Serabi Gold (LSE: SRB, TSX: SBI) – It’s bigger than everything we see (Transcript)

Serabi Gold PLC
  • LSE: SRB, TSX: SBI
  • Shares Outstanding: 59M
  • Share price GB£0.92 (14.05.2020)
  • Market Cap: GB£54M

Interview with Michael Hodgson, CEO of gold producer, Serabi Gold (LSE:SRB, TSX:SBI).

Serabi Gold has been one of our favourite gold stories. Share price has trebled since we started following them. The team has managed to create a strong, stable operation at the Palito and Sao Chico gold mines in Brazil, but with the debt financing agreement (convertible loan notes) for second acquisition, Coringa, looking to be settled, Serabi Gold can push the cross-mine AISC down towards the US$1,000/oz figure, and double production to c. 80,000oz+ per annum of gold.

The Q1/20 production figures were released recently.

– Cash position
– US$14.23M at year-end
– Net cash – USD$5M
– AISC slightly up on 2018: US$1,081/oz
– EBITDA – US$17.2M
– Average gold price received
– US$1,376 – Total mined ore up 8% (at an average grade of 7%)

COVID-19 has negatively impacted most gold producers, but Serabi Gold has managed to successfully mitigate any potential ramifications. It has achieved this through sensible workplace safety practices, and the health & safety stats are also pleasing. Rotating the workforce has been very effective. Any junior gold miner would be chuffed with those numbers. Serabi Gold has now started allocating some money towards exploration for the first time in a while. With its strong cash flow, and with most of its debt finally being repaid, Serabi Gold has now freed up its capital for growth. This could get the market even more excited. The focus is currently on step-out drilling at the west of Sao Chico. Hodgson thinks the company is working its way towards a geophysical anomaly that the company has already been drilling at. There is a possibility the 2 could connect, resulting in some serious upside for Serabi Gold.

What about the much-discussed ore sorter, which could have a further transformative impact on Serabi Gold’s economics? Serabi Gold recently conducted a preliminary test on it. What is the feedback? Hodgson claims the thing is “absolutely singing,” which will be music to gold investors’ ears. He doesn’t have the stats for April just yet, but in March it was upgraded to pass 2,500t at a grade of c. 3g/t, and it screened out a little over 300t at a grade of 21g/t, the rest was 2,200t at a grade of 0.7g/t. Through April, the grades at Palito (50% of feed ore) went up from the usual grade of 6.5g/t to 9g/t. Overall, combined with the non-ore-sorted Sao Chico ore, it is giving the average grade a 1g/t uplift. This might not sound like a lot, but it’s a big change. He expects another healthy increase in the Palito feed grade through April, which will free up space at the production plant to use for better quality material. Smart.

Will the exploration plans distract Serabi Gold from Coringa? It’s certainly a nice problem to have, with organic growth in the company’s “backyard.” Hodgson states Coringa is still just as important. Adding ounces at a low cost gives Serabi the cash flow it needs to grow, and he is not going to forget that anytime soon. Coringa is a very advanced project that Hodgson will continue to focus on. Another focus will be on the areas surrounding Serabi Gold’s producing assets because the company will eventually need to expand its processing plant somewhere. The company has been successful at chasing high-grade veins, but now Hodgson is talking the language of bulk production. However, one of the biggest problems in Brazil is power. He claims the mining infrastructure is improving in the region every day. The company is constantly assessing its cost profile, and its eventual wish is to add in some open-pit production.

Hodgson acknowledges that Brazil is struggling, especially with its lack of medical infrastructure, but states he is confident Serabi will do what it can to keep producing. He states Serabi Gold might not make the guidance numbers it predicated at the pre-COVID-19 start of the year, but if the company reaches 90% of it, nobody will complain, especially at the current gold price. The exchange rate is also on the company’s side.

