Westhaven Gold (TSX-V: WHN)(OTC: WTHVF) CEO Gareth Thomas on Flagship Shovelnose Gold Project, British Columbia, Canada
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today… live from the core shack… is the president & CEO of Westhaven Gold — Mr. Gareth Thomas. How are you today, Gareth?
Gareth Thomas: I'm very good. Thank you very much for having me, Gerardo.
Gerardo Del Real: A lost art… CEOs in the field! How are things?
Gareth Thomas: Very good! It's nice to be up in Merritt… only a three hour drive from Vancouver. So it's very convenient to pop up here even during times like these in COVID. It's a unique advantage for Westhaven to be able to come up here, and it's nice to be up here… nice weather!
Gerardo Del Real: And I definitely want to get into that infrastructure advantage because it has some pretty consequential implications in regards to what it costs, for example, for you to drill your project. And I know 2021 is going to be a year that's going to see a lot of drilling and a lot of catalyst for Westhaven.
But before we get into all of that, for those that may not be familiar or people that are new to this space, can you give people a little bit of you and your family's background and history in mining and exploration and some of your past successes?
Gareth Thomas: Sure. Well, I come from a long lineage of mining. My dad grew up as a coal miner in the UK — in Wales to be exact. And he's a mining engineer. I have a sister, Eira Thomas, who's a geologist and working on the same team back in the late-90s. They had a company called Aber, which went on to discover one of the most high-grade diamond mines in the world. And it's still going up there, now strong, up in the Arctic.
And I worked up there as a youngster, much to my chagrin, and not really wanting to spend my younger teenage years working up there! But I certainly learned a ton about this business. And I went onto school to do, actually, geography — which, I did some geology but not a geologist per se… but did a lot of work up in the field.
And with Westhaven… we formed this company back with Shaun Pollard who's now our CFO and director. He came from the banking side; spent about 10 years in London. And we were at kind of a bad time in the market; the company I was with had just been taken over. So we formed this actually as a CPC, Westhaven. And, actually, Shovelnose was our qualifying transaction, which is pretty rare to have a CPC that still has that qualifying transaction — still our flagship today. But a great area where Shovelnose is.
We now have a total of four projects covering over 37,000 hectares. As mentioned… two and a half hour drive to Shovelnose where we're working right now. We've got two rigs turning. We formed a team based around this project and this belt… this Spences Bridge Gold Belt… which is a real up and comer — most of it is staked now. And we have a big part of that, which we can touch on later.
And yeah, we've built a really good team here; guys from Kinross, Atlantic Gold, Kaminak, HDI, B2Gold. So a lot of good companies with a lot of these guys have had success. And Peter Fischl, our exploration manager now, spent over a dozen years in Russia on Kupol, which has many characteristics of what we're looking here at Shovelnose; the low-sulphidation epithermal stuff.
So we're excited! And then, as you mentioned there, it's going to be a busy 2021. We had a busy year last year finding more gold. And this year is going to be, I think, a really telling year for our team here.
Gerardo Del Real: And just to be clear for everyone, when you say that you have a pretty successful team — this is a team with a track record of exploring, developing, and monetizing assets, right? This isn't a one-off.
People within the company have done this multiple, multiple times. You mentioned Atlantic [Gold] and you mentioned Kaminak and I could go on and on. But the bottom line is… you're great at exploring, you're great at growing an asset, and you're great at monetizing it, right?
Gareth Thomas: That's what we do. Most of us here that are involved are explorationists of some degree, and we love to explore new things and try and, obviously, bring them to the ultimate goal of selling these to a developer And it would be a great bump, I think, to the local community here in Merritt with logging sort of on-the-outs.
And we have a lot of locals working here; First Nations we employ. That's our end goal here is to have a nice little operation that we can hopefully sell to somebody to put in production. That's everyone's end goal.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent! Walk me through the share structure a bit and some of your bigger shareholders.
Gareth Thomas: Sure. We have 126 million shares outstanding. We just closed a C$15 million bought deal. And fully diluted, we're about 147 million, actually close to 148 million.
Today, we're sitting at about a market cap of about C$75 million. Don't quote me exact on that. And sitting on cash of about C$13.5 million.
And I should note there – which is an interesting thing for probably some new listeners here, Gerardo – is that we qualify for what's known as the Exploration Tax Credit in BC. So with every hard dollar we put into the ground, we get about 30% of that back the following year. So we're due to get another, roughly, C$2 million from that as well. So it's a nice thing working in the area; it's a nice incentive. We get 20% from that.
And plus, we're in what's called the Pine Beetle Kill Area. So we get an additional 10% from that as well. And we own – back to shareholder alignment – there's insiders; we hold about 25% of the stock. And, as recently mentioned, our bought deal financing that ended up being about 20% now owned in institutions and funds. So about 10% family and friends and about 45% retail.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent! That infrastructure advantage and those tax incentives you just highlighted… that's got to play a major factor in why you're able to drill at C$190 a meter – I believe is what the corporate presentation highlights – versus a peer average of approximately C$454 a meter. Is that accurate?
Gareth Thomas: Yeah, that's fairly accurate. And that was done by a group, actually, Sprott Capital. So those are their numbers just to be clear on that. But our numbers, of course, are about C$190 a meter. And that equates to, we're literally – as you've seen our presentation there, Gerardo – we're literally off a major highway here, and our property is less than 5 kilometers off that highway.
