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Minefinders Corporation (MFN)
NYSSA Metals & Mining Conference
June 6, 2007 4:30 pm ET
Mark Bailey - President and CEO
All right. We are going to move right into our last presentation of the day. Thank you very much for staying and sticking with us. We are very happy to have with us Minefinders Corporation, and speaking today is Mark Bailey, who is the company's President and CEO.
Mark has been with Minefinders in that position since 1995, and he has over 30 years of experience in exploration development and management positions within the mining industry. His exploration expertise includes work throughout North America, Latin America and overseas. So, please everyone join me now in a nice round of applause for Mark Bailey.
Thank you and thanks to the society for inviting us. This is our first time here to present, so I hope that we have a good response. Minefinders has been an exploration company, and we are currently a development company building a mine in Mexico, which will be in production this year and ramping up to commercial in early 2008. And we have a strong portfolio of other projects that we are exploring both in Mexico and in the US.
The standard disclaimer and I won't go through it in detail. You can certainly read it. The company started construction at Dolores mid last year. We had to build a new mine road out for the property, a 92 kilometer road to access it for all of our heavy equipment, and that was completed. We started earthworks on the project and started building the man camp and relocating the village and started construction at all of our crusher leach pad Merrill Crowe plant. And we are expecting to be in production this fall and become a mid-tier gold and silver producer and ramp up throughout the rest of this year and into the first quarter of '08 and reach commercial production hopefully by the end of '08 and go forward from thereon.
Market cap is currently around US$580 million, and we trade on the TSX and the AMEX in the US.
Minefinders is a precious metals exploration company which expects to begin production in 2007. The Company currently controls a large gold-silver resource at the Dolores project, has several additional exploration projects, and is actively seeking new discoveries. Minefinders is listed as MFL on the Toronto Stock Exchange and as MFN on the American Stock Exchange. |
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Share structure, we have been successful over the years raising a substantial amount of money to bring these properties forward from grassroots discoveries, which they all are, which we own 100%. We still only have 48 million shares outstanding. So, we've done a very good job of [husking] in our shares that not diluting our shareholder base. These 60 million of shares fully diluted includes a conversion of a convertible debt that we took on last October to complete construction. So, if that is converted conversion price is US$10.88, that would add $7 million, so that brings us up to 60 million shares fully diluted.
At the end of the first quarter of this year, we had $92 million left in the bank, of which about $60 million plus was committed to the project at Dolores and we have a $7 million exploration budget on our other assets.
Minefinders has been a proven exploration company. We made grassroots discoveries at Dolores and at our La Bolsa property and at several other projects we are currently drilling. Our Dolores project obviously has been our flagship, and one property we will bring into production at this point. We are in the process of getting an audited updated resource model, which should be out in the next week or so. We are just waiting for confirmation from the independent engineering firm that their audit will be completed and if they can file the 43-101 report on SEDAR.
It's important to us to always have our work reviewed by independent engineering firms to make sure that the quality satisfies the industry. And the last time we had our resource model updated, was on drilling through the end of November of 2004 and that model was what we used in our bankable feasibility study.
So, it's important to update this. We think that the updated resource will add substantially to the overall economics of the deposit and improve the life of the mine.
The economics you see on this slide here were from our bankable feasibility study and as I said the resource in that study was closed off in October 2004. We drilled substantially, since then for the last two years and the improved resource and reserve model coming from that will enhance the overall economics.
We used $462 [gold] and $7.44 silver prices in the economic model, based on that smaller resource and we put out a pretty robust internal rate of return based on a 14 year mine life.
Our proven and probable reserves are 2.4 million ounces of gold and 129 million ounces of silver. This is in a single open pit mine. It's going to start out of the heap leach operation, but we have done a lot of work on that mill. We did an initial feasibility study which incorporated the mill. But we took that out because the capital costs to do that combination was going to be over $250 million. And as a small company, I wasn't comfortable raising that amount of money to start out on our first mine.
The mill didn't enhance the recoveries as much in the first couple of years because we're primarily an oxide and high gold and that does leach very well. By year three, we get into the high silver portion of the deposits and more sulfide and a flotation mill at that point would really facilitate our high-grade ore in the pit. So, our goal is to fast-track the feasibility and add a mill back into the scenario and have it operational by third year of our open pit production, and we'll separate the high grade in the pit and run that in the mill.
