Interview with George Salamis, President & CEO of Gold Explorer, Integra Resources (TSX-V: ITR). CLICK HERE to watch.
Integra Resources is a development-stage mining company focussed on the acquisition, exploration and development of Gold-Silver properties in the Americas. The central priority of Integra Resources is the advancement of its DeLamar and Florida Mountain Gold-Silver Deposit on the DeLamar Project, Idaho. The management team is the former executive team of Integra Gold, renowned for turning a CAD$15M company into a CAD$590M (sold to Eldorado).
2019 was a good year of Integra Resources, and it has started off 2020 on the right foot. With a market cap of C$146M, Integra Resources has a share price of C$1.25, up from C$0.62 in May. This rise owes a lot to a great 2H/19 for gold, but gold price performance does not usually positively impact juniors so much; it usually mainly affects producers. Is this a sign of the confidence of the market in the management team? Do investors see development and potential production as assured processes in the hands of the Integra Resources team? Two pivotal events affected the share price of Integra in 2019: the release of a PEA, and a revised resource estimate, demonstrating a very low AISC of US$619/oz net of Silver by-product or USD$742/oz gold, and a year 1-10 average annual production of 124,000oz gold equivalent, made up of 103,000oz of gold and 1,660,000oz of silver.
The first point we wanted to cover was Integra Resources’ DeLamar asset: why would a gold producing powerhouse like Kinross have given up an asset if it was so good? Integra Resources acquired the DeLamar asset in 2017 for C$7.5M in cash and the issuance of Integra shares equal to 9.9%. Salamis insists that one key component to be aware of when looking to make mine acquisitions is to look for projects that were shut down in a low commodity price environment. DeLamar was shut down by Kinross because of low gold and silver prices in the 1990s/early 2000s. Therefore, Salamis is adamant that there is “still juice to be squeezed.” Let’s see if this holds true.
So, Integra Gold was the stuff of every investor’s dreams. How does the team plan to avoid being a one company wonder? Integra Resources will be developing a large resource with a great deal of existing infrastructure in a very favourable gold mining jurisdiction. The fundamentals look strong, and it’s hard to question the management team when it comes to technical proficiency or business strategy. Approximately 90% of the DeLamar Project global Gold-Silver resources has now been upgraded to an M&I category; this is a meaningful shift. How did Integra Resources get this outcome? Was it intentional? Mining is mining and even Salamis acknowledges that you have to get lucky sometimes.
Integra Resources has a large base of institutional shareholders. The retail component is smaller. Does this impact liquidity, and does this impact Integra Resource’s business decisions?
Salamis explains that for the next two years, it is full speed ahead in the exploration front; exploration capital won’t be available forever, especially once Integra Resources conducts a feasibility study and edges towards the realm of production. In terms of remuneration, this time around, Salamis and his management team have deployed their own capital to the point of 10% of the company. The principles remain largely the same as at Integra Gold, but with the added benefit of a larger piece of the pie for management, come market growth.
Looking towards the rest of 2020, Salamis will look to continue with this pivot towards high-grade gold exploration and will continue the discussion with the market regarding the metallurgy at Eldorado.
1:39 – Company Overview
3:37 – Why Would Kinross Give up Their Asset?
5:13 – Replicating Integra Gold: The Plan
8:32 – Share Price Volatility and Rise
10:38 – Successful M&I Decision
13:33, 17:54, 21:45 – Shareholder Register and Funding: What Type of Money Will They Look for?
14:54 – Divided Between Business Plans: Which One to Take?
19:22 – Project Overview: What Have They Got?
23:18 – Remuneration Principles
24:47 – 2020 Moments to Look Forward to from Integra Resources
Company page: https://www.integraresources.com/
CLICK HERE to watch.
Hello, George, how are you, Sir?
George Salamis: Good morning, Matt, how are you?
Matthew Gordon: Not too bad, thanks for joining us all the way from Vancouver. We’re going to hear your story today, Integra Resources, but can you kick us off with a one-minute overview for people new to the story and we’ll pick it up from there.
