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Backing the junior miners: Why it pays to bet on smaller mining projects

Junior mining companies tend to have more mobility and capacity for innovation as well as the tenacity for exploring new mineral discoveries. As the following case studies show, they really only need the backing of more investors to help them realize the potential of their projects. They may remain under the radar for a time, but this only makes it more crucial for investors to look them up, and get ahead of others in reaping the rewards.

Turning rejects into gold

Whether it’s through sheer smarts or gut instinct, CEO Paul Andre Huet took Klondex Mines Ltd. in 2012 and made it the top gainer on the S&P/TSX Composite Gold index in Toronto by 2016. That’s no small feat, considering that, according to a Bloomberg report, the company had a single mining asset five years ago.

That single asset was the Fire Creek gold project in Nevada, and Klondex had, at the time, just $400,000 in cash, with creditors going after the company for $7 million. Klondex was financially insolvent but still, Huet saw this as an opportunity and came on board after leaving Premier Gold Mines Ltd.

Under Huet’s leadership, Klondex leaves its peers behind with a 22% surge in stock despite gold going down by the end of 2016. The CEO has now earned a reputation for taking on assets that no one else wants and turning these around to become profitable.

Klondex has been profiting for nine out of ten quarters and Huet expects it to produce upwards of 250,000 ounces of gold, costing $680 to $710 per ounce sold. That’s a 37% increase over 2016. In mid-January, Klondex was worth $866 million.

Other acquisitions by Klondex include three mines that were bought from creditors: their original owners had gone bankrupt. A fourth acquisition, the Midas mill also in Nevada, was sold by Newmont Mining Corp in 2014.

Klondex was able to produce more gold from its Manitoba asset, True North Gold Mine, by extracting gold from mine tailings. So far, the company has three operational mines and two projects in development.

Mining is in Huet’s genes, as he’s a third generation miner after his grandfather, father, and uncles. He started as a janitor at a mine, then became a driller, and eventually earned a mining degree at 32 years old. Huet’s next projects are Hollister and Aurora also in Nevada.

Convincing a billionaire

How does one persuade a billionaire to put money in a mining exploration deal? It might be good to pitch the deal inside an elevator, which was exactly what Cordoba Minerals Corp. president Mario Stifano did. The two were attending a BMO conference when they found themselves together in an elevator.

Stifano said he had long been wanting billionaire mining titan Robert Friedland to at least consider his company’s San Matias copper-gold project in the mineral-rich Mid-Cauca Belt in North Colombia. The project already caught the interest of other potential joint venture partners, including some world-class companies, but Stifano wanted to wait for Friedland, who was his number one choice.

After Stifano’s elevator pitch, Friedland asked for a meeting later that night and after about an hour, the billionaire wanted to get his own team involved. Friedland liked the size of San Matias at more than 20,000 hectares, as well as the high-grade mineralization found after drilling and magnetic analysis.

Friedland’s joint venture with Cordoba is facilitated through his company, HPX (High Power Exploration) Minerals. With HPX on board, Stifano says Cordoba two crucial benefits: capital and high-tech exploration.

Cordoba now has access to HPX’s proprietary Typhoon technology. Typhoon is used to view up to two kilometers underground to look for mineralization and pinpoint precise sites for drilling. This makes it easier and faster to get to the deposits. Typhoon uses a supercharged induced polarization technology.

As for capital infusion, HPX has taken an 11% equity interest through a private placement in Cordoba. HPX stands to earn up to 65% of the San Matias project after it put in $16 million and conduct a feasibility study on San Matias

According to Stifano, Friedland would not have pushed through with the joint venture without clearly seeing San Matias’ potential. Typhoon is able to create 3D-like imaging from data gathered underground. This data, along with the high-grade copper and gold samples, proves in Stifano’s view, that they have “something special” in San Matias.

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