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Aldebaran Resources (TSX-V: ALDE)(OTC: ADBRF) CEO John Black on Future Exploration After Best Drill Hole Ever at Altar Copper-Gold Project
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real at the 2021 Precious Metal Summit in Beaver Creek. Joining me today is the CEO of Aldebaran Resources, Mr. John Black. John, how are you doing today, sir?
John Black: Doing well. It's nice to be up here and see some people in the business.
Gerardo Del Real: It's great to see you in person. It's an exciting time. Gold has been in a consolidation phase for the past 12 months. Copper is settling well at the $4.20 mark. Almost everyone I speak with is very bullish on copper and waiting to see on gold.
John Black: Yep.
Gerardo Del Real: Aldebaran has a lot of gold and a lot of copper. So for those that aren't familiar with the Altar Project in Argentina, can you please give us a brief overview of the project?
John Black: Yeah, what really attracted us, we're a group that specializes in identifying deposits that have, potentially, be very large copper or copper gold deposits. Capturing those, drilling them out, and then ideally selling those to a major mining company. And what really caught our eye with the Altar Project is it's a very large copper-gold system. It's known as very large and relatively moderate to low grade, but we saw these higher grade zones within it that really attracted our eyes. So we have a deposit that's already over a billion tonnes of mineralization at about a half percent copper grade.
Gerardo Del Real: That's a billion with “B”.
John Black: It's very much open for increasing the size of it. And we see that potential to increase it with higher grade zones, which improve project economics going forward. So we spent about two years really understanding the system, getting some basic fundamental data sets put together for the first time on the project. And we're excited now because we're in a position to hit it very aggressively this year. And the field season will start early this year. We're ready to go within another month or so.
Gerardo Del Real: Well, I can tell you as a shareholder, 1) I'm biased, and 2) I'm excited, as well, because you recently had, arguably, because of how the press release worded it, the best drill hole to date at Altar project. I want to get into what comes next, but beforehand, we have to provide the audience that may not be familiar with your success in South America and elsewhere a little bit of background, because when you say that you and the team specialize in taking projects and advancing them, I think the thing that you do best is taking projects when nobody really wants them, identifying excellent projects, and then monetizing those to shareholders' benefits, right?
John Black: Just as I mentioned, that's our strategy. This is actually our third company with our same management team. Our first company was called Antares Minerals, and we had the good fortune to identify and drill out the Haquira deposit in Southern Peru. It took us a few years to get that ready to go, and we sold that to First Quantum Minerals for $650 million in 2010. From that we spun Regulus out, which is on a very exciting copper gold system in Northern Peru right now. And from Regulus we've spun out Aldebaran to capture the Altar project. So all three deposits we've either worked on and sold or currently have, or all have, the earmarks of being large porphyry systems, the type of deposit that a major mining company would like to acquire. So that's what we specialize in doing, and we're extremely excited about Altar project. It's really perched right now to start putting out some pretty good results.
Gerardo Del Real: Well, you've had some pretty good results already, right? I mentioned the press release that worded the most recent results as arguably the best drill hole to date. I know there was some internal discussion about whether or not that was the case. Absolutely spectacular grades. How do you plan on following that up?
John Black: Well, the hole that we're talking about is our Hole 42 that we announced earlier this year. It was from last season's field drilling on it. The intercept that really caught our eye there was 333 meters of 0.86% copper equivalent. Within that there's 111 meters at 1.4% copper equivalent. That's 0.92 copper and 0.63 grams per tonne of gold. So a very good gold component to it, as well. Very clean style of mineralization. And it's in a new zone. This is a zone that's not included in our current resource at all. So we now have a few holes into it. We're consistently hitting these higher than average grades on it. And we're excited. A lot of this year's campaign will be a dedicated drill out, so that by the end of this next field season, we'd like to move that into a resource category.
Gerardo Del Real: There was an extensive effort by you and the team to put together and interpret a large data set. I'd got to believe that the confidence, when you get the drill bit out there, has increased as a result of that new geologic model and the way that you've been able to interpret all that data, right? And I know that goes unnoticed a lot, but it was very critical work.
