Aurion Resources (TSX-V: AU) – Big Ambitions, Big Grades for this Gold Explorer

Aurion Resources Ltd
  • TSX-V: AU
  • Shares Outstanding: 83M
  • Share price C$1.27 (02.06.2020)
  • Market Cap: C$106M

Interview with Mark Santarossa, VP Corp. Development of Aurion Resources (TSX-V: AU).

Aurion Resources is a Canadian gold prospector turned explorer that is listed on the TSX-V (TSX-V: AU).

The business strategy appears to be to generate/acquire early-stage precious metal assets and advance them via direct exploration or by business partnerships and JVs. Aurion Resources’ primary focus is on exploring its Flagship Risti and Launi projects, in addition to advancing its joint venture arrangements with Kinross Gold Corp., B2 Gold Corp., and Strategic Resources Inc. in Finland.

Matthew Gordon interviews Mark Santarossa, 28th May 2020

Aurion Resources appears to have quite a large amount of gold within its 80,000ha land holding and it is at surface, so the economics could be favourable. The company is currently conducting a light drilling programme and has c. C$13M in the bank, which should see the company through until the end of 2021. I was keen to hear more about the business model.


Santarossa told us that he chose Finland because of the exciting, underexplored geology. The reason Finland is so prospective is that it didn’t open up to foreign investment until 1995, so there is no long-standing history of exploration. The jurisdiction itself is stable with a strong industrial infrastructure and a good mining code.

The company has been in Finland since 2014 and has some high-grade gold showings via the drill bit. in 2014, the strategy was to be prospectors: generate prospects, set up JVs and move forward. Aurion Resources reached an MoU with B2 Gold in 2015, and the first 51% was executed on in 2019. B2 Gold is now moving towards the second stage, which will raise its stake to c. 70%. In the meantime, Aurion Resources has continued to compile a portfolio of gold properties along the shear zone. The strength of the company appears to be in its prospecting model, and Santarossa was candid: he does not see himself as a gold project developer. Aurion Resources seems to know its place and is avoiding biting off more than it can chew.

Aurion Resources ended 2019 with C$16M, and has burnt through C$3M to this point this year. it seems the cash burn rate has been massively dialled down since COVID-19 reared its head, given that the initial plans appears to have been for the company to spend C$1M per month on geophysical/geochemical operations and assay drilling at its many assets. The burn rate is down to “less than half” of what it was as Aurion Resources sensibly hunkers down to ride out the coronavirus storm. The projects are continuing to progress, just more slowly because there are fewer staff members in the field right now.

The company has suffered from a very erratic share price throughout its tenure on the TSX-V. While this is typical of a prospector model, I want to see more clarity of communication when Aurion Resources explains its value proposition to the market. This seems less like shot-in-the-dark exploration, and more like pragmatic, logical exploration. While it’s still high-risk, I’m liking the straight talking Santarossa.

The share registry breaks down into the following: 14% for the management and board, just under 10% for gold mining giant, Kinross Gold Corporation, 6% for RBC Global Asset Management, 5% for Eric Sprott, 4% for Newmont Gold Corp., plus a number of well-known HNWI investors. For a company at this early a stage of exploration, the large market cap and heavily-institutional share registry is unusual. This appears to be partly down to the high-grade, near-surface nature of the deposits, in addition to the exciting nature of Norway as a mining jurisdiction.

What is the end game strategy? Santarossa is keeping his cards close to his chest and will make a decision about when to exit based on where the market it at the time. He is keen to avoid a company forcing his hand; he wants to stay in control.

What did you make of Mark Santarossa and Aurion Resources? I’m a fan of this story; are you? Comment below and we will get back to you with my thoughts.

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

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

Integra Resources (TSX-V: ITR) – A Renowned Team And Exciting Drill Results

A gold tinted photo of some US$100 bills and a pile of gold coins with a white Crux Investor logo in the top right, and a white Integra Resources logo in the top left.
Integra Resources Corp.
  • TSX-V: ITR
  • Shares Outstanding: 119.6M
  • Share price CAD$1.25 (20.02.2020)
  • Market Cap: CAD$150M

We recently conducted an interview with George Salamis, President & CEO of gold-silver explorer, Integra Resources Corp.

We regularly discuss interesting gold market proceedings on this platform. Check out one of our other recent gold company interviews, or maybe some of our recent informative gold investment articles.

