Top 10 Canadian-headquartered base metal and uranium explorers

By Northern Miner Staff / June 24, 2020 / / Article Link

The Northern Miner has compiled a list of the top-10, Canadian headquartered base metal and uranium juniors - with no production and which are not a royalty or streaming company. The ranking is based on market capitalization as of late-June.

1. Ivanhoe MinesUS$4.5 billion market capitalization

Workers at Ivanhoe Mines' Kamoa-Kakula copper project, 25 km west of Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: Ivanhoe Mines.

For the fourth year in a year, Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) retains its commanding position atop the top-10 list.

The company continues to be focused on its three principal projects in southern Africa: developing new mines at the Kamoa-Kakula copper discovery in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Platreef platinum-palladium-nickel-copper-gold discovery in South Africa, and the extensive redevelopment and upgrading of the Kipushi zinc-copper-germanium-silver mine in the DRC.

The Kamoa-Kakula project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global (0.8%) and the government of the DRC (20%). Ivanhoe indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats. The firm acquired a 68% interest in the Kipushi project in 2011, with the balance of 32% being held by the DRC's state-owned mining company G?(C)camines.

According to mining consultant Wood Mackenzie, the Kamoa-Kakula project ranks as the world's largest undeveloped high-grade copper discovery. The overall indicated mineral resource at the project is 1.39 million tonnes grading 2.74% copper for 83.7 billion contained lb. copper.

2. Northern Dynasty MineralsUS$647.26 million market capitalization

Drill rig at Northern Dynasty's Pebble project in southwestern Alaska. Credit: Northern Dynasty Minerals.

Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX: NDM; NYSE-AM: NAK) has seen its market cap increase from this time last year, when it stood at US$259 million. The Vancouver-based company is behind the massive Pebble project, a proposed copper-gold mine in southwestern Alaska. Development of the project, which Northern Dynasty fully acquired in 2005, has faced considerable opposition from local activists, conservationists, fishers and federal regulators.

Northern Dynasty announced in June that its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership, would create a local revenue-sharing program for full-time residents of communities located near the proposed mine. This would see the distribution of a 3% net profits royalty interest in the project to adult residents of villages that have subscribed as participants, and would amount to a guaranteed US$3 million each year the mine operates, beginning with the onset of project construction. The firm is hoping to receive a positive federal license decision this summer, which would allow construction to begin later this year.

Pebble's current measured and indicated resource stands at 6.5 billion tonnes grading 0.40% copper, 0.34 gram gold per tonne, 240 parts per million (ppb) molybdenum, and 1.7 grams silver per tonne for 57 billion contained lb. copper, 71 million oz. gold, 3.4 billion lb. molybdenum and 345 million oz. silver. Inferred resources add 4.5 billion tonnes grading 0.25% copper, 0.25 gram gold, 226 ppm molybdenum and 1.2 grams silver for 25 billion lb. copper, 35.80 million oz. gold, 2.22 billion lb. molybdenum and 170 million oz. silver.

3. NexGen EnergyUS$466.60 million market capitalization

The exploration camp at NexGen Energy's Rook I uranium project along the southwestern edge of Saskatchewan's Athabasca basin. Credit: NexGen Energy.

The exploration camp at NexGen Energy's Rook I uranium project along the southwestern edge of Saskatchewan's Athabasca basin. Credit: NexGen Energy.

NexGen Energy (TSX: NXE; NYSE: NXE) has seen its market cap reduced since its appearance on last year's list. However, the spot price for uranium has risen from its year to date low of US$24.63 per lb. at the end of January, and is now pushing above US$33 per lb., which could help boost the company's valuation.

The exploration and development company has a significant profile in the uranium-rich Athabasca Basin in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, where it holds over 2090 sq. km of property. Its landholdings include NexGen's high-grade Arrow deposit, the South Arrow discovery, the Harpoon discovery, the Bow River discovery and the Cannon area. All are located within the company's wholly owned Rook 1 property.

NexGen says that having drilled 200 holes in the Arrow deposit, the site has an indicated mineral resource estimate of 179.5 million lb. contained U3O8 within 1.18 million tonnes grading 6.88% U3O8 , including a high-grade core of 164.9 million lb. U3O8 contained within 0.40 million tonnes grading 18.84% U3O8 . Inferred resources add 4.25 million tonnes grading 1.30% U3O8 for 122 million lb. U3O8 .

In May, the company announced it had lined up US$30 million in financing from Queen's Road Capital Investment (TSX: QRC), which it intends to use to help advance more development work at the Arrow deposit.