There is an underground resource at Dolores. We have been doing a lot of drilling on that. We still have two drills at the site. We do have an internal resource, which has not been announced on the underground. We will continue drilling on that this year and then that plan would be to fund an underground decline, and go underground to develop that and bring that into production. Again about the end of year three, early year four, sometime shortly after the mill is operational.
So we have an open pit mine, that's 14 plus years. We have an underground deposit beneath that. That is a substantial size and still open and we have a mill which will improve recoveries of the high grade within the pit and obviously provide us a way to process the underground. And we are in Mexico, which is a very stable country for building mines these days.
The location; I mean this northern part of the Sierra Madre mineral belt, this mineral belt is really defined by the host rocks, they are Miocene volcanic, it's the lower volcanic sequence of the Sierra Madre, all the deposits in the little block, a little dark square there and the big star which is us, are hosting the same rocks. And that's really what defines this belt. There's all of Mexico, the mineral belts. So this is one of many. But these are all hosted in the same volcanic package.
Within that northern part of the Sierra Madre, we are looking at several billion ounces of silver and 40 million and 50 million ounces of gold. So, it's a very prolific belt to be developing and looking for mines.
Recently, we announced staking an additional 75,000 hectares to the northwest of Dolores on some reconnaissance work to get over the last year, and we are still acquiring ground in that package. So, we are aggressively adding to our portfolio in Mexico.
The Dolores deposit; this picture shows kind of what it looks like or what it did look like. The red outline is the approximate location of the open pit; the yellow is the mineralization on the surface. And you can see there is nothing really out there. It's in the mountainous terrain. It's about 1500 meters in elevation. There is no competing industries. It's a good place to build a mine.
This was done before we started any construction on the mine. You will see some pictures later on, where you will see the work that has been done. The new mine road that we built, comes in at the top of that photo along the ridge top from the south, it's 92 kilometers. Prior to that, that mine while being completed, our only access was on the road in the lower left hand corner. We didn't choose to upgrade that road because of the cost would have been prohibitive. It is a very sinuous, windy road across the two rivers, and that we came in with a new route.
The geology I will go through very quickly because I am sure no one really wants to see it. The green rocks here are the andesites, which are the lower volcanics, which holds these deposits. The pink are the dikes and the intrusive rocks that are also hosts, and intrude those andesites along the structures. You can see a very strong northwest trend to this structure that's the structural control of the ore. We have high-grade mineralization up into the kilograms of silver and into the 100 grams of gold within the structures and then disseminated mineralization out into the older andesites, which are the primary host rocks.
Over [turning] that same zone you will see the surface mineralization. If you look at the base, like a 4,000 meters of mineralization here on the surface. The purple outline is the pit and the resource that we report. Although little drill traces in there, we've drilled this out with over 200,000 meters of drilling, and a 1,000 drill holes, most of that diamond core. And the deposit is defined within the blue box. Surface mineralization extends for a kilometer to the north, and there is high-grade mineralization we are doing for [Billiton]. There is mineralization outside of the pit to the east, which is our East Dike in La Bohemia. We are also drilling on -- mineralization still continues to the south of the pit and it's opened a depth. So, there is a lot of upside at the Dolores deposit.
Measured and indicated resource, this was upgraded last year but had not been audited. This only included drilling through the end of 2005. The resource model is currently being audited. It includes drilling, all drilling through the end of 2006. Important thing to note here is that the 0.3 gram cutoff, the 118 million tonnes have 3 million ounces of gold and approximately 149 million ounces of silver.
We are not going to be able to mine that low of a grade even though it is economic, because we don't have pad spase for 100 million tonnes. So, we are going to be looking at the 0.4 gram to 0.5 gram type cutoff. You will note that we drop, if you go to a 0.5 gram there to gave it 34 million tonnes but only give up a couple of hundred thousand ounces of gold and about 14 million ounce of silver. Most of our metal is in the higher grade portion of the deposit, and we will selectively mine it in the open pit.
Proven and probable reserves, this shows two of those cutoffs. At the 0.3 gram, there is a 100 million tonnes. As I mentioned, we don't really have to add space for more than above 90 million -- 85 to 90. So, we are going to waste some of the low-grade rock. And in doing that, you will note here that there is 2.5 million ounces of gold and 128 million ounces of silver in our P&P category.