The management team at Integra Resources is the former executive team of Integra Gold Corp, renowned for turning a C$15M gold company into a C$590 million (sold to Eldorado in 2017). What have they got this time around? We discussed:

  1. The share price increase: doubled in less than a year.
  2. Its flagship asset purchased from Kinross Gold Corp. in 2017.
  3. Promising drill results in 2019.
  4. Exploration plans for 2020.

We were also keen to ask why a gold-producing giant like Kinross Gold Corp. would sell its gold-silver asset to Integra Resources unless it was a dud? We explored some very impressive drill results and big plans for 2020. Do shareholders have a reason to get excited? With these results and a management team with such an impressive track record, maybe they do…

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

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

A gold tinted photo of some US$100 bills and a pile of gold coins with a white Crux Investor logo in the top right, and a white Integra Resources logo in the top left.

Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX) – The Sum of the Parts Sets it Apart.

A graph of rising gold bars with a red arrow curving up them.
Equinox Gold Corp.
  • TSX: EQX
  • Shares Outstanding: 113.5M
  • Share price C$9.73 (29.02.2020)
  • Market Cap: C$1.1B

We recently interviewed Christian Milau, CEO of large-cap gold producer, Equinox Gold (TSX: EQX). CLICK HERE to watch the full interview.

Equinox Gold Corp.

Equinox Gold is a story most gold investors should be familiar with: it is the model of how to build a gold producer in a short timeframe. This gold producer has had a remarkable rise over the past 18 months. Its share price hovered around C$5 at the start of 2019 and rose to heights of C$13.54 this year.

However, this week has seen even successful gold producers, like Equinox Gold, have their share prices brought to a shuddering halt, and even drop back. Equinox Gold’s share price has fallen this week alone from C$13.34 to C$9.73; this has been a truly extraordinary and noteworthy week of panic selling of a commodity that has been traditionally positioned and heralded as a ‘safe haven.’ It seems that truism isn’t true.

Let’s try to look to the world before the Coronavirus and hopefully the world after it. I know that may seem like a casual, almost dismissive statement, but it is not meant to be. There is clearly great global concern about the near-term impact on society and business, and possibly in the light of the current media spotlight, a normal future seems implausible, but history tells us that we humans persevere, adapt and survive, and we will again.

So let’s look to the future, if we may.

Equinox Gold was listed around 2 years ago, with the prodigious Ross Beaty as the main shareholder; if you are familiar with the school of ‘Bet on Beaty Bets’ investing, it will be no surprise to see Equinox Gold doing so well. Its founding goal was to become a multi-jurisdiction, large-cap, low-grade, bulk-tonage gold mining company.

Assets

Equinox Gold has a promising portfolio of assets:

  1. Mesquite Gold Mine, a Californian project producing 125,000-145,000oz gold per annum with an AISC of US$930-$980/oz and a grade of 0.46g/t gold (exclusive of reserves)
  2. Aurizona Gold Mine, a Brazilian gold mine producing 75,000-90,000oz per annum with inferred Resources of 1.1Moz @ 1.98g/t gold (with an exploration upside) and an AISC of US$950-$1,025
  3. Castle Mountain Gold Mine, an under-construction gold mine with a PFS and production potential of 200,000oz per annum and a 16-year life-of-mine (LOM)
  4. A copper-focussed spin-out operation in the form of Solaris Copper Inc.

Our Interview

Milau covered a variety of topics. Equinox Gold’s targets have been well and truly delivered. Mesquite and Aurizona are up and running, producing at a reasonable scale with a good AISC. Castle Mountain should be ready to rock by Q3/20.

These have not been without their hiccups; after all, this is mining. Equinox Gold has, however, kept things simple and it is reaping the rewards. The portfolio is focussed. The management team has created a relentless mining business for low-grade bulk processing. Equinox Gold’s message is simple: make strong acquisitions, then get that gold out of the ground!

Equinox Gold's Corp.'s share price for the last year.
Despite a late tail-off, what a year for Equinox Gold!

Equinox Gold has a significant 11% insider ownership: another reassuring fact for investors. The management team has succeeded in attracting a diversified shareholder base since the last time we spoke with Milau.

Milau also discussed Equinox Gold’s spending strategy and his view on the gold macro environment. What does the outlook for the gold market look like for 2020? He states this is only the beginning of this new gold cycle. He is conscious it won’t all be plain sailing in the gold sector, but this is in the early stage of the turn (US$17T of negative-yielding debt, solid stock markets and slowing global growth). Is the best really yet to come? Gold investors will be breathing heavily and hoping for more.