So as we're drilling now, we've drilled since... being here since February… we drilled right up until Christmas. So it makes for a very unique advantage and, of course, the low-cost exploration. So it's something we're very fortunate to have and, obviously, geology #1 is a big thing as well.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk about the flagship. You've had four high-grade gold discoveries since late-2018. What will the focus be in 2021?
Gareth Thomas: Excellent question. So the focus at the moment is our FMN Zone… is where we currently have our drill turning; that's known as the Forget Me Not.
So last year, just before Christmas, we announced 5.5 meters of almost 5 grams per tonne [gold], including 140 grams per tonne silver. Not quite what we were seeing back then in the South Zone where our initial discovery in 2018 was 17.7 meters at 24.5 grams [per tonne gold].
But what we're seeing at the FMN as we head towards the Franz – which was another outcrop on-surface we discovered late last year where we had 7.78 meters of almost 15 grams per tonne gold there – that's about 1.2 kilometers in that gap there. And we're closing the gap towards Franz now, which remains completely open. So that's our focus there with this current drill and extending the Franz to the northwest, which is also completely open.
And then, as mentioned there, we will be doing a maiden resource on the South Zone. We’ve got the ball rolling there right now. We have a drill down there, still doing step-out holes. So we're exploring there still with our second rig and seeing some very interesting things as well where we actually think what we're seeing so far – knock-on-wood here, it's been a couple of holes – much to our geologists’, our team, and Peter's teams’ delight that this thing appears to be bigger than we thought at-depth.
So we're doing down-dip intercepts, which are just adding to what will hopefully be a good resource here and give it some confidence to some people that what we have here, we think, will be an economic deposit.
Gerardo Del Real: How much drilling are you looking to carry out this year?
Gareth Thomas: Actually, funny you mentioned that… you got me here in Merritt and, actually, most of our team is up here today. We have a meeting here in about a half an hour for today. And, actually, tomorrow… we're going to be going over our sort of real firm budget here.
But to answer your question, we're looking at about 40,000 meters of drilling. We did just over 40,000 last year. And about a third of our budget will be allocated for the resource, and the remainder will be on exploration drilling — trying to connect those two zones as mentioned.
And we have lots of targets regionally on the horizon just on Shovelnose. But we also have, as mentioned, our three other projects. And we will be drilling Skoonka, another project, as well this year.
Gerardo Del Real: So it sounds like year-round drilling coupled with a maiden resource estimate for 2021?
Gareth Thomas: Yep, that's exactly right! So I'll touch on Skoonka a little bit there because it's… obviously Shovelnose is our main focus, it's our flagship, we're certainly moving this along… but we acquired Skoonka in 2017, and we've been, pardon the pun, chomping-at-the-bit to get there and drill it.
But we've been so occupied with the new things we're discovering at Shovelnose. But just a little bit about Skoonka. Skoonka was the first project on this whole entire 110 km-long volcanic belt that was ever drilled. And that was in 2005. And the prior operator there, they drilled 12.8 meters of 20.2 grams per tonne gold… and only 31 holes drilled on that project. And we're not entirely sure in the JJ Zone anyway, we were able to acquire it, and it hasn't been drilled since 2007. So, as mentioned, we've done a lot of work there. Peter and the team have been there. They've done prospecting mapping; we've done geophysics, and we have 13 high-priority targets that will be drilled there as well; that's 40 kilometers away from Shovelnose.
So it's going to be very exciting to see what may be there. So that's another thing to add as a catalyst coming up along with resource; we're doing some metallurgy work as well. And yeah, lots of things on the horizon here. And there's obviously going to be an influx of assays coming out.
Gerardo Del Real: It's a lot of news flow. Fully funded programs, I understand? You mentioned the financing; I believe the balance sheet is, what… approximately C$13.3 million?
Gareth Thomas: Yep. Then, as mentioned there, the tax credit will give us a couple million there. So financed well into 2022. So we don't have to think about that for a while, which is, obviously, a lot of stress out of the way there. And obviously, we are excited about our new shareholders and hopefully going up from here.
Gerardo Del Real: Gareth, I think with the recent consolidation in the entire gold space, right – it hasn't just been Westhaven – everything's kind of pulled back a bit. I think you have the team, you have the cash, you have the assets, and you have, obviously, a ton of news flow the rest of the year.
There's a lot to like. Is there anything else that you'd like to add to that?
Gareth Thomas: I think we covered it all. And we look forward to talking to you again and updating your listeners on what, hopefully, will be some good assays here. Kind of early-April-ish is what we're hoping… the labs are telling us the turnaround time is going to be much better compared to the end of last year, which we were seeing some pretty lengthy delays.
But we're told... I'm sure you hear that all the time… but we're told that's cleaned up. So we're hoping sort of early-April to release some assays and have them more regularly throughout the year here. So lots of exciting stuff on the horizon for Westhaven.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent… thank you so much! I know you have a meeting to go take care of… so I'll let you go take care of that. But I'm looking forward to having you back on.
Gareth Thomas: I appreciate it, Gerardo. You have yourself a good day.
Gerardo Del Real: Alright, you stay safe out there.
Gareth Thomas: Alright, thank you.