Investing Ideas

Western Copper and Gold


Governments worldwide have ambitious goals to reach net-zero emissions, putting renewable energy in the spotlight. Every emerging clean technology has one material in common: copper. Thanks to its highly conductive properties, the base metal has been a standard component in existing electronics, and global electrification will increase demand drastically. As a result, copper consumption is forecasted to increase from 26 million metric tonnes in 2022 to 28 million metric tons by 2027.

Yukon is known for its rich mineral deposits, including copper, gold, iron, silver and lead. Yukon is ranked one of the world’s most attractive mining investment jurisdictions and has attracted the attention of numerous major mining companies over the last few years. The Fraser Institute’s 2021 index ranked Yukon as the ninth most attractive jurisdiction out of 84 evaluated jurisdictions. Recent infrastructure funding from the regional and federal governments has spurred additional investment in the Yukon. Miners in Yukon are poised to capitalize on the territory’s mineral richness.

Western Copper and Gold Corporation (TSX:WRN, NYSE:WRN) focuses on developing the Casino project, Canada’s premier copper-gold project. The deposit is located in Canada’s Yukon Territory, which ranks among the world’s top ten most attractive mining investment jurisdictions.

In June 2022, Western Copper and Gold released the results of its feasibility study, which incorporates an updated mineral resource.. The updated estimate includes 14.8 million ounces (Moz) of gold in the measured and indicated category and 6.3 Moz of gold in the inferred category, in addition to 7.6 billion lbs of copper in the measured and indicated category and 3.1 billion lbs of copper in the inferred category.

Western Copper and Gold’s recent positive feasibility study on the Casino project, indicates a 27-year mine life and cash flow over the first four years of C$951 million per year at base case prices. In addition, the company has provided estimates for potential economic changes in copper prices, and indicated the project will remain profitable even if the spot price decreases.

“Casino is a rare asset in that it is sizable, economic, well-advanced and located in a great jurisdiction. Casino is the key asset in the emerging Yukon gold district,” said Paul West-Sells, Western Copper and Gold’s president and CEO.

The company has also revealed the construction of the Carmacks Bypass, a requisite for the Casino project. In March 2022, the company released its project drilling results, providing assay information from the 13 holes remaining from its 2021 program.

Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) has made a strategic C$25.6 million investment to advance the Casino project, resulting in approximately 8 percent ownership by Rio Tinto of Western’s outstanding common shares. Western Copper and Gold remains the sole owner of the project and will continue to be its operator.

A highly-knowledgeable management team with a proven record of success leads Western Copper and Gold, and is supported by a highly qualified team of engineers dedicated to bringing Casino into production.

Company Highlights​

Western Copper and Gold is an exploration and development mining company with a significant advanced-stage copper-gold asset in the Yukon.The Casino deposit hosts a significant resource of almost 21 Moz of gold and 11 billion lbs of copper (M+I+I).The federal government announced a funding package to fund two access roads in the district.Column testing on various lithology samples representing the feed to the heap leach indicated that the gold recovery in the heap leach could be increased from 66 percent to 70 percent.

Key Project

Casino Project

The Casino project is a large porphyry-type copper-gold-molybdenum deposit located 560 kilometers from the year-round port of Skagway, Alaska and 380 kilometers from the capital city of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

In September 2017, the territorial and federal governments announced they would provide approximately C$130 million in funding to upgrade and subsidize a large portion of the Casino access road as part of the Yukon Gateway project.

The company has been working with the federal, territorial, and First Nations governments and top environmental consultants to ensure the planned road leading into the Casino site will have the lowest possible environmental impact and will ensure maximum benefit for local communities and First Nations, according to West-Sells.

Management Team

Dr. Paul West-Sells – President and CEO

Dr. West-Sells has over 25 years of experience in the mining industry. After obtaining his Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the University of British Columbia, he worked with BHP, Placer Dome and Barrick in increasingly senior roles in research and development and project development. West-Sells has worked for Western Copper and gold since 2006, where he has held a number of technical and executive positions, and is now the president and CEO overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company. West-Sells sits on the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board, the Board of the Yukon Mining Alliance and is also on the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining Governing Council.

