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By Rose Ragsdale
For Mining News 

Aggressive junior shops big ideas

Century Mining seeks joint venture partner or investor to help develop slew of gold properties in Southeast Alaska's Juneau Gold Belt

 

Last updated 7/30/2006 at Noon



When Margaret "Peggy" Kent corralled partners and a core staff in 2003 to launch Century Mining Co., it was a package of nine groups of promising mining claims near Juneau in Southeast Alaska that she waved in front of investors to incite a stampede of capital to the startup.

Kent knew properties such as the Treadwell Mine and surrounding claims in the historic Juneau Gold Belt had a venerable reputation for rich deposits of precious metals. The belt, after all, did produce 6.8 million ounces of gold and 3.1 million ounces of silver in the 20th Century, mainly from the Alaska-Juneau and Treadwell mines in Juneau.

"We got off the ground by putting together an Alaska land package because we were able to recognize the potential," said Kent in a July 18 interview. "We did a number of deals with some of the miners in the area who were getting elderly and no longer wanted to work on the mines."

Where there once was gold, Kent reasoned, there likely still is gold.

"We go where a lot of gold has been found, places like old gold camps," Kent said. "The Treadwell mine produced 3 million ounces of gold, and we believe it has another 1 million ounces sitting in the 200 feet of (rock) below the mined areas," she said.

Kent's thinking has become the centerpiece of Century Mining's business strategy.

Mining legend at helm

That's understandable when you consider that Kent is a legend in the Canadian mining industry. The first female CEO in the business, Kent formerly was known as Peggy Witte. "Being a woman in the mining industry, I've never acted like a woman," observed Kent, who said she loves the diversity of career opportunities in the mining field.

Her tumultuous career spans the 30 years since she earned a master's degree in metallurgical engineering at the University of Nevada in 1976.

Century Mining is Kent's seventh time at bat, having founded, financed and operated two publicly traded mining companies and four private companies, including Neptune Mining and Royal Oak.

Known as an aggressive, outspoken and tenacious executive, Kent completed a number of mergers and acquisitions and raised more than $1 billion in the U.S. and Canadian public and private equity and debt markets to fund the acquisition and development of mining projects in Canada.

Both lauded and vilified over the years, Kent has even been the subject of a docudrama in Canada.

"A lot of things have been said about me, but one thing they have to say is, I've protected my shareholders," Kent observed.

Other projects come first

But a funny thing has happened on the way to Alaska. Century Mining detoured to Quebec and Peru.

Just three years after startup, the Blaine, Wash.-based junior mining company is a mid-tier gold producer in Canada, mining 4 million ounces of resource in Val d'Or, Quebec, at the Sigma Mine, an open pit operation that aims to produce 90,000 ounces of gold in 2006 and at the Lamaque Mine, an underground project scheduled to begin production this year.

Century Mining is also close to becoming an overseas gold producer, working to extract 2 million ounces of known resource and explore substantial mineral claims held by San Juan Gold Mines in Peru. The company, which owns 60 percent interest in the project, plans to refurbish the mine and mill to restore production to 36,000 ounces of gold in 2006 and eventually expand the mine to produce 80,000 ounces of gold annually.

Century Mining also acquired the Carolin Mine in British Columbia, which produced 45,000 ounces of gold in the early 1980s. The mine closed when gold prices dropped and a socialist government in B.C. frowned on the developer's approach to the project.

Believing Carolin hosts another 1 million ounces of gold, Century Mining is pursuing a $300,000 exploration program for this year.

"We picked up the property when gold prices were lower, and with new technology, a change of government in British Columbia, it's realistic to develop this property now," Kent said.

Wanted: Alaska partner

Work at Century Mining's Alaska project, meanwhile, is moving at a crawl

The Juneau Gold Belt is a 120-mile-long by 10-mile-wide strip along the Alaska Panhandle. It is home to several large mineral deposits, including Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp.'s Kensington Gold Property about 40 miles northeast of Juneau, which has reserves of 3.2 million ounces of gold.

"We had the vision three years ago. We'd like to joint venture these properties or find another company to work with us on them," she said. The company also would consider selling its Alaska properties, she added.

Developing the Juneau-area claims will present significant environmental challenges. For example, two of the mines are located in downtown Juneau, and some of the properties are next to the ocean. But Century Mining is ready to tackle these issues, provided it can find the right partner, Kent said.

"A small company can only do so much," she explained. "Being a junior and having all these properties is not easy."

Century Mining is currently entertaining offers for some of its exploration properties in the Juneau Gold Belt and one major company is doing due diligence on the past producers in the Alaska portfolio, Kent said.

Given gold prices today, there is a lot of interest by other companies in this package," she said. "We are very open for business in Alaska and doing deals on any of the properties."

Century Mining expects new developments in Alaska within the next two months, Kent said.

"You should look for other announcements in the next few weeks and with respect to Alaska, something should happen in the next couple of months," she added.

 

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