Gold prices rocked the boat for investors over the course of 2012, hitting a 52-week high of about $1,800 and a low of around $1,520. The yellow metal kicked off the year with a steady climb before touching down, hitting some low points in the summer months. But, true to form, investors returned to gold buying in the fall, bringing the metal back to a September high of $1,798 per ounce. As the year draws to a close, worries about how the US is going to avoid the fiscal cliff — a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to kick in January 1 — are stopping gold from staying above the $1,750 price mark.
But despite the roller-coaster ride the yellow metal has sent investors on, it hasn’t been all bad. Here is a look at 2012′s top-performing gold juniors.
1. Gold Quest Mining (TSXV:GQC); current price: $0.62; year-to-date gain: 726.67 percent; 52-week high: $2.03.
Gold Quest is a copper-gold exploration company focused on the Dominican Republic. The company’s share price started climbing at the end of May, when it announced drill results from the Romero gold-copper mineralization LTP 90, which returned 231 meters grading 2.4 g/t gold, including 160.3 meters grading 2.9 g/t. The results prompted GQC to mobilize a portable drill to further explore the mineralization. Share prices for GQC kept climbing throughout the summer months as exploration work progressed through July. In August, the company announced that it had intercepted significant mineralization, including 258 meters grading 4.5 g/t and an upper section of 55 meters grading 1.25 g/t gold. The company also closed a $15-million bought-deal private placement.
Gold Quest has maintained a “strong buy“ rating for the last several months.
2. Unigold (TSXV:UGD); current price: $0.41; year-to-date gain: 164.52 percent; 52-week high: $0.52.
Like Gold Quest, Unigold is focused on exploring and developing gold projects in the Dominican Republic. The company is concentrating its endeavors on the Candelones zone of its Neita property. UGD share prices spiked in February following a January release of drill results; the results included 73 meters at 2.36 g/t gold and 20 meters at 2.74 g/t gold at Candelones. Work on the project has continued steadily through the year, and extensions to the mineralization have shown consistent grades. At the end of November, UGD announced strong drill results at Candelones, including 69.4 meters at 3.75 g/t gold and 20.2 meters at 2.6 g/t gold. Later, on November 28, UGD announced the discovery of a new area of mineralization on the Neita property.
Unigold has maintained a “strong buy“ rating over the last three months.
3. Nevada Exploration (TSXV:NGE); current price: $0.13; year-to-date gain: 107.69 percent; 52-week high: $0.19.
Nevada Exploration is using new and unique groundwater chemistry technology to explore for new gold deposits in Nevada. The company is looking to advance nine projects totaling over 20,000 hectares. In September, NGE, in conjunction with McEwen Mining (TSX:MUX:NYSE:MUX), elected to designate a new gold project in Grass Valley, Nevada. The terms of the project give NGE a 30-percent interest in Grass Valley; however, McEwen remains the project manager.
4. Sutter Gold Mining (TSXV:SGM); current price: $0.39; year-to-date gain: 102.63 percent; 52-week high: $0.51.
Sutter Gold is a near-term gold producer currently in phase one of construction at its Lincoln Mine project in California. The project is situated in the historic California Mother Lode, with production slated to ramp up in the latter half of 2013. The company’s share price hit a high of $0.51 on March 20 following an earlier news release in which the company announced results from its first three drill holes at Lincoln. The most notable result come from hole DDH-198, which intersected 4.317 ounces of gold per ton (OPT) in a 1.8-foot interval and 1.791 OPT in the adjacent 2.1-foot interval.
Most recently, Sutter announced its first gold pour from the Lincoln mine. SGM is currently moving forward with the mine’s development and mill construction.
5. Stratabound Minerals (TSXV:SB); current price: $0.09; year-to-date gain: 80.00 percent; 52-week high: $0.13.
Stratabound Minerals is a junior resource company focused on the exploration and advancement of mineral properties in the Bathurst Mining District of Northern New Brunswick and Quebec. SB’s share price hit a 52-week high in September following the company’s announcement that drilling was underway at the gravity target within a claim group optioned from Commander Resources (TSXV:CMD). The Commander option is a strategic acquisition adjoining SB’s CNE and Captain properties. SB can acquire up to a 65-percent interest in the claims. On November 1, SB reported copper-gold-silver intersections on the claim, with the most notable results being 11 meters grading 2.04 percent copper, 0.49 g/t gold and 7.48 g/t silver.