George Salamis: To know Integra Resources you’re going to have to kind of look back pre-Integra Resources, which was Integra Gold, and I promise to stop using the Integra Gold word by April, which is the three-year mark of the sale of Integra Gold. So it’s a spectacular win for shareholders, obviously a USD$15M market cap, wing and a prayer exploration in Northern Quebec which we turned into a USD$625M takeover by Eldorado Gold. So it’s that same team that decided to stick together and sort of follow the same recipe that original success was derived from, and that is, brown-fields expiration, looking at assets that were perhaps unloved by major mining companies, in this case Integra Resources, the DeLamar Project in Southern Idaho had been dormant for the better part of 20-years, owned by Kinross and we had a feeling that there was a lot that was left behind and that there was a different angle of approach.
So we acquired the project about two and a half years ago from Kinross and at the time, no declared resource and roll the clock forward to today, 4.5Moz of total resources, a main PA study which wraps some pretty compelling economics around the project, and so we are of the belief that this is undoubtedly going to become a mine and it’s going to get a lot bigger, we’re fully financed, got a great roster of shareholders but most importantly this great team that brought you Integra Gold is back, for a second try.
Matthew Gordon: Right, we’ll let you off with the Integra Gold reference for another three months. But that was a huge success. I mean USD$15M to USD$625M and that’s Stephen and Andre etc, and they’re still with you actively on this project. I get that. Why would Kinross give up such a good asset?
George Salamis: It’s a question we get often. And, I worked for major mining companies for half of my career and mining companies do this as a matter of routine. An asset becomes tired. It sits as a liability on their books, whether it’s a reclamation liability or just a straight holding cost liability. And, so, there’s fatigue that sets in and then sort of hopefully the decision is made, we want out of this project, we just want it off the books. And it’s not just Kinross, other major minor companies did it. Placer Dome, for example, the company that I worked for, gave away many assets that are now very profitable mining operations. In this case, Kinross had this asset on their balance sheet for the better part of 20 years and it was shut down due to low Gold and silver prices of the late 1990s, early 2000s. And, so, it was one of these assets, and I think that’s key when you’re looking for an asset to acquire, look for an asset that was shut down during a low commodity price environment, which means there’s still juice left to be squeezed out of it but it was just sort of dropped for reasons of lack of margin in the case of Kinross.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. That’s quite interesting, as a phrase we’ve very little heard. Before we get stuck into what you think you’ve got, can we just talk about the plan when you set out. I know you wanted to replicate Integra Gold, I get it, but was there more to it? Because after the success of Integra Gold I guess you’re thinking, well if it worked there we can make it work again, but if you can explain a little bit about what you saw in this project specifically, which said I think this could be the same thing all over again?
George Salamis: Yeah, well, again, going back to the sale of Integra Gold and the group getting together essentially and saying, we’re going to stick together so what do we want in our next asset? And we looked to all of the attributes that we had and the asset that we got in Quebec that we had just sold, which was tier one jurisdiction, access infrastructure, great, large database to work with, and that I think is key, right? We’re not starting from scratch by any means, and friendly jurisdiction, government support in the case of Quebec, obviously a great mining jurisdiction, the case of Idaho. Same thing, right? We’ve got a very mining-friendly and supportive state government and a large resource. And, so, it ticked all of those boxes for us. We weren’t about to go to tier-2, tier-3 jurisdictions. Been there, done that. Personally, in my career I’m getting a bit old to be going down that road. And so, the choice was pretty easy.
Matthew Gordon: Okay, and I know, again, it was a big number, USD$625M, but looking back is there anything you learned from Integra Gold process? Could you have got more out of it? Could you have pushed it out longer before you did the trade? Or did you get out at just the right time? And what can you bring into the new project that you learned from that?
George Salamis: Yes, I mean, I don’t that many people really realise that towards the end of the Integra Gold run we were really close to actually putting or flicking the switch on going into production. We had, I think it was, four term sheets that would have seen us fully financed into production, and we were six or eight weeks away from signing those term sheets. So, we were underground, the ramp was going in, we were buying all the expensive gear that you need to get into production, and then Eldorado came along with the bid and then it became basically a benefit analysis. You know, what does this asset look like fully developed by Integra and all, suffering the slings and arrows of getting into production and looking at the landscape of juniors who try and build something, the burning wrecked hulks of juniors out there who try and actually build something and fail, and the risks involved in that versus a premium offer which would put it in the hands of an experienced mine builder, and really the decision was equal at the end of the day.
