by Arjun Thakkar and Alan Green
Formerly perceived as a remote, inaccessible land mass in the North Atlantic, Greenland is fast developing into a highly desirable and fertile territory for mining companies due to an abundance of metals and minerals. As the ice from Arctic has begun to melt in Greenland due to global warming, energy resources and minerals like gold, iron, rare earth elements have become more accessible.
A progressive political administration has ensured that facilities and opportunities are made readily available to assist in the extraction of natural resources as a central part of Greenland’s plans to become self-sufficient. Detailed regulatory structures are all in place to safeguard the land and environment, and at the same time the Government has created an attractive investment climate to attract global mining giants such as Anglo American.
Greenland’s 2020-2024 Mineral Strategy attracts junior mining companies by making the process of granting applications and mining simpler through a simplified transition from exploration to exploitation with fewer requirements. Greenland has also showed support to the mining industry to diversify the economy by doubling budgets from 2020-2021.
In order to simplify the transition from exploration to exploitation, the government of Greenland has prepared standardised models to ensure fast and easy transition while ensuring all junior mining companies can independently assess the potential profitability of exploitation projects. Further benefits are available, provided that companies follow rules and regulations pertaining to environmental, social or other matters.
AEX Gold, listed on the London AIM market and Canada’s TSX Venture market (AIM: AEXG, TSX-V: AEX) is a Greenland-focused mining company engaged in the identification, acquisition, exploration, and development of gold properties and other strategic mineral assets. The Company was founded in 2017 by CEO Eldur Olafsson, who previously worked for over 7 years on integrated mining projects in Greenland. Both he and AEX Gold have stated that Greenland represents an attractive ‘untouched’ location for mining companies due to the environmental and political awareness of the Government. Currently AEX Gold operates seven different projects in Greenland – Nalunaq, Vagar, Tartoq, Nanoq, Sava, Saqqaa and Norrearm projects as well as more than 4,000 km2 of exploration ground.
AEX Gold’s commitment towards responsible mining in Greenland has ensured it is eligible to receive benefits from the Government and current administration. The responsible mining charter AEX will adhere to includes use of local wind and hydro power to support the mine at its flagship Nalunaq project, and it will help reduce environmental footprint and any impact on wildlife. There are also social and governance factors that include a target to train and employ up to 50% of the workforce from the local population, the prioritization of Greenlandic law, practices and regulatory standards in all working practices – all this while maintaining continuing constructive dialogue with the government with EIA and SIA objectives.
AEX Gold has set out its intentions, incorporating responsible mining practice with its schedule of works on its corporate website as follows:
- Leverage extensive existing infrastructure in the redevelopment of the past producing Nalunaq mine
- Responsible mining, by bringing benefits to local communities where we operate and to Greenland as a whole
- Managing safety risks by committing to abide by the highest Health and Safety standards
- Exploring innovative technologies to operate in the most sustainable way
AEX is leveraging first mover advantage to deliver shareholder value by redeveloping the past-producing Nalunaq mine and is generating significant upside from the Company’s portfolio of high-impact exploration assets in Southern Greenland. Having produced approximately 350 thousand ounces of gold between 2004 and 2013, Nalunaq has demonstrated a low-cost production potential from past operations. The mine operated until 2013, when it closed as a result of falling gold prices, financial difficulties and a lack of exploration. This led to the site being partially decommissioned in 2014 and the widespread view that the deposit was exhausted. AEX has challenged this view and intends to capitalise on the latest mining and processing methods in its plans to bring the historical mine back into production. The asset has significant pre-existing infrastructure and development left in place by the previous operators, and has access to services like waste incinerator, critical fleet, ambulances, roads and bridges, and a 50 person all weather camp. In February 2021, Halyard Inc. were commissioned to undertake a 3rd party engineering study, focussed on the costs of the main components of the Nalunaq Development. Halyard looked at the cost overrun announced in February 2021, and importantly confirmed that the process design philosophy met the necessary criteria for processing the Nalunaq ore body.
In a 2019 interview with High North News, AEX CEO Eldur Olafsson stated that he believed there were more gold deposits in the Vagar area in Greenland than previously expected, and that the gold is not only found in connection with quartz, but also in the bedrock itself. Historical data and discoveries confirm that gold deposits in southern Greenland hold high levels of purity. Also in 2019, AEX confirmed that gold had been recorded within the host granodiorite, with grades up to 12.1 g/t Au at Femøren and 14.4 g/t Au at Øresund.
AEX’s 100% owned Tartoq project covers the entire Tartoq Gold Belt and all known gold occurrences, for a total of 248 km2. Locally high-grade orogenic gold mineralisation is hosted in a classic Archean greenstone belt setting. Apart from gold, up to 14% Pb, 1,210 g/t Ag and 0.7% Cu have also been identified in semi-massive sulphide lenses.
Nuna Nutaaq, licence 2019/113, which host the Nanoq Project comprises of 5 sub areas within the Nanortalik Gold Belt and covers all major gold showings and prospective areas identified by AEX’s regional machine learning study. These targets were previously investigated by Crew Gold, NunaMinerals and Goldcorp. Nanoq itself is believed to be a folded and duplicated gold bearing quartz vein and shear sampled at surface (with channel and grab samples returning up to 175g/t Au and 3.83% Cu) over at least 800m and being open in both strike and depth.
Sava is a large licence targeting IOCG (Iron Ore, Copper Gold) style mineralisation similar in style to the massive deposit of Olympic Dam in southern Australia. This project which is only 30km from the international airport at Narsarsaq, has returned histrocal grades of 3.4% copper, 3.7% zinc, 0.28% molybdenum as well as gold, silver and niobium.
Saqqaa is a Platinum Group Metals (PGMs), Gold and Nickel-Copper bearing dyke systems overlooking the Nalunaq mine. Pervious samples have given up to 10g/t palladium, 6% copper and 1g/t gold.
Nørrearm is one of multiple graphite occurrences within AEX’s licences and exists as a 5m thick graphite and sulphide rich later over 2000m in strike with samples returning 10-14% total graphitic carbon content. This , and other graphite occurrences AEX controls hold many similarities to the Amitsoq deposit run by GreenRoc Mining in southern Greenland.
On top of these describes project sites, AEX hold a large land portfolio hosting numerous targets that are being developed into the next projects, these licence areas include:
Anoritooq is divided into two sub-areas: the main zone lies between AEX’s Saarloq and Vagar exploration licenses and covers parts of the Niaqornaarsuk, Akuliaruseq and Nanortalik peninsulas to the northeast of Nanortalik, and a second sub-area on the southeast coast of Greenland that follows the inner parts of Kangerluluk and Igutsaat Fjord. The most advanced gold exploration target in this licence is known as Lake 410, located on the southern end of the Nanortalik Peninsula.
The Saarloq Licence 2020/31 covers an area of 818 km2 and is predominantly underlain by granitoid rocks of the Julianehåb Batholith, with several enclaves of metavolcanic and appinitic rocks. The principal feature of interest is the large, crustal-scale Saarloq Shear Zone that runs through the licence in a north-easterly direction. The shear zone and its subsidiary features represent prospective settings for structurally controlled gold mineralisation, especially in areas where brittle deformation has occurred. Qaqortoq is the closest major town to the Saarloq licence area and forms a good staging post for exploration work.
A new licence area acquired in 2021 that hosts the former producing Josva copper mine and numerous disseminated and strata bound copper sulphide targets
Despite the impact of a travel ban and Nalunaq project cost increases at the start of 2021, the AEX share price has steadily recovered over the past 4 months, rising from 25p to 35.21p. The exploration team arrived back on site at Nalunaq in June 2021, and with 51 drill holes completed by the end of the year, CEO Eldur Olafsson cited “encouraging early signs from the drilling and the clarity from Halyard” as factors all pushing Nalunaq towards pre-feasibility level study stage, “providing an optimal plan for the project”.
So with extensive local government backing and favourable environmental conditions, Nalunaq looks poised to deliver considerable additional potential, and with six other major minerals projects under development, AEX Gold appears to have timed its Greenland market entry to perfection.
A board and management team with diverse backgrounds all delivering on commitments to stakeholders makes for a solid investment case, and with clear progress at the flagship Nalunaq project, together with sustainable mining practices and an empowered local community, AEX Gold looks to have timed its entry perfectly. Time perhaps for investors to do the same and take full advantage of this steady growth in asset value reflected in a steady, rising share price.