Libero Copper & Gold (TSX-V: LBC)(OTC: LBCMF) CEO Ian Harris on Advancing the Flagship, District-Scale Mocoa Copper-Molybdenum Project, Colombia, in the 2024 Copper Bull Market


Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the president & CEO of Libero Copper — Mr. Ian Harris. Ian, un placer! It's great to have you on. How are you today, sir?

Ian Harris: Muy bien! Thank you very much for having me. And doing very well, thanks.

Gerardo Del Real: Well, listen, this is a new story to our audience. It's no secret to anybody that follows any of my rantings and ravings and what I do that I am extremely bullish on copper. Copper exposure is one of my personal largest weightings in my portfolio, and I do a lot of that through the equities — specifically the juniors.

When I spoke with a mutual contact that we have about potentially helping tell the story, I looked at the market cap, I looked at the revitalization of the company, and I looked at the people involved, and it checked a lot of boxes for me. 

So I want to start talking about the project. But before that, I would love to get a bit of primer on your background for those not familiar with you because this project, being in Colombia and your experience in Latin America, I think, is very critical to the story and will be here moving forward.

Ian Harris: Thanks, and I think the most important part is that I'm a mining engineer. A lot of junior companies are run by geologists, or others, or bankers, or whatever. So as a mining engineer, my perspective is that I want to work on projects that can get pushed across the finish line. 

I like being involved in projects that can become future mines. And that's not only in my background. We can also talk about some of the board and some of the other executives involved in the company who share that similar background.

I've got over 25 years working in the industry… the majority of those, over 15, working and living in South America. I'm currently living in Colombia. I've been working here for the last eight years. Previously, very early in my career, actually, I was part of the startup of the San Cristobal Mine, the mine side of it in Bolivia. 

And then, later, I was in Ecuador where I was the senior vice president and country manager for Corriente Resources and took the Mirador project really from PEA all the way through feasibility. It sold for C$690 million.

I stayed on board as a part of the sales agreement for one year with the two Chinese SOEs that acquired the project and stayed on as chief engineer and started construction of that project. It went on to be the first industrial-scale project in the history of Ecuador. 

That was also copper. It was also in the Jurassic Belt, which I know very well. It’s where 99.9% of our focus is today — our flagship Mocoa project in the same Jurassic Belt in Colombia.

And why don't I just dive in a little bit because, while Mocoa is a very significant asset, and I want to dive into that, there have been some significant changes. We've tightened up our board. 

Still on the board with me is Ernie Mast as a director. And he has a very similar experience. He was the CEO of Inmet Mining’s Cobre Panama project, and he took that project all the way to getting its permits in place for construction. Obviously, it went on to be purchased for multiple billions by First Quantum, which went on to construct that very large copper project.

And that's just a part of the depth of the team. I'm a mining engineer. Ernie is a metallurgist. We have a lot of geological and exploration strength within the company. There are not too many times that you can say you've been involved with a project of that size and scale. 

At the beginning of the year, we moved into the Fiore office. Frank Giustra is now the largest shareholder of the company and, obviously, has a very big vision when it comes to copper. 

We have an amazing team in place, an amazing board in place, and amazing backers in place. And obviously, there are some expectations that you're going to hopefully see some exciting things in Libero — not just at the Mocoa project.

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Gerardo Del Real: Obviously, the track record of the team speaks for itself, the network, the ability to vend in quality projects, the ability to finance, and the ability to move projects forward. That’s all documented. But I do want to focus on Mocoa for a bit. 

You had some news today announcing the approval of the Municipality of Mocoa's four-year development plan. And again, I think that your experience in Latin America and the team's familiarity is going to be really important for advancing this specific project forward and potentially being able to bring other accretive projects in. 

Let's talk Mocoa for the time being. Can you break down the project for me?

Ian Harris: Sure. As I explained, Mocoa is a significant copper-molybdenum porphyry project in Colombia in that same Jurassic Belt. That belt is very prolific. It’s in the same area that we really have locked down in Colombia. That same area in Ecuador was Mirador, Mirador Norte, Panantza, San Carlos, and Morenza. 

And then, further north in that belt in Ecuador is still not explored. Thank goodness, geology doesn't respect country boundaries and that Jurassic Belt continues into Colombia. And Mirador is proof of its potential.

Our Mocoa project, besides having a very significant resource, is still in diapers, so to speak, but it’s open in all directions. We have multiple additional targets around because the Jurassic Belt is famous for its clustering of porphyry centers. 

