The Mitchell gold deposit in northern British Columbia is the largest ever found in Canada, but “you couldn’t see it until the glacier receded,” said Rudi Fronk, CEO of gold explorer Seabridge Gold. He said it took three decades and three kilometers of melting until it “revealed what was underneath.”
It’s an uncomfortable topic for some in the mining industry, but global warming is helping to make some of the multimillion-ounce gold deposits once trapped under glaciers and permafrost in or near northern Canada into some of the most attractive mining M&A targets in North America.
According to industry executives and bankers, gold majors are facing production cliffs that many think will require acquisitions of large deposits. And increasingly, they seem willing to chase frozen assets in northwestern British Columbia, the Yukon and Nunavut that were once considered unreachable or undesirable instead of similarly-sized deposits in politically riskier jurisdictions.
The Mitchell deposit is part of Seabridge’s KSM project, one of the largest undeveloped opportunities in the world. It contains 39 million ounces of gold and 10 billion pounds of copper with the potential for more than 50 years of mine life, according to a prefeasibility study.
Fronk, who is seeking a JV partner for KSM, said most deposits of similar scope are located in jurisdictions that have a mix of geopolitical uncertainty and shifting regulations that are scaring miners away.