Back River Gold Project


The 100%-owned Back River Gold Project, a series of gold deposits in banded iron formation, is located in southwestern Nunavut, Canada, approximately 520 km northeast of Yellowknife, NWT; 50 km southeast of Xstrata Zinc Canada's Hackett River Silver-Zinc Project; and 75 km southwest of Bathurst Inlet.

The project is advanced, hosts significant NI 43-101 gold resources and reserves and has completed a Feasibility Study and significant permitting milestones.

Moreover, Back River is an 80km long district, with highly prospective opportunities for new discoveries and for expansion from existing deposits.

District Summary

The Back River Gold District is one of Canada’s new emerging gold district. Sabina owns 100% of the district which consists of seven properties totaling ~120,000 acres that host known or observed gold mineralization in banded iron formations. Only two of these properties have been the focus of exploration and resource development to date: Goose and George. The Project is located in southwestern Nunavut, Canada, approximately 520 km northeast of Yellowknife, NWT; 50 km southeast of Glencore’s Hackett River Silver-Zinc Project; and 75 km southwest of Bathurst Inlet.

The current mineral estimate (October 21, 2014) consists of a Measured Mineral Resource of 10.3 million tonnes grading 5.3 g/t for a contained 1.7 million ounces Au, an Indicated Mineral Resource of 18 million tonnes grading 6.2 g/t for a contained 4 million ounces Au and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 7.8 million tonnes grading 7.4 g/t for a contained 1.9 million ounces Au.

Sabina purchased the Project in late 2009 and, following the discovery of multiple new deposits in 2010 and 2011, made the decision to advance the Project towards development. In the fall of 2015, the Company announced the results of an initial project feasibility study on the Goose Property at Back River. The project is now being advanced through the environmental and permitting process with a final environmental impact statement expected to be submitted in late 2015.

Summary of Estimated Resources as of October 21, 2014 Including Reserves


Tonnes (kt)

Au (g/t)

Metal (koz Au)









Measured and Indicated








CIM definitions were used for the resources.
Ms. D. Nussipakynova, P.Geo. and Dr. A. Fowler, Ph.D., MAusIMM, CP (Geo), both from AMC and Qualified Persons under NI 43-101, take responsibility for the Mineral Resource Estimates.
Open pit resources are constrained by an optimized pit shell at a gold price of US$1,500 oz. The cut-off grade applied to the open pit resources is 1.0 g/t Au.
The underground cut-off grade is 4.0 g/t Au for all George resources (LCPN, LCPS, LOC1, LOC2, GH, and Slave), 3.5 g/t Au for Goose Main, Echo, and Llama, and 4.5 g/t for the Umwelt deposit.
The George resources were estimated within mineral domains expanded to a minimum width of 2 m for the underground resources.
Drilling results up to December 31, 2013 are included, except for Echo (July 4, 2014) and LOC1 and LOC2 (July 21, 2014).
The numbers might not add due to rounding.
Measured and Indicated Resources are inclusive of Reserves.
Resources that are not reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.

Mineral Reserve Estimate

The Mineral Reserve Estimate for the Project is based on the Mineral Resource Estimate for the Llama, Umwelt and Goose deposits completed by AMC with an effective date of October 21, 2014.

The reserves were developed by examining each deposit to determine the optimum practical mining method. Cut-off grades (COGs) were then determined based on appropriate mine design criteria and the adopted mining method. Two mining methods were chosen: shovel-and-truck open pit mining and underground mining using post pillar cut-and-fill (PPCF). 

Summary of Estimated Mineral Reserves as of August 15, 2015



Tonnes (kt)

Au (g/t)

Contained Au (koz)

Total Open Pit









Total Underground









Total Back River Property









  1. A gold price of US$1,250/oz is assumed.
  2. An exchange rate of CDN$1.15 to US$1.00 is assumed.
  3. The numbers might not add due to rounding.
  4. Notes for open pit:
    • Dilution and recovery factors are applied as per open pit mining method.
    • A COG of 2.08 g/t was used for the Umwelt Open Pit Mineral Reserve Estimate.
    • A COG of 2.14 g/t was used for the Llama Open Pit Mineral Reserve estimate.
    • A COG of 2.07 g/t was used for the Goose Main Open Pit Mineral Reserve estimate.
  5. Notes for underground:
    • Dilution and recovery factors are applied as per underground mining method.
    • A COG of 3.86 g/t was used for the Umwelt underground Mineral Reserve Estimate.

Both the Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve Estimates take into consideration on-site operating costs (e.g., mining, processing, site services, freight, general and administration), geotechnical analysis for both open pit wall angles and underground stope size, metallurgical recoveries, and selling costs. In addition, the reserves incorporate allowances for mining recovery and dilution, and overall economic viability.

