Banyan Gold (TSX-V: BYN)(OTC: BYAGF) CEO Tara Christie on Advancing the Flagship 7 Million Ounce AurMac Gold Project, Yukon, Canada


Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the president & CEO of Banyan Gold. A mining engineer… and one of the funnest conversations I had at a recent conference in New Orleans… it was a standout story — Ms. Tara Christie — it's great to have you on. How are you?

Tara Christie: I'm wonderful. Great to talk to you and thanks for having me on.

Gerardo Del Real: Well, listen, let's get right into that. I’ll tell you why the story stood out to me so much in New Orleans last year. We were having a conversation — and this was pre-resource update — and just to be absolutely clear with everybody, this is a 7 million ounce gold resource with excellent exploration upside, excellent infrastructure, and a prime takeout target because you have neighbors nearby that I'm sure would love to add to their resource space, if not now, in the near future.

But before we get into all of that, you have one of the neatest backgrounds of any president and CEO in the resource space. And so I would love for you to tell our audience a bit about your background. And then, we can definitely talk Banyan and everything that comes along with the company.

Tara Christie: Great, so my dad’s a geologist, and I grew up taking soil samples. I went to university thinking I was going to be a doctor and then got there and, despite all of the advice, discovered I loved engineering and I loved mining and exploration. And so, I went on to run a large-scale family alluvial mine for almost 20 years. And then, I also did consulting work, and worked a lot with First Nations.

I've actually negotiated an agreement with eleven First Nations in the Yukon, which is really hard to do. And that really taught me a lot about understanding some of the challenges. It also set me up well for success because through those experiences I got the understanding of the private sector business and how to run a business and do everything from HR to balancing the books and getting loans and understanding all of that and permitting and the bigger political context. 

And through the course of my consulting, I worked for Kaminak, I worked for Newmont, I was even a registered lobbyist. So a huge broad background, which, when I became CEO in 2016, I found that I've needed just about every aspect of that. And then, the capital markets piece, of course. And it's been a pretty exciting career so far.

Gerardo Del Real: Well listen, you had the best quote of that conference, (and we were talking with my business partner and friend and colleague Mr. Nick Hodge and another friend of ours that was there) and you said, “Gerardo, I'm a real life gold digger but the real deal!” And I absolutely loved it. I thought it was brilliant.

So listen, let's dig into the scale, the resource, and the infrastructure because your market cap for what you have presents, I think, a compelling, compelling opportunity, especially in light of the fact that gold is holding that US$2,000/oz level really, really well. 

And I think the second half of this year, we're going to see new all-time highs. So the leverage here is pretty significant. Can you speak to the asset; the flagship asset, of course?

Tara Christie: Sure, as you said, the AurMac asset just put out a 7 million ounce resource at 0.63 grams per tonne gold. And people say, ‘Well, is it a heap leach… is it a mill?’ And we just put out our metallurgy as well showing that conventional milling has up to 91% recovery from our first phase. And you know you can continue to optimize project recoveries to the flotation recovery of 84% and heap leach right in the range of lots of other operating mines, including the mine next to us at 60% to 72%. But again, room to optimize.

So a pretty exciting area to be located. Two mines right beside us; a mill and a heap leach mine and existing infrastructure. We actually have hydropower lines right across the property already. And they connect to the hydro dam just 50 km away. Cell phone service, fiber optic cable already on the property… so that's pretty exceptional infrastructure. 

And existing roads. One of the most difficult things to permit in this modern day is new roads into pristine areas. And so being in a mining district right beside two miners has huge advantages. And this is a jurisdiction where you can permit. 

The two mines beside us were just permitted recently. And in this current geopolitical uncertainty, having the security of tenure and safety for your employees that we enjoy in Canada is pretty fabulous. My heart goes out to all of the people that have had some real struggles recently with safety and security.

Gerardo Del Real: Agreed. And listen, I think you highlight something that's critical for a project of this scale. Two things there, right? You are in a growing and evolving district that is going to supersede 20 million ounces when it's all said and done. There’s tons of exploration upside. 

I don't think it's a coincidence that you have a couple of groups out there that are covering the stock that have C$1 price targets and C$0.85 price targets, which, look, your stock is trading right near the C$0.30 level. So if that's where it heads, that's pretty significant upside. And that's using pretty conservative estimates on the gold price.