We Discuss:

  1. 2:17 – Update on Progress: Q1 Numbers
  2. 3:50 – Ore Sorter Preliminary Test Results: Performing as Expected?
  3. 5:41 – Press Release on Exploration: An In-Depth Look into Findings
  4. 14:46 – Distractions from the Coringa Gold Project or Value Building Exercise
  5. 16:49 – Bulk vs High Grade: Preparation for New Opportunity
  6. 18:18 – Country Dynamics to Affect Q2 Results?

CLICK HERE to watch the full interview.

Matthew Gordon: Hey Mike, how are you doing, Sir?

Mike Hodgson: Very well, thank you. Good to see you, Matt.

Matthew Gordon: Yes, good to see you. Are you bearing up still?

Mike Hodgson: Yes. Yes. We’re sort of running our operations remotely. We have daily calls, probably two or three calls a day, you know, thank god for Zoom and Skype and WhatsApp and anything else.

Matthew Gordon: It is a game changer. It is a game changer. We have seen your press release and I was interested because it is very different from what you normally talk about and I wanted to kind of get into it. Normally we have this conversation about production and productivity and what’s happening on site, but this is more around exploration at site almost. So, but let’s kick off first. I do need that usual update. So what is happening? Last month you had a bumper month. Have you been able to recreate that in April?

Mike Hodgson: Absolutely. We have. We’ve had another great month. It has really been superb. It is probably, we haven’t quite finalised the numbers yet, but they’re going to be close to 3,500oz, so great way to start a Q2/20, and we still hope that we’re going to be north of 9,000oz for the quarter, which in the circumstances is absolutely fabulous. The guys at site are working really well. We’ve managed to begin to, we’ve got some testing of some tests and we are managing to work out a system of actually rotating about 10 people a week at the moment. So we test people, we bring those 10 people to site. They’re in a separate part of the camp, which is quarantined. They spend sort of eight days there being quarantined and as long as the doctor’s happy with them and they’re all temperature tested, et cetera, they’re all fine they get integrated into the workforce.

That said, the guys at site have been brilliant. I mean, they normally work like 30-15 rostas and some of those guys have been there for 60-days now and they don’t want to leave. They keep going and we’re paying them a little bit of a bonus to keep the enthusiasm going and the motivation, and it is really showing you the numbers. I mean, the health and safety stats, before anyone gets alarmed, are fine: absolutely good. And the production stats are absolutely wonderful. So, you know, yes, I’m just delighted, delighted with the way the operation is going at the moment.

Matthew Gordon: Okay. And what about this ore-sorter? You have kind of done some preliminary tasks and you gave us some initial feedback as to what it has been able to do. Again, is that still performing as expected?

Mike Hodgson: The thing is absolutely singing, I haven’t got the stats for April yet, but in in March, it was upgrading, I think, just loosely in March has given me a bit of an idea; we passed about 2,500t at a grade of around 3g/t, and it screened out a little over 300t at a grade of 21g/t and the rest was 2,200t, the balance, at a grade of 0.7g/t. So it absolutely scavenged all this high-grade Gold.

Now, through April, our Palito grades, eventually go on, the normal Palito grades, because we’re only putting on the Palito part of the deposit at moment, the Palito grades, which generates about 50% of our ore feed, let’s say, the grades would normally have balanced sort of 6.5g/t, 7g/t, and we are basically passing about 9g/t.

So you know, overall, it is meaning, if you combine that with the Sao Chico ore as well, which doesn’t get ore-sorted, it is giving our feed grade at the plant about a 1g/t uplift. Now, 1g/t might not sound like a lot but if your feed grade is 7g/t and it is going to 8g/t, 8.5g/ – big difference. So, it is brilliant. It is working really well.

So yes, I’m looking forward, I mean I haven’t got them yet, but I think they’ll be a very significant contribution and another healthy increase in the Palito feed grade through April. That’s why we’re getting these extra ounces. That’s where it is coming from. It is taking waste out of the feed before it goes to the plant and using that plant capacity with better quality material. That’s the key.

Matthew Gordon: Okay. So that’s great. I mean I guess we’ll get a proper update from you maybe later this month if you can. I want to talk about this press release though. There’s some really nice numbers in here, but I think the bigger story in here is that you’re putting money towards exploration, which you haven’t done for some time. So, because obviously you’re producing, you’re throwing off cash now. So, tell me what you’re aiming to do here, what’s the plan here?