But even today, the resource is over 600 million tonnes. It's at a 0.45 copper-equivalent grade. And that's over 2 million tonnes of copper, and it's over 200,000 tonnes of moly, which is equivalent to the world production of moly. It's one of the largest undeveloped moly deposits in the world, and it’s actually even higher-grade than many of the pure moly plays out there.

But it's still just in the beginning. It's one of the world's largest undeveloped copper projects. It's already significant in its own right and has the potential to continue to grow. It’s been an interesting road because, based on the experience in Latin America and the experience with the project at Mirador in Ecuador, it has become critically important to build strength and relationships locally. And that’s not always what you see in the annual sustainability reports.

It's about really connecting and creating relationships locally that build a real strength. It drives political will both on a regional and on a national level that keeps projects moving forward. We've been spending a lot of time doing just that. 

And this news… it's hard to always articulate… but we've gone in and we've created new relationships with the new mayor based off of those strong local relationships that we've already created. And I can talk a little bit about the things we've done previously that have gotten us to this point, which have really created a significant shift in the Mocoa area.

It's been important for me to not just create that support but to be able to demonstrate it. And having that development plan approved is a major step for us because, one, we began our exploration activities this year at Mocoa. 

We want to make sure we're doing it from a position of strength and that there's significant and demonstrable support because, let's be fair, Colombia still is a politically charged environment, and we do not want to become a lightning rod.

We want to be a project that is clearly demonstrable and that the choice is easy to become a part of the project because it’s politically beneficial and shows very strong local and regional support. We're very much aligned with what the national, regional, and local governments want to do.

Gerardo Del Real: What comes next for Libero? I know there are a lot of irons in the fire and a lot of chatter. What do you see here for the second half of the year?

Ian Harris: While it's difficult to put an exact timeline, I do see us advancing the Mocoa project and restarting drilling from a position of strength, having more visibility locally and regionally for what the project means. 

To put it into perspective, in 2021, we drilled one confirmation hole into the project, and it was 1,200 meters at around a 0.60% copper-equivalent (Cu-Eq). It was 0.42% copper and 0.047% moly from top-to-bottom of that hole, including over 250 meters at over 1% Cu-Eq.

This is a project that hits at some of the best projects in the world. There are very few projects in the world that are showing those types of levels and grades over such large intercepts. 

We know that, through drilling alone, not only do we have a significant opportunity for resource expansion but, even if the market stays where it is today, which I don't think it will, the project produces numbers that get a lot of attention. 

That's something we can see that we’ll be advancing. And then, once we do, we want to start advancing the project as quickly as possible, including adding as many drills as we can, logistically, to really start advancing the project from a position of strength.

Gerardo Del Real: You mentioned being involved with and helping to monetize assets to the tune of ~C$690 million. What is Libero’s market cap today just to provide a bit of contrast to the potential upside if you execute correctly.

Ian Harris: The market is always a big factor in everything. And one of the easy comparables is Solaris Resources’ Warintza project because it has similar size potential and very similar grades. The high-grade cores and the overall resources are very similar in overall grade on a copper-equivalent basis. Mocoa has the potential to grow, I think, to the size of something like Warintza… and Solaris has had a market cap of up to a billion dollars.

I do tell a lot of people that the decisions we make are because of the fact that we know we have a billion dollar-ish style asset. That's the type of asset it is. And so it requires a little bit more medium and long-term focus because you want to make sure this can go forward and become a future mine.

I see a lot of different projects that get a big valuation and then sort of collapse because they end up hitting some sort of brick wall. I know we have a team in place that can manage that locally, politically, and financially, and design everything so that we can ensure we're navigating this properly. 

So I think that Mocoa has the chance to become a future mine and add to that really big anticipated supply-side deficit that's coming in copper.

Gerardo Del Real: I couldn't agree more on the supply-deficit side. I’m excited to see what you and the team are able to do. The company has some new energy, some new legs, it's experienced, and it has the financial backing that it needs. Let's see what you can do with it. 

Thank you so much for coming on, Ian. I'm looking forward to having you back on soon.

Ian Harris: Thanks, Gerardo. I look forward to keeping you guys updated, and hopefully we're doing some amazing things this year.

Gerardo Del Real: Sounds good. Take care out there, Ian. Thanks again.

Ian Harris: Thank you.

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