"There had been no exploration done in the 25 years before we picked it up, and we think there is tremendous opportunity to grow that resource as well as make new discoveries.”
What is the genesis of HighGold (TSXV:HIGH) and what was the opportunity HighGold identified when it acquired its assets?
HighGold was formed in 2019 by way of a spinout from a precursor company called Constantine Metal Resources. Acquisition by Constantine of the Johnson Tract project in Alaska provided the impetus for the spinout of all the company’s gold exploration assets and the creation of HighGold. Johnson Tract is a unique project as it is held by an Alaskan native corporation; Cook Inlet Region (CIRI). In the 70s, Alaska settled their native land claims by creating corporate entities in which the shareholders were indigenous peoples in the surrounding region, and each corporation was able to select lands for the purpose of generating revenue. CIRI approached our management team to advance this project, which had been explored in the 80s and 90s by senior producers. What makes Johnson Tract special is that it has the unique combination of very high-grade mineralization – both gold and base metals – over very wide widths.
Can you provide an overview of the other assets in HighGold’s portfolio?
HighGold has three properties in the Timmins area, which constitutes a very large land position of over 200 sq km. These lands were acquired over 10 years in an entirely different and less robust gold market than we currently are experiencing.
The crown jewel of our land package is called Munro-Croesus, a former mine in the early 1900s which had relatively small total production. However, what they did produce was fantastically high grade. Gold samples from this mine had mineralization of more than 10,000 oz/mt. Munro-Croesus was the nucleus of our property position. We spent the better part of this past year consolidating the land around Munro-Croesus, much of which is patented and has been in private hands for a couple generations. Now it is gaining prominence within HighGold as a second pillar for us in terms of creating shareholder value through exploration.
At what stage is Johnson Tract in its development?
HighGold generated a resource estimate in the spring of 2020, which is roughly 900,000 oz of gold equivalent at about 10 g/mt of gold equivalent. We then proceeded to complete 16,500 meters of drilling between July and the end of October, where we have expanded the zone of mineralization. Our mandate is to significantly expand the size of the deposit. There had been no exploration done in the 25 years before we picked it up, and we think there is tremendous opportunity to grow that resource as well as make new discoveries. In 2021, we will be back drilling. We are fully capitalized, with about C$18 million in the bank, another C$4 million in warrant exercise funds coming later in the year, and we intend to use some of that money to drill in Ontario as well as Alaska.
What are the benefits and challenges of operating in Alaska and how does it compare with Ontario?
There is less infrastructure in Alaska which leads to higher costs. That said, as far as Alaska goes, HighGold is in a very good position in that we are very near tidewater within five or 10 km of the coast and are also relatively close to population centers that help support the project. Johnson Tract is a project that will produce concentrates and proximity to tidewater is important for shipping to overseas markets. We use helicopters for our exploration program in Alaska, so you are probably talking double the cost of drilling compared to a place like Timmins where your drillers go home to their own house at the end of their shift. Certainly, the threshold for a deposit to go the distance is lower in an established mining camp like Timmins than it is in Alaska. However, Alaska is elephant country. There are some monster deposits there and it has got tremendous potential. In Timmins, the lower hurdle point for success is offset by the fact that the ground has been picked over a lot more. That said, our claims in Timmins are surprisingly underexplored for such a mature and prolific gold producing district and that is the opportunity we have. Alaska is a great place to make brand new discoveries and big ones.