The prospect generator model has become one of the resource industry’s best strategies for minimizing risks associated with exploration-stage projects. With the intent to maximize rewards, this model combines diverse portfolios, strong partnerships and capital structures that reduce dilution. Because of this, investors get an opportunity to capitalize on some of the most prospective exploration and mining companies in the world under highly favorable conditions.
The prospect generator model is a unique take on exploration. Analysts point out that most of the value in prospective companies is the team’s intellectual capital and talents rather than its assets. With the right team, investors could see substantial returns and exposure to potential discoveries that some companies only dream of.
Benton Resources (TSXV:BEX) is a project generator and mineral exploration company focused on base and precious metal exploration. The company’s diverse property portfolio includes several highly prospective Canadian projects that leverage mining-friendly judicial conditions, strong partnerships and tremendous infrastructure for mining success. Many of Benton’s high-grade projects are available for option and cover various mineral assets, including gold, silver, nickel, copper and platinum group metals (PGMs).
Benton’s key projects and equity positions are in partnership with some of Canada’s biggest mining and exploration players. For example, Rio Tinto Canada currently operates its Bark Lake project and Baril Lake West PGM project. In January 2021, Benton announced it had received the second-anniversary option payment of C$25,000 from Rio Tinto Canada for the Baril Lake West project. This project is particularly exciting due to 2018 discoveries of significant mineralization grading 4.78 percent nickel and 0.43 percent copper over 2.08 m on Rio’s neighboring claim.
Benton’s diverse portfolio presents investors with tremendous near and long-term upside. The company currently has over 34 million combined shares in some of Canada’s most exciting mining and exploration projects and jurisdictions. This includes 24.6 million shares of Clean Air Metals (TSXV:AIR), which is advancing the high-grade Thunder Bay North and Escape Lake PGM projects; 4.0 million shares of Quadro Resources (TSXV:QRO), which is advancing the Staghorn Gold project in Central Newfoundland near Marathon Gold’s multi-million ounce gold discovery; 1.38 million shares of Metallica Metals (CSE:MM), which is working on the Saganaga Gold (now Starr) project; and 3.6 million shares of Maxtech Ventures (TSXV:MVT), which is advancing the company’s Panama Lake gold project in the prolific Red Lake District.
Partnerships like these provide Benton with excellent project generation and expansion opportunities while giving investors exposure to other exciting projects inside Benton’s portfolio, such as its highly prospective Far Lake and Iron Duke gold projects. Benton hosts other significant investor opportunities, and the company focuses on retaining net smelter royalties (NSR) when possible for potential long-term cash flow.
The company’s high-quality property portfolio is matched with a world-class management team. In 2007, management members received the PDAC Bill Dennis Award and later the NWOPA Discovery of the Year Award in both 2015 and 2017.
Far Lake Project
Benton acquired the Far Lake project from White Metal Resources (TSXV:WHM) with the option to earn up to 70 percent interest. The project has strong infrastructure, including access to logging roads starting at the Trans-Canada Highway, the CN rail and efficient power.
In 2017, WHM discovered the primary copper-sulfide occurrence on the property. Further soil geochemical sampling identified excellent copper zone targets, which poses exciting potential discoveries as prospecting and mapping structures and project geology continue. Trenching and sampling programs at the Far Lake provided results that include a 0.7 m channel sample that assayed 22.0 percent copper, 30.2 g/t silver and 0.25 g/t gold.
The first phase drilling has discovered wide zones of copper mineralization including 0.15 percent copper (Cu) over 60.4 m, 0.35 percent Cu over 15.6 m and 1.43 percent Cu over 2.6 m in FL-20-11, and further samples have been submitted as current results ended in copper mineralization. Drill hole FL-20-11 is located approximately 1,900 m NW along the same structure as the Far Lake main zone which also produced significant results, including 0.19% Cu over 34.6m including 0.89% Cu 1.08g/t Ag over 4.0m in FL-20-03. It should be noted that drilling in holes FL-20- 01 to FL-20-05 in the Far Lake main zone was interrupted by a series of diabase dykes, and further deeper drilling is being planned to intersect the zones further away from the dykes.
