André Gaumond has led the discoveries of six gold deposits in his career.
His flagship discovery, Eléonore, earned his company around C$420 million when they sold it to Goldcorp Inc1. He retained a royalty interest, which earned Virginia a buyout from Osisko Royalties for around C$520 million2.
They turned C$18 million spent on exploration into a discovery that earned them around C$1 billion. André’s repeat successes don’t come just from being lucky. He’s been exploring the same region in Northern Quebec for his entire career, making him the leader for exploration and development in that region.
André’s company, Virginia Mines, has announced a merger with Osisko Royalties Ltd. this year. Now he’s planning to get his hands dirty once again and aims to put another significant discovery to his name. As Pierre Lassonde once told him, “Land possession is not something. Land possession is everything.”
I spoke with André about how insights he had as a young man led him to some of the most valuable – and overlooked — land for mineral exploration in the world.
Henry: André, if you were just now entering the exploration sector, where would you be most interested in going and what do you think you would do to start out? André: Well, as you know, we decided to focus in Northern Quebec. Virginia Mines decided to focus in Northern Quebec right from the beginning.
In fact, I took a year to study opportunities around the world and I quite rapidly realized that Northern Quebec was virgin and unexplored. It also had the same geology, which means the same potential, as the ‘Abitibi belts’. The Abitibi belts are in Ontario and Quebec and are known as one of the richest places on Earth to find and develop mines.
As I found the same type of geology in Northern Quebec as in the Abitibi belts, it was very easy to decide that my niche, and the game plan for Virginia Mines, would be to explore there– to explore this prolific territory, and to find and develop mines in that area. And that’s exactly what we did.
James Bay, where we are mainly located, has great geology. It also has road access, airports, villages, and one of the cheapest costs of electricity in North America. The infrastructure was built there in the 70’s. They built huge hydropower dams — among the largest in the world. Quebec now has among the lowest costs of producing electricity in North America.
Having access to that cheap energy was key to exploring in that area. You also have excellent drillers in Quebec. You have agreements with the First Nations. You have coal mining regulation. You have universities. You have engineering firms. You have smelters. What else can you ask for in a jurisdiction to explore and develop mines?
So to answer your question precisely, for a geologist that wants to start a career, it’s always the ‘first mover’ that gets most of the value. Be a pioneer in an area. We were able to acquire a huge land possession that we control inside the most prolific belt in James Bay. We have hundreds of kilometers of land in James Bay along these prolific volcanic belts. We have found thousands of showings and six deposits so far.
Of course, among them there’s Eléonore, a world-class deposit. But Eléonore was not the only one.
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