Equinox Gold has no intention of being taken out, and why would it? The company plans to become a long-term investment opportunity that can last through several cycles. Equinox Gold has had great momentum for those seeking fast returns, but it now also looks supremely appealing to those looking for steadier returns. Could it be a dividend payer in the next 2-3 years? Milau suggest so, but that is a long way away, and markets change. Let’s focus on today. Can that share price continue to grow at the same rate?  

As a gold producer, Equinox Gold has the rising gold price working in its favour, should the price continue on its recent trajectory. Can the management team start to accumulate cash, given they have been buying ounces in the ground? We appreciate Milau’s pragmatic take on gold margins: Equinox Gold is not rushing to produce and there is no spike in production. Equinox Gold is managing a steady, structured increase. However, the markets often don’t reward pragmatism and sensible management decisions. They often prefer pie in the sky stories of twenty-baggers and miracle proprietary technology. The fact the market has latched onto Equinox Gold with such excitement is a testament to just how solid this project seems to be. 1Moz per annum of gold is impressive, but this degree of investor enthusiasm is rare to say the least.

To continue on this trend of growth, Equinox Gold will proceed to develop its current assets and look at new acquisitions when the time is right. On the 28th January, Equinox Gold announced a merger with Leagold Mining Corporation that will combine the companies, ‘creating one of the world’s top gold producing companies operating entirely in the Americas.’ This should position Equinox Gold even more strongly.

one of the world’s top gold producing companies operating entirely in the Americas

Equinox Gold has recently received Serabi Gold’s C$14M payment for the Coringa project in Brazil, as it targets becoming a 1Moz per annum producer.

As far as remuneration, one of our favourite elements of the story, Milau stated that Equinox Gold has continued with its directors’ remuneration policy of paying them mainly shares. Milau claims he hasn’t cashed any in yet, but we can’t see any reason why he’d want to.

A photo of a Seal with a sign saying 'yes.' The words seal of approval are written underneath.
We Are Big Fans Of The Equinox Story

Equinox Gold is an anomaly. It is an abnormal story of inspired management, favourable prices, excellent assets and, as is always the case in mining, luck. We expect Equinox Gold to keep delivering on its promises for shareholders; the team has shown us nothing to make us believe otherwise. No, they don’t pay us and no we don’t own any shares. In an industry of over claiming and under delivering, we see Equinox Gold as company that does what it says.

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

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

A graph of rising gold bars with a red arrow curving up them.

I <3 geology, I <3 Ecuador

A photo of some colourful wooly hats.

In June 1991 I was unlocking my bicycle after my last first-year exam in geology at the University of Manchester when a bubbling surge of happiness stopped me in my tracks and made me look up and smile and just take it all in. I couldn’t believe that I had gone through my life until then without knowing what I had been taught in my first year of geology. It had opened my mind to new concepts of time and space, fascinating processes of rock and mineral formation, and also of how geology had influenced human activity through millennia. It had been a revelation, hard work, and a lot of fun. For me, the study of the science of the earth had shone a light onto politics, economics, the environment, climate change and of course the role of mineral deposits in the development of man. As I stood there, bicycle lock in hand, I thought how amazing the world was, and how much I loved this subject that I had come across by chance when I had mistakenly started an engineering degree.

Twenty-nine years later I am happy to say that my love of geology is still there. While the digital age thunders on, with apps and memes, full of ideas on a high-tech future, full of concerns about sustainability and climate change, geology is as relevant as ever and it still captures my imagination. As it was in my revelatory moment back in Manchester, so it seems to me that many of the key issues of the age are met in the exploration and development of mineral deposits. Is this too gushing¸ a case of hyperbole?  I argue that it is not an exaggeration, and that a look at the extraordinary events in Ecuador will help you share my appreciation.

The Ecuador national flag

Ecuador has it all. All of the issues, all of the challenges, all of the opportunities and all of the natural resources it might need to make a transformation. And I see this on a daily basis as I am a director of Salazar Resources, a proudly Ecuadorian Gold-Copper exploration and development company.

Ecuador is a traditionally socialist country that until recently had economic policies that deterred foreign direct investment in the mining sector. In 2007 the country trumpeted its eco-tourism and promoted a green economy, which was all well and good, apart from the fact that the country soon ran out of money. And in a dollarized economy (since 2000), printing is not an option which just leaves borrowing, inward investment or foreign export earning as potential sources of US dollars. In 2008, Ecuador borrowed $6.5 billion from China, with repayments partially based in Ecuadorian oil and terms negotiated at times of historic high oil prices.  While the oil price was strong, everything seemed fine, but commodity prices are cyclical and the cycle turns as inexorably as the arrival of taxes and death. Oil prices to 2014 had covered up the multiple sins of an inefficient public sector, large macroeconomic imbalances, and limited private investment, but eventually the oil price fell. As the new oil price reality bit, and growth opportunities in Ecuador (oil, agriculture, tourism) were remarkable by their absence, the government reassessed its attitude towards mining.