Mike Hodgson: Well, just to touch on your point there about that; I mean, we ever since we put Palito back in production in 2014 and we acquired Sao Chico a year or so later and then put that into production as well, we raised just enough money to do that and not, well, in fact, not quite enough, and we went to Sprott –  a great lender and we borrowed money off Sprott twice. USD$8M, which we paid off, and USD$8M again, which we’ve only got USD$2M left to pay on that and it will be gone by the end of June. So, we’ve basically paid USD$16 million, we borrowed USD$16M of debt and paid it off on a cashflow. So, we’ve never had money for exploration really, we have just been servicing and paying off debt. So, the opportunity for excavation was pretty much parked bar, you know, immediate mine site, head frame explorations, I like to call it, in around Palito and Sau Chico.

But obviously what we did in 2018, we did do a financing. We raised over USD$20M and we did set aside a chunk of money for exploration for the first time in about five years. So, it was great. But perhaps first I’ll talk about the Sao Chico exploration results, which is part of that headframe exploration I just talked about. And that is ongoing program. We have done a couple of releases already this year. It is the continued step out drilling of the Sao Chico extension, westerly, which we’re doing. And I think if one looks at the images in the press release, it is getting very interesting that as we actually stepped out West at Sao Chico, which is all we’re doing beyond the mine limits with surface drilling, we are working our way towards a geophysical anomaly, which is called Cicada, which we’ve also been drilling. And what the compelling thing here is, it is beginning to look like we’ve got the various sort of interesting possibility that this is all going to join up.

So essentially, what we’re drilling is the gap; the gap between Sao Chico and this geophysical anomaly called Cicada.

Matthew Gordon: So, let’s look at that. There’s a couple of diagrams in the press release. Do you mind sort of talking me through those?

Mike Hodgson:  Well, if we look here, we can see the Sao Chico deposit. You can see the mine limits down there in the sort of the South East corner. And that’s what we’ve been mining over the last few years. It is open to the South East, which is the area called Highway. We’ve got no holes in this release on that area at the moment. We are going to go back there, but we’ve been focusing on the area to the West. You can see there, I know it is not exactly showing the scale, but you can see we’ve got sort of 6 or 7 holes now in that area beyond the Western limit of the mine area, going towards that Lake area.

Now, we’ve got some really nice intersections in there, minable grades. Of course, what’s beginning to interest us is, at the same time with this release, we’ve got our first results from the Cicada anomaly. Now, those sort of coloured areas you see to the West there, they’re all to terrestrial or geophysical anomalies, which we obtained from the site last year. And we actually started drilling at the beginning of this year.

We’ve got our first our first sort of start results. So, we’re drilling, not with core drilling here, we’re drilling with what’s RC drilling. So, it is much courser drilling where you just collect rock chips. You don’t get such an accurate sample, but it is kind of discovery drilling. But there’s enough there for us to get pretty excited about. We’ve got three metres at 2g/t, including one at over 5g/t, which is very, very Gold bearing. And the interesting point is it is bang on projection of the Sao Chico ore zone and as we’re moving West it is becoming to become quite possible for us that these things might all join together, which is really very interesting.

So now, if we look at that in terms of the long section, so now we can see long section-wise, the mine on the right hand side, you can see all the levels in blue, you can see the areas we’ve been mining and are mining in yellow. And you can see where we’re drilling all around the edges, obviously to the West, sorry, to the East, at depth. We still have some intersections right down there at the bottom and the mine is going down and down and down. But we’re drawn in a drill, that area to the West of the mind, the information gap as I call it, between Sau Chico and Cicada, that is a terrestrial geophysics anomaly, which we’ve just actually started drilling and got those hits up at the top. So, we’ve got a nice area, about 6,000 to 7,800m there to fill in, and we’re just stepping along, going West, time, time and time. The last intersections we actually got were not so wide, but the structure was still going strong and it was still over 1g/t.

