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By Curt Freeman
For Mining News 

Subjective outlook

'Crowdfunding' emerges as viable mining financing mechanism in uncertain times

 

Last updated 12/27/2015 at Noon



As the curtain rings down on 2015, the sound of clapping and cheering can already be heard from the mining industry as it anticipates the end of a largely depressing year which started out looking like the long-awaited industry recovery was going to happen but in the end, did not.

The uncertainty brought on by this year's unsettling events was front and center in a recent round-table discussion hosted by Northern Miner, sponsored by PearTree Securities and entitled "New Frontiers in Mining Finance." This forum centered around 13 of the mining industry's brightest leaders who were queried about the present state of global mining sector financings.

The discussions were augmented by a survey conducted by Northern Miner where 450 industry leaders were asked a series of mining finance questions, the results of which were sometimes surprising.

For example, only 58 percent of those polled had a bullish or neutral outlook for the mining sector.

Not surprising at all, however, a whopping 74 percent of the same respondents said they had a bullish or neutral outlook for their own company.

Wait, what?! So the rest of the industry is not so good but the future for our company is so bright we have to wear sunglasses? But there were other poll responses that made more sense, such as 58 percent of those polled said the availability of traditional equity financings had deteriorated in the past 12 months, while a full 20 percent of those polled said financing via royalty and/or streaming mechanisms has improved over the past 12 months and 43 percent said they felt the use of royalty and/or streaming mechanisms would increase over the next 12 months.

And then there are mining deals financed via crowdfunding.

Yes Dorothy, crowdfunding.

As it turns out, some $65 billion was raised last year via this financial mechanism, and its use is growing for mining finance.

Unfortunately, almost one-third of the mining respondents polled considered themselves unfamiliar with crowdfunding, while only 6 percent said they were familiar with it.

In addition, a full 34 percent of those polled said crowdfunding was the method that inspired the least amount of confidence for funding in the mining industry.

In looking at Alaska's mining sector, it is clear that we are a smaller version of the world's mining industry.

Traditional equity financings, the preferred method of funding for non-operating junior exploration companies, have virtually dried up in Alaska.

Private equity financings, while utilized by some Alaska explorers in 2015, remain a small piece of the exploration finance pie.

Ucore Rare Metals has utilized royalty sales as a funding mechanism at its Bokan-Dotson Ridge project in Southeast Alaska, but this mechanism is most viable for advanced projects or active mines, and Alaska currently has only a few projects at that level.

I am not aware of any mining activity in Alaska that has been financed by crowdfunding, although I suspect that methodology will be utilized in the near future.

Unfortunately, its alter-ego, what I call "crowdselling", is alive and well, being a common financial strategy practiced by almost every shareholder in the industry over the past five years.

Western Alaska

Barrick Gold Corp. and Novagold Resources Inc. reported that the Donlin Gold Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was published by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is now available at http://www.donlingoldeis.com.

If you want to see how thorough Alaska's permitting process is, log on to the DEIS website and take a look at the DEIS' Executive Summary - it runs to a mere 93 pages! Following the filing of the DEIS, the Corps is expected to issue a schedule for public meetings on the DEIS, to be held in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region and Anchorage in coming weeks.

The Corps also will accept written comments on the DEIS until the close of the five-month comment period at the end of April 2016, after which it will review and respond to all comments on the DEIS in a final environmental impact statement, which the Corps anticipates will be published in 2017.

Calista Corp., owner of the minerals, and The Kuskokwim Corp., owner of the surface lands, both welcomed the publication of the DEIS, the culmination of 20 years of effort since the project was first leased by Placer Dome U.S. In addition to further advancing the DEIS, Donlin Gold has advanced a number of other key permits.

The Public Notice for the Clean Water Act Section 404 (Wetlands) permit application was issued by the Corps.

The Air Quality and Integrated Waste Management permit applications were submitted to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Donlin Gold also submitted lease applications to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and continued to work with the Dam Safety Program on its dam application package.

Congratulations to Barrick Gold Corp., Novagold Resources Inc., Calista Corp., and The Kuskokwim Corp. on reaching this milestone on the path to production!