Maybe the 2008 moratorium on all mining was overkill? Maybe a subsequent imposition of a 70% windfall tax and mechanisms for 50% national ownership were deterrents on investment? Maybe the rampant illegal mining sector that paid no taxes and was completely unregulated in areas of environmental monitoring safety or any degree of social governance, should be brought under control? Maybe it would be better to have foreign direct investment to build a regulated, responsible mining industry that employs thousands, grows domestic economic capacity, pays royalties and taxes and earns hard currency? Maybe the mining sector in Ecuador should be nurtured not shunned? Maybe the remarkable geological endowment should be used to help build a better nation for the people?

An ineluctable truth emerged. Ecuador needed a modern mining industry to pay for its social and infrastructure agenda.  There were no other options, no other cards to play. And so reform was embraced.  Consultants helped create a plan for the Ecuadorian mining industry that led to bidding rounds by metal and by region, and critically the development of a new mining code.  The government introduced similar conditions to other countries, including incentives such as a fiscal stability agreement, VAT reimbursements and investment recovery before taxes kicked in. The results were astonishing.

A photo of copper-gold ore.
Copper-gold ore

Geology is apolitical, and copper-gold mineralisation doesn’t necessarily stop at a political border. Ecuador straddles some of the most prolific copper-gold geology on the planet and since the dawn of modern mineral prospecting it has experienced negligible systematic exploration. Almost uniquely for a peaceful country there are still walk-up large-scale high-grade deposits sitting at surface. When the government signalled it was serious about developing a modern mining industry, the world’s resources companies responded.

Almost overnight, Ecuador became a global mining investment destination. Foreign direct investment (“FDI”) surged to more than $250 million per year in 2017, with a projected $1 billion per year for the next four years. Over 200 new mining concessions were granted in 2017, accompanied by investment commitments of nearly $500 million of exploration expenditure in the first four. Since 2018, twenty-eight internationally renowned mining companies have established entities in Ecuador to pursue investment opportunities. Not only that but in 2019 two billion-dollar investments were completed, and the country now has two well-regulated, carefully monitored mines, employing thousands of local people, and generating vital foreign exchange earnings by producing copper at Mirador, and gold at Fruta del Norte.

Unsurprisingly there has been a backlash to this level of activity. A prominent anti-mining activist Carlos Perez has changed his name to Yaku Perez (Yaku is the Quechua word for water) and is vehemently opposed to foreign investment in the Ecuadorian mining industry, even though he turns a blind eye to the devastatingly destructive illegal mining in the country. Yaku regularly calls for referenda on the future of mining projects in Ecuador and he will continue to delay and obstruct the industry where he can as he persists in his argument that Ecuador should be pro-water and anti-mining. Incidentally, most professionals in the mining industry are supporters of clean water, responsible employment, wealth creation, the sustainable supply of vital raw materials and are not supporters of water pollution, environmental degradation, dangerous working conditions, tax evasion and all of the problems associated with illegal mining.

Another factor is that the population of Ecuador is split between those wanting jobs and those experiencing a very human resistance to change. What does a large mine entail? Will dastardly miners raze mountains, and bury villages under toxic waste? Some fear the rapid introduction of a new industry; others have the luxury of working closely with some of the many in-country professionals and learning first-hand about the industry. Suddenly the Chamber of Mines in Ecuador went from a clubby outfit to needing to assist the government and a population learn about the role and importance of a well-regulated mining industry in society.

Predictably, some of the mining companies gamed the system. Companies bid to spend $250 million on a single exploration licence (a ludicrously large amount) over four years, only to load the vast majority of the spend into Year 4 and then make it conditional on material success in the under-funded years 1-3. Companies committed to investing multiples of their market capitalisation in early-stage exploration within a 4-year period. Stuff and nonsense perhaps, but given that it seems easier to find a near-surface deposit in Ecuador then other parts of the world, many companies were enable by the vagueness of the new mining code to put placeholders on title in the rush.

Stunned by the whirlwind of real and promised FDI, protest referenda, the arrival of most of the major mining companies, and by the general pace of events, the government closed the Mining Cadastre in 2018. The commitment to a modern mining industry is as strong as it has ever been, supported by public pronouncements, progressive changes to process and structure within the mining ministry, and of course, the stark reality of ongoing national budget deficits. But it was a case of too much too quickly. The cadastre is still closed as the government is redesigning the mineral title permitting process to make the exploration expenditure more accountable, transparent and digital. No new licences have been issued for eighteen months and although in that time wrinkles in environmental permitting and water use permitting have been ironed out, there has been a knock-on delay in exploration activity. It does mean, however, that those companies that already have a licence portfolio are at an advantage over new entrants looking to build a presence in-country.

Which brings me full circle, to that moment when I was standing outside the exam hall in Manchester so long ago. The study of the science of the earth continues to shine a light onto politics, economics, the environment, climate change and of course the role of mineral deposits in the development of man. I am just as excited and fascinated by the interdisciplinary nature of my subject as I was as an undergraduate, and each of those competing and complimentary aspects are manifest in the gloriously complex reality of the mining industry today in Ecuador.

Companies, such as Salazar Resources, that already have mineral title to explore have a wonderful opportunity to continue the discovery journey (discovery of an economic resource is always much more of a process than a single moment in time). Community relations and environmental stewardship are critically important, and those enterprises that can bring its local and regional population along the discovery journey with them will succeed where companies that fail to engage, encourage, and educate its neighbours will face protest and delay. The government understands the vital developmental and economic role that a responsible mining industry offers and it is working as fast as it can to create the framework for that industry to grow, and yet it is weighed down by the responsibility of having to make decisions now that will have long-lasting effects. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the nation depends on it. The officers and directors of companies that I know are genuinely excited about the positive transformation that a single well run mine can make to individuals, families, a community, a region, and the contribution that it makes to nation-building in a relatively small economy. And within it all there are the pure geologists among us, thrilled at the prospect of being part of a team that will make the next big discovery and bring vital commodities for our future needs to market.

Company Website: www.salazarresources.com

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

A photo of some colourful wooly hats.

Pan African Resources (LSE: PAF) – A Gold Producer That’s Movin’ On Up

A photo of Pan African Gold CEO, Cobus Loots.

We recently interviewed Cobus Loots, CEO of South African gold-producer Pan African Resources (AIM:PAF). CLICK HERE to watch the full interview.

A Decisive, Ambitious Team

One thing that has become very clear after conducting several interviews with Loots is that the Pan African Resources management team gets things done.

Mining is never easy. Mining in South Africa is even harder, but the management team consistently hit their targets.

Pan African Resources is well on its way to becoming a mid-tier gold producer. The team is targeting a solid 185,000oz of gold this year.

Loots ran us through the highs and lows of the last 6 months, including the recently released operational update.

The key highlights from the update?

  1. Pan African Resources is on track to deliver the full-year production guidance of 185,000oz.
  2. Group gold sales increased by 14.7% to 92,941oz (2018: 81,014oz).
  3. The Evander 8 Shaft Pillar project development is progressing according to plan, with steady-state production planned from March 2020.

We’re big fans of the tailings slant on the business because green is very fashionable right now. Some of the best companies we’ve interviewed recently have figured out a way to slot into the green narrative effectively.

Barberton Tailings Retreatment Plant produces a steady stream of gold, c. 25,000oz per annum, and the Shaft Pillar at Evander, an area of developmental focus in the near future for Pan African, could provide 20,000oz, rising to 30,000oz+ “in the years ahead.”

Pan African Resources is now mining more economically, courtesy of a strategy modification: mining at the shaft rather than at deeper levels. The result is an intended sub-US$1,000 AISC for the Pillar project. Solid numbers, and in line with the rest of Pan African’s other operations.

Elikhulu Tailings Retreatment Plant has had a mining feasibility study conducted that is now being independently vetted by a third party, with the view to expand it to a full feasibility study. Loots says it looks like c. 90,000oz per annum, with a 9-year life-of-mine, rising to 20 years with further resource modeling.

By utilising assets with existing infrastructure, Pan African Resources can keep costs down and get things going quicker. This is still a little way off but could be a good addition to the portfolio.

In terms of dividends, Pan African Resources recently released its first dividends for years. Loot states the company was recently one of the highest yielding gold dividend shares in the world, and that is the direction he wants to go in this time round. Let’s see how things turn out.

For now, it’s full speed ahead developing the projects, overcoming issues pertaining to jurisdiction, community and environment difficulties, and getting the share price where investors will no doubt want to see it.

Feel free to check out the full in-depth interview on YouTube. Don’t forget to comment and subscribe. If you have any questions for Cobus Loots, comment below!

Company page: https://www.panafricanresources.com/

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

A photo of Pan African Gold CEO, Cobus Loots.