Rupert to focus on Ikkari gold PFS after ending Finland JV talks

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Rupert Resources Ltd. [RUP-TSXV] said Tuesday that further to an announcement on March 11, 2024, the company has been unable to reach acceptable terms to acquire a full 100% interest in a gold exploration joint venture in northern Finland that is currently held 70% by B2Gold Corp. [BTO-TSX, BTG-NYSE , B2G-NSX] and 30% by Aurion Resources Ltd. [AU-TSXV, AIRRF-OTCQX].

By offering to acquire a full 100% interest in the Fingold joint venture, Rupert was aiming to consolidate further exploration licenses located near its Ikkari gold discovery.

The Fingold JV covers approximately 293 square kilometres along the major crustal scale Sirkka Shear Zone and includes a number of discoveries, one of which is located approximately 1.5 kilometres west of Rupert’ Ikkari Discovery.

A notice of sale and offer dated March 11, 2024, indicated that B2Gold and Rupert had entered into a letter of agreement that would have resulted in Rupert issuing to B2Gold 28.64 million common shares of Rupert, implying a total value of $102.8 million (based on the market price of Rupert shares on March 8, 2024) in exchange for B2Gold’s 70% interest in the joint venture company.

The transaction was conditional upon the execution of a definitive agreement and investor rights agreement, completion of mutual due diligence and applicable regulatory approvals.

Ikkari is part of the company’s 100%-owned Rupert Lapland Project, which also includes the Pahtavaara gold mine, mill, and exploration permits, plus concessions, which are located in the Central Lapland Greenstone Belt. Pahtavaara operated between 1996 and 2014, producing almost 450,000 ounces of gold, and still contains an inferred resource of 474,000 ounces, according to a NI 43-101 technical report released in April, 2018.

Rupert’s Finland properties are adjacent to the Kittila gold mining operations of Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. [AEM-TSX, AEM-NYSE], which holds a 9.9% stake in the junior.

In February, 2023, Rupert announced results from a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) for its Rupert Lapland Project, including the Ikkari gold discovery and Pahtavaara mine and mill.

The PEA was described as a de-risking event that envisages an open-pit operation at Ikkari in the first 11 years, transitioning to Ikkari underground (years 10-23) and Pahtavaara concentrate (years 12 to 24).

The 22-year life of mine includes recovered gold of 4.25 million ounces with average annual production of 200,000 ounces and a total initial capital expenditure of US$404.6 million. The open pit operation is expected to support average annual production of 220,000 ounces in years one to 11.

Rupert says the operation will feature an expected lowest-quartile all-in-sustaining cost of US$759 an ounce over the life of mine, and US$596 per ounce during the open pit operation.

In its latest update, Rupert said it continues to advance the Ikkari gold deposit. “Work programmes on the preliminary feasibility study and environmental impact statement are well underway and the company will work with Finnish authorities to ensure the optimal project scope is realized,” the company said.

Rupert shares were unchanged Tuesday at $2.90 and trade in a 52-week range of $3.40 and $2.06.

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