Barrick Gold, the world’s second biggest gold miner, is buying a stake in ASX gold minnow Troy Resources (ASX:TRY) in the hopes of making a new discovery in South America’s Guiana Shield.

The relatively underexplored mineral belt covers ancient rock formations across Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia and Suriname, and is host to some major world class gold deposits like Las Cristinas (54Moz) and Rosebel (20Moz).

Barrick will tip US$1.2m into Troy to take a 4.9% stake in the explorer, which has 3,000 hectares of tenure around a small operating gold mine at its Karouni project.

The proposed earn-in and JV will include tenements to the south of Troy’s producing assets, where Barrick will have the right to earn up to 51% of the project by completing milestones including a PFS.

The main exploration focus is Potaro, a new target under sand cover around 25km from the Karouni mill.

Barrick’s Mark Bristow has identified the Karouni basin as a priority exploration destination outside the territories that host its existing 5Mozpa portfolio, with comparisons to the West Birimian gold field in West Africa that hosts its Tongon and Loulo mines.

“We have capitalised on our knowledge of West African Birimian greenstone gold deposits, to identify the Karouni basin as a priority area of interest,” Bristow said.

“The geological similarities between the West African Birimian and the Guiana Shield are well established, however the exploration in the Guiana Shield is quite immature by comparison.”

“We look forward to combining Barrick’s technical and financial resources with Troy’s established in country team and knowledge, to advance exploration over the Project Tenements with the aim to deliver new world class gold discoveries,” he said.


Troy looking to exploration for Guyana upside

Troy, formerly focused on assets in WA before it acquired Karouni in 2014, has to a large extent been treading water there over the past few years, and its performance at Karouni has been a mixed bag in 2020-21.

Issues related to Covid outbreaks in Guyana, and a fire at its mill stores saw the gold miner in November revoke its production guidance of 35,000-40,000oz for 2020-21 at AISC of US$1,500 – $1,550/oz.

The Karouni mill is due for a brief shutdown period later this year, but will be re-fired later this year when ore from the Smarts underground mine – where it hit 11m at more than 130g/t last year – replaces open pit ore sources.

The approval Troy recently received will make it the first underground mine in the tiny South American country’s history.

However, Troy MD Ken Nilsson is bullish about the exploration upside at Karouni.

“Of our current ground position, none is considered to be more prospective than Potaro,” he said.

“Having identified this opportunity approximately two years ago, we were very pleased to have recently been able to aggregate a sizeable tenement package over this area.”

“Situated under significant sand cover, exploration of Potaro and other targets will be significantly enhanced by the involvement of Barrick and their exploration team.”


Barrick’s been to Guyana before

It is not the first time Barrick has backed in an Australian company in the Guiana Shield, and even before Bristow hopped over in the Randgold merger it has had its tentacles in the region.

Back in 2016 Barrick initiated a US$10 million earn in to Alicanto Minerals (ASX: AQI) Arakaka project.

Barrick later abandoned the earn in.

Alicanto did manage to outline a 500,000oz resource at Arakaka at 1.8g/t, but last month announced a C$4.75 million to sell the project to Canada’s Virgin Gold so it could focus on its silver and base metals assets in Sweden.