But I really want to touch a bit on the exploration upside. You mentioned that diverse skill set that you bring to the table with understanding the geology, understanding the metallurgy, understanding the exploration side of things. Talk to me about how much of the property has been explored because I think that is as compelling as how small your market cap is and the fact that you already have a 7 million ounce resource.

Tara Christie: So our whole property in the district, it's 5% that we've drilled, which is a really small percentage. We've barely soil sampled some of it. And that's because capital has been so constrained for juniors right now. 

Do we believe it has the potential to host 10 million ounces? Absolutely. And that's not only on-surface growth and new discoveries that we think are potentially there but also at depth. We've only drilled to 200 meters of depth. And when you've got 5 km of strike length, when you look down and you can see high-grade at the bottom of the pit, that suddenly becomes your lowest strip ratio once a mine gets operating. So lots of potential for this to grow. 

And some of these systems that are similar, if you look at Merit Gold and some other large-scale mines like that, they've mined to 600 meters. So much, much more potential as it develops.

And I guess talking about the rating, which you were just talking about a minute ago, we're currently at about C$8 to C$11 per ounce. That is really low compared to many of our pre-development peers that have demonstrated metallurgy that's potentially economic with very conventional milling methods and with scale of resource and infrastructure. 

And people ask, ‘Well, why is that?’ Well, it's because we put out our resource and we've developed this in a period where there really is pretty negative sentiment towards mining. And so, there hasn't been that aha

But people are watching, and I think there's a lot of people on the sidelines going, ‘You should be at least C$30 per ounce, C$70 per ounce.’ We've seen projects like this in the Yukon taken out in the last 20 years for C$170 to C$250 per ounce and not even at gold price highs. So I think there is a lot of potential. 

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And it's just timing and waiting for the broader market to suddenly get interested in gold projects again. And lots of people will wait and wait until it has already taken off. And we saw that with commodities. Just like cannabis in Canada, I was behind, and I'm like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah…’ And then, by the time I was interested, it was already sky high. We see that in lithium; lithium skyrocketed, uranium skyrocketed.

But you need to be those people that are first movers and pick quality projects with good management teams in secure jurisdictions that you think have the ability to rerate. If you're a believer that this gold price matters, that's what you kind of need to be looking at. 

And that's where I am… focused on delivering value. I know we will get another gold cycle. We need gold. We know that the major miners are depleting their resources, and it's just a matter of time before they go, ‘Okay, it's time to get moving on this.’

Gerardo Del Real: I couldn't agree more. You have the jurisdiction, you have the metallurgy, you have the scale, you have the exploration upside, and all of the technical acumen to advance the project forward. Not just geologically, obviously, on the exploration upside front but on the permitting front as well. You're also fully funded through 2024, which is a luxury in these markets. What comes next, Tara?

Tara Christie: Well, we're getting ready to do a bunch of marketing in the next while, talking to our big shareholders. We did just put out the resource and the metallurgy. And we want to make sure people really understand what it means. 

We've been running over various exploration scenarios and what the best use of our money is. And we're taking a bunch of time to really do some analysis. So it might be another month and a half before we put out our exploration plans. We can operate all year round so we're not time constrained like lots of companies. 

We made the decision last summer to stop drilling because the market didn't care about drilling, and still we got to 7 million ounces. But we want to make sure that we're using our shareholders’ dollars well. And so making sure that we run various scenarios and are doing the stuff that's going to add value is what we're focused on. 

So, look forward to news flow on that and some other developments as we move into 2024. But I think just getting out and telling the story and getting some attention because it's been tough to market, and we haven't done a huge amount of marketing like lots of companies are out doing routine marketing. We've been pretty focused on adding value.

Gerardo Del Real: Listen, exciting times. I think we're going to get a heck of a gold market. And again, it's funny because we say that, and here we are percentage points away from an all-time high. The sentiment is as if gold was at US$1,200 or US$1,300 when it's sitting there at US$2,020 per ounce. But listen, that will turn. 

I always, always like to position ahead of the crowd. And those first sets of gains that happen when market sentiment changes can be pretty volatile to the upside. It's 50%, it's 100%, it's 150% and then you blink and you say, ‘Man, that made sense the whole time!’ 

So I’d rather be early than late. I think this is a heck of a speculation. It's one of my favorite gold companies at these levels right now, and I'm looking forward to getting together and chatting again soon, Tara.

Tara Christie: Yep, we'll see you again soon. Thanks a lot.

Gerardo Del Real: Alright, take care out there.

Tara Christie: Thanks.

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