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Feasibility Studies

A feasibility Study was completed entitled “Technical Report and Feasibility Study for the Back River Gold Property, Nunavut” (the “6K FS”) dated June 22, 2015 and filed on SEDAR at This study envisioned production from both the George and Goose properties, feeding a 6,000 tonne per day mill producing approximately 350,000 ounces Au per year for approximately 10 years. The 6K FS was positive, indicating the Project could generate a post-tax Internal Rate of Return (“IRR”) of 24.2% and net present value(5%), (“NPV”) of $480.3 million with a rapid pay back of 2.9 years. However, initial capital for the 6K FS was projected to be approximately $700 million. Given prevailing market conditions and the lack of access to capital for smaller cap companies, a new study was undertaken with a focus on reducing initial capital while maintaining robust economics and generating significant gold production. The nature of the high grade continuous deposits at Back River is conducive to such an approach as was demonstrated in the subsequent Initial Project Feasibility Study, announced in September 2015, the Initial Project Feasibility Study (the “IPFS”). The new study is based on a processing rate of 3,000 tpd with an average head grade of 6.3 g/t Au producing an average of 198,100 oz Au per year over an 11.8 year mine life at a Life of Mine (“LOM”) cash cost of US$534/oz Au. Initial capital for the project is estimated at C$415M with sustaining capital of C$185M.

Initial Project Feasibility Study Highlights

The FS was initiated in June 2015 by the same consultants that completed the 6K FS led by JDS Energy & Mining Inc. (“JDS”) (mining, on-site infrastructure, off-site infrastructure, logistics, capital costs, operating costs, financial analysis and report preparation) and contributed to by Hatch Ltd. (“Hatch”) (processing and layout), Canenco Canada Inc. (metallurgy and gold recoveries), SRK Consulting (Canada) Inc. (“SRK”) (geotechnical, hydrology, tailings, waste and water management), AMC Mining Consultants (Canada) Ltd., (“AMC”) (geology), and Knight Piésold Ltd. (“KP”) (geomechanical). All consultants have extensive Arctic experience.

All currencies are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise specified. Base case economics are based on a gold price of US$1,150/oz Au and an exchange rate of 0.80(US$:C$).

The Study’s highlights include:

  • The Project could generate a post-tax IRR of 24.2% and NPV (at 5% discount rate) of $480.3 million;
  • The Project could generate LOM post-tax net cash flow of $782 million on gross revenues of $3.2 billion with a payback period of 2.9 years (from start of operations);
  • Processing rate of 3,000 tpd could produce an average of ~198 koz Au per year over an 11.8 year mine life (upon commencement of commercial production), with an average of ~244 koz Au per year for the first 8 years;
  • Majority of production from open pit (72% LOM), with no underground production scheduled until Year 3 (after payback);
  • Initial capital estimate of $415 million and sustaining capital estimate of $185 million;
  • Total LOM cash cost estimate of US$534/oz Au (including third party royalties, refining and transport). LOM all-in sustaining cash cost estimate of US$620/oz Au LOM (including sustaining capital & closure costs);
  • A total of 12.4 million tonnes of ore could be milled over 11.8 years with a LOM average grade of 6.3 grams per tonne (“g/t”) Au and metallurgical recoveries of 93%;
  • Base case assumptions of delivered diesel price of $0.91/L for power generation; and
  • Open pit strip ratio of 10.5 over LOM.

Project Execution and Logistics

Freight Transportation

Mine construction and operations will have equipment and materials (including fuel) transported mainly from east and west coast ports to a Marine Laydown Area (MLA) at Bathurst Inlet approximately 100Km from the mine. These supplies will arrive by sealift during the summer months. Equipment and materials will then be hauled to the Goose Site by a winter ice road. Limited amounts of materials will be transported to the sites by aircraft. These logistics have been practiced for decades by local communities and other mining operations in the Canadian north and have proven efficient.


The FS includes 100% on-site diesel generated power at Goose and the MLA. A diesel price of $0.91/L for power generation was assumed. The estimated power unit cost averages $0.26/kWh not including capital cost or operating labour at the Goose site. The average annual process related fuel consumption for power generation at Goose is estimated to be 19.2 million litres.


The FS contemplates mining starting at the Goose Property in Year -1. Open pit mining at Goose would begin with the Umwelt pit in Year -1 to provide waste rock for construction and enable the stockpiling of high-grade ore prior to the start of plant processing. Open pit mining would then transition sequentially to the Llama and Goose Main open pits. Open pit mining would be completed by Year 8 at Goose. Underground ore production would begin in Year 3 at the Umwelt mine and continue through Year 9.

