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i-80 Gold Corp. (TSX: IAU): Newest Gold Producer in the Market. a Nevada-Focused Mining Company, Goal of Achieving Mid-Tier Gold Producer Status; Ewan Downie, CEO Interviewed

on 4/25/2021
We spoke with Ewan Downie, CEO and Director of i-80 Gold Corp. (TSX: IAU), the newest gold producer in the market. i-80 Gold Corp is a Nevada-focused mining company, with a goal of achieving mid-tier gold producer status. The Company is currently producing gold at its El Nino mine at South Arturo (joint venture with Nevada Gold Mines – a joint venture between Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Corporation). The Company is also advancing the development of its 100% owned, feasibility-stage McCoy-Cove projects, located proximal to Nevada Gold Mines’ Phoenix operation, and its past producing Getchell project that is located immediately south of Nevada Gold Mines’ Turquoise Ridge operation. The PEA of the Getchell project is expected to be completed in H1 2021, followed by the commissioning of a Preliminary Feasibility or Feasibility Study, immediately after.

Getchell open-pit and Pinson underground portal

Dr. Allen Alper: This is Dr. Allen Alper, Editor-in-Chief of Metals News, talking with Ewan Downie, who is CEO and Director of i-80 Gold Corp. Ewan, could you tell our readers/investors the vision you have for your Company? Also, an overview of it and what differentiates i-80 Gold Corp. from others?

Ewan Downie:i-80 Gold is the newest gold producer in the market. The Company is 100% focused on Nevada and i-80 is a Company that has one operating mine and three development-stage projects that are fully permitted to be built. We are focused on growing our production potentially tenfold over the next two or three years as we move to construct these permitted operations to development. The Company is currently Nevada Gold Mines, the largest producer in the state, only operating partner through the South Arturo JV Project that includes the El Nino underground mine. The Company has over $80 million in cash CAD, and we have a very strong shareholder base that includes several large shareholders. In addition, we generate cash flow from our El Nino mine, so i-80 is a unique growth opportunity: a cash flowing Company, with a strong balance sheet, no debt and a pathway to become a much larger producer organically because we have multiple permitted projects. I'm sure you know that permitting a project is one of the more difficult parts of the mining cycle of a project.

Dr. Allen Alper: Well, that sounds exciting. It's great to have all these terrific projects, in the state of Nevada, with such great potential, both producing projects and others that have near-term potential. Could you tell our readers/investors about your core projects?

Ewan Downie: We have three core projects in Nevada.

First, the South Arturo Joint Venture Property, a partnership with Nevada Gold Mines. Nevada Gold Mines complex in Nevada is the largest producing gold complex in North America. That joint venture is between the world's two largest mining companies, Barrick Gold and Newmont. The South Arturo property is located in the heart of the North Carlin Trend where major mining operations including the Goldstrike mine, Leeville, Carlin, Meikle and other deposits are located. Our ore from South Arturo is processed at Nevada Gold Mines’ processing facilities. Nevada Gold Mines owns 60%, we own 40%.

South Arturo is host to our, currently operating, El Nino mine and the property is also host to fully permitted development projects that include the Phase 1 Open Pit Project, that has both heap leach and higher-grade refractory material. We are also committed to the Phase 3 Project, for which we're currently completing a tradeoff study as to whether we build it as an open pit or underground mine.

El Nino isometric view – Drilling from underground platforms

The newest project in our portfolio, that we just recently closed, as part of the Go-Public transaction, is our Getchell Project that is located immediately south of Nevada Gold Mines' Turquoise Ridge Mine. The resource at Turquoise Ridge is approximately 10 million ounces, grading approximately 10 grams per tonne. The property hosts what is essentially the southern extension of the geological/structural horizon that is host to the Turquoise Ridge mine. The property has both heap leach (open pit) and underground mineralization and will be subject to our largest exploration program this year. The underground mine at the Getchell property is called the Pinson Mine, which is currently under care and maintenance.

The third core project, within our portfolio, is the 100%-owned McCoy-Cove Property. McCoy-Cove represents one of, if not the highest-grade, plus one-million-ounce, undeveloped gold deposits in all of North America. It is permitted for underground development and is currently advancing final permits to allow for production, following a planned underground advanced-exploration program.

Dr. Allen Alper: Oh, that's exciting! You have some amazing projects, an amazing location, led by a fantastic, knowledgeable, successful Team. So that's great! Could you tell our readers/investors, your primary objectives for 2021?

Ewan Downie: One of our primary objectives for 2021 is to advance the Phase 1 and Phase 3 projects at South Arturo, to where we hope the partnership is discussing the timing of development for the next two phases of mining. At the same time, we have initiated a major 8,000-meter drill program at the El Nino mine that is aimed at expanding that deposit at depth.

The second major program we have going this year is at the Getchell project, where the Pinson underground mine is currently under care and maintenance. We will be moving four drills onto the property, both on surface and underground, aimed at drilling off the upper parts of that underground mine infrastructure, so that by the end of this year, we will hopefully be in a position to make a development decision. It is our goal to put the Pinson underground mine at Getchell into production in 2022.