Matthew Gordon: And you guys must have done quite well out of it yourselves. Very appealing.
George Salamis: We did, yes. We ploughed a fair bit of our own capital back into Integra resources.
Matthew Gordon: Yes. Okay. So, if I look at the share price in May last year, not so hot. It started picking up but it didn’t really start moving until this kind of Gold price surge in sort of late August/September of last year, and you benefit from that, even though you’re not a producer, which is kind of unusual. Most juniors, certainly not in production, didn’t really see that bump. What else was going on around then which kind of got the market excited about what you were doing?
George Salamis: We had two pivotal events occur last year, sort of around the mid-year mark, and, as a geologist, I would put equal importance, PEA versus the revised Resource estimate. I would personally put a lot more emphases on that revised resource estimate and that was key because not only was it a large jump in resources, but it was a large conversion of resource category. So, no longer were we dealing with 100% inferred resource, we’re now dealing with a 90% M&I resource. And that came by a lot of work that our exploration team did on site. So, for the first time this is where the investing public saw a discreet breakdown of the oxidation states of the mineralisation. I’m not allowed to call it ore, by the way, apparently, but mineralisation out on site per oxidation state. So, what’s oxide, what’s transitional material, and what’s sulphite? And that’s important for us because we find ourselves looking at this project as a heap leach opportunity as opposed to a straight milling opportunity, which is what Kinross were basically. It’s how they mined and operated for 20 years. They didn’t care whether this was oxide, transitional, or sulphite mineralisation, they were stuffing all of it through their mill and happy to get the recoveries that they were getting.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. Can I ask? I agree with you. Most companies which put out PEAs last year didn’t make a damn bit of difference to them in terms of the share price or people’s perception of what the value could be. Was that a conscious decision to move the M&I up so much? I mean 90%, that’s a significant shift. That’s a big number, right? Was that a conscious decision, knowing the outcome, or was that just you got lucky?
George Salamis: We have to get lucky sometimes, right? But, no, it was a conscious decision. Look, there’s, 250,000m of drilling that inherited in terms of a database from Kinross. The average spacing is 20m. And, so, if we were to categorise the mineralisation styles and specifically the oxidation states we knew we could get to a large conversion. Did we think it would get to 90%? No. So there was an element of luck there. But we knew that there would be a large conversion done that would occur by breaking down oxidation states.
Matthew Gordon: Like you say, you’ve had huge success in the past. I’m trying to gauge just how smart the team is here because if you have consciously decided to spend that money to try and move that measure indicated, and knowing that you would get that kind of result, that’s really smart, smarter than any story we’ve heard for a long time. But, given a lot of companies last year did, well spent money, and did things which had no material impact on their share price, you know, you’ve got to ask the question, how good or how strong or how logical were most of the management team spending money last year? But you’ve done something quite smart there. I get it. It’s deliberate. A little bit of luck, but deliberate. So, what’s the next big more for you? Or are you going to plateau for a while?
George Salamis: Yes, we’re trying to stay out of the Lassonde curve if you will, which is we’re flatlining for the next four years. In the course of marketing Integra and we all do it, myself, the IR team, we’re constantly polling our shareholders. What do you want to see? What’s important to you? And I would stay it’s split 50/50 between the crowd who just want to see us just explore. They don’t care about studies. Feasibility, that’s boring, it’s like watching paint dry on the wall. And we’ve got another 50% of our shareholder base who actually want to see us take this project as far as we can and de-risk the project with Feasibility Studies, with starting the permitting process which we’ll get to, I guess, later. So, we’re basically trying to satisfy both parties, which is keep the focus on exploration, will we de-risk the project with Feasibility Studies.
Matthew Gordon: That brings us to your shareholder register. You’re sitting with a lot of institutional money in this, a slightly more sophisticated audience interpreting what you’re going to do, what you have done, and what the numbers say, okay? I’d imagine they appreciated what you did with regards to moving that measure at an indicated number of three. And you’ve got a much smaller retail component here, so of the 50/50 balance there, the institutional guys want to see slightly more conventional reporting, Feasibility Studies etc. because it allows them to measure what you’re doing. Or is it different from that?
