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There's no shortage of senior gold producers moving to buy juniors, and the price tags are getting bigger and bigger.

It's an interesting trend, given that bankers say that acquirers are moving to grab promising gold exploration companies at earlier stages in their development. That means more risk, but potentially more upside as the juniors drill out their targets further in the senior's portfolio. There's serious thirst for growth at the senior level, as markets have started to value upside with a higher multiple than size, a turnabout from past years.

But moving earlier isn't making acquisitions any cheaper now that this has become the era of the billion-dollar gold explorer.

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In its Junior Mining Weekly report, Canaccord Genuity notes that there are now at least 17 companies in the exploration business that are worth more than $1-billion. Two of them, Ventana Gold and Fronteer Gold, are the targets of takeover bids. Others, like Osisko, are moving to put their own mines in production now that they are so big they will be hard to take out.

Here's the list:

1 Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.

2 Osisko Mining Corporation

3 NovaGold Resources Inc.

4 Gabriel Resources, Ltd.

5 Detour Gold Corporation

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6 Tahoe Resources Inc.

7 Fronteer Gold Inc.

8 Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

9 Ventana Gold Corp.

10 Seabridge Gold, Inc.

11 Perseus Mining Ltd.

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12 Romarco Minerals Inc.

13 Great Basin Gold Ltd.

14 Nevsun Resources Ltd.

15 Mirabela Nickel Ltd.

16 Rubicon Minerals Corporation

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