Combined, we will be completing more than 30,000 meters of drilling, both underground and surface, on those two projects, during the year.

Dr. Allen Alper: That's fantastic, 2021 will be an exciting time for the stakeholders and shareholders, with all the news being generated, as you drill and get results.

Ewan Downie: Yeah, it's exciting times! The Company is entirely focused on Nevada. Nevada was recently ranked by the Fraser Institute as the number-one jurisdiction, globally, for mining investment. It’s a great place to own projects and develop and operate mines.

Dr. Allen Alper: That's excellent! Ewan, you have a fantastic background! Could you update our readers/investors on your background, your Team and your Board?

Ewan Downie: I started with a purely exploration background and was fortunate to have had the opportunity to build a mining company. My first venture into the public sector was a Company called Wolfden Resources, Inc. that had both base metal and gold assets. In fact, Premier Gold mines, which we just sold, was a spin-off of Wolfden. Subsequent to Wolfden being acquired in 2007, we focused on growing Premier. Premier was recently acquired by Equinox for almost double the value of what Wolfden was taken over for.

The Team that we have assembled to run i-80 Gold is made up of some of the Premier Team Members, but also a number of new executives and Board members. Matt Gollat, EVP of Corporate & Business Development, was a key member of the Team that assisted building Premier and our portfolio. We have hired Matt Gili to join as President and COO. Matt brings a very strong track record of success in operations in Nevada, having run for Barrick and then Nevada Gold Mines, the Cortez operation where he was previously the General Manager. Brent Kristof on our Team was previously the GM at the Turquoise Ridge Mine, which is immediately north of our Getchell property.

As for the Board, we have several of the people that have been with me for years at Premier and also some new additions, including Ron Clayton who has joined us as Chairman. Ron is a very successful mining developer and operator, with tremendous experience in the United States. One of his more recent positions was President and CEO of Tahoe Resources. We have a very well-rounded Team, who has had successes in mergers and acquisitions, exploration and mining development and operations.

Dr. Allen Alper: That’s a very strong, well balanced and accomplished Team! It's great to have such strong leadership and the right properties to be well-funded! You're in a unique position in the mining business.

Ewan Downie: Yes. We're looking forward to working with this new Team. The head office for i-80 will be in Reno, Nevada. So, we are making our home base Nevada. The Company is currently traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol IAU and we will be working towards a U.S. listing in the future.

Dr. Allen Alper: That's excellent, Ewan! Could you tell our readers/investors more about your share and capital structure?

Ewan Downie: The Company starts with just over 180 million shares outstanding that includes shares that were spun out to our shareholders and Equinox owns 30% of the Company. We recently completed a fairly large financing that has resulted in the Company having a very strong balance sheet. We also issued shares to Waterton as part of the deal to acquire the Getchell property. The largest shareholder of the Company is Equinox, with 30%, and there are several funds that hold sizeable positions including Fidelity, Orion and Sprott. Combined with Waterton, this group likely owns over 20% of the outstanding shares. Management is also a significant owner, led by myself and my family, that purchased more than 5% of the recent financing.

Dr. Allen Alper: It's great to see Management have confidence in you and the Company and to invest their own money and finances in the Company. So that's great. Ewan, could you tell our readers/investors the primary reasons they should consider investing in i-80 Gold?

Ewan Downie: The primary reason people should invest in i-80 Gold is for its strong Management Team, with a very successful history of mining development and corporate development and building companies. First and foremost, invest in the Team who's been there and done it before. i-80 is also a Company that has production, cash flow, and a very strong balance sheet with no debt. I believe that amongst the gold market’s smaller producers, i-80 has one of the top organic growth profiles with permits to achieve that growth, which is even more important.

If you look at some of our peer group, comprised of smaller producers and companies, looking to develop mines in the Americas, we currently trade with one of the lower market caps, offering significant upside to shareholders. The capital requirements for us to build out our mines are at the low end of that group. We started trading on Tuesday of this week and if you check the insider trading reports, insiders are already buying in the open market - Management has already been increasing ownership!

Dr. Allen Alper: It sounds like a great opportunity for readers/investors. I've been working with you and talking with you since 2003. I know the great accomplishments you have made with your Team and you're in a great location. I think those are very compelling reasons to invest in i-80 Gold. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Ewan Downie: No, I think we hit all the main points and thank you for interviewing me again. It's always great to talk with you and in the near future, hopefully we’ll watch the gold price have another major upward trend. I believe the fundamentals are still extremely strong for gold and the gold environment. We were starting to see central banks once again purchasing gold. I think that's a testament to it being a key store of value. I believe that gold is a core asset for every individual to own.

Dr. Allen Alper: Sounds like it's great timing for investing in gold, and your Company is a very excellent choice for someone who wants to increase his wealth through the purchase of gold.

Ewan Downie: Well, thank you very much.

Dr. Allen Alper: We’ll publish your press releases as they come out so our readers/investors can follow your progress.

Ewan Downie, CEO

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