In December 2020, the company hired Abitibi Geophysics to complete a detailed 12 km2 DasVision 3D Induced Polarization (IP), which identified high priority targets for the Phase II drill program that is currently underway.
Results of the first drill program are as follows:
Thunder Bay North (TBN) and Escape Lake Project
On July 2, 2019, Benton Resources announced that it had executed two separate binding purchase agreements with Rio Tinto Exploration Canada (RTEC) and Panoramic Resources (PAN) (ASX:PAN) to purchase 100 percent interest in the TBN and Escape Lake deposits located only 50 km from the company’s office in Thunder Bay and approximately 60 km south of Impala Canada’s Lac des Iles Mine.
Under the agreements, Benton paid RTEC C$3 million on signing with further C$3 million paid over 3 years. RTEC retained a 1 percent Net Smelter Royalty (NSR) on the Escape Lake claims. Under the PAN Agreement, Benton would acquire PAN’s wholly owned Canadian subsidiary, Panoramic PGMs Canada Ltd., which holds the Thunder Bay North Project (the ‘TBN Project’) for $9 million CAD.
Subsequently Benton entered into an agreement with Regency Gold, which later changed its name to Clean Air Metals (TSXV:AIR). Clean Air would pay all remaining payments and complete all commitments under the agreements. Benton received 24.6 million shares of AIR and retains a 0.5 percent net smelter return royalty from production on the Escape Lake Deposit and a 0.5 percent net smelter return royalty from production on any mineral claims comprising the TBN portion of the project where a net smelter royalty has not previously been granted, which includes the Beaver and Cloud Zones plus portions of the Bridge Zone, each being part of the Current Lake deposit excluding the northern portion of the TBN deposit under Current Lake, where there is an existing 3 percent NSR.
Since the closing of the transaction, and in a short period of time, Clean Air has aggressively and efficiently advanced the project with a recent new mineral resource estimate prepared by Nordmin Engineering. It was based on an underground ramp-access constrained resource model with a cut-off value equating to 1.56 g/tonne PdEq (2.56 g/t PtEq) using 3 year trailing average metal prices for all metals except cobalt, which used a 2 year trailing average.
The Current Lake deposit contains an Indicated Mineral Resource of 11,999,177 tonnes grading 3.44 g/t PdEq and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 6,406,960 tonnes grading 2.02 g/t PdEq. The Escape Lake deposit contains an Indicated Mineral Resource of 4,286,220 tonnes grading 3.67 g/t PdEq and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 3,445,179 tonnes grading 2.23 g/t PdEq equating to 1,834,158 ounces PdEq indicated and a total Inferred Resource of 663,660 ounces PdEq.
The TBN project is located 40 km north of the City of Thunder Bay, Ontario and 65 km south of the Lac des Iles palladium mine owned by Impala Canada. Two drills continue to turn, and Clean Air is expected to deliver a PEA in the second quarter of 2021.
Bark Lake and Baril Lake West Projects
Benton has executed an option to joint venture agreement with Rio Tinto Exploration Canada Inc. on the Bark Lake project. Under the terms of the Option, Rio Tinto can earn a 70 percent interest by incurring C$3 million in exploration expenditures and by paying Benton C$50,000 cash over 5 years (the “First Option”). After the First Option period, RTEC may either form a joint venture with Benton on a 70/30 basis or, at its election, increase its interest to 80 percent (the “Second Option”) by spending an additional C$5 million in exploration expenditures over 4 years and by paying Benton C$100,000 cash within 30 days after electing to exercise the Second Option. Upon exercising the Second Option, RTEC may elect to form a joint venture with Benton on an 80/20 basis.