Ken Engquist – COO

Ken Engquist brings nearly 30 years of leadership and extensive development experience overseeing the de-risking and advancement of numerous mining projects from early-stage exploration through start-up and operations. Most recently, he has led operations, technical studies, work programs, permitting and stakeholder relations as COO of First Mining Gold. Some recent development projects of his include First Mining’s Springpole gold project, Tinka Resources’ Ayawilca zinc project, South32’s Hermosa zinc project, and Nevsun’s Timok copper project. He also led various other projects within Oxygen Capital’s managed group of companies where he was responsible for advancing a portfolio of assets in various stages of development through to the start of production. He previously held key management roles on large capital projects and operations within AngloGold Ashanti and Rio Tinto. Engquist serves as a director and board advisor on other public and private organizations. He holds a B.Sc. in engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Varun Prasad – CFO

Varun Prasad has been with Western Copper and Gold since 2011 and most recently served as interim CFO. Prior to that he was corporate controller for the company. He has extensive experience in financial reporting and regulatory matters. Prasad holds a B.A. technology (accounting) from British Columbia Institute of Technology and is a member of the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC.

Cameron Brown – VP Engineering

Cameron Brown has 45 years of experience in mineral processing and has been responsible for plant maintenance, project engineering and project management of major base and precious metal projects. He was formerly project manager for Western Silver Corporation and worked for 22 years for Bechtel Mining & Metals in various capacities including: project manager, project engineering manager and manager of engineering for Bechtel Mining & Metals (Global). He was Western Copper and Gold’s project manager from 2006 to 2010 and has served as vice-president, engineering since July 2010.

Shena Shaw – VP, Environmental and Community Affairs

Shena Shaw has been managing projects and contributing to environmental assessments across the North for nearly 20 years and she is looking forward to supporting the Casino Project through the first-ever panel review process in the Yukon. Her knowledge and advice will help the company make strategic and effective decisions when planning and implementing Indigenous and community consultation and engagement. After graduating from the University of Victoria with a bachelor of arts in anthropology focusing on First Nations Studies and Geography, Shaw joined the Yukon Chamber of Commerce with a role in supporting community-based entrepreneurship programs and services. A relocation to Yellowknife, NWT introduced her to the mining industry for the first time when she joined DeBeers Canada’s Snap Lake Project. Following that, she embarked on a lengthy career in environmental consulting in Yellowknife and Whitehorse, focusing on responsible development of resource extraction through the environmental assessment and Indigenous engagement processes of large-scale projects in the Yukon, NWT, Alaska and across Canada. Shaw participated in the consultation and socio-economic impact assessment work for the Kaminak Coffee Gold Project, Victoria Gold’s Eagle Gold Project and the Casino Project, all based in the Yukon. She is deeply familiar with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act process and was involved in the Mackenzie Gas Project Joint Review Panel process in the NWT.

Dr. Klaus Zeitler – Director

Klaus Zeitler was the founder and CEO of Inmet from 1987 to 1996. He was senior vice president of Teck Cominco from 1997 until 2002, and previously was on the board of directors of Teck, Tahoe Resources and Cominco. Zeitler is the executive chairman and director of Amerigo Resources, and he is the chairman and director of Los Andes Copper. (TSXV:LA)

Tara Christie – Director

Tara Christie has over 20 years of experience in the exploration and mining business. Currently the president and CEO of Banyan Gold, Christie serves on the boards of Constantine Metal Resources and Klondike Gold. She was formerly the president of privately owned Gimlex Gold Mines, one of the Yukon’s largest placer mining operations. Christie has been a board member of PDAC, AMEBC and other industry associations and was a founding board member of the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment board. She is active in non-profits and charities, including being president of a registered charity “Every Student, Every Day” that works to improve attendance in Yukon schools.

Kenneth Williamson – Director and Interim Chairman

Kenneth Williamson is a professional director with over 40 years of experience in natural resources and investment banking, where his focus has been on capital markets and mergers and acquisitions. Williamson worked in the oil and gas sector before transitioning into investment banking at Midland Walwyn/Merrill Lynch Canada Inc., where he was vice-chairman of investment banking until 1998. Williamson has held various positions on boards throughout his career, including Eicon Technology Corporation, Glamis Gold, BioteQ Environmental Technologies, Uranium One, BlackRock Ventures, Quadra FNX Mining, Tahoe Resources and Goldcorp. Williamson is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors , Institute of Corporate Directors, and the Professional Engineers of Ontario. Williamson has a bachelor of applied sciences degree from University of Toronto and an MBA from Western University.

