RI: Brian Maher, would you first update us on your Magino Mine project? Gold investors need to know about your new resource estimate that significantly increased your resources.
BM: At the Magino mine project—located northeast of Wawa, Ontario—we just put out a brand-new resource estimate. Indicated gold resources of 1.9 million ounces and inferred resources of 0.6 million ounces at an average grade in both categories of about 1.1 g/t gold. The real significance is that this is a resource estimate that’s really tightly constrained. We’ve used a conceptual pit shell so that all these numbers report to a conceptual pit shell and these aren’t resource numbers floating out into space. The pit shell goes down to 300 metres and what is really interesting about this system is that we know by drilling that it extends down to at least 600 metres and is open at depth. This is really just the first pass examination of what we have within a conceptual open pit operation.
RI: It’s been looked at in the past as an underground deposit but what you’ve found is more mineralization all around your high-grade mineralization.
BM: Exactly. It was an underground mine that operated between 1988 and 1992. It produced 105,000 ounces and that is how the project was traditionally viewed. We came and did our due diligence during the acquisition phase and that’s when we recognized there were large volumes of disseminated mineralization enveloping the higher grade chutes. We’ve now come through with a new model and we now have this resource which reflects what could possibly be mined in a future open pit operation.
RI: Let’s talk about this project as far as costs. Is this just a high-grade open pit deposit or do you have a lot of buffer in terms of gold dropping back down to $1,000 or $800?
BM: One thing that anyone who examines the data we’ve put out is that if you look at this deposit at a variety of cutoff grades it’s still very robust as that cutoff grade rises. How does that reflect the gold price? If gold prices should go down you’d have to apply that higher cutoff grade. In other words, it should be fairly well insulated from significant changes in gold prices which is something we’re all looking at when we think about what this thing is going to look like in 2015 or 2020 when it may actually be in production.
RI: Do you have a sense of your cash costs per ounce?
BM: What we’ve done is we’re going to take this resource and put out a preliminary economic assessment, essentially a scoping study or pre-feasibility study on the deposit. The engineering consortium that we put together to do the work have a series of parameters that we would like them to examine in terms of what this thing could look like. The targets we’ve established are in operation of about 15,000 tonnes per day. We would like to see the cash costs at the $500 or less range. These are targets obviously, but we feel with those types of parameters we’d be looking at a very robust and very profitable mining operation.
RI: You’re also a geologist and you’ve got experience on both sides of the coin with exploration experience and production experience.
BM: In the course of my career I’ve had the good fortune of working in exploration as well as in production. That’s unique for a geologist. Most people just have one side or the other. I’ve seen the pit falls of what can happen when you’re actually trying to produce from that great resource you have out there. When we sit down and we’re talking to the engineering team about what this could look like I understand the ins and outs of the milling, mining and production and the costs. It allows us to be a little bit tougher on these guys to make sure that we’re getting a good solid number out to the public.
RI: Let’s talk about the infrastructure for the project. It’s well-chosen in the sense that it’s a past producer. You’ve got an existing road to the project and power, what else?
BM: One of the things that is foremost in our business plan company-wide is that, with the projects that we have besides Magino, we like being in Ontario and Eastern Canada. Besides the obvious geopolitical stability portion of the equation, you are in a part of this country where there is a history and culture of mining. When you start announcing that you’re starting to think about putting something into production and going forward with a major mining operation, the reaction from the communities and in the regulatory agencies is one of good, we understand that. To me, that’s part of the infrastructure question as well.
For Magino’s infrastructure, we have power to the property, a rail line within three kilometers, road right to the project and adjacent to us is an operating underground gold mine. In other words, all those key pieces that you look for to build an operation are already in place. The key for a shareholder or investor is that it lowers your capital costs as you’re developing a project.
RI: You’re coming out with a PEA this year and you’re planning on a feasibility study next year, is that the kind of pace that you think investors need for this project?
BM: I think most of the people in this industry, investors as well as professionals, view the current gold price cycle as being long-lived. The reality is that this is an opportunity in this price cycle to develop projects. There is really no reason to go slow or delay especially if you have a project like ours which has an operating history, metallurgical tests already completed and 1,300 drill holes already present. We can somewhat fast-track this type of gold project.
So we put out a time-line that, while aggressive, is achievable. The PEA is scheduled for mid April of this year and then we’ll launch directly into full feasibility. We just put out the first revised resource number last week but we have drilling ongoing with a 20,000 metre program in-filling to upgrade the resource and move ounces from the inferred category into indicated and measured but also to make sure that we’re seeing all the gold that’s in the system and bring new ounces to the resource.
RI: You’re talking about a target production rate of 15,000 tonnes per day and up to 150,000 ounces of gold per year, what is the mine life?
BM: Ideally we’d like to see a mine life in the 10-year range. The reason for that is twofold, when you’re starting a mining operation and looking at cash flow and discounted cash flow analysis revenue dollars that at year 15, 16 or 17 are so highly discounted that they don’t really impact the NPV of a project. However, a very short mine life that may bring cash rapidly to the project doesn’t give you the flexibility should there be an issue during the operation. We try to plan for everything in the mining world but the reality is that each mine is its own unique situation and you want to have some flexibility in terms of operations so that if there is something that’s different than planned for you can make an adjustment and still go forward. A 10 year mine life is really ideal as you’re targeting what you’d like to see.
RI: When you look at a lot of projects of this size they might choose something smaller such as a 3,500 to 5,000 tonne per day model but what you’re going to be doing is bringing yourself much closer to a mid-tier producer status.
BM: We feel that the 150,000 ounce plateau is crucial because lower than that you’re really a micro gold producer and not approaching that mid tier level. If you look at market valuations those companies at 150,000 ounce per year or higher tend to receive more enterprise value per ounce of production than smaller producers. It’s a key benchmark of what kind of company you are and where you can go. It’s all driven by your deposit and we are fortunate enough at Magino to have a property that can meet those criteria.
RI: How well financed are you to take it through the next steps?
BM: Right now we have working capital of about $8 million, which we can easily get through the year if we wish. We believe we’re going to see some significant share price appreciation as the market starts to digest the news of our resource, as we put out the PEA, as the drilling results from the infill program continue and if an opportunity were to present itself to finance at a higher share price we’d certainly look at it.
RI: I look at your share price and compare it to your peers and it’s instantly clear to me that you’re being discounted for something there?
BM: We see that as well. Right now we’re trading for $25 or $26 per resource ounce in the ground and our peer group, those with an advanced project in Eastern Canada, are getting upwards of $150 per resource ounce in the ground. That does make us dramatically undervalued but perhaps that is the opportunity that we’re presenting to the investment community and recognizing that we’ve only had this resource out for five days and the PEA is still coming, drill results are forthcoming and a new resource update in the middle of the year followed up by full feasibility. There will be plenty of benchmarks along the way for re-valuation of the company so that we do achieve the valuation that our peer group has.
RI: What milestones do you think are most important and that investors are going to be looking for?
BM: I think in the short term, our PEA, so we can put some economic numbers to this resource. There are a lot of gold resources out there but not many of them actually get to the PEA stage where you’re demonstrating the economic viability and potential mining operation. When you do that you’re taking the risk out of those ounces in the ground and you provide some security for shareholders and give them something tangible they can look at. The PEA is going to be a major value driver for us.