George Salamis: I would say amongst, and this is just a rough polling, but amongst our institutional shareholders for 50% of them keeping our foot on the gas of exploration to increase the resource size is very important for them. And, of the remaining parties, they just want to see us advance this project to a stage where we can make a development decision ourselves or perhaps in the hands of somebody else, development decisions can be made.
Matthew Gordon: So, what do you want to do? There’re different business models out there. Those are two almost opposing models. I don’t think you can necessarily satisfy both sides. They’re both equally good things to do but you, you’re CEO, you’ve got to pick one. What are you thinking?
George Salamis: Well, I know from personal experience that once a project heads down the path of, okay the Feasibility Study is here, we’re now declaring that this part of the project is now subject to permitting, I know that’s when usually the tap of exploration dollars typically runs dry, because you’re now, all of a sudden, allocating all your financial resources towards feasibility and beyond, if you will. And that’s the boring stage for geologists. I know that for a fact. We have two years to really keep our foot on the gas on the exploration side so, personally, I want to see that exploration accelerate or sort of just keep amping up because we are on to certain aspects of this project where we know we can grow the resource base perhaps to 6Moz or better. I don’t think that that’s going to be a big stretch in the next two years, but personally that’s what I want to see in the near term.
Matthew Gordon: Beautiful. So, 6Moz is a number you’re putting out there, there or thereabouts, right? Why that number? What does that give you? What does that tell people?
George Salamis: So, it vaults us into a different category. Again, just going back to the PEA for a moment, so the PEA study, the first PEA that we did on the project was really a snapshot of a project that we would build if we were to build a project today, down at DeLamar. And so, it was important for us to show a project that had a CapEx that was of a size that we could afford to raise. So, it was important for us to show a CapEx on a heap leach project with a small mill that would cost us circa CAD$200M to build, a company of our size, CAD$150M mark cap probably within range. If we had all the permits to build it today we could do that. However, the next iteration of a PA, which is to come out this year, is going to look at a much larger CapEx, a much larger production scenario, attracting a different crowd of investor, potentially attracting a different crowd of corporate buyer maybe. Maybe not the project that we would build because it’s obviously going to be of larger CapEx to get there but it’s that optionality of the project that we’d love. We’re going to try and maintain that optionality for as long as possible.
Matthew Gordon: Okay, so you’ve got a huge institutional following, you’ve got a big success behind you, you’ve made a lot of people some money, so conversations around capital must be a little bit easier for you, because USD$140M market cap-ish, today is not bad. It’s not bad at all. What are people telling you that they want you to do with regards to the type of financing and the type of raises that you may need to do over the next couple of years?
George Salamis: Yes, it’s funny. The mantra has been for the last two/three years, we don’t like royalties, we don’t like streaming deal, don’t take any debt on, equity only but please don’t dilute us and thanks very much, and invite us to the mine opening in opening. That sort of thing.
Matthew Gordon: I’m sure. Okay.
George Salamis: It’s very much just sort of straight equity and thankfully we’ve managed to raise money at successively higher levels over the last 2.5 years. We’ve resisted the temptation to issue warrants. That was one of the, how should I say? Roadblocks at certain times in Integra Gold. We had to issue warrants in order to get financings done and a big warrant overhang is something we had to deal with in the past. We don’t have to deal with that here now. Equity is it, I guess, is the measure.
Matthew Gordon: Right. And you’re sitting on enough cash to kind of get you through what you need to be doing for the next, how long?
George Salamis: This cash that we have now, just over USD$30M, is going to take us well into the end of the year, perhaps into January/February next year.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. So, maybe now is the time to kind of come on to the projects. Tell us a brief summary of the projects but what are you doing on each of those to kind of bring them up to the level that you want to be up at?
