across encompasses KSM, Snowfield, Treaty Creek and Brucejack. That circle, to date, hosts a total (7) of 199 million oz gold, 790 million oz silver and 51 billion lbs copper.
I’m not aware of anywhere else on the planet that has such a concentration of metals in such a small area. If anyone is aware of a comparable area, please let me know.
To put this in context: The Abitibi Gold Belt of Ontario and Quebec has an estimated total endowment (past production plus current resource) of 300 million ounces of gold. But, those ounces are spread over an area more than 200 times the size of the Sulphurets cluster.
That 20-km circle of riches is just one small part of the Golden Triangle.
The Eskay Mine is located 20 km northwest of the KSM-Treaty-Brucejack cluster. Eskay was one of the greatest mines ever: The average grade over a 13-year mine life was 45 g/t gold plus 2,200 g/t silver.(7) It ranked among the biggest silver mines in the world and that was just a by-product of the gold production. Barrick Gold [ABX-TSX; GOLD-NYSE] bought the legendary Homestake Mining Company to get their hands on the Eskay Mine which produced 3.3 million oz of gold and 160 million oz of silver.(8)
Eskay is now headed back to production by junior Skeena Resources [SKE-TSX] with Measured and Indicated Resources of 3.8 million oz gold and 100 million oz silver with potential for those numbers to go higher as exploration continues.(9)
The Golden Triangle hosts several other world class gold, silver and copper deposits including Galore, Schaft Creek, Red Chris, Premier, Red Mountain and Saddle as well as numerous other exploration projects well on their way to becoming large-scale deposits.
Red Chris is in production on the shallow portion of a large porphyry deposit, with majority owner and partner Newcrest Mining finalizing plans for a massive expansion. To understand those expansion plans, just look at some of the intersections outside of the current area of mining: Hole 07-335 graded 1.01% copper plus 1.26 g/t gold over its entire length of 1,024 metres.(10) In a March 10, 2020 news release, Imperial Metals [III-TSX] reported that hole RC611 returned 1.7% copper and 3.3 g/t gold over 276 metres.
Long Recognized but Initially Hard to Access
The riches of the Golden Triangle have been recognized for over a century, but difficult access in the early days made it hard to explore.
Tucked in behind the Alaska Panhandle, the Triangle covers an area equivalent to about 7% of the area of Nevada but hosting far more metal than the famed Golden State. The mineralization in the Golden Triangle is the result of the same geological processes that created metal deposits around the Pacific Ring of Fire, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Fiji and Indonesia. Unique twists to that basic process in the Golden Triangle area, which are only beginning to be understood, created an extraordinary metal endowment.
In the 1970s, road access began to open up the region. The discovery of Snip and then Eskay attracted literally hundreds of exploration companies through the 1980s and 1990s. Most of that early work was focused on tiny claim blocks that were staked around surface showings. In those early days, there was minimal geological understanding of the region. An important feature of the BC government’s mining administration is that it is a condition of holding mineral claims that reports be filed which detail the work completed and the results obtained. That immense database of information, built up over decades, constitutes an invaluable starting point for modern explorers. Mountain Boy [MTB-TSXV] is one company that is benefitting from that treasure trove of existing information.
It is fair to say that all of the recent discoveries in the GT benefited from earlier work by other explorers. In fact, Eskay and KSM were both recognized in the 1930s, but it took work by multiple explorers to advance them to the moment of the big discoveries. The Premier district has been mined and explored for more than a century and new discoveries are still being made.
Public Perception is Out of Date
The Golden Triangle is still seen by many investors as being remote. Indeed, some parts of the region remain difficult to access. Galore and KSM will both need tunnels as part of their mine developments. On the other hand, the Red Chris mine is 15 km by road to a major provincial highway and it is connected to the provincial power grid. The BC power grid delivers some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
Pretium’s Brucejack mine also has road access and is on the provincial power grid. Both mines are exporting concentrates through Stewart, a deep-water port located within the Triangle. The Eskay Mine road has been extended to provide access for the KSM exploration program. (Ore from the mine will be transported through a tunnel to the process facility.) The Ascot Resources [AOT-TSX] Premier Mine redevelopment, due for start-up next year, will benefit from an on-site hydropower facility AND a tie-in to the grid.(11)
Exploration field work is mostly seasonal, but even that is evolving as companies are now gaining valuable information from sophisticated testing and analytical procedures on samples over the winter.
Enduro Metals is planning winter road access, which will initially allow cost effective delivery of bulk supplies and lead to year-round drilling. Pretium and Newcrest both operate their mines year-round. Ascot will be developing Premier right through the winter. There will be a slow-down in news over the winter, but there will be on-going news flow from the region.
The First Nations in the region are willing and very capable partners, working with exploration and development companies to advance projects and create prosperity for all stakeholders. The Tahltan, in particular, have established companies to deliver drilling, road and pad building, geophysics and even helicopter services. Living and working full-time in the region, they are extremely well suited to deliver these services.
