A recent manifestation of the enquiry as to the world's most likely savoured potential gold acquisition targets prompted questions as to why all 20 entities were listed in Canada. While the selection of such a list is subjective, to say the least, the answer is probably that it's just no coincidence that all are listed in Canada. To be fair to the rest of the world, and extend the enquiry further, a list of 40 top potential targets has now been selected.Each stock selected has been treated as if its main gold project, or producing mine, is its only asset, and, of course, only attributable ounces are counted. If the project, or mine, concerned, contains other pay metals and/or minerals, those are simply ignored. The numbers can thus be crunched out to produce a listing of most likely potential gold targets, for major gold, or other, miners. Stock price movements, particularly over the past six or so months, provide further clues, as to what investors, at least, are speculating.Thus, for example, Australia listed Highlands Pacific currently holds an attributable 2.29m ounces of gold at the Frieda River Project, located in the Sandaun Province of Western Papua New Guinea, ranked as one of the world's largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits. The deposits holds a monster 7.5m tonnes of copper, and 14.3m ounces of gold, and at this stage. The main stakeholders are Highlands Pacific, with 16.6%, with 74.9% held by a subsidiary of Xstrata.These numbers may change in the future, depending on how certain existing agreements play out. Studies have indicated that a potential mine here could produce 220 000 tonnes of copper and 330 000 ounces of gold a year, with a mine life in excess of 23 years. At this point, Highlands Gold carries a market value (capitalisation) of $47m, meaning that its 2.29m attributable gold ounces at the Frieda River Project compute at $20.55/oz, on a simple market valuation, without adjusting for net debt/cash.The valuations for the 40 selected potential targets vary from $2.30/oz for Rye Patch Gold's Nevada-based 2.95m ounces to $313.64/oz for the relevant 1.16m ounces for Dominion Mining, which operates the Challenger mine in Australia. The mine is ranked by Dominion Mining as holding an orebody of more than 1m ounces of gold; production is running at around 100 000 ounces a year, at what the company describes as a high cash margin. The mine could be expanded to around 130 000 ounces a year. Dominion, which ranks its historical cost of finding gold at around A$15 per reserve ounce, also holds a string of exploration assets across Australia.In all, the exercise covering 40 listed gold and related stocks counts 369m ounces of gold, for a weighted average valuation of $35.18/oz.The costs of building a gold mine are hugely challenging, as shown by some recent figures that have become available from two huge deposits. Barrick, the world's biggest gold miner, by value and production, last week announced the go-ahead for the $2.9bn Pascua-Lama gold-silver-copper mine that straddles high country in Argentina and Chile. In April, fresh information on mining Alaska's Donlin Creek was released, including a capital cost of $4.5bn. Barrick has some funding relief for the latter, given its status as a 50:50 joint venture with Novagold; a go-ahead for Donlin Creek, however, remains pending.Based on reserves at Pascua-Lama and Donlin Creek, capital expenditure calculates at just under $160/oz of reserves. In very simple terms, that would transform to a capital cost of $160m for a mine with a gold deposit of 1m ounces. Barrick recently poured first gold at Buzwagi (3.3m ounces in reserve) in Tanzania, which was recently completed at a (now historic) capital cost of $400m.The metrics leave a good number of smaller gold stocks at the mercy of the markets. Greystar's monster 15.02m ounces Angostura discovery in Colombia would cost around USD 2.4bn to build, if all its resource ounces are converted to reserves. Greystar's market value, however, is a relatively light USD 167m, ranking its ounces at USD 15.02/oz.For Canada's Osisko, the story is quite different, with its 8.93m ounces of gold Canadian Malarctic project. Osisko raised the equivalent of some $343m in February this year, raising its cash resources to $582m. The stock, which currently ranks as one of the world's best performing stocks of any kind, recently presented capital expenditure of just under $800m for Canadian Malarctic, with output projected at around 600 000 ounces a year for what could be at least ten years.This projected capital outlay is steeply less than the $1.4bn projected by the numbers derived from Pascua-Lama and Donlin Creek. The Canadian Malarctic project, however, is located in a historic mining area in Quebec, with substantial existing infrastructure, low power costs, low taxation, zero government royalties, and cash refunds for non-flow through mineral exploration activities. Given Osisko's current market value of $1.2bn, raising further funds for mine build, if and when, required, would be a relative walk in the park.SELECTED POTENTIAL GOLD TARGETS
Rye Patch Gold
San Anton Resource
Norton Gold Fields
** Main project only; attributable ounces.
Note: some stocks, such as Dioro, may be involved in corporate action.
Source: company and market data compiled by Barry Sergeant