6. Gold Standard Ventures (TSXV:GSV); current price: $1.33; year-to-date gain: 80.00 percent; 52-week high: $3.03.
Gold Standard owns the Railroad gold project, which is located within Nevada’s Carlin Trend and near Newmont Mining’s (NYSE:NEM) Rain and Emigrant mines. In May, GSV announced that it had intersected 164 meters of 3.38 g/t gold, including 42.7 meters of 9.4 g/t gold, at the Railroad project. The drill results confirmed and expanded the potential of a major deposit at the company’s target. GSV conducted a geophysical survey on a portion of the North Bullion Fault Zone (NBFZ) at Railroad to outline the company’s primary target.
“The NBFZ target appears to be a quite well-defined large “sliver” of prospective clastic and carbonate rock units up to about 1200 feet wide and about 1 mile long between two major anastomosing fault boundaries. A portion of this target coincides with the best gold grades drilled to date,” according to the company’s press release.
The company continues to make progress at Railroad, and recently announced the approval of its plan of operation. In November, GSV announced the acquisition of additional interest in the Pinon gold deposit, which is located south of its flagship property.
Gold Standard Ventures currently holds a “strong buy“ rating.
7. Panoro Minerals (TSXV:PML); current price: $0.64; year-to-date gain: 68.42 percent; 52-week high: $0.86.
Panoro Minerals is a polymetallic exploration company focused on exploring and advancing its large-potential copper and copper-gold projects in Peru. The company owns several properties in the prolific Andahuaylas-Yauri province. The company’s flagship properties are the advanced-stage Cotabambas and Antilla projects.
The company has been steadily progressing with work on the Cotabambas copper-gold project, and an early year announcement of a significant zone of supergene enrichment returned results of a 92.35-meter interval grading 1.55 percent copper and 0.51 g/t gold. The company also identified a gold-enriched leached capping with a 74-meter interval grading 1.17 g/t gold and 5 g/t silver. In June, PML received approval for its environmental impact assessment for expanded exploration at Cotabambas. PML is working on the completion of a 24,000-meter drill program. An updated NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate for the project was released in September, and brought the project’s estimated resources to 3.75 million pounds of copper and 3 million ounces of gold.
Share prices for Panoro Minerals have remained steady throughout the year, and the company currently holds a “buy“ rating.
8. Coronado Resources (TSXV:CRD); current price: $0.40; year-to-date gain: 66.67 percent; 52-week high: $0.85.
Coronado Resources is a copper and gold producer focused on developing its 100-percent-owned Madison mine in Montana. The company attained a 52-week high in August following the closure of its 50-million share private placement for total proceeds of $6 million. In July 2010, CRD’s drill program returned results that included 70 feet at 779 oz/t gold.
9. Northern Gold Mining (TSXV:NGM); current price: $0.33; year-to-date gain: 66.67 percent; 52-week high: $0.45.
Northern Gold Mining is a Canadian junior resource company focused on the discovery and development of gold deposits in the prolific Timmins-Kirkland Lake Gold Camp region in Northeastern Ontario. The company has several near-term projects that it is working on bringing towards production. Most recently, NGM acquired Victory Gold, which gives the company access to Brigus’ Black Fox mine and St. Andrew Goldfields’ Hislop mine, both of which are operational, in the Timmins Gold District.
10. American Creek Resources (TSXV:AMK); current price: $0.09; year-to-date gain: 55.56; 52-week high: $0.12.
American Creek is focused on the exploration and development of resource properties in British Columbia. The company’s share price jumped sharply in September, to a high of $0.15, when the company announced that it had received a notice of negotiation from Seabridge Gold (TSX:SEA). The notice was aimed at determining an agreement on whether Seabridge could obtain access rights to proceed through AMK’s Treaty Creek property; the companies commenced negotiations in October.
“Seabridge’s proposed MTT would link the KSM mine area to the proposed processing plant and tailings impoundments in the upper North Treaty Creek valley. The tunnels would be used to get utilities and equipment to the mine site as well as to transport the ore to the processing plant.”
Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned.