Victoria Gold is looking past its flagship mine in Yukon, which poured its first gold bar less than two years ago.
"Now that we're cash-flowing, we can actually afford some regional exploration," said John McConnell, president and CEO of the company, which operates the Eagle Gold Mine, located about 85 kilometres from Mayo, Yukon.
McConnell said the company has earmarked about $10 million for two exploration projects this year. But that could be a relatively small figure when considering its plan going forward.
The company wants to double down on its search for more ore bodies, namely silver and gold. That's why Victoria Gold is applying for a 10-year class four mining permit — to scale up.
"Advancement of economically feasible deposits on the property, beyond the Eagle Gold Mine, will result in significant financial investment and creation of both direct and indirect employment opportunities for the region," states the project proposal submitted to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB).
The plan is to search for minerals at four locations within the roughly 555 square-kilometre Dublin Gulch property. The proposal states there will be 25-person camps, new access roads, upward of 800 holes drilled over the life of the project, and trenching. McConnell said most of the sites are located within 15 kilometres of the Eagle Gold Mine.
"We've probably got 12 different targets on the property," he said. "Over the coming years, we're just continuing to work our way through the list."
Expansion plans are generating questions
The company's search for more deposits comes as no surprise to Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst with the Yukon Conservation Society. He says the mine sits on a profitable deposit, and so it's important to ensure exploration work — which could lead to more producing mines in the future — is done correctly.
Rifkind takes issue with a matrix of roads that will need to be constructed in order to service exploration work.
"When you start getting those trails and roads happening, you start getting cumulative impacts happening — you get habitat fragmentation," he said, noting there needs to be proper mitigation measures in place such as road closure programs and reclamation.
Another issue revolves around security. According to the Yukon government, there's $149,000 held in security for exploration associated with Eagle Gold.
Rifkind said this likely isn't enough.
"We just want to know whether there will be further financial security, just on the off chance that the company runs into financial trouble and they're not able to properly clean up or reactivate the work that they've done through their exploration program," he said.
YESAB is accepting public feedback on the exploration project until Aug. 12.