If you move up to a 0.5 gram cutoff, you still have 2.25 million ounces of gold and 116 million ounces of silver at a much better grade and down into a tonnage that would fit on our pad. So, we do have some ability to optimize this production regardless of the gold and silver price simply because we can always select the mine in the higher and higher grade. Most of our metal is in the higher grade.
Capital costs projected from our bankable feasibility study were $132 million. This included all brand new mining fleets, brand new crushers and conveyors, Merrill Crowe plant. We chose early on to buy all new equipment instead of buying used, so the cost was substantially more than some of our peers. But because of the long mine life of 14 years we felt that we need to buy new equipment just because they would wear out, and if we bought used, they would be replaced within a few years.
The operating costs are based again on February of 2006 prices. With $6.86 a tonne that equated to all end costs including royalties on the property of approximately $237 an ounce of gold equivalent. That price will be updated with current economics when we put in the audited resource into a new mine schedule, which will also be a slightly larger deposit than what this is based on. So, we are always optimizing the system as we go forward. Even though we're in construction, we'll continue optimizing right up to pouring our first gold.
This is some of the construction that's been going on at Dolores. This is our plant site. Crushers start on the right hand side with the primary crusher, comes down to a secondary, and the tertiary, and in their system it will go back up just off to the right side of the photo which is our leach pad. And then the building at the bottom left hand corner is the Merrill Crowe plant, which is now being roofed over and completed, and they are doing plumbing and electrical inside.
That's our entire plant facility setting there, and this is just an example of some of the crushers. This is our primary crusher where they are installing in the steel, and these pictures are a couple of months old now, so things are progressing on all fronts. The surge tanks, you are looking down on the primary crusher towards the Merrill Crowe plant. The road that’s coming around on the distance there is the road from our truck shop and office, and that's in construction also.
This is our leach pad and pond solution area. It's a big footprint and there is a fair amount of work left to do on our leach pad before we can start loading. This is a tertiary crush and a heap leach conveyors stacking system. But we have to do a fair amount of earthworks because there is nothing flat out at Dolores. It's fairly rugged terrain, and we have to do all the leveling. It will be a valley fill heap leach pad, and we have to complete construction and line it and get it prepared to put ore on it.
Our target date is to start loading the pad in the third quarter of this year and pouring at the end of the third quarter or in the fourth quarter. I will have a better idea on the timing of that as we get closer to actually aligning the pad, then we'll have a pretty good idea of when we're going to be pouring our first gold.
We also have to build a man camp. There is obviously no place out there for people to live. We have to build this man camp that will house approximately 300 people. We settle on these smaller buildings instead of a high rise, so each one of these units house twelve people, two people per room. They all have indoor plumbing. And we did that because of a long mine life, and we felt that a dormitory type setting would be a little uncomfortable for the people living out there with the 24 hour, 7 day a week mine operation. You might get a little upset about the people running around upstairs on off shift when you are trying to sleep. So, we keep people into smaller units, which should make the living conditions a little better. But again, you can see the amount of work that's required to build a mine. It's not something you just turn on a switch and there it is. It takes a lot of work and a lot of planning and a lot of money.
We also have to relocate some village people that are in the south end of our pit. We are building a new village at Dolores, and we'll end up building approximately 40 houses, a community center, a small medical center, a church and provide indoor plumbing infrastructure and jobs to the local people. And this is something that's also part of our commitment to the local economy. Today we probably spend about $5 million with the local ejido both in cash payments for the individuals and upgrades and constructions for their building.
So, in summary, and again this is still a moving target because we'll optimize right up until our first pour. But it's a 14-year mine life and we are looking at about 85 million tonnes going to the heap leach. As I mentioned out, the additional tonnage out there is low-grade. It is economic at current prices but our intent is not to even stockpile it. I mean it's showed as a stockpile here but it is too low [grade] to move twice. We'll probably just dump it over the hill.
The recoveries shown here are based on heap leach only, 74% for gold and 51% for silver. That's typical of an epithermal gold and silver system. It's difficult to get much better recovery simply because they don't leach that well, especially silver. That's one of the reasons we'll add a mill, because we do have very high-grade gold and silver in the property and it'd be advantageous to us to put that material through a mill rather than a heap leach.
The mill work that we did, it's a flotation system. We did a lot of work at LakeField, about a year's worth of flotation test work, and we get 95% of the gold and approximately 90% of silver in the mill recoveries.
Based on straight heap leach we didn't have the mill, we would still recover about 1.7 million ounces of gold and 64 million ounces of silver, based again on the previous resource model, which has been updated and upgraded substantially since 2004.
I mentioned building this new road; we needed that because you can see the size of the trucks it takes to bring the equipment out there. We have convoys of these trucks literally 1000 loads coming in because everything has to be hauled in by semi-trucks. What you are seeing in the top picture there is really components of one of our front-end loaders. The equipment that we use on the mine site is substantially larger than the haul trucks to bring it in. So, we have to bring it in pieces and then assemble it on site. And we have been doing that for last year. We bought all new fleets, 15 Komatsu trucks. The top picture shows them in our laydown area in Texas and then we haul them in by semi-truck in a similar mine site.
What you are looking at is the engine frame and the rear tires of a 100-tonne truck. The bed of that truck comes in two pieces, which are welded together. So, we have a contract with a company called Road Machinery, which is assembling all of our equipment and will provide maintenance and service of all our mining fleets. We bought a brand new fleet from Komatsu. They will train all of our operators as a part of our package deal.
I would say that we ordered these equipment a year and half ago, and we are just taking delivery on our final two big pieces which are shoveled. They were supposed to be delivered in February and March and we just had the first one shipped in mid April and second one shipped this month. So, you can see the difficulty in this industry. An equipment access is very hard to get, and in the case of our shovels, which are two last big components, they are about two months behind schedule in fabricating and shipping them. And also, they cost about $1 million more because unfortunately the Komatsu shovels that were built in Germany, so we've got hit with the euro, and it cost us some extra million [for buying] the two shovels. But if we bought them today, they would be $2 million more than what we paid.
This is some of the fleet that we've been assembling on site. We have dozers, the front-end loaders there in the top photo, will be our primary loaders until the shovels kick in. So, we don't need the shovels immediately. We have graders, dozers, all brand new equipment and 15 haul trucks.
The Merrill Crowe plant again, is a fairly big facility. We had to install all of the equipment inside and then build the building over because you couldn't insert these clarifiers and tanks inside the building. So, built the [pad] -- put the equipment down and build the building around it. The building is now totally enclosed and has been wired in, in the inside. The tanks are storage tanks for our solutions, and you can see the amount of work that's done there. There is approximately 380 contractors on site building the various components. All the construction is being done by contract and then the operating manpower will all of the companies. So, this will be an owner-operated mine but contract built.
Construction timelines are basically completed. Construction facilities are on progress. Mine startup with the second quarter; leach pad loading in the third quarter. First pour is targeted for the end of the third quarter. I suspect it will flip in, in the early fourth quarter simply because until I see the pad being lined, I am going to be a little skeptical if they can't get it done on time. It's just a real function of keeping everybody going in the same direction.
So, that's our main property. We basically are trading in the marketplace at about $100 an ounce based on our measured and indicated [resource]. Most producers when they make that re-rating, which I think some of you have heard about today, the average is anywhere from 1.5 to 1.8 times NAV or about $160 an ounce. So, we do expect to see a re-rating of our stock as we go forward and reach production this fall. And that's an achievement for any exploration company to go from a grass root discovery to production is a very rare thing for an exploration company. But we haven't rested on those laurels at Dolores.
We have been active on other properties in Mexico and Nevada for years. We have a large claimed block in Sonora, Mexico, just south of the border. One small discovery up there called La Bolsa, which was actually our first discovery in Mexico. We haven't done any work on it for the last couple of years as we have been focused at Dolores and a couple other new discoveries in the Northern Sonora property, the Real Viejo and Planchas de Plata. We currently have a drill at Planchas de Plata following up high-grade silver mineralization that will also be drilled in Real Viejo and then later this fall we will back over at La Bolsa.
El Durazno is a high-grade gold system at an ounce per tonne surface. We've never drilled there. So, there are numerous prospects in this area that are yet to be drilled and there is a lot of excitement in this Northern part of Mexico.