George Salamis: So, again, following this theme of an even split between exploration and feasibility level studies. So, on the exploration front for this year, we’ve got close to 17,000m of drilling to be done and that’s just pure expiration. Understand that in the last 2.5-years a lot of our exploration dollars have gone into twinning zones, slight moderate step outs, just to confirm a resource model. Now we don’t have to do that anymore. We’re doing pure expiration, step outs, at a distance away from the resource envelope, going into new areas that have never been drilled but have all the same hallmarks and signatures that DeLamar and Florida Mountain have, so we’ll be doing, call it, 17,000m of that exploration, with a pivot to higher grade because we’re getting on to signatures that are revealing themselves to be, this is where the high grade is, this is where you need to look for high grade. These releases have shown that in the last few months. In addition to that exploration, that drilling we’re doing, the target generation studies, lots more soil geo-chem, lots more geo-physics, lots more mapping, field mapping, so just to keep that sort of pipeline full of targets to keep drilling. And then on the, let’s call it Feasibility level Study angle, we’ve got about 7,000m of net drilling to do, and that’s essentially collecting enough material within the oxide and transitional material to study Gold and silver recovery variability within these two deposits. And that’s key, right? We’ve got a good sense of what the recoveries could be but for the level of Feasibility Metallurgy that we have to do, we have to start checking out what the variability is within outside and transitional material.
Matthew Gordon: Right. So, you’ve got just over USD$30M. That’ll take you through until January, 12-months-ish. So, you’re going to be smashing through that cash quite quickly drilling a lot of holes and moving these projects on. That’s quite a big deployment of capital, at the end of which what do you do?
George Salamis: Well, we would then have to finish off the balance of the Feasibility Study and, again, I get back to that two-year rule where we’ve got two years to explore the heck out of this project and then we get into feasibility mode. So, my expectation would be another sort of 15,000m to 20,000m of exploration thereafter and then we’re also into sort of nipping and finishing off the last bits of the study.
Matthew Gordon: Right. But in terms of getting equity you’re going to have to get some money in, in 12-months’ time.
George Salamis: That’s the fuel to the machine.
Matthew Gordon: Right. But a similar sort of number. Would you then like to deploy circa another USD$30M in 2021? Is that the idea?
George Salamis: I would love to be able to that, correct. Yes. My sense is that we’ll be raising money at much higher levels because we’ve got a couple of pivotal events to come out this year, kind of like all the expiration, but there’s PA update, which is going to show what we think is going to be a big incremental jump in our production profile, our estimated production profile.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. I need to ask, you guys made, you said earlier, a bunch of money for yourselves with Integra Gold, which is, well done, that’s the name of the game. How did you structure your own remuneration on this? Given you now don’t need to cash, were you much more incentivised towards the success of this company or are you pulling out large sums of cash for yourselves? Where’s the mindset when you set this thing up?
George Salamis: Yes. So, in Integra Gold obviously none of us had a lot of skin in the game because we didn’t have a lot of our own capital to deploy. This time around we’ve deployed our own capital and management, we own 10% of the company now.
Matthew Gordon: Yes, I saw that.
George Salamis: And we finance things and we buy on market, our shareholders keep yelling at us and saying, why doesn’t management buy more stock? So, we buy more stock and we don’t hear from anybody, no pats on the back, thank you. But it’s what we do because there’s good value in our stock. In terms of the remuneration of the group, it’s largely the same as Integra Gold. Because of our success we didn’t all of a sudden grant ourselves doubles and triples on cash and bonuses and so it’s the same.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. So, would you say you’re more incentivised now because you own 10% of the company? If this thing goes where you want it to be, that’s, clearly, you’re going to make a lot more money that way. So, you’re not being frivolous with the cash on yourselves. Okay. Fine. Can you tell us about what you think, you talked about major catalyst moments for this year are? I get the drilling, the exploration, I get maybe that you were aiming for the USD$6M but I don’t know where you’re going to get to by January next year but why do you think the market’s going to react so positively towards that and you’re going to be able to raise money at a higher price come, I guess, pre-Christmas, you’re going to need to start having conversations, aren’t you?
