Interview with John Black, CEO of Aldebaran Resources (TSX-V:ALDE)
The third company from Regulus Resources’ management team, Aldebaran Resources is an “exciting” copper-gold play based in San Juan Province, Argentina.
Their flagship project, Altar, is a large copper-cold site obtained for a discounted value from a different mining company. Aldebaran, in conjunction with precious metals mining company, Sibanye Stilwater, are currently in the process of re-evaluating the project. Drilling began in January 2019, but time must be taken for exploration and the conduction of a logging program.
While the well-established track records of the Regulus Management team will instill confidence in many a prospective investor, the financials are slightly concerning. Share price has been as high as 90, but this year it’s plummeted down to 35. The company is also sitting on significantly less cash than it was in February, which begs the question: if the value of shares has gone down, how has Regulus used its cash reserves to add value?
Another concern will be the priorities of the management team. With so much already on their plates with Regulus, is Aldebaran a fledgling project that will find itself neglected? John Black offers some reassurance; a drill program on another Aldebaran project has begun in Aguas Calientes, and the primary asset, Altar, demonstrates immense potential, with over 2.5 billion tonnes of low-grade copper-gold mineralisation, and the promise of significant zones with a much higher grade.
The Route 1 group are significant shareholders with nearly 50% ownership of Aldebaran. This can provide long-term stability but for retail investors, there will be concerns regarding such high ownership levels from a single group. Will Route 1’s priorities align with the remainder of Aldebaran’s shareholders?
What did you make of John Black? Is Aldebaran Resources a promising prospect, or is it more of a pipe dream? Comment below.
1:23 – Company Overview
2:26 – Company Financials and the Share Price Drop of 2/3: What Happened?
7:40 – Getting the Share Price Up: Will it be Possible?
12:02, 21:33 – Challenges and Opportunities for Raising Money
17:25 – History of Aldebaran and its Potential
Company page: https://www.aldebaranresources.com/
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Matthew Gordon: Hello, John, how are you?
John Black: Hi. Doing well, thanks. How are you?
Matthew Gordon: We recently spoke about Regulus. Want to talk about the spin out which is Aldebaran. Could you give a one-minute summary for people new to this story, please?
John Black: Aldebaran is the third company from our same management team. Our first company, Antares Minerals, was sold to First Quantum in 2010 for about $650MIL. From that, we formed Regulus, which has the exciting Anta Kori Copper Gold project in northern Peru. And then we recently identified the opportunity for another exciting copper gold project called Altar, which is in San Juan Province in Argentina. And that forms the flagship project for Aldebaran. And it’s a large copper gold project. It’s one that was drilled out and previously purchased by a mining company. It was not a good fit with that company. And we identified an opportunity to pick it up for pennies on the dollar. We’ve captured that. We’re in the process right now of re-evaluating the project ourselves. And in the very near term, you’ll begin to see us demonstrating the full potential of this project.
[02:23] Matthew Gordon: Beautiful. Thanks, John. Let’s start with the money side of things. So, you’re sitting on quite a bit of cash at the moment to develop the Aldebaran project, somewhere in the region of 11-12MIL bucks, is that right?
John Black: Oh, no. We’re actually at about $5MIL on the project right now.
Matthew Gordon: OK sorry. You’re right, that’s from February 2019. Good. Just sticking with the financials, share price, it’s been as high as 90, this year’s down at around 35 at the moment. What do you put that down to?
John Black: Well, when we captured this project, what we did is we had projects in Argentina as part of Regulus Resources that we had parked while we focused on the Anta Kori project. But we realized we had value in those. But we needed a little bit more to form a solid package of projects: a solid portfolio projects in Argentina. So, when we saw the opportunity to acquire Altar, we saw the opportunity to spin out and form a new company in Aldebaran. And we spun that out at a set price that was based on what our principal investors were willing to put in to get that setup at. And then the market settled that price down into where the market saw that, at that time. It’s a new project or a project that hasn’t been seen for some time on this. It’s in Argentina, which is a little bit less of a mining country. And so, we’ve seen a natural drift off on this as many of the investors that received Antares shares as spin offs, decided that they wanted to cash those shares out and put the money to work on projects that maybe had a more immediate opportunity to. And so, we’re now in the in the phase where we’re quietly putting together the Altar project and we’ll begin to reveal that value on the project over the course of the next year or two. And we’ve also just set up to begin to drill on our Aguas Caliente phase. So, a lot of the drift off has just been it’s a new company. There are projects that have not really seen much news on, as we’ve set it up in the years, it’s kind of in that initial stage where we’re consolidating and putting everything together, but we’re now in a position to begin to put out new drill results with the Aguas Caliente drilling. Aguas Caliente is a high-grade cup or high-grade gold silver opportunity that we see in Argentina, that drilling will start on in the next few weeks and we’ll soon be able to reveal how we see the Altar project and what the potential value is. And so, it’s a great time to get into a quiet story that’s just not really noticed by the market.