Project Execution and Development

The Project execution plan and general Project development schedule considers the seasonality of transporting freight. The procurement and staging of equipment, materials, and fuel at the respective east and west coast ports needs to take place at least 8-12 months before anticipated arrival at the Goose and George sites. The MLA is planned to receive sea-lift materials in the summer open-water period of July and October. Materials would then be stored until the winter ice road is operational from between January and April. Fixed-wing aircraft landing at Goose Site will support construction and operations activities by delivering passengers and select equipment and materials. 

The Corresponding technical report for the feasibility study was filed on A link to the executive summary of the report can be found here.

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New and modified mining projects in Nunavut are subject to environmental assessment (“EA”) and review prior to certification and issuance of permits to authorize construction and operations. The primary environmental review and approval process applicable to the Project is the territorial EA administered by the NIRB. A Project Certificate, if recommended by NIRB, may be issued by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (“AANDC”) at the conclusion of the EA process, which represents government approval and

In June 2012, Sabina submitted a project description and various applications to the NIRB, Nunavut Water Board, and AANDC. In January 2014, a draft environmental impact statement was submitted to the NIRB. In July 2014, Sabina responded to project information requests, and, in October 2014, Sabina responded to agency technical comments. In November 2014, a week-long technical meeting and a pre-hearing conference were held in Cambridge Bay. A Pre-hearing Conference Decision report was produced based on these meetings with the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut, the Government of NWT, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the general public. This document summarized Sabina’s commitments, and provides further direction, for the content of the 2015 Final Environmental Impact Statement (“FEIS”).

In November, 2015, the Company submitted its FEIS on Back River to the NIRB. That document was deemed conformant with the NIRB Guidelines and the NIRB held final hearings on the Project in Cambridge Bay on April 25th – 30th, 2016. The NIRB has advised that it will be issuing a project recommendation to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada on or about June 15, 2016. If the Minister agrees with the NIRB recommendation and the NIRB recommendation is positive, the NIRB could issue a project certificate marking the end of the environmental assessment phase for the project. This would be a significant milestone in the permitting/environmental assessment process which would enable transition pursing the necessary regulatory authorizations needed to construct and operate the Project. The key one of these authorizations is the Type A Water License, which we could receive in Q1, 2017.

The design of the Project includes a comprehensive water management plan for construction, operations, and closure. All Project components will be decommissioned and reclaimed according to best industry practices, and territorial and federal regulations. The closure plan uses proven practices that include appropriate long-term management of Potentially Acid Generating/metal-leaching materials and any affected waters. The objective of final reclamation for the Project is to return the site to a productive condition after mining activities are completed.

Based on the information available and the proposed design, no significant adverse environmental or socio-economic effects are anticipated that would limit the development of the Project.

Geology & Exploration

Geoplogy & Mineralization

The currently known gold deposits at Back River are comprised of Umwelt, Llama and Goose (all on the Goose Property), and the George deposits approximately 50 km to the north of the Goose Property. The Goose and George deposits are historical deposits which formed the resource basis upon which Sabina acquired the property in June 2009. The Umwelt and Llama deposits are among the discoveries Sabina has made since acquiring the property, and are the only two of the Sabina discoveries which are included in the current resource estimate and PEA.

Most of the known or observed gold mineralization identified on the Back River Project is associated with quartz veins, silicification and shearing. The mineralization occurs within silicified and variably sulphidized iron formation and to a lesser extent sedimentary units that appear to have a spatial association with narrow porphyritic felsic dykes and mudstones. Sulphide minerals observed on the Back River Project include pyrite, arsenopyrite, and pyrrhotite. Sulphide mineralization may be associated with accessory chlorite, carbonate, hornblende and grunerite. Visible gold is locally present, especially when sulphides are greater than 10% and when coarse-grained arsenopyrite is present.

On the Goose Property, gold mineralization on the Goose deposit is predominantly structurally controlled. The deposit is situated within the lower iron formation and underlying sediments beneath the Goose antiform structure, which resides within a 500m + wide corridor of widely spaced, subparallel north to northeast trending southeast dipping, normal faults that have up to 30 m of left-lateral displacement and a down dropping of individual fault blocks of up to 75m. The Umwelt and Llama deposits are underlain by similar geology to Goose. Suphidized oxide and silicate facies banded iron formations are cut by felsic and gabbroic dykes. Airborne and ground magnetics suggest that the iron formations are strongly folded. Recent drilling at Llama confirms the complexity of the structural history of that area, but tighter drill spacing in 2012 is allowing a continuous high grade gold bearing antiform structure to be defined.