Michael Vitton – Director

Michael Vitton is the former executive managing director, head, US Equity Sales, Bank of Montreal Capital Markets (BMO Capital Markets), where he originated and placed more than US$200 billion through public and secondary offerings and M&A transactions across all sectors. In the metals and mining sector, Vitton has acted as seed investor, lead/co-lead underwriter or in a M&A capacity in some of the most important deals in the sector, including African Platinum Ltd., Arequipa Resources Ltd., Bema Gold Corp, Brancotte Resources, Comaplex Minerals Corp., Detour Gold Corp, Diamond Fields Resources Inc., Echo Bay Mines Ltd., Francisco Gold Corp., Franco-Nevada Corp., Gammon Gold Inc., Getchell Gold Corp., Golden Shamrock Mines Ltd., Guinor Resources Ltd., Hemlo Gold Mines Inc., Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., Meridian Gold Inc., MexGold Resources Inc., Minefinders Corporation Ltd., Moto Goldmines Ltd., New Gold Inc., Northern Orion Resources Inc., Osisko Mining Inc, Peru Copper Inc., Wheaton River Minerals Ltd., Randgold Resources Ltd., Rio Narcea Gold Mines Ltd., Skye Resources Inc., Semafo Inc., Sino Gold Mining Ltd., UrAsia Energy, UraMin Inc. among many others. Mr. Vitton was also the co-founder of MMX Minerals e Metalicos SA (Brazil) (“MMX”) and LLX Logistica SA (Brazil). MMX sold Minas Rio and Amapa assets to Anglo American Corporation for US$5.5 billion in cash in December 2008, returning US$8.8 billion in cash or stock distributions to MMX shareholders, offering six times return from IPO. LLX Logistica (Acu Port) was sold to EIG (Energy Infrastructure Group). Additionally, he co-founded Petro Rio SA, one of the leading Brazilian public oil and gas producers, producing over 35,000 bbls per day. Recently, Vitton acted as seed investor and capital markets advisor to Newmarket Gold Inc., which was sold to Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. for C$1 billion, combining to form a C$2.4 billion company. Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. was awarded 2018 Digger of the Year (Diggers and Dealers). He acted as investor and capital markets advisor to ASX-listed Gold Road Resources Ltd., raising A$57 million, and bringing the Gruyere gold mine into production jointly with Gold Fields SA. Gold Road Resources Ltd. won the Diggers and Dealers award for best deal in 2017. He currently acts as advisor to Cardinal Resources Ltd. Mr. Vitton is a partner and member of P5 Infrastructure, operating in partnership with EQT Infrastructure/CMA CGM, where EQT Infrastructure/P5 Infrastructure acquired 90 percent of Global Gateway South Terminal, a deep sea terminal in Long Beach Harbor, CA. Vitton is a graduate of the University of Michigan Business School, former seat holder, NYSE, and former president, New York Society of Metals Analysts. He has invested and partnered with some of the largest sovereign fund, private equity funds, mutual and hedge funds. Vitton is focused on the energy, infrastructure, industrial and mining sectors.

Bill Williams – Director

Bill Williams is an economic geologist with nearly 40 years of experience related to the exploration and development of mining and oil & gas projects, as well as oversight of mining operations. He provides consulting services to the mining industry with a focus on company/project (e)valuations, M&A analyses, risk analysis, project management, and permitting strategies. Most recently, he served as the interim CEO and director of Detour Gold Corporation and was a director and COO of Zinc One Resources Inc., with whom he led the team that made the discovery of the Mina Chica zinc-oxide deposit in the Bongará district, north-central Peru. He is the former CEO, president, and director of Orvana Minerals Corp., prior to which he was a vice-president for Phelps Dodge Exploration overseeing activity in the Americas, which included the discovery of the Haquira porphyry copper deposit in Peru, and working on M&A opportunities. He holds a Ph.D. in economic geology from the University of Arizona and is a certified professional geologist.

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