[05:02] Matthew Gordon: Okay. I think as denoted by me getting the cash position wrong, your PowerPoint is from March 2019. You talked about starting to tell the story and I know you’ve got a PR presence, foreign personnel on board to start doing this. And you spent clearly 6-7MIL bucks since we last spoke. So, what are you going to be able to tell people about what’s happened to date?
John Black: We’ve recently just come out with the drill results from the field campaign earlier this year at the Altar project. And so, we drilled four long holes into the system, discovered a brand-new zone on the system, and have announced some very long consistently mineralized intervals. We’re talking about intervals of 800-1000-meter intervals of a +.5% copper equivalent with higher grade zones within those. So, that drilling was done to help us understand better the geometry of the mineralization in the system. We’re currently relogging the existing 115,000 meters of drilling that had been completed previously on the project, and with the new drilling and our re-evaluation of the old drilling on this, we’ll be able to present to the market over the next several months how we see this project really looking. It’s known as a very large but low-grade deposit and we view that that is what it is. But within that, there are distinctly higher-grade zones. And we want to reveal the importance, the economic importance of those higher-grade zones within the deposit. So, there’s a lot of geologic work we have to do in the background on this. We have put some of those results out quite recently. And they’re there for those that want to look for a good opportunity like this. But we’ll be able to show that in better ways in terms of how those higher-grade zones look in the in the course of the next few months.
[07:08] Matthew Gordon: Right. So, it is interesting bit for me as a shareholder, I make money by share price going up. The share price has been hit, there’s been some resetting, I think you’ve called it, also maybe some market conditions, market nervousness around trade wars. And as we spoke with Regulus, you spent 6-7MILbucks within the last six months. You’ve no sense of whether you’ve got a dollar for dollar return there or not because the share price is down. What do you think you’re going to be able to do with the next 5MILbucks, which is going to drive to share price back up, or is that just not going to be possible for you?
John Black: We wouldn’t be spending this money if we didn’t think it was a good investment. We think of this money as our own money. We’re heavy investors. And keep in mind that as management we own nearly 18% of Aldebaran. And so, we think very carefully when we put this money in. Our business model is predicated on us identifying opportunities that we can capture at a bottom in the market, either due to lower prices in the market or in the case of Altar it was a project that was held by a company where it didn’t fit, and they were willing to part with that project. So, we captured this project for much less than it would cost to drill out, what’s known on it right now. And then it takes us many times a number of years for us to either drill the project out or in this case, to partially drill it out, but partially re-evaluate and identify clearly more economically viable portions of the project. So, this project is one of the larger copper resources that’s out there in the hands of a junior, potentially available for a major mining company to acquire. Major mining companies are not finding these projects themselves. And many of them are very optimistic that there will be a necessity for a lot more copper in the future as we see further electrification of vehicles and other things that drive copper price on this. And so there will be, I believe, in the next few years be an increased demand for these large copper projects. And we’ve put our hands on a great one right now. And a lot of times when we do that, when we initially acquire, this is not the first time we’ve done this. With the Hickory project we suffered through a couple of years when our market valuations were really low, even though geologically we knew we were on a great project. The same thing happened with Anta Kori and Regulus. And now we’re beginning to reveal the value on this one. I just view with Aldebaran right now, we’re in that early stage where we’ve put our hands on something at a great acquisition opportunity on this. We’re beginning to invest the money into it to reveal, but sometimes the full reveal of that value doesn’t come until just a little bit later on in the project. But there’s not an instant X number of dollars increase in price of our business. A lot of times you’re putting that money in. You’re working on showing the full potential of a project and then that potential gets revealed when we can show the project in its full potential on that. And that just takes us a little while to set up.
[10:24] Matthew Gordon: Sure. So, you’ve got 5MIL bucks on the current run rate. That suggests another five months burn, right? Is that about right?