The Bark Lake property hosts widespread greenstone and granitic rock coverage along the Quetico Fault. It is approximately 100 km west of the Escape Lake and Thunder Bay North projects. The Bark Lake property is host to a number of platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd), gold (Au), copper (Cu) and nickel (Ni) showings contained in mineralized ultramafic rock either in outcrop or dozens of mineralized boulders. The mineralized occurrences are situated along the Quetico Fault, a major crustal-scale east west oriented structure. Grab samples collected by Hackl Prospecting have returned grades up to 4.35 g/t Pd, 2.64 g/t Pt, 0.74 g/t Au, 1.2 percent Cu and 0.5 percent Ni. Samples collected by Benton personnel have confirmed significant precious and base metals across the project area. More recent sampling has returned individual assays grading up to 1.5 percent Ni, 1.2 percent Cu, 2.6 g/t Pt, 1.4 g/t Pd and 0.7 g/t Au. Twelve out of the 16 samples taken from the area returned results higher in Platinum than Palladium. Also of particular interest was the discovery of several semi-massive, net-textured sulphide boulders, with one measuring around 1 cubic metre in size and assaying 1.5 percent Ni. The boulders are angular in nature and believed to be located very close to the source.
In order to determine the source of the high-grade boulders, Benton carried out an extensive exploration program on the property including line-cutting, ground magnetics, ground IP, geological mapping and prospecting. The Mag and IP survey helped to define an ultramafic intrusion to the north of the property. Drill targets were defined based on the geophysical interpretation and Benton intersected the ultramafic intrusion in holes BL-08-04 and BL-08-05. Weak mineralization was present in these intersections but not to the same degree as in the boulders.
Subsequent drilling completed by RTEC in 2018 on the Bark Lake project encountered mineralization of 0.31 percent Cu and 0.72 g/t Pt + Pd over 19.2 m (see PR: Benton Receives Results from Rio Tinto on Bark Lake Option, dated May 25, 2018).
Benton has also entered into an option agreement with Rio Tinto Exploration Canada Inc. whereby RTEC will have the right to earn a 100% interest in Benton’s Baril Lake West claims located approximately 5 km west of Benton’s Bark Lake project which is currently under option to RTEC. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, RTEC can earn 100 percent of the Baril project by paying Benton C$200,000 over 4 years and should RTEC achieve commercial production at the project, will pay Benton an additional C$1,000,000. The Company will also retain a 2 percent Net Smelter Royalty (NSR), 1 percent of which can be purchased by RTEC for C$1,000,000. The Company considers the Baril Lake project to be a favourable setting to potentially host copper-nickel and platinum group metals. Drilling completed by RTEC on it 100 percent owned Baril Lake Project located approximately 700 m east of Benton’s Baril Lake West had discovered a new significant mineralized zone grading 4.78 percent Ni and 0.43 percent Cu over 2.08 m in 2018 (Ontario ENDM Assessment File: 200000017073).
Saganaga Gold-Silver Project (now Starr Property)
Benton announced on August 11, 2020 that it had entered into an Option Agreement with 2752300 Ontario Inc., a private Ontario company, which has now been acquired by Metallica Metals Corp. (through its ownership of 2752300 Ontario Inc.). The company can earn up to a 100 percent interest in the Project by completing the following:
- paying the company $50,000 in cash (paid) and issuing the greater of 1,000,000 Cameo common shares or 3 percent of the issued and outstanding common shares of Metallica to the company upon execution of the Agreement; (1,380,000 shares issued)
- paying the company $50,000 in cash and issuing the greater of 1,000,000 Metallica common shares or 2 percent of the then issued and outstanding common shares of Metallica to the company and incurring a minimum of $200,000 in qualified exploration expenditures on or before the first anniversary of the effective date of the Agreement; and,
- paying the company $50,000 in cash and issuing the greater of 1,000,000 Metallica common shares or 1.5 percent of the then issued and outstanding common shares of Metallica to the Company and having completed a further $200,000 in qualified exploration expenditures on or before the second anniversary of the effective date of the Agreement.
