Why this junior exploration project in BC is on investors’ watch list

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Investing in a junior exploration project that ends up becoming a significant discovery can be as rare and exciting as finding a dinosaur fossil. In today’s mining industry, ore reserves are scarce and discovery cycles diminished. If a junior labour is successful, it can be groundbreaking.

One such example of such a triumph is Great Bear Resources, a Vancouver-based exploreco that is set to mine Dixie, a project in the Red Lake district of northwestern Ontario. The company began its discovery cycle as an ambitious junior penny stock and after drilling for some time, it started to garner attention from Kinross Gold, who offered $29 per share.

As you can see, the price of the share went from a modest penny stock to quite the opposite in a short amount of time.

The Golden Triangle

Although scarce, there are still junior explorecos out there that have potential significant discovery. One in particular is hidden in the rugged coastal mountains of northwestern British Columbia in a spot known as the Golden Triangle. Speculative investors would be wise to keep their eyes on the Triangle as it is one of the few remaining mining-friendly regions left where significant potential still exists.

The Triangle has some of the most outstanding range of deposits across both geological settings and deposit types—including gold-copper porphyry deposits, epithermal vein deposits, volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits, and intrusion-related deposits.

One project in particular, KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell), has some of the most (undeveloped) polymetallic deposits on the planet, where M&I resources have 76.4 million ounces of gold and > 17.1 billion pounds of copper. 65.9 million ounces of gold and >33.2 billion pounds of copper round out the Inferred category. In total that comes to 142.3 million ounces of gold and 50.3 billion pounds of copper in all resource categories, as well as  728 million ounces of silver and substantial moly credits.

The Triangle’s incredible mineral endowment is a result of the same geological processes that generated mineral deposits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, like Grasberg, Lihir, and Cadia. Its remote and rugged landscapes have been challenging for exploration for a long time, however, recent upgrades to infrastructure, including high-voltage transmission lines, ice-free deep-water ports, recently paved Stewart-Cassiar highways, and a large network of gravel roads connecting the region, have enabled access to the area.

Due to the increased accessibility, exploration in the region is increasing at a rapid pace. In an article written by Resource World in Fall, 2021, “the Golden Triangle is evolving so quickly that investors and even people deeply involved in the region are not up-to-date.”

Mergers and acquisitions in the Triangle

The competitiveness of a finding a successful mining project is what makes investing in this sector so rewarding as well. For example, if a junior finds a new discovery with potential, there will likely be many predators seeking to take advantage of it.

Producers with less projects lined up will be looking into the balance sheets of small exploration and development companies which will be looking to be acquired. Both these big players and savvy investors looking for their next opportunity will be taking advantage of these early opportunity junior plays.

Mergers and acquisitions activity in the Triangle started to gain speed approximately three years ago after Australian-based mining project Newcrest Mining paid up to $804 million for a majority stake in Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine. In early 2021, Newcrest announced its intention to invest a further C$135 million.

Newmont also acquired GT Gold’s copper-gold porphyry deposit, the Tatogga Project, in Q1 of 2021 for $393 million. Newcrest’s total investment in the Golden Triangle is now nearing $4.5 billion. Further, in December 2020, Seabridge made a deal of US$100 million for Pretium’s Snowfield property.

April 2021 saw Yamana Gold taking a $20.6 million equity position in Ascot Resources and in December 2021, Franco-Nevada taking a $31 million equity position in Skeena Resources. Canadian businessman and billionaire Eric Sprott has taken significant equity positions in the 27.3 million oz Treaty Creek via multiple placements in joint venture partners Tudor, Teuton, and American Creek.

Mergers and acquisitions in the Golden Triangle continue to accelerate, and companies constantly having significant discoveries will be keenly sought after from the likes of Sprott.

Optimum Ventures

With 39.69 million outstanding shares and a $11.9 million market cap, new kid on the block Optimum Ventures (ticker: OPV.V) has secured a strategic land position in an area swarming with exploration and development in Stewart, British Columbia. The company’s flagship Harry Project is a 1,333 hectare stretch of highly prospective terra firma located along the Granduc Access Road, bordering Ascot Resources, Pretium Resources, and Scottie Gold.