George Salamis: If I look back over the last two-years to sort of judge where shareholder value really took off and what news that was related to, really three things. Top of the list would be drill results and specifically high-grade drill results tend to move the needle far more than anything else and so, I talked about earlier, this sort of pivot to high grade focused exploration. We seem to be on to something there, especially in areas like Florida Mountain and War Eagle So, that’s number one and we’ll have a few of those out towards within the year. Point number two is discussions regarding the metallurgy. Consider this, for the last 2.5 years I’ve been answering questions, or we’ve been answering questions regarding the metallurgy of this project. It was this cloud over the project for two years to the extent that, why did Kinross sell this project in you in either, a, they costed the resource or reserve base, which we’ve proven. Something that would leave something (ENTER THE HOOVER ;-)) metallurgically challenging. In other words, all the good stuff and all the metallurgically difficult stuff has been what’s left behind. And so, we’ve been proven that that’s definitely not the case. And so, any metallurgical data that we put out tends to move the needle as well from a value perspective. And then the third point is the PEA study, the PEA that we put out last year was a big value driver for us. I think that was our big move from $0.90 cents to a $1.10-$1.20. So, we have a PEA update coming out which again a snapshot in time. This is what the project could look like on an expanded, perhaps larger, milling scenario. Again, with a heap reach component to it. But, yes, those three drivers, exploration, news, specifically high grade, met news and PEA I think are going to be the big value drivers.
Matthew Gordon: Okay. And in the presentation, you talk about some of these other opportunity and value enhancements such as the DeLamar, crush, the floatation, concentrate etc. So, you have identified other drivers of value down the line but for now your focus for 2020 is just that, is it?
George Salamis: Well on the PEA update end, correct. So, the PEA update is really going to be the same project that we put out last year in our Maiden PEA except for the fact that there were 2Moz of Gold and Silver, 2Moz Gold equivalent that was not included in that study that was essentially within a qualified zone, if you will, at DeLamar. We didn’t include that in the last PEA. This PEA update that we’re doing will include that +2Moz sulphide below the oxide and transitional zones at DeLamar. That’s going to require milling so the trick for us in studying that is to determine how much of that sulphide can be crushed down or concentrated, loaded, reground and leached on site, we believe a significant amount of it can and will be amenable to that. And how much of that will be crushed, ground, concentrated, floated and then shipped off to Nevada, for example, to somebody’s autoclave or roaster for final process.
Matthew Gordon: Again, just let me ask, because when we’re doing a little bit of analysis about you we were looking at your peers and people, purportedly peers, you know they’re not getting great valuations themselves. Do you think you’ve been fairly valued or do you think you’re getting a lot of credit because of your recent track record?
George Salamis: Do I think we are under-valued? Yes, massively. My dog could tell you that. I do believe it. It’s been, for the last two years, it’s been, we’ve been checking these boxes and we’re getting there and we’ll continue to get up the kerb, so I think there’s lots more value to be derived here, oh, absolutely.
Matthew Gordon: Okay, and you have moved at quite a pace over the last couple of years and I think we’ve had a few questions sent in to us where people are going, hey, where’s the news flow? Because I think you’ve been delivering lots of good news for quite a while. Do you think there’s some good news imminent for people?
George Salamis: Well, so we’ve cranked up the exploration programme again, so we took a bit of a break over the Christmas months, obviously, did the met drilling that we needed to do at DeLamar essentially to support future studies, and now we’re back into exploration mode with that one drill rig. That one drill rig will commence drilling here – it has started drilling already on one very high-grade target called Henrietta, which is something that we had a lot of success in, in 2018. I think the highest silver values ever derived on the project is the hole that we drilled, and we haven’t followed up on it since then, so we’re drilling that now.
That one exploration rig will become two in April/May, and then two rigs will become three in June/July. So, you know, things are going to accelerate here as we hit into spring and summer, on exploration.
Matthew Gordon: Beautiful. Thanks for that, George, that’s a really nice introduction. We’d not heard the story before. We’ve had a good look at you guys and obviously track record and it’s well documented and it’s nice to hear your plans now. It sounds like you’ve got no intention of soliciting unwanted offers for you at this point. As a geologist, you want… there’s a lot of fun to be had in the next two-years.
George Salamis: No way. We want two-years to squeeze more value out of this, because there’s much more to do. At least.
Matthew Gordon: Beautiful. Okay, well George, thanks for running through that story with us. I couldn’t help notice your mug there, do you want to give us a close up of that? What does it say? Weed, Crypto, Gold and Integra. Okay, in that order. Thanks again, George. We will stay in touch. Let us know how you’re getting on and we will share this with the viewers and continue to follow you with interest. Thanks again.
George Salamis: Awesome, thank you, cheers.
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