Enter Trilogy Metals
NovaCopper rebrands to better reflect diversity of metals in Ambler district
Last updated 1/27/2018 at 4:33pm
What does a name say about a company? Management of NovaCopper Inc. feels that its corporate moniker does not say enough about the diversity of metals present in the high-grade deposits encompassed by its Upper Kobuk Minerals Projects in the Ambler mining district of Northwest Alaska.
Arctic, the most advanced UKMP deposit, actually hosts more zinc than it does copper. And, while copper remains the dominant metal in terms of value, zinc supply shortages are closing the price gap between these two metals. Additionally, strong gold and silver prices have increased precious metals contributions to Arctic's value this year.
"The Ambler district is more than just copper – it is copper; it's zinc; (and) it's precious metals," NovaCopper President and CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse explained in a recent interview.
As such, when markets open in Toronto and New York Sept. 8, NovaCopper Inc. will be no more. In its place, Trilogy Metals Inc., trading under the symbol TMQ, will grace the boards of the Toronto Stock Exchange and NYSE-MKT.
Transition to Trilogy
Spun out of Novagold Resources Ltd. in 2012 to continue the exploration of Arctic and Bornite, two of the highest grade un-mined copper deposits in the world, NovaCopper was a natural choice for the Ambler mining district focused exploration company.
In the months leading up to the formation of NovaCopper, Van Nieuwenhuyse, who was then president and CEO of Novagold, forged a partnership with NANA Regional Corp. that brought together a large package of Novagold-owned mining claims blanketing a 70-mile- (110 kilometer) long belt of high-grade copper-lead-zinc-gold-silver deposits with an adjacent package of NANA-owned lands known for hosting exceptionally high-grade copper.
The alliance provides the Inupiat-owned Alaska Native regional corporation with the opportunity to benefit from the exploration and eventual development of the world-class Arctic deposit and other similar volcanogenic massive sulfide prospects across the Ambler belt. In return, NovaCopper was given the opportunity to investigate Bornite, a copper-rich deposit situated about 16 miles (26 kilometers) southwest of Arctic, and explore other mineral prospects across a large highly prospective swath of NANA lands in the Upper Kobuk region.
Over the ensuing four years, the partnership and the mineral endowment found on the 353,000 acres of UKMP lands has grown.
Today, the Arctic and Bornite deposits together are believed to host roughly 8.4 billion pounds of copper; 2.6 billion lbs. of zinc; 610,000 oz. of gold; 45.3 million oz. of silver; as well as significant quantities of lead and cobalt.
It is the natural diversity this broad range of metals – especially the zinc and precious metals components of Arctic, the UKMP deposit nearest to a production decision – that prompted the transition to the new name of Trilogy Metals.
Over the past two years, the rebranded company has focused its field work on gathering the last bits of information needed to complete a pre-feasibility study that will outline plans to develop an open pit mine at Arctic.
A roughly 3,000-meter drill program at Arctic will bewas the biggest ticket item of this year's field program.
Prior to a similar infill drill program completed last year, Arctic hosted 23.85 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 3.26 percent (1.71 billion lbs.) copper, 4.45 percent (2.34 billion lbs.) zinc, 0.76 percent (400 million lbs.) lead, 0.71 grams per metric ton (550,000 oz.) gold, and 53.2 g/t (40.8 million oz.) silver.
This VMS deposit also contains an estimated 3.63 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 3.22 percent (239 million lbs.) copper, 3.84 percent (285 million lbs.) zinc, 0.58 percent (43.2 million lbs.) lead and 0.59 g/t (60,000 oz.) gold.
"What is so spectacular about Arctic is it hosts really fantastic grades," said Van Nieuwenhuyse.
Drilling over the past two seasons has focused on upgrading much of the inferred resources to the higher confidence measured and indicated categories; some pit expansion drilling; and holes targeted to collect pit slope stability, hydrology and metallurgical information.
Thanks in part to great weather at Arctic this year, the 2016 program came in under the US$5.5 million budgeted for the field work.
Trilogy Metals is expected to release results from this drilling and the other field work in October.
When Trilogy Metals returns to the Ambler district in 2017, the company plans to complete the geotechnical work needed to further refine locations for a power plant, mill, waste rock pile, stockpiles and tailings facilities for the Arctic mine plan to be detailed in the prefeasibility study.
The renamed company also would like to resume drilling at Bornite, a copper-rich carbonate replacement deposit that is reminiscent of those found in the African Copper Belt of southern Africa and the Mt. Isa district of Queensland, Australia.
Using a 0.50 percent copper cutoff grade, Bornite now hosts an estimated 40.5 million metric tons of in-pit indicated resources averaging 1.02 percent (913 million pounds) copper; and 84.1 million metric tons of inferred resources averaging 0.95 percent (1.8 billion lbs.) copper.
Additionally, at a 1.50 percent copper cutoff grade, Bornite is estimated to contain 57.8 million metric tons of below-pit inferred resources averaging 2.89 percent (3.7 billion lbs.) copper.
While already world-class in terms of both size and grade, the various zones of Bornite are open to expansion in several directions. The most compelling area is a 1,000-meter-wide stretch of continuing high grades along the northern front.
Hole RC13-0220, the most northeasterly hole drilled at Bornite cut three very high-grade intervals from 877 to 923 meters (at a 2.0 percent cutoff): 5.9 meters of 6.66 percent copper; 9.9 meters of 2.48 percent copper; and 19.7 meters of 2.24 percent copper.
Hole RC13-0224, drilled about 800 meters west of hole 220, cut five high-grade intercepts from 579 meters to 755 meters along this northern front: 19.5 meters of 3.02 percent copper; 16.8 meters of 2.36 percent copper; 39.5 meters of 2.37 percent copper; 8.6 meters of 3.26 percent copper; and 6.5 meters of 7.7 percent copper.
Trilogy believes that continued expansion in this direction could put the grades and size of its Ambler deposits on par with Mount Isa, where more than 400 million metric tons of ore grading 2.12 percent copper has been mined over the past 75 years.
An innovative financing completed last year puts Trilogy Metals in a good position to finish the pre-feasibility work at Arctic and continue exploration at Bornite.
In mid-2015, the company closed the buyout of Sunward Resources Ltd., a fellow exploration company with roughly US$20 million in the bank but a market cap hovering around US$13 million.
In exchange for the cash and Sunward's Titiribi gold-copper project in Columbia, NovaCopper issued 43.1 million shares to Sunward shareholders.
When Trilogy Metals lights up the boards of the TSX and NYSE-MKT exchanges, it will have nearly US$10 million of this cash remaining in its treasury.
Adding to this strong financial footing, the company cut a deal in mid-August to sell the Titiribi property to Brazil Resources Inc., an exploration company with a growing portfolio of gold and copper properties in South America and Alaska.
In exchange for the Columbia gold-copper property, Trilogy will hold 5 million Brazil Resources shares. With a 50-day moving average of C$2.60 per share, these shares are currently worth about C$13 million.
"While we believe the Titiribi property has excellent exploration potential and a strong local team, the sale allows NovaCopper (Trilogy) to focus on its high-grade copper, zinc and precious metals projects located in Northwest Alaska," said Van Nieuwenhuyse.