By spending $9 million on exploration plus cash and share payments, Optimum is making 80% interest in the project from Teuton Resources. Located along the northwestern portion of the geological corridor prospective for gold-silver mineralization, the property’s corridor is 3 km wide and 15 km long. The target is high-grade gold-silver mineralization, large-scale bulk-tonnage Au-Ag zones, and VMS-type mineralization.

The project is close vicinity to high-grade Premier Gold Project from Ascot, a major player in the area. Premier Gold is currently under construction and slated for its first gold pour in Q1 of 2023. 

Premier, Big Missouri, Silver Coin, and Martha Ellen all have deposits that are located along the same structure that connects with Harry. All 3 million ounces of Au and 11.49 million ounces of Ag are part of Ascot’s mining trajectory.

Ascot is targeting over 150k ounces per year and the Premier Prjoect represents one of the highest-grade undeveloped underground projects in Canada that isn’t owned by a producer. For context, the Premier Gold Mine commenced production in 1918, and peaked during the Depression. Premier produced approximately 2 million ounces of gold and 45 million ounces of silver during the 34 years.

As a consolidator of the southern Golden Triangle, in January 2019, Ascot “took out” Rob McLeod’s IDM Mining for high-grade Red Mountain project to create “the leading high-grade gold development and exploration company in northwestern British Columbia’s Golden Triangle.” Any significant discoveries made by Optimum in the area will not fly under the radar for Ascot. 

Optimum’s Harry project lies along the northwestern portion of the geological corridor which is prospective for gold-silver mineralization that hosted several former and operating mines. The property consisted of several 500 metre-wide zones of intense alteration that trend northwest along with the claim. Along with this intense alteration, sericite is prevalent with an abundant amount of pyrite.

Quartz veins, Quartz breccias, and semi-massive sulphides also are prominent in the area. Alteration and mineralization of this kind are found at nearby gold deposits being developed by Ascot Resources. Harry is an unexplored property, with less than 10% being prospected so far. 

Unlike the orebodies that have already been discovered, many parts of the Golden Triangle are still untapped. 

Glaciers that are receding due to climate change have been opening up to expose outcrop that was previously undiscovered.

Like the Treaty Glaciers that receded in the mid-90s to expose mineralization that eventually led to the Treaty Creek discoveries by joint venture partners Teuton, Tudor, and American Creek, Pretium’s Valley of Kings was also buried in ice until roughly 2010.

Harry’s Zones

The “Milestone”, a new zone of mineralization in quartz breccias discovered on the Harry Property in 2020. The width has not yet been defined, however, the previous operator reported a trench sample of an average of 7.86 ounces per ton of gold (269.5 g/t) across a 2-meter width.

Then there’s the Outland Silver Bar, which comprises of multiple mineralized quartz veins and gossans. The veins have quartz with galena, sphalerite, tetrahedrite and pyrite with minor chalcopyrite. Lenses of sulphide mineralization, that may be replacement-type, occur in pyrite-rich siltstones and mudstones, on the Outland claim. These mineralized lenses contain pyrite, pyrrhotite, arsenopyrite, scattered chalcopyrite, galena, tetrahedrite, argentite, sphalerite and an unidentified tungsten mineral.

The “Harry” zone is characterized by mineralization of fine-grained arsenopyrite, galena, and sphalerite blebs with quartz floods hosted by sericitized felsic rock. Its mineralization is similar to epithermal-type mineralization observed in the Big Missouri and Dilworth deposits of Ascot Resources.

Summit Gossan’s northeast trending quartz veins occur immediately north of the alkaline stock and consist sphalerite, galena, and tetrahedrite mineralization. Northwest trending fault zones with associated pyrite-chalcopyrite-arsenopyrite-sphalerite-galena and related chlorite-carbonate alteration occur several hundred metres east of a potassium feldspar porphyry. According to Assessment Report 25677, a 1 metre sample consisted of 3% galena, 3 to 5% sphalerite, 2% tetrahedrite in quartz calcite gangue assayed 1% copper, 1.24% lead, 4.33% zinc, 400.8 g/t silver and 1.01 g/t gold.

