Exploration Budgets Fall for a Fourth Consecutive Year

The exploration sector remained depressed again in 2016, after a record high of more than $20.5 billion in 2012, exploration budgets have now fallen for four consecutive years. The 2016 exploration budgets by 1,580 companies totaled only $6.89 billion, a year-on-year drop of 21%. The average 2016 exploration budget among the surveyed companies was $4.4 million, the lowest since 2009, and the median budget was $800,000, which is the smallest in more than a decade.

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These details and more can be found in the 2016 Corporate Exploration Strategies (CES) report, published by S&P Market Intelligence, working in conjunction with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. The report covers an estimated 95% of worldwide commercially oriented nonferrous exploration budgets.

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Pretium’s Brucejack Mine Nearing Startup in Northwest British Columbia

Pretium Resources reported that commissioning is under way at its high-grade, underground Brucejack gold mine in northwest British Columbia and that the mine will reach commercial production before year-end 2017. Brucejack is scheduled to produce an average of 504,000 ounces per year (oz/y) of gold over its first eight years of operation and a mine-life average of 404,000 oz/y over 18 years.

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The Valley of the Kings portal building will serve as the primary access point to convey gold ore from the under-ground crusher to the mill.

Capital cost to complete the Brucejack project is now estimated at $811.1 million. The feasibility study for the project, completed in June 2014 and updated in December 2016, considers only the project’s Valley of the Kings deposit, which hosts proven and probable reserves of 8.1 million oz of gold in 15.6 million metric tons (mt) grading 16.1 grams/mt gold.

The study describes a path to production for a 2,700-mt/d underground mine. Stopes will be mined using a combination of longitudinal and transverse mining, depending on zone width and orientation. Cemented paste tailings will be prepared in a paste plant on surface near the mill and pumped underground for distribution to the stopes.

As of early February, underground development was well advanced, with 11 stopes crosscut on two levels in preparation for long-hole drilling. Crosscutting of a further four stopes was in progress. Long-hole drills were being mobilized, with long-hole drilling expected to begin in the second week of March. Construction of underground infrastructure, including the crusher, conveyor and transfer tower, was ongoing.

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Dominion Diamond Becomes Takeover Target

Canada’s BNN is reporting that Dominion Diamond and Stornoway Diamond have held talks about a potential merger. Dominion, which owns the Ekati diamond mine in Canada's Northwest Territories and a 40% stake in the nearby Diavik mine, is currently the target of a $1.1 billion bid by Washington Companies and Stornoway.

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Strike at Escondida Ends

On Thursday, March 23, after 43 days and losses of about $700 million, the strike at Minera Escondida ended. Escondida is operated by Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton and its main facilities are located in Antofagasta, Chile.

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