YTD Returns: 138% M&A activity in gold mining stocks took off in 2010 and shares of Novagold ( NG) have skyrocketed on the prospect of it being a takeout target for larger miners. The stock has also attracted the interest of big investors including George Soros and John Paulson, owning a combined 33 million shares. NovaGold is considered an attractive target because it's a junior with big properties. The company has two of the largest gold and copper deposits in the world -- Donlin Creek and Galore Creek -- as well as the two smaller properties of Rock Creek and Ambler. >>Will NovaGold Take a Buyout Offer "You've got a very, very low cost gold producer with a silver and gold byproduct credit so naturally that would fit nicely into any major companies portfolio. We're obviously aware that that's a possibility," CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse told TheStreet recently. NovaGold is expected to release a prefeasibility study for Galore in 2011 and Donlin has the potential to produce 25 million ounces of gold. The two properties, however, won't come on stream until 2015 at the earliest.