North of 60 Mining M&A heats up in 2023
Major acquisitions & junior mergers change the landscape Mining Explorers 2023 - January 18, 2024
Last updated 2/22/2024 at 1:44pm
From the world's largest gold company expanding its production profile in British Columbia's Golden Triangle to a 130-year-old silver mining legend strengthening its foothold in the Yukon and a soon-to-be new gold producer in Nunavut, mergers and acquisitions completed in 2023 will forever change the North of 60 Mining News landscape.
In fact, if everything goes according to plan, by the time Mining Explorers 2024 rolls off the presses, B2Gold will be pouring the first bars of gold at its newly acquired Back River. This milestone will mark B2Gold's first mining operation in Canada and establish a new source of revenue and jobs in Nunavut.
While the acquisition of Back River came during the development of the first mine on this property, which is a common stage for these types of deals to take place, the buyout demonstrates how M&A activity at the development and production levels can infuse new life into exploration.
Even with its heavy focus on getting the Goose Mine into production by early 2025, B2Gold is investing heavily in expanding resources around this operation and exploring for the next gold mine on its Back River property.
B2Gold's interest in expanding its pipeline of gold projects across Canada's North, however, extends beyond the bounds of Back River. This includes buying a 9.9% interest in Snowline Gold, a young junior explorer that has cut through more than 500 meters with grades above 2 grams per metric ton gold in multiple holes drilled at the Valley target on its Rogue property in the Yukon.
"Their highly prospective land portfolio boasts district-scale, untapped greenfield potential, and we believe their Valley discovery to be one of the more significant discoveries in Canada in recent history," B2Gold CEO Clive Johnson said of Snowline and its Yukon gold exploration.
With its investment in Snowline, B2Gold joins Hecla Mining Company, Rio Tinto, and Mitsubishi Materials in showing a major interest in the future of Yukon's mining sector.
Hecla, which first moved into the Yukon with the acquisition of Alexco Resource and that company's Keno Hill silver mine in 2022, expanded its foothold in the territory with the 2023 buyout of ATAC Resources.
In a unique deal, Hecla kept two of the top precious metals assets and spun the rest of ATAC's portfolio of Yukon and BC exploration properties, as well as the company's management team, out into a new junior named Cascadia Minerals.
"The acquisition further cements our position in the Yukon," said Hecla Mining President and CEO Phillips Baker Jr.
As Hecla was cementing its position in the Yukon, Newmont was finalizing a deal that solidified its foothold in Northern BC.
In a historic deal that bolsters Newmont's position as the world's largest gold producer, while also substantially increasing its annual output of copper needed for the energy transition, the Colorado-based gold company paid US$19 billion to buy out Newcrest Mining.
With this acquisition, Newmont became the new operator of Red Chris and Brucejack, the only large-scale mines currently operating in British Columbia's Golden Triangle.
These operations provide a Golden Triangle revenue-generating foundation for Newmont, which also owns the advanced-staged Tatogga gold-silver-copper exploration property and 50% interest in the world-class Galore Creek copper-gold mine project in this prolific copper and gold district in Northern BC.
"By combining the two existing Newcrest operations, Brucejack and Red Chris, with Newmont's Saddle North and Galore Creek projects, a Tier 1 district in the highly prospective Golden Triangle region of British Columbia will be created – a district in which Newmont will be operating for decades to come," said Newmont CEO Tom Palmer.
It was not just the majors that shifted the North of 60 Mining landscape during 2023. In Northern BC, a pair of juniors – Thesis Gold and Benchmark Metals completed a merger that consolidated side-by-side gold properties into a single project with the size and grade to attract a future takeout by a producer.
"This merger has given rise to an expansive district-scale development and exploration endeavors, characterized by remarkable potential for growth," said Ewan Webster, president and CEO of the new Thesis Gold.
Leading up to the merger, Benchmark had outlined plans for a mine on its Lawyers property capable of producing 1.7 million oz of gold and 26.7 million oz of silver over 12 years.
Ranch, which lies immediately north of Lawyers, is an earlier-stage property with near-surface zones of gold mineralization that will likely bolster the annual production and lifespan of the proposed mine at Lawyers.
Prior to the merger, Benchmark launched a 20,000-meter drill program focused on expanding higher-grade underground mineable resources at Lawyers, and Thesis initiated a 30,000-meter program focused on building resources at Ranch that could support an expanded operation at Lawyers.
Once the merger was finalized, Thesis Gold continued with both programs in hopes of establishing a district-scale gold project that spurs further M&A activity in Northern BC.
Find out more about the companies "Discovering the future of Alaska & Canada's North" in Mining Explorers 2023, the 15th edition of this annual magazine exploring the rich critical, industrial, and precious metals potential across North America's mineral-rich northern frontier.
Mining Explorers is part of the Data Mine North family of publications that includes North of 60 Mining News, Metal Tech News, and their annual magazines that provide deep insights into mining, critical minerals, and the cutting edge of mining technologies.