Seabridge CEO eyes 2015 deal with gold, copper mine partner

Tue Jan 6, 2015 6:38pm EST
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Despite weak metal markets, Seabridge Gold Inc's (SEA.TO: Quote) chief executive is optimistic the company will find a partner this year to help fund and build its $5 billion KSM mine project, one of the world's biggest undeveloped gold and copper deposits.

Part of Rudi Fronk's confidence comes after the Canadian government gave its blessing to the project shortly before Christmas, only the second new mine approval in British Columbia in five years by both federal and provincial authorities.

"I believe that 2015 can be the year. I can't tell you how important the federal approval was in terms of how the big companies look at this opportunity," Fronk, who is also Seabridge's chairman, said in an interview.

He said Seabridge has signed confidentiality agreements with seven groups interested in its Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) project in northern British Columbia, five of which are major base-metals companies.

With proven and probable reserves of 38.2 million ounces of gold and 9.9 billion pounds of copper, KSM was originally envisaged as a gold deposit with a lot of copper on the side. But recent discoveries of higher-grade deposits, especially copper, has piqued the interest of big base-metal miners.

For Cowen and Co analyst Adam Graf that should make it easier for Seabridge to find a partner, possibly one of the big multinational mining companies.

"To the BHP's, Rio Tinto's and Vale’s of the world building a $5 billion project is much more credible at this point than for the Newmont's, the Barrick's and the Goldcorp's," Graf said.

Gold miners, which have been hard hit in the past three years by a 35 percent plunge in the price of gold, have pulled back from buying or building big mines after a series of high-profile cost overruns.   Continued...