Can you provide an overview of Eldorado and its portfolio of assets throughout the world?
GB: Eldorado is a leading midcap gold producer. We have five operating mines: two in Turkey, two in Greece, and one in Québec, Canada. We also have non-core assets in Brazil and Romania. Last year we produced about 530,000 ounces of gold, and if you do a two year look back (as of May 2021), Eldorado's share price is up 158%. In contrast, the GDX and GDXJ were up 65% and 62%, the S&P 43% and the S&P TSX was up 19%.
Complementing our operations, we have an advanced stage development project in Greece called Skouries. It is a gold-copper project that is currently half built, and we have been positioning it with permitting and an improved contract with the Greek state to allow us to complete the construction. It has a 23 year mine life and it is going to offer an additional 140,000 oz/y of gold. Its byproduct of copper is significant: At current spot metal prices, copper revenues will pay all the operating costs and sustaining capital, making the all-in sustaining cost per ounce of gold virtually negative.
What makes Lamaque a strong asset for Eldorado, and how will the optimization plan improve potential production and environmental impact?
SL: Eldorado acquired the project four years ago in July 2017, and our objective was to build a solid mine focused on world class health and safety. It is located very close to town, and we respect the community and all stakeholders around. We have a few kilometers between the mill and the mine. Therefore, we decided to move forward with the construction of a decline. This is going very well, and it will be a big improvement for Lamaque, because we will increase the life of mine, reduce greenhouse gases, and create direct and indirect jobs. With this decline, we will have no more trucks on public roads for ore haulage from the Triangle underground.
Eldorado's assets in Québec are not only about Lamaque, though. We have also acquired new claims to continue exploration around Val-d'Or near our site. This year we plan to continue our exploration activities on our various properties. We achieve really good recovery at the mill, and we can increase our tonnage substantially moving forward.
Lamaque began producing in 2019. How have production and operations been impacted over the past year, and how is Eldorado positioned moving forward?
SL: We started producing at Lamaque in March 2019, and exactly one year after we were forced to stop for almost four weeks due to COVID-19. Despite this shutdown, we were able to exceed our 2020 production goal of 130,000 ounces. With our strong mining plan and hard work from our people, we reached over 144,000 ounces at Lamaque in 2020 and production in the first half of 2021 has remained strong.
GB: When you look at Lamaque, it is a series of stacked steeply dipping veins. We have been mining the first three veins over that two-year period, but late in 2020, we were able to get into the fourth vein, which had some high grade in it. All that contributed to a breakout year for Lamaque in its second year of operation.
Moving forward, our plant is permitted and capable of 5,000 tonnes per day with a modest capital investment. The key is finding more ore to feed that hungry mill. We had a discovery last year called the Ormaque zone, and within a year, we have an inferred resource of 803,000 ounces. The resource is open which offers expansion opportunities; we are infill drilling it to understand the drill density we need to create reserves, and it is adjacent to infrastructure. On top of that, we have been looking outside of Lamaque's footprint in other areas with new early-stage exploration properties outside of Val-d'Or.
Eldorado closed its acquisition of QMX Gold in April 2021. How did this deal come together?
GB: The QMX acquisition increases our land position in Québec by 5.5 times and it sits right next to Lamaque. We think there is a bright future here and we have the operating capability to turn these exploration opportunities into gold production and value for shareholders.