4. Polymet MiningUS$387.24 million market capitalization

PolyMet's NorthMet plant site in the Mesabi Iron Range of northern Minnesota. Credit: PolyMet Mining.

Having jumped five spots to its current position on this year's list, Toronto-based Polymet Mining (TSX: POM; NYSE-AM: PLM) has seen its market cap increase from last year's US$213 million. The company is developing its NorthMet project, a copper-nickel-cobalt and precious metals site in northeastern Minnesota.

NorthMet is located near the city of Hoyt Lakes, 110 km north of Duluth in the established Mesabi Iron Range. According to the company, the environmental review conducted for the project was the lengthiest and most comprehensive in Minnesota, and all major state and federal permits have been received. If successful, PolyMet's open-pit mine would be the first copper-nickel mine in the state.

Based on the results of a drilling program that finished late in 2019, PolyMet says the NorthMet deposit has proven and probable reserves of 290 million tonnes grading 0.29% copper and 0.08% nickel for 1.67 billion lb. copper and 480 million lb. nickel.

5. Trilogy MetalsUS$284.80 million market capitalization

Drill rig at Trilogy's Arctic property in western Alaska. Credit: Trilogy Metals.

Vancouver junior Trilogy Metals (TSX: TMQ; NYSE-AM: TMQ) has seen its market cap cut from its 2019 list appearance. However, the company remains intent on exploring and developing its holdings in the Ambler mining district of Alaska, located 470 km northwest of Fairbanks. Their teams have been working in the Ambler district since 2004, amassing over 1720 sq. km of what is collectively known as the firm's Upper Kobuk mineral projects. These include the high-grade copper-zinc-lead-gold-silver-cobalt Arctic and Bornite properties.

A 2018 prefeasibility study of the Arctic project outlines a minimum 12-year mine life supporting a 10,000 tonne per day conventional mill and flotation circuit producing copper, zinc and lead concentrates containing significant gold and silver by-products. The study outlines average annual payable production of 159 million lb. copper, 199 million lb. zinc, 33 million lb. lead, 30,600 oz. gold and 3.3 million oz. silver.

Its Bornite deposit, about 25 km southwest of Arctic has the potential to further enhance the long-term economics of the Ambler mining district. A technical report released in 2018 outlines 900 million lb. copper in the indicated category and 5.5 billion lb. copper and 77 million lb. cobalt in the inferred category.

In late April, Trilogy announced the appointment of Tony Giardini as president and chief executive officer. The former president of Ivanhoe Mines and, before that, chief financial officer at Kinross Gold (TSX: K; NYSE: KGC) takes the helm after long-time Trilogy president and CEO Rick van Nieuwenhuyse stepped down last September.

6. Denison MinesUS$210.21 million market capitalization

The camp at Denison Mines' Wheeler River uranium project in the eastern portion of Saskatchewan's Athabasca basin. Credit: Denison Mines.

The camp at Denison Mines' Wheeler River uranium project in the eastern portion of Saskatchewan's Athabasca basin in 2017. Credit: Denison Mines.

For Denison Mines (TSX: DML; NYSE-AM: DNN), exploring and developing uranium projects in north Saskatchewan's Athabasca Basin remains its focus. Its key assets in the area are the Wheeler River project, in which it has a 90% interest, and the McClean Lake and mill, where Denison retains a 22.5% interest.

The Wheeler River project is the largest undeveloped uranium project in the eastern portion of the Athabasca Basin, according to the company. It contains two high-grade uranium deposits, Phoenix and Gryphon. Phoenix has probable reserves of 141,000 tonnes grading 19.1% U3O8 for 59.7 million lb. U3O8 and Gryphon has 1.26 million tonnes grading 1.8% U3O8 for 49.7 million lb. U3O8 .

The McClean Lake and mill has an annual licenced production capacity of 24 million lb. U3O8 . Last year, it processed about 18 million lb. U3O8 from the Cigar Lake mine under a toll milling agreement.

While Denison's market cap is well down from last year's US$394 million, the company did announce in April the completion a public offering of common shares in the company. The total gross proceeds were US$5.75 million. Denison is part of The Lundin Group of Companies.

7. Josemaria ResourcesUS$129.89 million market capitalization

The site of Josemaria's copper-gold project in the Andes Mountains of Chile. Credit: Josemaria Resources.

Josemaria Resources (TSX: JOSE) was formerly part of NGEx Minerals (TSX-V: NGEX). Rebranded and spun out from NGEx in July 2019, the company is a part of The Lundin Group and is developing its namesake Josemaria copper-gold project located in the Andes mountains of Argentina, near the border with Chile.

