Gold Standard Ventures is continuing to do exploration on its land in the Carlin Trend southeast of Carlin, and the results continue to look good.
The company’s South Railroad Pre-Feasibility Study on its 100 percent owned/controlled Railroad-Pinion project was completed in September 2019.
“It’s a lot of effort from a lot of people to pull all that together, but the cool thing is that the outcome is very positive,” said Steve Koehler, Gold Standard Venture’s manager of projects and senior geologist.
With the pre-feasibility study complete, GSV can now proceed with applying for permits, while also doing additional studies and exploration, while moving toward the goal of hopefully breaking ground on a new mine in Elko County in 2022.
The land package
Gold Standard Ventures, which has an office in Elko and a head office in Vancouver, B.C., started in 2010 and acquired its first ground in the Piñon mountain range in Elko County that year.
“What we’ve done over the last nine-plus years is we’ve continued to consolidate land within the Railroad mining district,” Koehler said. “Through a series of land acquisitions and staking open ground, we built a land package that is now the second largest land package on the Carlin Trend.”
Nevada Gold Mines has the largest land package on the Carlin Trend. Gold Standard Ventures’ land, which is south of the Emigrant Mine, shares a common boundary with the south end of Nevada Gold Mines’ land.
Gold Standard Ventures acquired 9,064 acres in the Piñon Mountains in 2010, and added to that in the following years, including additions of 6,285 acres in 2011; 2,781 acres in 2013; and 20,942 acres in 2017. GSV’s total land package for the Railroad-Pinion project is now 52,731 acres.
“This is the first time that that chunk of land been amalgamated into one contiguous block of land,” Koehler said. “There have been many companies that have been in the district exploring before Gold Standard got here, but they always had small parcels of land. I would say that was problematic geologically to understand the big picture, and problematic in terms of developing a mine.
“The land acquisition has allowed Gold Standard Ventures a couple things. It’s allowed Gold Standard Ventures to explore in what we would consider kind of a district-scale sense. If you’re up in a blimp and you’re looking down at the property—having all that land, you’re offered the opportunity to understand what the bigger picture looks like. It’s hard to place value on that statement, but when you get to see the bigger picture, you actually get to see and recognize the bigger patterns, and the bigger patterns were very important for us in terms of building success.
“Lastly, those acquisitions through the years are eventually what led us into consolidating land at Dark Star and Pinion, which is now where we have our reserves and where the PFS is anchored.”
Talking about the Dark Star deposit, Koehler said, “It’s a pretty sweet deposit. It holds together vertically, laterally, it goes to depth, down to about 1,000 feet below surface. It’s really well oxidized. Metallurgically, it behaves very well. So that’s where we’re really going to start mining, is at Dark Star, to capitalize on the higher grades at that deposit.”
“Dark Star and Pinion remind me of the kinds of deposits that Newmont and Barrick were mining in the early 90s, when Don Harris and I started our careers. These are unique oxide deposits. Both of them are exposed at the surface. It’s reminiscent of deposits that were being found 30 years ago.”
The Dark Star and Pinion deposits are near the middle of GSV’s land package. There are other deposits of interest throughout the property, including North Bullion to the north and Jasperoid Wash to the south.
Another strength that Gold Standard Ventures has, Koehler said, is its experienced technical team.
“Between the four senior people here in Elko, we’re bringing over 125 years of expertise in hands-on exploration, development and mining prowess to this property.”
Koehler and his supervisor, GSV General Manager Don Harris, started their careers together on the same day at Newmont almost 30 years ago.
“We’ve been working on and off together ever since,” Koehler said.
“Our team has been through numerous discoveries, building mines and developing mines. And all the learning that we’ve done over that 125-plus years is now being brought to bear on what Gold Standard Ventures is doing.
“We have a lot of hands-on expertise working elsewhere on the Carlin and Cortez trends that we bring to moving the Gold Standard property forward.
“That’s easy to say, but hard to replicate. Between the four of us, we’ve been involved in discoveries at several places that are now mines for Nevada Gold Mines, like Leeville, Turf, Pete Bajo, and Cortez Hills.”
The development projects that the GSV team have worked on in the past include Leeville and Gold Quarry.
“Our head engineer, Mark Laffoon, was a lead engineer at Goldrush.”
“So, we have lots of credible experience with big systems. Having been exposed to those things in our past, it gives us a leg up now in terms of understanding the direction that we need to take our discoveries.”
“Having all that talent in house is really a benefit to the company,” Koehler said.
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“I think our in-house expertise really allows us to create a more efficient workflow, and allows us to evaluate things in a much different perspective than perhaps our peer companies would do.”
An Elko County mine
Gold Standard Venture’s Railroad-Pinion project is in the Carlin Trend, but unlike a lot of other mines in the Carlin Trend, it is in Elko County. Most of Nevada Gold Mines’ active mines in the Carlin Trend northwest of the Railroad-Pinion project are in the northeast corner of Eureka County – some of them just inside the Eureka County border.