As I mentioned, we just staked 75,000 hectares in between here and Dolores, and the Sierra Madre, it's a very high grade gold system. So, we have been acquiring additional ground in Mexico, and we are drilling on a property in Nevada called Gutsy, which is just north of the Rain Mine and Carlin Trend, it's a deep target. We are down about 1,100 feet. We'll drill this hole to 1,500 feet, and we will be drilling a few holes for a deep high-grade Carlin target.
So, the La Bolsa currently sits at 200,000 ounces of gold, 2 million ounces of silver. We have 100 drill holes in there. We need to do a scoping and pre-feasibility study on this, make a decision on what we want to do with this property, and that's something we've started this year. Hopefully, we will have a pre-feasibility done by the end of the year or early in 2008.
Real Viejo was a new discovery. There was some historical production there. We are not sure who did it. There is no record of it. We came here to see work, so we didn't know what's there until we actually [hiked down]. We've done some initial drilling, had some very encouraging intercepts, 300 feet of 6 ounce per tonne of silver from the surface down. So we are developing a resource there and will be drilling there shortly.
Right now, we are focused on the Planchas de Plata which is about 10 kilometers away. It's again, a high grade silver right at the surface, its supergene silver. It's a silver base-metal system with bauxite and copper. I believe it's related to porphyry copper. We've had some good intercepts, 22 ounce per tonne of silver, over 24 feet. We started at about 20 feet below the surface.
We have two shallow dipping blankets of mineralization that we defined so far, at Planchas de Plata. What you are looking at is a stack system of blankets, right at the contact between a volcanic conglomerate and underlying rhyo-dacite. Mineralizations in both rock types and we are stepping out, we did geophysics this last summer and some step-out drilling.
This area that you just see there is really the top little area there that's kind of highlighted by the 10,000 north station, that's an entire area. The geophysics has extended that mineralization, that alteration, for about 2.5 kilometers. In the process of ground-trooping that we did find quite a few more prospectives and got some good surface numbers up to 300 grams per tonne silver. And we have done some initial drilling and we have a drill out there now following up on that, and we will be drilling on this probably, the rest of the year.
So in summary, we are going to be a producer this year, which is a major accomplishment that has taken us 10 years to get there. We have been very durable, I feel very proud of the work that our team has done. I think we are one of the better defined deposits out there that's going into production. Majority of 58% of our total P&P, proven and probable, is proven, and it's drilled out on 17 meter centers. Probable is 34 meters and so most of our P&P is within 34 meters of multiple drill hole and our entire resource base, which includes inferred, is no farther than that 90 meters. So, it's a very well defined deposit and we don't expect any surprises when we mine it.
We'll be in commercial production in early '08 and it has 14 plus year mine life just from the open-pit, not counting the underground. Now, the upside includes the mill, that will improve our recoveries dramatically once we get into the high-grade sulphide. The underground production, we can expand that substantially. We do have, as I said, an internal resource underground, based on about 60 drill holes that is in mineralization, 200 meters below pit bottom. And this is very high-grade mineralization averaging 10 to 15 ounce per tonne gold over six to eight meters.
Exploration upside still exists at Dolores. We have two drills out there drilling right now and we have very strong portfolio of any other projects we are drilling on. So, we have a strong exploration team that is out now, looking at other projects besides Dolores.
And with that, I am open for questions. I kind of went through it fast, but I know its late in the day and people have hung in there longer than I would expect you to, so thank you.
Unidentified Audience Member
Mark, that was (inaudible). So, did you give us at least a hint as to what sort of changes or improvements are with this new reserve or resource thing? What's the order of magnitude improvements we could look for? In a couple of weeks is coming out?
Yeah, I am working on it, its in there it as now. So far there has been no issues with the audit. We are told that they are close to being completed with all their runs. They have run all the different yield staffs and throughout the database checked all the assay search in the labs and do all their work.
As soon as they can confirm that they complete the 43-101 report and have it filed within the timeline allotted by the TSX, then we will announce. I have been working on a graph news release. I am hopeful that it will come out next week, but it has to be run by the engineering firm and make sure that they are comfortable, because I am taking their name in there, and they are signing off. But if that all goes, then it will be next week or the following week. The work is done, it is just a matter of checking and fine tuning it.
Well, it's mainly infield. The inferring was expanded, measured and indicated. It's a significant improvement over what was used in the bankable feasibility study. The last time we had an independent audit was 2004. And that drilling was closed off in 2004. We have done a substantial amount of drilling since then and this resource and this audit will be based on drilling through the end of 2006.
