Bonterra Resources Inc. is a Canadian gold exploration company, with a large portfolio of exploration projects in Quebec, Canada. The asset portfolio of the company holds the Barry, Gladiator, Moroy and Bachelor deposits, as well as the only permitted and operational gold mill in the region, namely the Bachelor Mill. The Barry open-pit project, which is the focus of the company’s advancement initiatives, holds 148 Koz of gold in the measured category, 17 Koz of gold in the indicated category and 1 Koz in the inferred category.
The company currently has two drill rigs active at the Barry project, with 6,000 m of drilling being conducted a month. The exploration drilling initiatives at the project are focused on the upper 300 m of mineralisation in the project’s underground resources and are aimed at better understanding the continuity and grade of the deposit. The exploration drilling program is planned to consist of 125,000 m of infill drilling and is focused on the highest-grade area of the deposit. Bonterra Resources Inc. at the end of 2022 released assay results from its exploration drilling initiatives at the Barry underground deposit, with the highlights thereof including 21.9 g/t of gold over 4.4 m which included 158.5 g/t over 0.5 m as well as 8.1 g/t over 4.0 m including an interval of 44.5 g/t of gold over 0.7 m.
Bonterra Resources Inc. aims to complete a mineral resource update in the coming year, which will enable the company to complete and publish a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of the project in 2023. The PEA will include selecting the best mining method to follow at the project ensuring an optimised operation.
2022 in Review
Marc-Andre Pelletier, the President and CEO of Bonterra Resources Inc. joined the company in January 2022. Pelletier in his time at the company has created various initiatives and brought forth various plans including the appointment of Ms Pier-Elise Hebert-Tremblay as Chief Financial Officer and the initiation of a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) at the company’s Barry open-pit project. Pelletier explains that the project’s future potential was a driving factor in choosing to focus on it.
“...we have very large resources – 3 million ounces, all in Quebec. We also have the infrastructure, so we have large deposits, we have infrastructure such as a mill, so what do we do next? It became very clear that the Barry deposit was the asset to move forward towards a production restart. Following that we initiated a PEA on the Barry open pit project. That was published in June. It was fairly positive, a very small-scale project but positive and looking good.”
Pelletier explains that the 2022 mineral sector downswing could be seen in the creation of the pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the Barry open-pit project with the costs significantly rising in the 6 months between the PEA and the PFS.
“The PEA showed that it was a good project to move on and we made the decision to pursue the pre-feasibility study in the second half of the year. One of the things we noticed during that process was a significant increase in the cost of contractors, labour and supplies, and that negatively impacted the economics of the project. Even during the time between the PEA and the PFS, which was only about 6 months of work, the inflation, the pressure on the market meant that the costs significantly changed during a very short period of time.”
The inflationary pressures led the company to delay the creation of the PFS and focus on expanding the resources of the project’s underground mineral deposit.
“One of the things we decided to do was to put a hold on the PFS on the Barry open pit. In the meantime, we started an infill drilling program in August for the underground portion of the deposit. We made the decision to pause the PFS on the Barry open pit and continue the infill drilling program for the Barry underground deposit.”
Bonterra Resources Inc. also decided in 2022 to place the Bachelor-Moroy underground operation in permanent care and maintenance. The savings realised by placing the underground deposit in care and maintenance is approximately CAD$ 3 million per year and could be reallocated to advance the Barry project.
“Another thing that we've done is the technical review of the Bachelor mine, and we did it internally. One thing we realised is that we did not have enough reserves there to support the restart of the Bachelor mine itself. That resulted in a cost-saving initiative, which was to shut down the underground infrastructure at the Bachelor mine. It was a big decision to make, but in the end, we believe we're going to save about CAD$ 3 million, which is a significant amount of money for a company like Bonterra.”
Exploration initiatives at the Barry project
Bonterra Resources Inc. initially planned to start the Barry project as an open-pit operation, with the project already holding a mining lease. Pelletier explains that the open pit has also seen production in the past and that it was the logical step for the company.
“That was my mandate, and that's the reason why we focused on the open pit. The mining lease is in place, there has been some previous mining there. It makes sense to start with the pit. We knew the underground would take a bit more time. That's why we focused first on the open pit.”
Pelletier explains that by conducting the PFS and seeing the impact of the inflationary pressures, the company realised that in order for it to have an economically viable operation, it would have to increase its mineral resources.