Metallica, at its election, may then provide the company with the notice that it intends to earn an additional 30 percent interest (taking its interest to 100 percent, subject to underlying NSRs) in the Project by:
- paying the company $50,000 cash and issuing 2,000,000 Cameo common shares to the company and completing further $400,000 in qualified exploration expenditures on the project
- in the event that Metallica completes a resource calculation for the project in accordance with NI 43-101, Metallica will issue to the company 1,000,000 common shares.
Drilling highlights include 5.36 g/t gold over 20m at the Starr zone and 32.0 g/t at the Powel zone.
Panama Lake Gold Project
The Panama Lake gold project is hosted in the prolific Red Lake Mining District and stands 55 km northeast of Ear Falls Township. The property has a limited exploration history with minimal drilling conducted by Noranda Exploration in 1988. The drill campaign yielded results of up to 2.8 g/t gold grades over 4.5 m in a 20 to 30 m wide mineralized shear zone.
Benton’s primary focus is on the highly prospective Panama gold zone on the property. In 2018, a drill campaign opened seven new prospective drill holes for testing and mapping purposes. Indicated gold grades from an adjacent mineralized zone showed 6.17 g/t gold surface sampling with the potential for even higher grades with additional drilling.
Ongoing exploration for the project includes high-resolution heliborne magnetic surveying over the entire Panama project. Data from this program will help add additional exploration targets for further prospecting and potentially drilling.
On October 24, 2019, Benton entered into an option agreement with Maxtech Ventures (MVT), pursuant to which MVT will have the option to earn up to a 100 percent interest in Benton’s 100 percent owned Panama gold project. Under the terms of the Option Agreement, subject to regulatory approval, Maxtech will be required to complete the following:
- Issue 2,000,000 Maxtech common shares to Benton on signing at an underlying price of C$0.05 per share;
- Pay Benton C$100,000 in cash or share equivalent on the first anniversary, based upon a 10 day VWAP at the time of the share issuance and complete C$200,000 in exploration expenditures on the project;
- Pay Benton C$100,000 in cash or share equivalent on the second anniversary, based upon a 10 day VWAP at the time of the share issuance and complete C$250,000 in exploration expenditures on the project at which point a 50 percent ownership interest will vest to MVT;
- Pay Benton C$100,000 in cash or share equivalent on the third anniversary, based upon a 10 day VWAP at the time of the share issuance and complete C$250,000 in exploration expenditures on the project at which point a 70 percent ownership interest will vest to MVT; and
- Pay Benton C$300,000 in cash or share equivalent on the fourth anniversary, based upon a 10 day VWAP at the time of the share issuance and complete C$300,000 in exploration expenditures on the project at which point a 100 percent ownership interest will vest to MVT.
The Option Agreement contains a 2 km area of influence clause that covers the project’s claim boundary. Benton will retain a 2 percent NSR on the project with MVT having the option to buy back 1 percent for C$1 million. In addition, MVT will issue to Benton an additional 1 million MVT common shares upon completion of its initial NI 43-101 compliant resource calculation as defined in the Option Agreement. Should Maxtech earn a 50 percent interest but elect to earn no additional interest, a 50 percent MVT-50 percent Benton joint venture would then be formed. Alternatively, should Maxtech earn a 70 percent interest in the project but not elect to earn any further interest, a 70 percent MVT and 30 percent Benton joint venture would then be formed according to the terms of the Option Agreement.
Staghorn Gold Project
The Staghorn gold project is in proximity to Marathon Gold’s flagship Newfoundland project and is being advanced by Quadro Resources. Benton currently has 4.2 million shares of Quadro Resources.
The property has 160 claim units covering 4,000 hectares. With fieldwork already underway, Quadro has the potential to expand exploration efforts on the three recently identified gold-rich systems, which require follow-up drilling. In December 2020, the latest drill campaign totaled 1,696 m with 13 completed drill holes. The exciting discovery of a new gold zone at Marks Pond saw 3.22 g/t gold over 5 m.
