The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

Donlin Gold drilling continues, for now

COVID-19 protocols in place; Novagold monitors fluid crisis North of 60 Mining News – April 1, 2020

Series: COVID-19 coverage | Story 12

Novagold Resources Inc. March 23 said the 2020 drill program at the Donlin Gold project in Southwest Alaska continues at this date, but recognizes that the COVID-19 crisis is fluid and is monitoring the state of Alaska health recommendations and will make the necessary adjustments including pushing back the timeline for the balance of the 22,000 meters of drilling planned for this year.

Donlin Gold LLC, a joint venture partnership owned equally by Novagold and Barrick Gold Corp. to advance exploration and development of the 40-million-ounce gold project, has implemented a wide-ranging set of policies at the Southwest Alaska project that are consistent with state requirements, recommendations and precautions. These policies include:

• Screening all employees and contractors visiting the Donlin Gold project site prior to their departure and periodically during their stay. Should any individual exhibit any symptoms of illness, they will be evaluated to determine if they need to be isolated and evacuated from site.

• Increased housekeeping staff and implementing more frequent sanitization practices.

• Regularly conducting safety meetings designed to address sound hygiene and sanitization practices.

• Requesting all employees to monitor their health and consult the site medic if feeling any symptoms of illness.

In addition, Donlin Gold has reached out to Calista Corp. and The Kuskokwim Corporation, Donlin Gold's Alaska Native corporation partners and owners of the project's subsurface and surface rights, to offer help and assistance with issues related to COVID-19 at this time of great need.

In a joint statement, Novagold Resources Chairman Thomas Kaplan and CEO Gregory Lang said the company has also implemented a wide-ranging set of policies at its offices in Salt Lake City, Utah and Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as the Donlin Gold office in Anchorage, Alaska.

To ensure the safety and well-being of its employees and the people associated with them, Novagold has asked that all office staff work from home, avoid all non-essential travel, adhere to good hygiene practices, and, if they must visit the office, engage in social distancing.

Beyond the physical health of Novagold workers, Kaplan and Lang said Novagold's financial health remains exceptionally robust to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

"A unique feature and benefit of being a Novagold shareholder is not only owning a piece of one of the rarest gold assets in the world but also a company with a strong balance sheet and projected expenses that are comfortably within its means," they inked in a joint statement. "Novagold has not needed to go back to the market in more than eight years to raise funds and is conservatively managed to avoid any need to seek financing in the near term."

The company currently envisions about US$31 million in expenses this year.

With US$148.5 million in cash and term deposits going into its 2020 fiscal year, which began on Dec. 1, the Novagold management team said it can focus entirely on moving Donlin Gold forward while addressing the safety and health of its employees, contractors, partners and communities in which it operates without the distraction of needing to raise additional capital.

In addition, Novagold's current treasury does not include an additional US$75 million the company is expected to receive from Newmont Mining next year and US$25 million in 2023 from the sale of its 50% interest in the Galore Creek copper-gold project in British Columbia, not to mention a US$75 million contingent payment that would be paid to Novagold if and when the Galore Creek project owners approve a construction plan.

Based on it treasury and expected inflows of cash, Novagold believes it has sufficient funds to advance Donlin Gold without the need to raise capital until markets and the rest of the world are considerably healthier, and a construction decision is made.

"We have thus deliberately positioned Novagold in such a manner that we likely would not need to raise capital, even if the resumption of the gold bull market is delayed by a temporary downturn in gold price – including a sharp one," Kaplan penned in the company annual report, which was published in early January. "If anything, under certain circumstances, the company might determine that its shares are worth more than the metal itself and buy some back."

Kaplan and Lang said "there is absolutely nothing more important to us than their health and safety, and that of their families and our partners. We are committed to maintaining maximum vigilance as we monitor this crisis, and to follow the guidelines set out by the relevant authorities as well as the best practices standards of our peers in the industry."

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Shane Lasley, Publisher

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Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


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