Last year was an interesting year for gold investors. In January 2016, the gold price per ounce had fallen to $1,060 after reaching highs of $1,230 in 2015. By July 2016, the precious metal climbed to highs of $1,365 per ounce before plunging on a rollercoaster trajectory to $1,150 by year-end. (See also: What Drives the Price of Gold?)

Gold is climbing again in 2017, trading at around $1,225 per ounce as of Feb. 12. GLD, the SPDR ETF that tracks gold bullion, is up nearly 6% year to date. Perhaps this is because gold has traditionally been perceived as a safe haven investment in times of economic uncertainty – and no one can argue that major shakeups such as Brexit​, the oil price collapse and even the outcome of the U.S. presidential election have contributed to a general feeling of unpredictability. (See also: Gold Prices Soar on Brexit.)

If you're interested in getting in on the movement in gold prices, you have many options besides gold-indexed ETFs or purchasing a stash of the precious metal. Some of the hottest gold stocks for 2017 are mining and exploration companies – and even a company that reprocesses tailings to recover gold. Take a look at these picks for top gold and gold mining stocks to gain exposure to the market this year. (See also: The Gold Showdown: ETFs vs. Futures.) Companies were chosen on the basis of year-to-date performance and all figures are as of February 12, 2017.

1. McEwen Mining Inc. (MUX)

McEwen is based in Toronto and operates mines in Argentina, Mexico and the United States. It is a large company, with a market cap of $1.27 billion. McEwan posted yearly revenue of $73 million in 2015, representing annual revenue growth of over 177%. As of Feb. 12, the gold mining stock was trading at around $4.23 per share, up 166% over the past 12 months.

Of particular interest to investors, McEwen lowered its guidance for all-in sustaining costs (AISC) to $860 per ounce, down from $935 in previous years, putting the company in a competitive range for this all-important metric. Gold production in 2016 was 101,000 ounces, and the company projects steady growth over the next two years to 139,000 ounces by 2019. (See also: McEwan Mining Appoints New Chief Operating Officer.)

2. Klondex Mines Ltd. (KLDX)

Klondex is another Canadian mining company. It has a market cap of around $1.3 billion and posted annual revenue of $155 million in 2015. Klondex is focused on developing its properties in Nevada – mainly the Fire Creek and Midas mines – as well as the Rice Lake mine in Manitoba, Canada. Production is definitely on the rise, with a compound annual growth rate of over 80% since 2013. The company produced over 150,000 ounces of gold in 2016.

As of Feb. 12, Klondex stock was trading at $5.67 a share, up 110% over the past 12 months. However, it is notable that its operational guidance for 2017 indicates an AISC range of between $1,070 and $1,130 per ounce – a bit on the high side. (See also: Does It Still Pay to Invest in Gold?)

3. Compania de Minas Buenaventura S.A.A. (BVN)

BVN is headquartered in Peru and operates the Orcopampa, Uchucchacua, Julcani, Mallay and Breapampa mines. It also has a controlling interest in three other Peruvian precious metals mining companies. This is a mid-tier company with a market cap of $3.8 billion and annual revenues approaching $1 billion in 2015, representing year-over-year growth of 5.8%.

The gold stock was trading at $13.88 as of Feb. 12, up 152.8% over the past year and above its median 12-month price target of $13.50. On the company's third quarter 2016 earnings call, it reported dramatic improvements in AISC to just $571, down 51% from the same period in 2015. (See also: Trending Stocks to Buy on the Pullback.)

4. DRDGOLD Limited (DRD)

This is a South African company headquartered in Johannesburg. It has a market cap of $268 million and posted annual revenue of $182 million in fiscal 2016, a 16% increase over the previous year. DRDGOLD is not a traditional mining company – it makes its money reprocessing tailings (waste products) from gold dumps to recover the precious metal.

The gold stock was trading at $6.33 as of Feb. 12, an increase of 86% over the past year. DRDGOLD is an investor favorite due to its strong free cash flow and the strength of its dividend performance, which currently yields about 6%. (See also: DRDGOLD Stock Trades Ex-Dividend Wednesday.)

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