But you can see in there, we’re picking up some really nice numbers; we’ve got over 5n at 12g/t, another sort of 12g/t in there. So right at the top there we’ve got nearly 2 metres to 28g/t. So it is some really nice numbers and a big area to obviously justify extending that mine West as we go. And we’ll just continue drilling that gap all the way to Cicada. And if this thing joins up, we’re sitting on some pretty, some pretty nice resource growth at Sao Chico.

Okay. So here we have the results of that airborne geophysics survey with the geochemistry superimposed. When we first received this, we were pretty, well pretty excited about this because there we have the Palito mine at the top where our plant deposit is, and Sao Chico down there in the Southwest corner.

And never in a moment did we think we’d have this huge geophysical magnetic, anomalous high with all those little black areas. They are the little, they’re the electromagnetic anomaly, which is another type of geophysics, and they are usually an indicator of massive sulphide. So, you can see, there’s a chain of them that sit on the flank – so that big magnetic highlight.

It is a huge feature and it obviously makes us think that there’s a different rock type, a favourable rock type of sulphide mineralization. And we obviously have those black dots that give the electromagnetic highs going along with it. So, what we’ve done, we’ve actually superimposed soil geochemistry over the top and hey ho, we’ve got a nice coincidental Copper anomaly as well.

So, the plan now is to hone in on those anomalies and actually see if we get a coincidental Gold anomaly. And you can see down there on the Cinderella shear, we do. And that’s got a really nice series of contiguous Golden anomolies there. So that’s really excellent. And what we’re going to do there is do even tighter lines like closest space sampling and see if we can join all those, if they become, they join up and actually become a really nice continuity anomaly there, make those drill-ready.

But probably the two that really excite us now is this one area called Calico and Jura, which are over at the West end. Really looking at the closeup apps, Calico and Jura. We, this is an area where we’ve actually already taken the Copper soil samples that were anomalous and re-assayed them for Gold and got some really terrific results. And you can see there at Calico, we’ve got a series of really high grade, 30 parts per billion Golden soil anomalies. And they, interestingly enough, I look at that, I see the orientation of those anomalies and they are exactly the same orientation strike, as we call it as the Palito deposit. So, I think that’s going to be a big stack of veins, just like at Palito. And I’m sure that’s what that’s going to end up being. The geology is very similar, so it really does look like a Palito copy so far, at this stage, from a geochemical anomaly viewpoint. There are only 5km to Palito, so it is pretty easy to actually start something there and truck it up to the Palito plants. That’s not going to be an issue.

And to the South, we’ve got this one called Jura, now, this one probably is even more exciting because it has all the components that you would want to see for some type of scalable deposit. It is over a kilometre in diameter. It has got coincidental Copper, Gold and other elements like molybdenum, tellurium bismuth. Multi elements that you would actually find in a porphyry type deposit. And we already know the rocks that we have are right for that. So, these are the two that we actually want to sort of move forward with and get close to space sampling on, see if we can tighten these up and all being well, drill them in Q4/20 and see what we can find there.

It is looking very much like a Palito: the rocks are the same. It is only 5km from Palito, so it is pretty exciting.

Matthew Gordon: Okay. So what I’m hearing is that you’re very excited. I can hear that and you know how you’re going to tackle it. I guess, people, you know, shareholders and people are looking at you afresh are going to be like, well, is this going to distract you from the work that you’re going to do at Coringa?

Mike Hodgson: I’ve been asked that a few times from investors in the past, and obviously, I suppose it is a nice problem to have. We’ve got such good organic growth upside in our backyard. Look, Coringa is very advanced, established, as you, as you quite rightly say; it is a Palito lookalike and it is going to do very nicely. Thank you.

I think what these results show us is how important organic growth is as well. You know, we can actually add ounces in our own backyard very cheaply. We can actually find satellite deposits which are all sort of built, dovetailed into our sort of plant expansion plans, whether they be at Palito or Sao Chico. So it is important to realise that potential in and around our 2 producing areas to see where are we going to do a plant expansion, which obviously we need to do at some point in time. And  this is what it is about.

