The new gold bull market is getting underway but there is an almost complete dearth of build-ready projects that will produce the shiny yellow metal.
In today’s global gold market, trade and economic worries have created strong demand at the very worst time. That’s because the precious metal’s supply is dwindling. In fact, gold output in key producing countries, such as Australia and Peru, is set to slump to generational lows in the near-term.
The world may have reached its moment of “peak gold.” Supply is maxed out. From now on expect production to steadily decline. Overall economic factors also remain in gold’s favour. “Gold is expected to remain supported on the back of the weaker dollar, protests on the streets of the United States, souring US-China relations and inflation worries because of widespread stimulus,” explained CMC UK Chief Market Analyst Michael Hewson.
That tightening supply could send gold prices soaring. A classic setup that favors companies that can feed the voracious demand.
So the million dollar question for investors – where to find the next generation of profitable gold mines? The high-grade Cerro Blanco gold project in Guatemala may provide one of the answers.
Goldcorp owned Cerro Blanco for years and advanced the asset towards production. They defined over a million ounces of high-grade gold, permitted and developed 3 km of production-scale underground workings, drilled 19 geothermal wells, and permitted a 50MW geothermal project. They completed drilling, metallurgy and engineering, and initiated a robust social outreach program – everything needed to get Cerro Blanco ready for a construction decision.
But then Goldcorp’s outlook on Guatemala changed. Cerro Blanco was intended to be a second operation, a sister to the Marlin Mine that Goldcorp had been operating for years. But exploration at Marlin didn’t pan out, and the Marlin Mine was ultimately closured and reclaimed. At the same time the bear market in gold shifted focus to streamlining operational assets rather than building new ones.
By 2017 Goldcorp decided to exit Guatemala completely, and with Marlin closed Cerro Blanco wasn’t considered big enough for the major producer to maintain a presence in the country. After putting over US$200 million into Cerro Blanco, Goldcorp put the project up for sale.
That’s where the renowned exploration geologist John Robins, founder of the Discovery Group, came into the picture. The Discovery Group (www.discoverygroup.ca) is a collection of companies and likeminded individuals who specialize in identifying and developing projects like Cerro Blanco.
As a young man Robins was drawn to mineral exploration by the sense of adventure. “It was really about the ability to travel anywhere in the world and see places nobody else has seen. At the core of me, that’s why I love prospecting, exploration and mining.”
And, what an adventure it has been. While most explorers pray to find one “mine in a lifetime,” Robins has already found three.
Which brings us to his latest great “adventure.” Robins was able to negotiate a deal with Goldcorp and acquire Cerro Blanco for US$18 million, a 1% NSR, and some stock and payment upon production. The deal led to the formation of Bluestone Resources.
Robins partnered with the Lundin Family, one of the world’s best known mining investors, to raise the funds for the acquisition. In mining circles, the Lundin stamp of approval carries tremendous weight with peers and the market alike. The Lundin family has been a major force in mining and oil and gas exploration for more than 50 years.
Today the Mineral Resource division of the Lundin Group includes Lundin Mining, Lucara Diamonds, NGEx Resources, Lundin Gold, Filo Mining, Josemaria Resources, and Denison Mines. One of the pillars of the Lundin Group of companies is their sustainability and responsible mining initiatives supported by the Lundin Foundation.
So beyond the sterling reputation of Bluestone’s founders, what do the numbers say about Cerro Blanco?
An updated Feasibility Study completed by Bluestone in 2019 highlighted an annual production of 112,000 oz/yr over an initial eight-year mine life and 146,000 oz/yr production in the first three years at an all-in sustaining cost of US$579/oz, putting Cerro Blanco in the lowest quartile of the global cost curve.
With an initial capital investment of US$196 million, the project yields an after-tax internal rate of return of 50% and after-tax net present value of $519 million based on a $1,700/oz gold price and $18/oz silver price.
“We acquired the project barely 36 months ago and have done a lot of work in a very short period of time to de-risk and get ready for construction. The feasibility demonstrates Cerro Blanco will generate more than $125 million in free cash flow in its first year of production” said Robins.
In January 2020 Jack Lundin joined as CEO & Director and was instrumental in arranging a $92 million over-subscribed bought deal financing to advance the project. This was a remarkable vote of confidence in the project and team, especially with the deal closing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jack is also tasked with optimizing all areas of the project design, execution plan, and basic engineering, which is expected to be completed in Q4 2020, along with an updated resource estimate from an extensive drilling program.
To return to the key question for investors, where can you find the next generation of profitable gold mines?
Consider putting Cerro Blanco and Bluestone (TSXV:BSR | OTCQB:BBSRF) on your watch list. This asset could be in profitable production within two years, an incredibly rare opportunity in today’s gold sector.