“Since we advanced the PFS, we realised that we're going to need higher-grade ore to pay off some of our capital projects, and that's the reason why we just started this big infill drilling program. We are talking about 125,000 m of drilling. We did about 25,000 m last year. This year we're going to do 60,000 m to 80,000 m, depending on how that goes, we're moving towards the underground at Barry.”
Pelletier explains that the expansion of mineral resources will also increase the project’s life of mine, with the envisioned underground operations adding 5 to 8 years to the life of the mine.
“The Barry open pit was a little over 4 years, and for the underground, what we're looking at, at the moment, it's only the first half of the deposit underground, which is about 300 m deep, so we are talking about 200,000 ounces to 300,000 ounces to mine there. From a life of mine perspective, that adds 5 to 8 years, so the life of mine of the project will help the economics.”
The work conducted for the PFS of the Barry open pit project has not been lost according to Pelletier, with him explaining that the information will still prove useful as the company expands the mineral resources.
The company also has two drill rigs active at the Barry project, with 6,000 m of drilling being conducted a month. The exploration drilling initiatives at the project are focused on the upper 300 m of mineralisation in the project’s underground resources and are aimed at better understanding the continuity and grade of the deposit. Pelletier explains that the mineral resources are located close to the surface of the project with the resources at a depth pof approximately 600 m deep.
“One of the really good things about Barry is that we're very close to the surface. It's not a very deep ore body. The total resource is 600 m deep. Where we are specifically looking is from 0 m down to 300 m, so it's very shallow, close to the surface, so productivity should be good in terms of hauling and those kinds of things. Dilution is actually our enemy, so good mining practices are something that we have been looking at last year and we're going to continue to look at that. At the same time as we are doing the definition drilling, we're looking at the mining aspect.”
The exploration drilling program is planned to consist of 125,000 m of infill drilling and is focused on the highest-grade area of the deposit. Bonterra Resources Inc. at the end of 2022 released assay results from its exploration drilling initiatives at the Barry underground deposit, with the highlights thereof including 21.9 g/t of gold over 4.4 m which included 158.5 g/t over 0.5 m as well as 8.1 g/t over 4.0 m including an interval of 44.5 g/t of gold over 0.7 m.
Bonterra Resources Inc. aims to complete a mineral resource update in the coming year, which will enable the company to complete and publish a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of the project in 2023.
The mineral resource update will incorporate the company’s current exploration initiatives, which Pelletier explains as focused on the highest-grade area of the deposit and not systematic.
“Our drilling campaign is actually focused on the highest-grade area of the deposit, so we're not doing systematic drilling. We are drilling where we think we're going to get positive cash flow mining. That's our main focus. We did get some really good high-grade hits, we need to confirm those hits because they carry a lot of ounces, and from a mining perspective, you want to make sure that your resources are going to be right.”
The PEA will include selecting the best mining method to follow at the project ensuring an optimised operation. Pelletier explains that the company is focused on minimising the dilution of its resources and is investigating various mining techniques including cut and fill to maximise the grade of the mined ore.
“We're looking at more conventional mining methods like cut and fill, so very specific, developed through the ore, you fill and then you go to the next part. Those kinds of mining methods reduce dilution; however, they are typically more expensive because they're not bulk mining. It's more selective mining. To be honest, we have got to do the work but we've got to do it right.”
Bonterra Resources Inc. will also be able to implement some of the previously conducted work of the planned PFS towards the completion of a PEA for the underground section of the Barry project.
“Some of the costs that we get from the PFS will be used, but there are some specific costs, especially for the selective mining, that need to be looked at. We are working on that, and we are getting prepared, once we get ready for a PEA, we will have a good handle on that. It's technical work. It has to be done right because the economics of the project depends on those assumptions that we're going to make, for example, dilution, mining methods, and cost per ton. Those costs are going to be very important.”
Bonterra Resource Inc. will continue to focus on cost-saving initiatives enabling the company to further apply the money in its treasury in the most efficient way.
“We're being very selective with the drilling. We have implemented many cost-saving initiatives. Even late last year we did more: we decided to combine the two mining camps, Gladiator and Barry, together as one camp. Some of those fixed costs just carry on, so we are very sharp on the money. We're not wasting our money, that is very important, especially these days, and we intend to spend the money in the most efficient way possible”