TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Pretium Resources, a new gold development company that listed on the TSX on Tuesday, could build a high-grade underground mine at its new British Columbia assets, but will also continue studies on the big, bulk tonnage operation envisaged by the projects' previous owner, CEO Robert Quartermain said.
Pretium – which means “value” in Latin - agreed in October to buy the Snowfield and Brucejack projects from Silver Standard Resources for C$450-million and raised C$265-million in an initial public offering before this week's listing.
Quartermain, who was chief executive at Silver Standard until January this year, said he is very interested in new high-grade targets found in the Brucejack area and intends to follow up with more drilling in 2011.
There are other high-grade projects in the area, including Barrick's Eskay Creek mine, and an underground operation to mine high-grade mineralisation would have a smaller environmental footprint, which means it could probably be moved through the permitting process more quickly, Quartermain said in an interview.
Pretium could potentially handle development of the mine itself if the high-margin underground option proves the most economic, Quartermain said, although he noted that Barrick, with Eskay Creek just 15 km away, has experience in the area and could be a logical buyer.
The openpit scenario would have a much higher price tag, and the company would then look at bringing in a partner or marketing the asset to bigger miners if the project heads in that direction, Quartermain said.
“We'll look at taking it to prefeasibility, on to full feasibility, see what it looks like, and then I think engage the right type of partner that would be able to come and develop it going forward.”
The Snowfield and Brucejack deposits have an estimated combined gold resource of 26-million gold ounces in the measured and indicated category.
But Quartermain said the current estimate does not include more than 51 000 m of drilling by Silver Standard this year, so the company plans to complete new resource statements for both Brucejack and Snowfield by mid-2011.
“And then we will also do a Brucejack high-grade estimate using a higher cut-off grade, maybe a three-gram cut-off in the Brucejack area, and see what kind of high-grade opportunity we can outline,” he said.
Work will start next year on a prefeasibility study for a combined openpit operation, while the company could have a preliminary economic assessment on the underground project ready by the end of 2011.
Silver Standard completed a preliminary study in September on combining the two projects as a single openpit mine.
The operation would run for 27 years, require capital expenditure, including contingencies of around $3,5-billion and could produce an average of 700 000 oz/y over the life-of-mine, plus about four-million ounces of silver, 44-million pounds of copper, three-million pounds of molybdenum and 9 000 kg of rhenium.
Quartermain said that he intends to keep an eye out for opportunities to buy more gold assets, although the focus in the near term will be moving the Snowfield and Brucejack properties forward.
“I've been in the resource business for 35 years, so I have a number of contacts on a global basis that I've been able to establish in my career, and there are lots of good opportunities, both publicly and privately held,” he said.
“If the appropriate opportunity came up for what I thought was a reasonable value, we could certainly add it to our portfolio.”
Shares in Pretium rose 2% on Wednesday, to C$6,18 a share by 15:57 in Toronto. The company sold shares in the IPO at C$6,00 each.