The company’s CEO Matti Talikka said the Central Lapland Greenstone Belt in northern Finland is “emerging into a major gold camp and Aurion is positioned to be at the core of this exciting development”
The company is focusing its efforts on its wholly-owned Risti and Launi projects, yielding multiple discoveries.
The company’s flagship Risti project covers 16,197-hectares in the prolific Central Lapland Greenstone Belt in northern Finland. In 2017, Aurion shot to prominence on the back of a massive boulder field discovery. The team has since traced the source of one group of the gold-splattered boulders back to an in-situ drill bit discovery at Aamurusko on its Risti property, including 789 grams per tonne (g/t) gold (Au) over 2.9 metres (m).
Shareholders who kept their faith were handsomely rewarded – the average Aurion stock price in 2017 was 45 times greater than in 2015.
In July 2021, Aurion reported promising drill results from its Aamurusko discovery at its Risti property. Gold was intersected in multiple lithological settings, expanding the gold mineralized footprint. The company recorded 29.06 g/t gold over 1.85m, which included 88.90 g/t gold over 0.40m. Significantly, to date 80% of all holes drilled at Aamurusko have intersected gold exceeding 1.0 g/t gold, with 51% of drill holes over 3.0 g/t gold, and 31% over 10.0 g/t gold.
Meanwhile, Aurion’s Launi property consists of two blocks – Launi East and Launi West. The property is just 10 kilometres (km) south of the Risti property. Over 2,300 samples have been collected from boulders and outcrops assaying up to 709 g/t Au with an average grade of 4.20 g/t Au at Launi East.
Aurion has drawn marquee partners and investors like B2Gold, Kinross Gold and Newmont Corporation, the world’s largest gold mining company.
Proactive sat down with Aurion CEO Matti Talikka to learn about the company’s ongoing drill and sampling program at Risti and Launi. A mining industry veteran, Talikka knows northern Finland like the back of his hand.
Proactive: Aurion entered Finland with the thesis that the Central Lapland Greenstone Belt in northern Finland is similar in geologic setting and prospectivity to the famed gold camps of Canada, Australia, Africa, and South America. Do you still have the conviction that Finland is a top jurisdiction for exploration?
Matti Talikka: Yes, absolutely! Finland, and particularly northern Finland offers all the ingredients for successful and sustainable exploration and mining.
The basis is the prospective geology as demonstrated by the existence of major mines such as Agnico Eagle’s Kittila gold mine and over 20 recent gold discoveries including the high-grade Aamurusko discovery by Aurion and the 4-million-ounce Ikkari discovery by Rupert Resources. The increasing frequency and quality – very low finding cost per ounce – of recent discoveries resembles the early stages of development of most of the great gold camps. Camps like Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Red Lake blossomed rapidly after their initial discoveries with multiple new deposits identified often within months of the first exploration success.
As a jurisdiction, Finland is among the best in the world with superb infrastructure, safe operational environment, and transparent permitting processes. We consider that the Central Lapland Greenstone Belt is emerging into a major gold camp and Aurion is positioned to be at the core of this exciting development.
Since Aurion acquires and evaluates mineral properties in Finland does it help that you previously worked for Dragon Mining and have strong exploration and project development experience in the country?
Our team combines the best local knowledge with world-class international knowledge including experience in orogenic gold exploration in Canada and Australia. I have spent more than a decade exploring in northern Finland, and actually was on the other side of the table when Aurion acquired their initial properties in Finland in 2014. I was invited to Aurion’s board in 2015 and commenced full-time as the CEO in November 2020. I believe my local knowledge and experience in geology, relationships with stakeholders and understanding of operational requirements is complementary to the broader experience on the Aurion team.
Please tell us about the multiple gold in-till anomalies that the exploration team recently identified from sampling at the Risti and Launi and what it means for Aurion.
In-till covered terrains, base of till sampling is one of the key exploration methods and has been successfully used in northern Finland in the discovery process of most deposits including Agnico’s Kittila mine, Anglo’s Sakatti and Rupert Resources’ Ikkari.
Aurion’s highly efficient prospecting team initially focused on areas with surface exposure and was very successful in discovering a number of gold mineralizations in outcrops and subcrops, which we are currently following up on with drill testing.
Early this year, we started to expand our regional exploration to till covered areas, which are considered prospective, but have never been explored. During the first half of 2021, we collected approximately 3,500 base of till samples. The results are very encouraging as we identified a large number of gold anomalies in previously untested areas. These results further support our belief that we have a very extensive system, with the potential to find gold in various geological settings including sediment-hosted gold mineralization like Aamurusko and mafic-ultramafic-hosted gold mineralization such as Kutuvuoma, Kaaresselka and Ikkari.
What are the growth catalysts for the company in the near-term?
We have three programs ongoing concurrently. Firstly, we are drilling at Aamurusko with an aim to expand the footprint of the mineralized zones. Secondly, we are drill testing selected regional targets identified via prospecting, geophysics and till sampling. Lastly, we will continue our regional base of till sampling program with an aim to define gold anomalous zones and further expand exploration into previously unexplored areas.
In addition, B2Gold, our joint venture (JV) partner on several properties, including Kutuvuoma and Sinermä, is planning to have an active second half of 2021.
Please elaborate on your joint venture with B2Gold and how you are advancing the Kutuvuoma and Sinermä prospects?
We are pleased to have B2Gold as a JV partner. The current focus of the exploration activities is in the Kutuvuoma-Ikkari corridor. The 4 million ounces (Moz) Ikkari discovery is located just a few hundred meters from the JV boundary, and it seems that the same geologic sequence that hosts the mineralization at Ikkari extends several kilometers into the JV area.
The exploration plans in the near future include a 5,000-meter diamond core drilling program, base of till sampling, trenching and geophysical surveys.
In 2017, Kinross Gold acquired an initial 9.9% position in Aurion, then Newmont inherited a 3.8% interest from Goldcorp. What does it say for Aurion that you are able to attract major gold companies and are you looking for more strategic investors?
I think the fact that majors such as Kinross and Newmont – in addition to our JV with B2Gold – are invested speaks volumes to the potential they see in Finland, and in particular, on our extensive land package. All the majors that invested had the opportunity to visit the properties to see the gold that we had sitting on-surface and all came away with the same comment “We’ve never seen anything like this in our career.” And this is coming from seasoned veterans who have looked at hundreds, if not thousands, of projects globally.
We are very sensitive to maintaining strong relationships with our current corporate investors. However, should there be interest from other parties, we would be open to discussions.
How much cash do you have on hand, and how long will it last?
As of June 30, 2021, we have approximately C$12 million in working capital, which will cover all planned activities through mid-2022.
Compared to high-grade, pre-resource peers, would you say Aurion trades at a discount?
I think a picture is worth a thousand words. As you can see in the graph below, we trade at a deep discount to our peers.
That wasn’t always the case. When we made the boulder discovery in 2017, we were market darlings, and would have traded at a significant premium to our pre-resource peers. However, we had challenges in performing exploration activities including drilling in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as we brought our Canadian staff and drillers home. Had we drilled our discovery hole – hole 42 with 789 g/t Au over 2.90m – in 2020, our valuation would likely look significantly different than it does now.
Therein lies the opportunity for investors. We have now been able to fully resume drilling and other exploration activities.
We believe that we have an opportunity to make multiple new discoveries within our vast land package as well as expand the already identified zones of gold mineralization at Aamurusko, and the market values new significant discoveries as we have seen in the successes of New Found Gold, Great Bear and Rupert Resources.