The copper-gold porphyry deposit contains 1.07 billion indicated tonnes grading 0.31% copper, 0.22 gram gold per tonne and 1 gram silver. That translates to a contained 7.4 billion lb. copper, 7.4 million oz. gold and 34.5 million oz. silver. A feature of the resource is a near-surface, supergene enrichment zone, which contains 150 million indicated tonnes grading 0.56% copper and 0.38 gram gold and 1.5 grams silver.

Josemaria had been targeting completion of a feasibility study on its South American copper-gold project by the third quarter of 2020, though health and safety concerns may have an impact on the timeline. The prefeasibility study envisions a conventional open pit mining operation but using autonomous haul trucks.

Including pre-stripping, the company says the open pit will be in operation for 23 years, delivering ore to the mill for 20 years. Throughput to the mill is projected at 150,000 tonnes of ore per day.

8. Filo MiningUS$126.40 million market capitalization

Drillers at Filo Mining's Filo del Sol copper-gold project in the Atacama region of Chile and Argentina. Credit: Filo Mining.

Drillers at Filo Mining's Filo del Sol copper-gold project in the Atacama region of Chile and Argentina. Credit: Filo Mining.

Vancouver-based Filo Mining's (TSXV: FIL) flagship Filo del Sol copper-gold-silver project consists of two properties that straddle the Andean border between Argentina's San Juan province (the Filo del Sol property) and the Atacama region of Chile (the Tamberias property). The Filo del Sol project is located less than 20 km south of Josemaria's copper-gold project.

Filo del Sol contains 3.1 billion lb. copper, 4.4 million oz. gold and 147 million oz. silver in the indicated category and another 1.1 billion lb. copper, 1.8 million oz. gold and 35 million oz. silver in the inferred category.

As the company says, less than 20% of the properties have been explored. They pushed ahead with a field program that began in November 2019 and was ended in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the shortened program, Filo says it confirmed the existence of a significant porphyry copper-gold system underlying the current mineral resource at Filo del Sol.

In June 2020, Jamie Beck was appointed president and CEO of Filo after working with Lundin Mining and Josemaria (formerly NGEx Resources).

9. Western Copper and GoldUS$93.85 million market capitalization

Western Copper and Gold's camp at the Casino project in the Yukon Territory. Credit: Western Copper and Gold.

Western Copper and Gold (TSX: WRN; NYSE-AM: WRN) has a single asset, the Casino project, a copper, gold, molybdenum and silver deposit located 300 km northwest of Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory. Western acquired the property in 2006 and then established a subsidiary, Casino Mining, to conduct exploration and evaluations of the site.

Western envisions a conventional open pit mine to access a large copper-gold porphyry with reserves of 8.9 million oz. gold and 4.5 billion lb. copper and inferred resources of 9 million oz. gold and 5.4 billion lb. copper. Over the course of the mine's 22 year lifespan, management expects the mill to process 120,000 tonnes of ore per day and heap leach 25,000 tonnes per day to recover gold.

The company acknowledges that the Casino site lies within the traditional territory of the Selkirk First Nation, and that the project's road access falls within the traditional territories of both the Selkirk and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nations. As well, the Tr'ond?<

Western is pledging to work with local First Nations to develop the project, which is currently in the environmental assessment review phase of development. The firm says that once approvals are received, the mine will take about four years to construct, with capital expenditures estimated at $2.5 billion.

10. Fission UraniumUS$66.12 million market capitalization

A drill barge on Patterson Lake, part of Fission Uranium's PLS project in Saskatchewan. Credit: Fission Uranium.

Fission Uranium (TSX: FCU; US-OTC: FCUUF) has seen its market cap decline significantly since its appearance on last year's list. The uranium explorer-developer based out of Kelowna, B.C., wholly-owns the Patterson Lake South (PLS) property located just outside the southwest margin of Saskatchewan's Athabasca Basin.

PLS comprises 17 mineral claims totalling over 310 sq. km and includes the near-surface Triple R uranium deposit. Triple R's indicated mineral resource stands at 2.22 million tonnes grading 2.10% U3O8 for 102.36 million lb. U3O8 . Inferred resources add 1.22 million tonnes grading 1.22% U3O8 for 32.81 million lb. U3O8 . The company says about 80% of the property has yet to be explored.

Fission has the strategic backing of Hong Kong-based CGN Mining, which invested over $82 million in the company, at a substantial premium, in 2016, and holds a 19.99% equity interest in the Canadian company. CGN also obtained 20% of sales rights of the off-take quantity of products for natural uranium, and 15% of additional exclusive sales options.

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