I suppose I would like to add though that, you know, when you see something so big on the geochemical anomalies and the geophysical anomalies like this, we are mining high-grade veins at Palito, at Sao Chico and we will be at Coringa. But the scale of these anomalies, the size of them is, and the rock types they’re in, do look very similar to what the Anglo Americans of the world were looking at in Matagroso state in the South. And you know, not that we’re going to jump into bed with Anglo American or RTZ or any major, we’ve had several visits at site about these guys, wanting to come and look at what we’ve got. They’re very excited about it also; about the potential.

You know, these big magnetic anomalies are indicative of magnetic altered granites, which are usually hosts for bulk, porphyry type mineralisation. And so, we’re pretty excited about that we might have something, some real scale in our own backyard. So, you know, all we can do now is work our way through the process, prove the mineability.

Matthew Gordon: That’s kind of interesting to me. So, obviously, you have been used to chasing high-grade veins and you’re good at it, you know, you have been able to do it economically and you are obviously throwing off cash at the moment, but you are now talking the language of a different type of opportunity. You’re talking about bulk. I presume therefore, more homogenous low-grade type activity. Are you equipped or set up to deal with that as well?

Mike Hodgson: Well, a fair bit of water is going to flow into the bridge first. I mean, obviously I think, you know, one of the biggest challenges in the region is power, and that’s why probably high-grade veins work in this part of the world at the moment. But it is I think, I think as every day passes in this part of Brazil, you know, the road improvement and infrastructure improvements happening. You know, I think there’s a lot of will to actually improve the power situation in the region. And certainly, we can look at that. It just depends on the scale. But certainly, one thing that we want to do is, is address our cost profile and you know, adding in some open pit production one day with our sort of high-grade vein in mining is our wish. That’s our wish. And if we can do it organically, all the better, all the better.

Matthew Gordon: Fantastic. Okay. Well look, Mike, it sounds like things are going well. You’re coping with COVID-19, keeping the numbers flowing, which, I guess, should excite the market because I think others are struggling somewhat there. Should we expect more of the same for Q2? Or is it just see how it goes? Because what’s happening in-country, I guess is where I’m getting to?

Mike Hodgson: Well it is, Brazil is struggling and there’s no doubt and there’s no denying that. We are remaining very isolated from what’s actually happening outside. You know, people only need to read the news and see; there’s a lot of, particularly in the north of Brazil, they haven’t got the infrastructure, the medical infrastructure that we enjoy in in Europe or the US. So it certainly is challenging. What we’re doing, we think we have found a formula for rotating the workforce. The workforce has become very, very flexible and they’re working much longer periods of time than they normally would work. And as long as that will stays, we think we can find a way through of having a good Q2/20 and now we think we can have a very reasonable Q3/20. We might not make the guidance numbers that we said at the beginning of the year, but I think if we got 90% of it, no one’s going to complain. And to be perfectly honest, with the Gold price that we’ve got, 9,400, 9,500/Real an oz, and certainly making 3,000 pounds plus months, our cash flow is going to be in pretty good shape.

Matthew Gordon: And is the exchange working in your favour?

Mike Hodgson: Very much so. Very much so. That’s huge. I mean, the exchange rate today is BRLR$5.3/USD$1. BRLR$5.42 you know, our budgets were done at 3.70, so it is a, yes, let’s say that costs 85% in reals, and you know, exchange rate, 9,500 Reals/oz. You know, two months ago it was 6,000 Real/oz, it is a great time to be a producer in Brazil. Well from an economic perspective.

Matthew Gordon: Certainly. Certainly, yes. Mike, thanks very much for that update. You know, your story we quite like and we follow you avidly because I think that the potential is there and I think with, maybe, exploring; the possibility of adding bulk to this high-grade story could be very interesting for you. So, keep us up to date about things going on. I guess it is very fluid at the moment, so I appreciate the phone call.

Mike Hodgson: Many thanks.

Company Website: https://www.serabigold.com/

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