by James Kwantes
Published first at

Snowline Gold (SGD-V, SNWGF-OTC) continues to put Yukon Territory on the map. Pre-market Thursday Snowline reported its best intercept yet: 553 metres of 2.5 g/t gold including 132 metres of 5 g/t gold. It’s been a long time since any company reported those types of grades and widths, from surface, at a Canadian gold project. Snowline shares responded with a 15% bump, to $5.65 a share. Producer B2Gold bought 5% of Snowline in a March financing, then hiked its stake to 9.9% through open-market purchases.

It’s not just Snowline. Next door is Fireweed Metals’ (FWZ-V, FWEDF-OTC) Macmillan Pass project, a series of high-grade zinc-lead-silver deposits and discoveries. Last year Fireweed landed the neighbouring Mactung tungsten deposit as well as a $20-million investment from the Lundin family. Initial assays from this year’s 16,000-metre Mac Pass drill program – the largest ever – included 71.9 metres of 6.5% zinc, 3.1% lead and 97.8 g/t silver.

In mid-July I flew up to the Yukon for a site visit at Snowline Gold's Valley project; I have visited Fireweed's Macmillan Pass project previously.

July 18 site visit: Snowline CEO Scott Berdahl at the discovery outcrop. The stock closed at $4.46 that day.

Snowline and Fireweed are belles of the ball during a time when most juniors – in the Yukon and elsewhere – have declined or treaded water. Snowline shares are up 176% in the past year ($800M market cap); Fireweed’s one-year return is 128% ($176M mc).

Cycles of euphoria and despair are familiar territory. I first travelled to Yukon in August 2015 as the Vancouver Sun’s mining reporter, during a grim time for junior exploration companies. Rays of light, though: accompanying the newspaper version of my feature, Charging into Yukon’s new gold rush, was a photo of Victoria Gold CEO John McConnell atop a mountain at the Eagle gold project. He was pointing down at the planned location of Victoria’s gold recovery plant; the company poured its first gold 4 years later and produced 150,000 oz last year.

I returned in the summer of 2016 to high excitement. Goldcorp had just paid $520 million for Kaminak Gold and its Coffee project. It was the first of a slew of investments into Yukon juniors over the coming years, by the likes of Agnico Eagle (White Gold) and Barrick (ATAC Resources).

M&A has returned but it’s not the kind that delivers shareholder returns. Hecla Mining snapped up troubled high-grade Yukon silver play Alexco Resources for 47 cents US a year ago; then Hecla bought ATAC Resources and its high-grade resources for the equivalent of 14 cents a share after ATAC spurned a Victoria Gold stink bid. Alexco had traded in the dollars for most of the decade leading to its sale; both Alexco and ATAC shares traded at $9 in 2011. These were mercy killings, not takeovers.

Fast-forward to today. Is it different this time?

Both Fireweed’s Macmillan Pass and Snowline’s Valley have size and grade – two key ingredients if the remote projects are to become mines. Permitting in this rather pristine setting on the Yukon/N.W.T. border won’t be a picnic. Just ask ATAC, which had its tote road application shot down by the Yukon government in November 2020.

A major focus of my Patreon writing has been up-and-coming leaders in mining and exploration who are worth following and investing in. Snowline CEO Scott Berdahl and Fireweed's chief executive, Brandon Macdonald, fit the bill. Both are sharp and hungry young geologists with Yukon roots and a deep commitment to advancing projects responsibly. Berdahl grew up in the Yukon prospecting with his father and lives with his young family in Whitehorse. Macdonald has personal roots in Ross River and extensive Yukon work experience.

Fireweed’s zinc and tungsten projects fill an important critical metals need for western governments in the face of China’s dominance in the production of both. Snowline is being rewarded by a market unaccustomed to high-quality greenfield gold discoveries. Macmillan Pass is an advanced-stage asset and the Yukon government has committed $71M for upgrades to the existing Canol Road, which will reduce capex. Any infrastructure improvements at Fireweed's Macmillan Pass should benefit Snowline's Valley project.

It does feel different this time.

Fireweed Metals (FWZ-V, FWEDF-OTC)
Price: $1.30
Shares out: 135.4 million (154.8M fully diluted)
Market cap: $176 million

Snowline Gold (SGD-V, SNWGF-OTC)
Price: $5.65
Shares out: 142 million (161M fully diluted)
Market cap: $802 million

Disclosure: I own shares of Snowline Gold and Fireweed Metals and have no business relationship with either company. Yukon Invest covered travel expenses for the site visits. This article is for information purposes and not intended as investment advice. Do your own due diligence.