John Black: It's critical work to do. And this is their posit that was known. A company called Peregrine Metals, a TSX listed company, largely drilled out the known part of the deposit and, and sold it to Stillwater Mining for US $487 million in 2011. And then it just kind of dropped off the map, and we're able to acquire it for significantly less than that when we acquired the option to earn into the majority of the deposit.
But despite knowing there was a lot of mineralization there, there'd never been collection of some of the fundamentals. There wasn't a surface geologic map of the project, which excites us, because it's an opportunity. So we've completed that work. It's quiet work. It takes some time to do, but with these new data sets, what's got the team really excited right now is just remarkable coincidence of numerous lines of evidence pointing to the same area. And as geologists, we love to see that. It's exciting to have a geophysical anomaly that might be a deposit, but when you get back up from that with your surface geochem and your geologic map is telling you the same thing. This is a project where I've rarely seen this type of coincidence, some beautiful data sets, and we're anxious to roll those out here in the next month or so, as we lay out what our program will be going forward this year.
Gerardo Del Real: You kind of answered my next question. How do you follow that up?
John Black: Well, we follow that up, really, we're just getting everything lined up to start the drill program. We've historically started in January on the field season on this. We'll be opening the camp up in October this year, perhaps even a little earlier. We've had a relatively light snowfall year, just a touch of snow in the last week or so that we're watching to see how quickly it melts off. But we plan to get in, get things going in October. We won't be the only company. It's a pretty exciting neighborhood in San Juan right now. A lot of exciting projects nearby, a lot of activity this summer. So it's going to be a hot spot. San Juan's going to be one of the more active parts for expiration for porphyry coppers in the world in this next year.
Gerardo Del Real: You mentioned Argentina, and specifically the area you're working in right now, emerging as a hotspot. I joked with you off the air that Argentina's quietly emerging as a bastion of stability in South America, right? How is it working in Argentina right now?
John Black: It's actually really good right now. And a lot of it's... We're in San Juan. Argentina is a federation of states. So each individual province can set their tone on mining. So there are portions of Argentina that don't want to have mining for other reasons. But San Juan and Salta, the two provinces that we're most active in, are very pro-mining, moving forward. In particularly San Juan. They have a number of large existing mines, like Barrick’s Veladero operation right now. But there's some projects like our Altar project, Filo's Filo del Sol project, Jose Maria, that are emerging as just outstanding opportunities to develop large copper gold systems. And the government is supporting that well. We're seeing the government work closely with ourselves and other peers to facilitate infrastructure development. We've got a really exciting program now to train local people in the Calingasta community area to be prepared to assume positions.
One of our challenges right now is finding qualified people. I don't know which is tougher, finding a drill rig for this season or finding good geos or good technicians. And we really like to see how the mining companies, our peers, are coming together to support these education initiatives, to prepare people to be able to assume those jobs, because they don't want us bringing in somebody from outside. They're very protective that way. But we need people that have the skills to do it. So it's forward looking on this, and we're quite excited about how that's working. It's one of the more collaborative environments I've seen in quite some time in South America.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. You mentioned monetizing an asset previously for over $600 million. You also mentioned Altar commanding a market cap of over $400 million about a decade or so ago. The project, arguably, is a cleaner, better, better-grade project now than it was then. What's the current market cap of Aldebaran?
Our current market cap's around $70 or $80 million. So there's a lot of leverage on this story right now. We've quietly put this together. It's merged. We've seen a couple of our peers shoot to... Filo's been as much as a billion dollar market cap recently. And we have a project that's arguably in the same category as Jose Maria, or that little bit earlier stage on it. But it's a really good one to take a look at right now to get in on the story. And particularly, one of the challenges we've had in the past is just much news flow on the project, primarily because putting together a geologic map just doesn't have the same oomph that you get out of a drill intercept.
John Black: But this year, we'll be substantially increasing our drill program. We've already secured four rigs for this next field season. And you'll see us, probably, double the amount of time we're in the field and double the amount of capacity we have to drill. So you'll see quite a lot more data flow coming out of the project. It's a great time to take a look at it.
Gerardo Del Real: It sounds like an exciting Q4 and an exciting 2022.
John Black: We're looking forward to it. It's an exciting time right now.
Gerardo Del Real: John, thank you so much.
John Black: Okay, great.
Gerardo Del Real: It's a pleasure.
John Black: Thank you, Gerardo. Okay. Take care.
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