John Black: No, it’s very lumpy in this company right now because that’s very dependent on when we’re drilling on this. And so, what our plans are right now is, is that we will be drilling the Aguas Calientes and Aldebaran, we have the Altar project, which is our flagship project, the large copper gold play opportunity. But we also have a series of other projects at earlier stages and one in particular has caught our eye called Aguas Calientes. We have very encouraging high-grade copper or high-grade gold silver material on the surface and we’ll be drilling this for a high-grade gold silver epithermal vain opportunity in the course of the next few weeks. So that’s a relatively small drill program. We’ll spend about a $1MIL Canadian on that, which will result in the potential for a new discovery on this and results to come out soon on that. And then in the background, we’re putting everything together to be able to define what the next stage at Altar project is. Probably the first stage of that is to reveal the full potential of it. So, people can begin to see what that opportunity is. And that will determine how much drilling we’d need to do. We have a lot of drilling in Altar already. We have a lot of data there. So, it may be simply having us reveal what’s there by being able to better present in a different light the information that we already have.
[11:50] Matthew Gordon: So, here’s the question. You’ve got 5MIL bucks left. You outlined some of the ways you can spend the money and I guess you’ll prioritize that in the way that your experience tells you to prioritize that. You expect some of those things to have an effect on share price. If they don’t, your market cap stays the way it is. You’re going to need to raise some capital. It’s going to cost you what it’s going to cost you. How are you going to approach that? I know you’re going to tell us story in the market. Really, really well. You’ve said you’re going to start telling the market really well. How do you approach the fund raise when you’ve done these things deliverables on your three projects and the market doesn’t appreciate it yet? They’re not listening to you. Just go ahead and raise small amounts or do you try and say I need to raise 12 months’ worth. What’s your thinking?
John Black: Well, our thinking really on this we’re just as I mentioned, we’re just kicking off a drill program in Aguas Calientes, so we’d like to see what those results are. They have the potential to dramatically change the situation on the project. We will be able to better reveal the full potential of the Altar project as we complete our relogging program and can present that in a little different light. I think what you’ll see us showing is the higher-grade portions of the deposit, which are still extremely large. The current resource is over 2.5BIL tonnes of low-grade copper gold mineralization. On this we view that within that 2.5BIL tonnes there are significant zones of much higher grade that form a deposit by themselves, if you will. And so, we’re in the process of being able to put that together to reveal that. When we show the results from the program at Aguas Calientes we will show our full thoughts on where we’re going with the Altar project. We believe that will warrant an adjustment in the share price on this, which would allow us to raise capital with less dilution. But the important thing is that we move projects forward on that. So, we do have the capability of raising capital somewhat independent of the share price on this. It’s just always best for ourselves as current shareholders and all of our other shareholders to do it at increasingly higher prices.
[14:11] Matthew Gordon: What does that mean? What do you mean we can raise this independent of share price?
John Black: Well, we have some very supportive shareholders. This is a bit of a different structure to a company on this in that we have a group called Route 1 that’s been a strong backer for our team all the way back to the Antares days and they’re strong supporters for Regulus and they own nearly 50% of Aldebaran. Sibanye, the company that we acquired the project from has 20% of the project and his management, and we have 18. So, it’s fairly concentrated shareholders on this. And there’s alignment amongst the shareholders on this that the important thing is to move the project forward. Ideally, we’d love to do this. Our goal is to increase the value in the company, certainly by the end game, which we view as monetization and selling the projects to a mining company at the end of this. But we’re focused more on that end game than we are on day to day on this. But we do believe that the results from Aguas Calientes have the opportunity to bring us back on the map, if you will, on this. And we believe that when we’re in a position to reveal our full vision on what Altar is and what the full potential is, that that’s likely to result in an increase share price. But there are other factors that are beyond our control, like copper price or other things that could affect us as well. So, we have some time on this. And when we’re in a position where we don’t like our share price on this, the important thing is to roll out additional information, so people can understand better what we have and to be cautious. You don’t spend as much, you don’t raise as much on this when your lower share prices. But it’s important that you keep the company moving forward.
Matthew Gordon: But isn’t that kind of your problem. Based on that maths you’ve got 12% of free-floating shares, haven’t you? You’ve got 50, 20 plus 18. Liquidity’s the issue here, right?
John Black: You’ll notice that many of the companies that do well, this is not terribly different than some structures of, say, some of the Lundeen companies and others where you have large concentrated holdings from groups that are very comfortable in the long term on this. It almost becomes a little bit more like a private company structure on this. And sometimes when you’re in a market bottom, that’s a little easier structure to have than when you have a lot of liquidity in a tough market. Liquidity is your friend when the market’s robust and going up, but your enemy when it’s going down on this. And so right now what we focus on is setting the project up, acquiring the project which we’ve done, and then setting it up and getting ready to begin to reveal that. And as we reveal that, and we raise additional capital, that’s where we anticipate we’d be bringing in new investors and increasing that liquidity. But the nice thing is it doesn’t take too much interest in us to move us pretty quickly right now, too, because it’s there not very many shares available. So, if we deliver the results that we believe these projects will deliver, a little bit of demand will have a sharp increase in our share price.