“Who knew, back in the day when somebody was drawing the county line?” Koehler said.
The Railroad-Pinion Project is just east of the Eureka County line, placing it in Elko County, so that if the project does develop a mine, Elko County will benefit from a new source of revenue through taxes from the mine.
Koehler said the big effects of the way the county lines were drawn and the gold discoveries that happened years later can sometimes seem like a funny irony.
“It’s always one of those things I’ve had to laugh about, but having been in and around Elko for 30 years, I realize how impactful that is to Elko County. Because Elko County hosts most of the workers for the mines, and yet doesn’t see as much of a tax benefit.”
A South Railroad mine would join the several active mines which are in Elko County, including South Arturo, Long Canyon and Jerritt Canyon.
Some mine details
Koehler said one of the highlights in the South Railroad Pre-Feasibility Study is the mine’s projected all-in sustaining cost of $657.
“That’s basically your all-in cost, for mining, permitting, processing—that’s everything thrown in there. So $657 is a very respectable number.”
“The fact that we’re in a rising gold price right now is even more special,” Koehler said. “Because it places real focus on the fact that the two deposits make good money even down to $1,100 an ounce, but at $1,500 they print cash pretty nicely.”
Other basic facts about the proposed mine include that it has proven and probable reserves of about 1.248 million ounces of gold and 2.7 million ounces of silver. All of this silver would come from the Pinion deposit.
The up-front capital for the project is $194 million.
“Which is very reasonable in the grander scheme of mining these days,” Koehler said. “For many of the projects that are coming online, the capital that’s required to get them up and running is a minimum of a half billion.”
Gold Standard Venture’s South Railroad project is also looking at another $88 million for expansion capital.
The mine is currently looking at an eight-year proposed mine life, although that could increase with an expansion.
The mine would start as an open pit, with about half the ore going straight to a leach pad, and the other half going through a high-pressure grinding roll before going to the leach pad.
Koehler gave an overview of some of the work that’s coming up for the Gold Standard Ventures team.
“We’re going to push forward on engineering studies that get us to a feasibility level of understanding of the deposits. That’s really detailed work, that’s dialing in all the nitty-gritty stuff. A lot of it is desktop kind of work, but there’s also going to be additional drilling that’s required, both near the deposits, and then exploration proximal to the deposits.”
In the first quarter of 2020, GSV will be working on permitting. The Bureau of Land Management is the project’s lead permitting agency. EM Strategies in Reno will be working on getting the Environmental Impact Statement completed.
GSV will also be working on trade-off studies, which will look at details such as the optimal size of the mine’s trucks and the shovels and the size of the high-pressure grinding roll.
Lots of samples that are now lined up on long tables at the GSV Elko office will be packaged and labeled and shipped to Germany for a study of what high-pressure grinding roll capacity will be best for the mine.
“With all this work going on in the background, we’re going to continue to explore the greater land package,” Koehler said. “There is an exploration pipeline of opportunities to follow up on. Some are early stage, that we’ve never drill tested, and some have a couple of phases of drilling, where the drilling indicates that we need more drilling to really understand what we’ve got. We’ve got a number of areas that, with another half a dozen, 10 or 15 holes, look like they have the opportunity to advance towards becoming either an inferred or an indicated resource.
“We’re going to continue to explore, and look to add ounces, and look to bring those ounces into a potential mine plan.
“The takeaway in all this is that there’s growth opportunity. A lot of times junior exploration companies don’t have big land packages, and they find something and then they’re landlocked and they can’t do any more. We’ve actually got the flexibility and opportunity to continue to drill test high value targets, and potentially, with luck and success, we could continue to add to the existing mine plan. And at least from a technical person’s perspective, that’s pretty cool.
“There’s going to be a lot going on over the next 12 to 24 months.
“If everything stays on track—because once you get into the permitting stage, things can get into a gray area—but if everything stays on track, we should have our permits, and the ability to break ground on this in 2022. That’s the plan.”
“There’s a relatively clear path, in terms of what we need to do, and where we’d like to take this.”
“It takes a lot of people to bring all this together,” Koehler said. “Lots of stakeholders, internal and external to the company. It’s a big deal to coordinate all this, to make it work, and to move it in the right direction. It’s a lot of really good communication and coordination with dozens if not more than 100 people over the long haul.”
The Lewis Project
Gold Standard Ventures also has the Lewis Project adjacent to the Nevada Gold Mines Phoenix Mine south of Battle Mountain in Eureka County. GSV acquired the project as part of its purchase of Battle Mountain Gold in June 2017.
“We’ve been exploring over there,” Koehler said. “And we’re also looking to come out some time—hopefully this quarter—with an initial resource estimate for the Virgin deposit. There’s mineralization that basically strikes out of the Phoenix pit, comes onto our ground, and hits an area that’s been drilled by a number of companies over the last two or three decades. There’s enough drilling and information there that we’re having an independent firm basically create an initial resource estimate on the Virgin zone.”
“We like the exploration potential.”