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Manh Choh partners pour first gold

North of 60 Mining News - July 9, 2024

Kinross and Contango celebrate the pouring of first bar from gold project that boosts Fort Knox production, elevates junior to producer status.

FORT KNOX MINE, ALASKA (July 8, 2024) – On a momentous occasion for both companies, Kinross Gold Corp. and Contango ORE Inc. celebrated the pouring of the first gold bar from the Manh Choh project in Alaska.

Being operated under a joint venture between Kinross (70%) and Contango (30%), Manh Choh is a high-grade gold project on lands owned by the Alaska Native Village of Tetlin.

For Kinross, the pouring of the first bar of gold from Manh Choh ore is a major milestone in its Kinross Alaska strategy, which involves utilizing the mill at its Fort Knox mine north of Fairbanks, Alaska, to process high-grade ore from projects within a roughly 300-mile radius.

This strategy provides an opportunity for smaller but high-grade mines to be developed without incurring the time and financial investments associated with permitting and building a mill and related infrastructure.

This strategy led to Kinross' 2020 partnership with Contango, an unconventional mineral exploration company that had been building high-grade gold resources at Manh Choh since its discovery in 2008.

Based on the deposit outlined by Contango, Kinross developed plans for a mine at Manh Choh that is expected to produce roughly 1 million ounces gold-equivalent, which includes the value of both the gold and silver, over the next 4.5 years.

Kinross Gold Corp.

Kinross Gold CEO Paul Rollinson.

Kinross is trucking the high-grade ore mined from Manh Choh 240 miles to be processed through the Kinross Alaska mill at Fort Knox.

The roughly 600-oz gold bar poured in early July marks the start of what is expected to be roughly 225,000-oz-per-year gold production from Manh Choh ore.

"To be here today is very special – it really means that Manh Choh is an integral part of the Kinross Alaska operation," Kinross President and CEO Paul Rollinson said during a ceremony commemorating the first Manh Choh gold pour.

When combined with the lower-grade ore mined and stacked on heap leach pads on the Fort Knox property, Kinross Alaska is expected to produce upwards of 400,000 oz of gold per year through 2029.

"We are an international company and work in many different countries, and I can honestly say Alaska is a world-class mining jurisdiction," Rollinson added.

Kinross Gold Corp.

Contango poised for success

For Contango, the inaugural Manh Choh gold pour transitions the company directly from junior explorer to gold producer.

"From the first discovery hole to pouring the first bar of gold emblazed with the special Manh Choh branding, it has certainly been a journey, but one that sets us up for future success," said Contango ORE President and CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse.

The partnership with Kinross at Manh Choh is emblematic of the company's unique business model, which is focused on advancing high-quality projects capable of delivering direct shipping ore to already established mills for processing.

Kinross Gold Corp.

Contango ORE CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse.

"By developing high-grade, high-quality mines that can utilize the DSO model by transporting our ore to existing and permitted operating processing facilities, we will reduce our environmental footprint and thereby lower our permitting risk, as well as lower the overall capital requirements to achieve commercial production," said Van Nieuwenhuyse. "We believe this is a unique model and a right-fit for these continuing challenging capital markets for miners."

As part of this strategy, Contango is building a portfolio of gold projects in Alaska.

This portfolio includes Lucky Shot, a high-grade underground gold mine project about 112 road miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.

According to a 2023 calculation, Lucky Shot hosts 226,963 metric tons of indicated resource averaging 14.5 g/t (105,620 oz) gold and 82,058 metric tons of inferred resource averaging 9.5 g/t (25,110 oz) gold.

Contango's next step at Lucky Shot is to grow the high-grade gold resources with drilling from rehabilitated and expanded tunnels prior to mine planning.

The newest addition to Contango's portfolio is Johnson Tract, a gold-silver project about 125 miles southwest of Anchorage being leased from Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native regional corporation more commonly known as CIRI.

According to a 2022 calculation, JT Deposit hosts 3.49 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 5.33 grams per metric ton (598,000 ounces) gold, 6 g/t (673,000 oz) silver, 5.21% (400.8 million pounds) zinc, 0.59% (43.1 million lb) copper, and 0.67% (51.5 million lb) lead.

Contango, which is slated to gain full ownership of Johnson Tract through the closing of its acquisition of HighGold Mining Inc. later this week, is planning to hit the ground running with a drill program this year.

"Our five-year plan is to grow production from our existing portfolio to 200,000 of annual gold-equivalent production," said Van Nieuwenhuyse.

This plan begins with roughly 67,500 oz of gold from its 30% share of annual production from Manh Choh. The company's future gold production growth could come from additional partnerships with Kinross.

"Hopefully, this is just the beginning of lots more that we can do together," Rollinson said to Van Nieuwenhuyse during his presentation at the June 8 Manh Choh gold pour celebration.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Author photo

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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