[17:22] Matthew Gordon: Potentially. I think that’s a kind of fine balance. We’ve seen a few companies over this side of the pond who’ve had too much in the hands of one or two shareholders and it’s killed their share price, it had the opposite effect. It’s a balancing act. I appreciate that. But also, it gives me an insight into how you guys are thinking in terms of taking this forward. You know, you believe you’ve got the ability through your current shareholders to get you to a point where you’re comfortable to go out to market and it put some more shares in the market. Understood.
John Black: Keep in mind one thing on this, if we had a project that required a lot more drilling to reveal the full potential on it and a lot more investment on it, that would be one challenge. But here we acquired this project under very good terms, but it’s a project that actually has quite a lot of drilling to it. The Altar project was drilled out by a junior company like ourselves called Peregrine Metals and sold to the Stillwater Mining in 2011 for almost $500MIL U.S. cash at the time. It then stalled. The company that purchased it was not a good fit for the project and it disappeared off the map. So, we acquired it for much less than that. So, you know, right now, when you take a look at our market cap and the size company we have, we have the option to turn 80% of a project that at one point was valued in cash at over nearly $500MIL U.S. and when the copper market was robust. If we returned to that type of a copper market on this, we believe we can show that there’s more to this project than was even known then. And much of that we can do from simply relatively low-cost work to re-examine this and recast the information that’s there so people can better understand that this is not simply an enormous low-grade deposit, but there are distinctly economically more attractive higher-grade zones within it. That’s what we want to reveal to the market. That won’t cost us too much money to do that. That’s a lot of geologic work. We did spend some money this year for the drilling to gather information to better evaluate what we have. But we’re now in a position where we can reveal quite a bit of information about this project without a particularly large spend on it to go forward. And we believe with that information on the table, we’re likely to see a different valuation.
[19:58] Matthew Gordon: So how much money has gone into this company in total then?
John Black: The way we structured this is as I mentioned at Aldebaran was a project that was acquired by Stillwater Mining for $487MIL in 2011. We acquired the option to pick up 80%. So, we had the option to earn 80% of the project for $15MIL U.S, which has been paid and for Sibanye, which was the new owner of the project after they acquired Stillwater, has 20% of Aldebaran as part of the process. And we need to spend $30MIL over the course of 5 years to acquire 60% and $25MIL additionally to go to 80% on the project. So, over the course of the next 8 years, we need to spend $55MIL total to acquire 80% of the project. We’re well ahead on this, we’ve just completed our first year on this and we’ve spent approximately 7 or $8MIL into that work commitment. So, we don’t have to work at that pace right now. We can a little slower as markets a little bit slower on this. But we anticipate we’ll spend that money to acquire the 60% interest within the next four years. So, we have we have time to do that. What we need to do now is to better demonstrate to the market what the potential of this is first. And then we anticipate over the course of the next few years, we’ll see, most likely, an increased interest in these type projects from major companies. And that will likely come as a predicted supply gap in copper emerges and we start to see copper prices move up. And so that will provide us a better environment to raise money at less dilutive costs.
[21:57] Matthew Gordon: So, you don’t feel you’re under any pressure with regards to money as it stands because you can control the pace at which you move forward.
John Black: We can control the pace of it and we have good supporters on it and we’re on a great project with much more value than is currently revealed in our share price on this. But we don’t want to spend all of our effort just trying to get that up in the short term. We really want to set the fundamental situation so that the end game is there. We focus on that maximum value at the point that we would monetize this project by selling it to a major mining company.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. Look John, I think that’s a great reintroduction to what’s going on with Aldebaran. Fascinating. I think if people can pick shares up, might be worth having a look. Well, stay in touch. Let us know what’s going on. Sounds like a bit more drilling to happen as those results come out. Give us a call. Let us know how you’re getting on.
John Black: Yeah. Keep an eye on these Aguas Calientes. That’s a second project in there that has potential to emerge as something pretty exciting on this. And then the real fundamental part of the company to watch is how we reveal that value in Altar. And we’ve discussed a little bit on where the share price is right now. But in our previous two companies, we suffered through these same points where even though we knew we were on a great project, a lot of times takes a while for the market to see that. And the important thing is, is that we will be able to move the project forward. We will have access to the capital we need. We’re no risk of concerns that way.
Matthew Gordon: Good way to finish.
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