Permits for the $185 million of work conducted last year (12), including extensive drilling and road building, were issued routinely. Red Chris and Brucejack were both permitted and brought to production quickly and efficiently. Premier will be permitted perhaps by the time you read this, with work already underway leading to a production start before the end of next year.
Growing Recognition from Investors and Industry
The extraordinary geological potential and other benefits of the Golden Triangle are beginning to be recognized by the mining industry and by investors.
Over the past few years, several of the largest mining companies have made big investments in the Triangle:
Hecla Mining [HL-NYSE], the largest US silver producer, acquired a massive 590 km2 in the southern part of the Triangle and bought 11% of the junior that holds an adjacent property.
Newcrest, Australia’s largest gold producer, paid US$804 million in August 2019 for 70% of the Red Chris copper-gold mine. They are now working toward a massive expansion of that mine.
Newmont [NGT-TSX; NEM-NYSE], the largest gold producer, in May bought all the shares of GT Gold at C$3.25/share, valuing the junior explorer at C$425 million. GT Gold had discovered the Saddle deposit. That was the second big investment in the region for the world’s largest gold miner.
In July 2018, Newmont bought a half interest in the Galore Creek deposit from junior NovaGold Resources [NG-TSX, NYSE] for US$275 million
Those large companies join the Vancouver-based major Teck Resources [TECK.A, TECK.B-TSX; TECK-NYSE], which has a 50% stake in Galore and 70% of Schaft. Other gold, silver and copper producers are watching closely, looking for a suitable entry.
Some of the savviest investors in the mining space are making big bets on Golden Triangle companies. Eric Sprott and Rob McEwen, for example, have invested in several of the companies.(13) Institutional and individual investors around the world contributed to the $185 million of exploration spending in the Triangle last year. Indications are that the level of activity will continue to grow in this emerging region.
The recent dip in the resource markets provides a buying opportunity for those investors who recognize the cyclical nature of the resource markets. Numerous companies that explored over the summer and fall will be announcing results over the coming weeks which could have material impacts on their valuations.
Investors have a wide range of investment opportunities in the Golden Triangle and. For example: Ascot is advancing toward a production start in little over a year. Tudor and partners Teuton and American Creek are expanding on a known deposit. Other companies, such as Mountain Boy Minerals, are building on decades of earlier work, to advance projects toward the discovery stage.
With results each year building on prior results, it is only a matter of time until more discoveries are made in the Golden Triangle, generating the outsized returns that come with mineral discoveries.
In summary, the Golden Triangle is blessed with:
- Extraordinary geological riches
- A supportive government
- Cooperative First Nations
- Road access
- A deep-water port
- Cheap electricity, including 3 hydro facilities right in the heart of the Triangle.
Simply put, the Golden Triangle is one of the best places on the planet to make new discoveries and turn them into mines. And, the best part is that opportunities abound, as investors and the mining industry are only starting to gain awareness of the incredible opportunities in this prolific region.
Lawrence Roulston is a geologist with nearly 40 years of experience in the mining industry. Lawrence worked in the management of juniors and one of the majors as well as an investment firm. For 15 years he wrote the highly regarded Resource Opportunities newsletter before getting back to managing mineral exploration. His experience in the Golden Triangle goes back to the 1980s when he ran an exploration program in the area. He is presently involved in three companies exploring in the Triangle – advisor to Metallis Minerals [MTS-TSXV], director of Enduro Metals [ENDR-TSXV] and CEO of Mountain Boy Minerals [MTB-TSXV] and is also chairman of Metalla Royalty and Streaming [MTA-NYSE].
- Technical Report and Initial Mineral Resource Estimate of the Treaty Creek Gold Property, March 1, 2021
- Tudor News Release August 30, 2021.
- Tudor News Release August 3, 2021
- Tudor News Release September 27, 2021
- KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell) Prefeasibility Study Update, NI 43-101 Technical Report, April 30, 2020. The figures combine Measured, Indicated and Inferred amounts for the sole reason of expressing the geological prospectivity of this area and should not be relied on in the context of individual deposits or companies.
- Pretium website.
- These figures are all derived from 43-101 compliant resource estimates from Seabridge Gold, Pretium and Tudor as published on SEDAR. The figures combine Measured, Indicated and Inferred amounts for the sole reason of expressing the geological prospectivity of this area and should not be relied on in the context of individual deposits or companies.
- BC Geological Survey, MINFILE Number: 104B 008, Eskay Creek Detail Report.
- Skeena Website.
- Technical Report on the Red Chris Copper-Gold Project, September 30, 2015
- Ascot website.
- EY LLP, 2020 British Columbia Mineral and Coal Exploration Survey.
- Company news releases.