So, it is a material increase in the overall measured and indicated. It also added additional inferred which is, I think slightly bigger than the previous inferred but continues to expand the project. I think the significance is, every time we complete drill programs at Dolores, the project continues to get bigger. And I would qualify that by saying that the project is still open-ended. We have not closed off the underground and we are just starting to drill on the extensions to the north and to the east of the deposit.
Unidentified Audience Member
The pit will get a little bit bigger. I don't think the pit is going to go any deeper, simply because of the high wall on the west side. But we are not going to push the pit deeper, it will extend to the south. I can say that based on the drilling we have done. So the pit will get bigger, so it will increase the reserves in the pit. The rest of the drilling will be done or the mine will be done on underground mine high-grade ore.
There is high-grade structures to the north of the pit, that aren't big enough to be open-pitable. So they will be looked at as underground. The underground that we've drilled, most on is below the pit, and we need to put a deep line to get down there. That's where most of our resource is, below the pit. And then the structures that are east of the pit, the East Dike and La Bohemia, are both old historical high-grade structure that are outside of our current pit design and they have very limited drilling in them. So we are drilling on those now.
Unidentified Audience Member
Mark, you know the geology does deposit extremely well, and I was actually re-reading the feasibility the other day. And one of the areas or one of the ore types rather, that has low recovery, is described as manganese-oxide. Now, just clarify, is that really manganese-oxide or is it oxide mineralization that has manganese?
It isn't an issue because it's not a very large percentage, it's a very minor percentage of mineralization of the north end that has manganese. The manganese is in with the mineralization, but it is not necessarily ordinary. It's an oxide zone that has manganese, its not manganese per silver, silver is basically electrum, whole lot of ruby silvers that can die. Gold is tied up solely of electrum, native gold. It's not tied up on anything, it's a low sulfide system, it's a non-acid generating rock, so that's very stable environmentally.
And the manganese is less than 5% of the oxide ore. But it is there, so we did metallurgical work on it and for some reason in that zone, the manganese is doing something that may be consuming cyanide or is causing a recovery problem. But it's a mine ore and probably will be lost in the heap-leach on the scale of it, because it's not a very large amount of manganese per silver.
Unidentified Audience Member
Thanks. And then, the second question is can you remind us what the leach characteristics are of the ore?
We are going to crush this to 100% sorry minus 3/8 [inch], 80% minus 1/4 [inch]. It's a tertiary crush. The rock is moderately hard, it's not real high silification, so it's pretty soft rock really, and crushes quite readily. We have a three stage crush with no issues. The leach cycle that we have, I believe, is a 140 days, the total leach cycle, which gives us the 74 and 51. Obviously, it's a valley fill, so the lifts are actually going to leach, the bottom lifts will leach for the life of mine. So, we do expect to get better recoveries over the life of the mine, but has everyone ever followed a silver leach, I mean the silver is going to come out very slow. Silver keeps coming out, the gold comes out in about, all of it's pretty much out in 30 days, and about 15 most of it's out, the silver comes out very slow. It's just the nature of silver and cyanide.
Again the mill is going to be key to us, maximizing recoveries, because a lot of our metal is in the high-grade, and if you look at the different cutoffs in the resource modeling, when we put out this updated resource, we'll show your cutoffs from 0.3 grams up to 3 grams or whatever it is.
If you look at the high grade cutoffs, you'll still see the 75-80% of the total contained metal is in the high grade. And if we can put more and more of that through a mill, we will get better recovery. We've done all that test work already. We basically float the con, we take the concentrate and we regrind it on-site, and then regrind, circuit and leach it on-site. And still for Dolores, we don't sell the concentrate.
Unidentified Audience Member
Great. Thank you.
Yeah. Any other question? Thank you.
Thanks Mark. So that concludes our agenda for today. Thank you everyone for coming and I thank you again to the American Stock Exchange and [Gill Speedly] for being with us today. Have a good night everyone.
TRANSCRIPT SPONSOR |
Minefinders is a precious metals exploration company which expects to begin production in 2007. The Company currently controls a large gold-silver resource at the Dolores project, has several additional exploration projects, and is actively seeking new discoveries. Minefinders is listed as MFL on the Toronto Stock Exchange and as MFN on the American Stock Exchange.
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