Quadro commenced follow-up drilling in February 2021, emphasizing the Marks Pond area. Soil anomalies and ideal winter mining conditions make this next step in exploring the Staghorn project a very promising one.
Iron Duke Gold Project
The Iron Duke gold project is located 20 km east of the past-producing Mattabi/Sturgeon Lake base metal deposits and 30 km south of the past-producing St. Anthony gold mine in Northwestern Ontario. Benton has 100 percent interest in the project via staking.
The property hosts limited exploration history and comprises 47 units in three claims. Past property owners have engaged in some diamond drilling and base metal exploration with reported grades of 0.19 g/t gold at 11.8 m and 1.07 g/t gold at 0.5 m.
The property’s widespread anomalous gold values and potentially unique iron formation horizon merit picking up exploration efforts from past property ownership. The company expects drilling commencement in August 2021 to test previously obtained high-grade trenching sample results.
- Over C$11 million in equities inside the company and about C$2.5 million in cash.
- Over 33 million combined shares in established and high-quality mining companies throughout North America. These companies include Clean Air Metals, Quadro Resources, Sokoman Minerals, Metallica Metals and Maxtech Ventures.
- Core assets for the company include the high-grade TBN and Escape Lake PGM projects, Panama gold project, Staghorn gold project, Bark Lake and Baril Lake PGM projects, Far Lake copper-gold-silver project and Iron Duke gold project. Benton holds large equity positions with respective project operators/companies.
- The company’s high-profile management team primes it for exceptional growth and economic success. The relationships built from the world-class team has allowed Benton discovery exposure to numerous prospective precious metal projects and first-mover opportunities.
- Members of Benton management were awarded the PDAC Bill Dennis Award in 2007 and the NWOPA Discovery of the Year Award in 2000, 2015 and 2017.
Stephen Stares — President & Director
Stephen Stares is a successful business entrepreneur with over 25 years of mineral exploration experience. His first seven years were spent with Noranda Exploration on such projects as the Hemlo gold mines, Eagle River gold deposit and the Geco and Mattabi base metal camps. The next 10 years of Stares’ career were spent managing Stares Contracting Corp’s operations, a successful mineral exploration services company in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Since founding the company in 2004, Stares has been president of Benton Resources. He has been directly involved in the start-up of 10 publicly traded companies on the TSX Venture Exchange by assembling projects of merit and raising millions of dollars for these junior exploration companies. Throughout his career, Stares has discovered several major mineral occurrences in Canada that have been the subject of extensive exploration programs.
In March of 2007, Stephen and Michael Stares, along with the rest of the Stares/Keats family, were the proud recipients of the Prospectors and Developers Association (PDAC) Bill Dennis Prospector of the Year Award. This award was given to recognize the family’s contributions to the industry for the past 40 years.
Evan Asselstine, CPA, CA — CFO
Evan Asselstine received his Honours Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Lakehead University and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. Asselstine has been the CFO of Benton Resources Inc. since its inception in 2012. Prior, he has been the controller and then CFO for Alset Energy Corp. (formerly Benton Capital Corp.) and has served as controller for Metals Creek Resources Corp., a public exploration company, since its inception in January 2008. Prior, Asselstine spent over four years in finance positions in private industry, including over two years as controller for a private land development firm and over seven years working in public accounting, and obtained his Chartered Accountant designation with Ernst & Young LLP in 2002.
Nathan Sims, P.GEO — Senior Exploration Manager
Nathan Sims has filled various technical roles at Benton since 2006. A graduate of Lakehead University (HBSc) and Sir Sandford Fleming College (GIS-AS), Sims is the Qualified Person for Benton’s disclosure requirements and is a current member of both the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (#2009) and the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists Newfoundland & Labrador (#9409).
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