Another zone, Troy 6, a quartz-sericite structure with banding in the quartz forms this showing. Zones of massive pyrite lie between the quartz bands. According to Assessment Report 23220, a band of darkish quartz has a blackish look to it from disseminated dark sulphides, mainly galena and sphalerite. The gold and silver values appear to be directly related to the dark sulphide bearing quartz. A composite sample over 1 metre assayed 15.63 grams per tonne gold, 44.0 grams per tonne silver, 0.05 per cent copper, 0.24 per cent lead and 0.58 per cent zinc.

“Troy 6” has a quartz-sericite structure with banding in the quartz. Zones of massive pyrite lie between the quartz bands. A band of darkish quartz has a blackish look to it from disseminated dark sulphides, mainly galena and sphalerite. The gold and silver values appear to be directly related to the dark sulphide-bearing quartz. Assessment Report 23220 found that composite sample over 1 metre assayed 15.63 grams per tonne gold, 44.0 grams per tonne silver, 0.05 per cent copper, 0.24 per cent lead and 0.58 per cent zinc. 

The S-1 is a 10 metres wide vein swarm comprised of numerous parallel quartz veins which contain up to 10 % of combined pyrite, galena and sphalerite. Locally the veins have dark gray to black colour from dispersed carbonaceous mater and/or very fine-grained galena and sphalerite. Four grab samples collected from S-1 showing returned up to 1.34 g/t gold and 32 g/t silver.

Harry isn’t the only project Optimum has going on. It’s Riverside Property,  a past producer located in the Hyder Mining District in southeastern Alaska, is also due to see exploration activity in 2022. 

Optimum recently announced an unexpected development, that it discovered 285.4 g/t gold and 1949 g/t silver assays from surface sampling on the Swann Zone from the Harry Property. The results were from a late 2021 surface exploration campaign Harry conducted along the Swan zone, an area exposed over a small area of quartz and semi to massive mineratlization within an intensely altered zone. Visible gold is present along this showing.

The work that Optimum has done late in 2021 has only been with 10% of the property, yet it indicates that sulphide zones occur within quartz-bearing structures trending both east-west. Where these structures are crosscut by northwest trending structures, semi-massive to massive sulphides occur. Within these sulphides, sphalerite, galena, tetrahedrite, chalcopyrite and pyrite are present. Fine visible gold is occasionally present within the massive mineralization. The Swann zone is several hundred meters east of the Milestone, where 2020 trench sampling returned 7.86 oz/ton gold (269.5 g/t) across a 2 metre width.

After the surface sampling program, as a requirement under the option agreement on the property, Optimum finished four short diamond drill holes on the Swann zone. Logging of the core has shown that up to six metres of semi-massive to massive mineralization is associated with highly altered sericitic rocks and quartz veining. Cut core showed silvery galena, indicative of silver in the Stewart area, green sphalerite and dull black stringers of tetrahedrite.

Aside from Optimium’s exciting prospects from the Harry project, it is also under stellar management. Without a good management team, operational inefficiences can take place resulting in shareholders losing value due to reckless spending and endless heavily dilutive raises. Optimum’s team is highly experienced and technically adept.

Although Optimum only recently sealed the deal with Harry, the flagship project and high-class management team have set the company in fantastic stead for investors looking to capitalize on a lucrative investment within the Golden Triangle.

The potential of the Golden Triangle is highlighted by a new high-grade discovery at Pretium’s Golden Marmot Zone, which is 3.5 kilometres north of its Valley of Kings deposit where it found a significant 72.5 g/t gold over 53.5 Meters, including 6,700 g/t gold over 0.5 Meters.

The Optimum crew will continue to optimize on the Golden Triangle as its Harry project continues to unravel in 2022.

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