Mining Explorers 2015: Majors carry Alaska exploration – by Shane Lasley (Petroleum News – November 1, 2015)

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Alaska producers continue robust programs, other majors seek opportunities

The owners of Alaska’s five large metal mines – Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo, Hecla Mining Co., Kinross Gold Corp., Teck Resources Ltd. and Coeur Mining Inc. – accounted for nearly half of the US$96 million of exploration spending in the state during 2014. This year, similar investments by these large companies and other majors are again providing solid footing for the Far North state’s mineral exploration sector.

Avalon Development Corp. President Curt Freeman said he is seeing more mining majors shopping for deals in Alaska.

“The junior markets are still flat, but that plus-three-year slump in the junior explorer market has caused joint ventures and leases and mining claims to unravel, providing well-heeled producers with opportunities to acquire at the bottom of the market. Expect to see more producers become involved in Alaska’s mineral industry this year,” the longtime Alaska geologist predicted.

Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo – a joint venture between Japanese firms Sumitomo Metal Mining Company (85 percent) and Sumitomo Corp. (15 percent) – accounted for nearly 20 percent of the exploration spending in Alaska during 2014 and 2015.

Following up on the US$17 million exploration program in 2014, the Japan-based owners of the Pogo Mine invested US$15 million on discovering and expanding zones of high-grade gold that are adding years to the life of the Interior Alaska mine.

“This funding shows the tremendous confidence that Sumitomo has in the Pogo deposit and our ability to find additional resources for many years to come,” said Lorna Shaw, external affairs manager, SMM Pogo.

Based on the high-grade gold discoveries made in the immediate mine area over the past five years, this confidence is well-founded.

In addition to the robust exploration in the immediate mine area, the Sumitomo partners continue to seek other high-grade gold deposits in the broader Goodpaster Mining District where Pogo is located.

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