Gold mineralization at George is located within oxide iron formation near the stratigraphic base of this unit. Less significant gold mineralization is also hosted within silicate iron formation. Gold bearing zones are associated with sulphide concentrations in the iron formation and are commonly accompanied by increased quartz veining and attendant alteration of the surrounding rocks.

For further details on the geology and mineralization of the Back River Project please see the Company's latest AIF and NI 43-101 report available in the Public Filings section of this website.


Sabina acquired the Back River Project from Dundee Precious Metals (DPM) on June 9, 2009. Since acquisition, nearly all exploration has been confined to the Goose property and all exploration has focused on finding new gold mineralization away from the existing Goose deposit.


Sabina completed a diamond drill program consisting of 6,690 meters and 27 diamond drill holes. Work also included geophysics consisting of Mag and IP surveys, ground geophysics consisting of walking and skidoo Mag surveys, and mapping and prospecting north of Llama Lake. Drilling commenced in July and continued into September, 2009.


Sabina completed 157 diamond drill holes totally 40,203 meters of core on the Goose block. Drilling was focused on the Echo, Llama and Umwelt target. This drilling resulted in the discovery of significant new gold mineralized zones at Llama and Umwelt. Drilling commenced in March and continued into October, 2010.


Sabina completed 132 diamond drill holes totaling 53,451 meters of core on Back River Project. Drilling was mostly focused on the Goose block to expand and increase the existing resources on the Llama and Umwelt deposits. Additional discovery level targets were drill tested in 2011 that resulted in the discovery of new gold mineralized zones at Goose Neck South and Camp Zones. Drilling also took place on the George block where 39 diamond drill holes were completed totally 8,378 meters looking for targets that were analogous to the deposits at the Goose block.


Some of the highlights at Back River in 2012 include:
  • Completed a positive preliminary economic assessment ("PEA").
  • Completed 69,661 m of drilling including 23,801m of infill, 24,698 of extension, 14,795 of new target drilling and 6,367 of geotech drilling.
  • Extended both Umwelt and Llama deposits 400 m to the south of previous drilling.
  • Identified several new opportunities to discover large open-pitable deposits.
  • Entered the permitting process by filing a project description with relevant Nunavut authorizing agencies.
  • Engaged engineering team and commenced PFS.
  • Completed significant environmental baseline data collection to support the permitting phase and PFS.
  • Constructed additional buildings and infrastructure at both George and Goose camps to support larger field programs and workforces in 2012 and beyond.


In 2013, a very significant drill program of approximately 83,000 metres was completed at Back River, none of which was included in the Back River pre-feasibility study ("PFS") released in 2013. The resulting increase in overall Mineral Resources and substantial increase in confidence in the continuity and grade of the deposits resulting from this drilling continues to demonstrate the high quality nature of the Back River Gold Project. It is anticipated that increased Mineral Resource Estimate will increase the potential for a larger Mineral Reserve on the project.


Twenty five diamond drill holes for a total of 8831.5 m were completed at Echo in 2014 to test the feasibility of including an open pit/underground operation in the early mine plan.

The 2014 Echo drilling program:
  • increased the drill hole density of the main deposit to approximately 50m centers to enable conversion of resources;
  • drill tested for extensions to mineralization at depths of up to 350m vertical;
  • tested for significant lateral extensions of the known mineral horizon; and
  • collected data for metallurgical and geotechnical studies that will aid in the assessment of development potential.
The results of the drilling indicate that the deposit is open at depth, below current drilling and also along strike to the northeast and west.


Two short field campaigns were executed during 2015: one in the winter/spring and one in the summer.

The programs were primarily focused on geotechnical drilling and environmental work to support the feasibility study and the final environmental impact statement.

During the winter/spring program, Sabina completed two shallow exploration drill holes at targets Hivogani and Nalaot. Results generated continue to demonstrate project-wide gold endowment and the potential for greenfield resource growth both within the project's conventional iron formation host and the broader sediment package that, to date, has seen little work.

Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. conducted a successful, low budget but highly effective field exploration campaign throughout the month of August focused on generating new targets at the Goose property in both the greywacke and iron formation host lithologies. Activities were multi-disciplined and in line with Sabina targeting criteria under the current corporate strategy focused on large scale, shallow tiered, resource discoveries. Programs consisted of mapping, prospecting, channel sampling, till sampling, core re-logging and induced polarization (IP) geophysics completed at the Goose property.

Mr. Angus Campbell, P. Geo. and Vice-President, Exploration for Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. is a Qualified Person under the terms of NI 43-101 and has reviewed the technical content of this disclosure for the Back River Project and has approved its dissemination.

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