Interior Alaska

Contango ORE Inc. posted additional drill results from its phase 2 program at the Tetlin project, a joint venture with a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Gold Inc. Significant results from the West Peak Zone included hole 15179, which returned 18.14 meters grading 1.512 grams per metric ton gold, and 13.4 meters grading 2.283 g/t gold, and 8.38 meters grading 2.115 g/t gold, hole 15181 which returned 8.38 meters grading 3.948 g/t gold, and 10.22 meters grading 4.635 g/t gold, and 19.81 meters grading 4.116 g/t gold, hole 15182, which returned 2.55 meters grading 58.056 g/t gold, hole 15188, which returned 9.67 meters grading 2.376 g/t gold, and hole 15191, which returned 3.55 meters grading 2.682 g/t gold.

The company indicated that the phase 2 effort extended the Peak zone to the west and southwest and expanded mineralization at North Peak Zone and that the partners are reviewing plans for a 2016 exploration program.

Alaska Range

Millrock Resources Inc. announced that it has signed an option to joint venture agreement on its Stellar copper - gold project with Alaska newcomer Vista Minerals (Alaska) Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vista Minerals Pty Ltd. Under the terms of the agreement, Vista can earn an 80 percent interest by making exploration expenditures of US$4.0 million and cash payments totaling US$300,000.

Millrock will retain a net smelter returns production royalty of 1.0 percent on all metals.

The claims also are subject to a royalty in favor of Altius Minerals.

In the event that a joint venture partner is diluted below a 10 percent equity interest, such interest will convert to a 1.0 percent net smelter returns production royalty.

The property, which Millrock acquired by staking in 2012, covers the Zackly copper-gold skarn deposit.

Surrounding lands are considered prospective for porphyry copper-gold deposits, or other types of copper deposits and intrusion-related gold deposits.

Millrock owns a 100 percent interest in the claims.

Welcome to Alaska Vista Minerals (Alaska) Inc.!

Northern Alaska

NovaCopper Inc. provided a year-end corporate update of its Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects in the Ambler District.

Over the course of the year, the company completed its acquisition of Sunward Resources Ltd. which netted the company about US$20 million cash and 100 percent ownership of the Titiribi gold project in Colombia.

The company completed a summer drill program at the 100 percent owned Arctic project on time and under-budget with drill results confirming continuity of high grade copper-gold-silver-lead-zinc mineralization.

Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker authorizes Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to initiate the environmental impact statement process for the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Road.

Completion of the road would provide road access from the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District where the State of Alaska and NANA Regional Corp., an Alaska Native regional corporation, have extensive land holdings.

The company's board of directors also approved a change of corporate name to Trilogy Metals Inc. subject to receipt of shareholder approval in early 2016.

Southeast Alaska

Coeur Mining presented some updated information on its Kensington gold mine at a recent mining conference in San Francisco.

The company indicated that it is sequencing its operation to take advantage of higher grade resources at the adjacent Jualin system where the internal rate of return on investment is estimated at a whopping 70 percent.

During the third quarter of 2015, the mine extracted 164,350 short tons of ore at a cost of US$62 per ton.

Processing costs rang in at US$35 per ton with an additional general and administrative cost of US$30 per ton, bringing adjusted cash costs to US$842 per ounce of gold.

Exploration of the Jualin system is expected to add new high-grade ounces to the mine's resource base, which stood at nearly 1.6 million ounces in all categories at this time last year.

Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. reported year-end results from its recently completed exploration program at the Palmer copper-zinc-silver-gold project near Haines.

The work is part of a US$5 million 2015 budget.

Planning is currently underway with partner Dowa Metals & Mining Co. Ltd. on work plans and budgets for 2016.

Expenditures to date on the project by Dowa total in excess of US$15 million.

Highlights of this year's efforts include discovery of new volcanogenic massive sulfide mineralization a portion of the 100 percent company-controlled Haines Block.

At the Tsirku prospect, a two-kilometer-long trend of massive sulfide boulders associated with altered and mineralized volcanic was discovered.

Highlight assays of 4.99 percent copper, 6.32 percent zinc, 68 grams per metric ton silver, 1.97 g/t gold from chip and grab samples of boulders that range from 0.2 to 1.5 meters in size.

Mineralization style at this new prospect resembles that of the Palmer deposit, some 9 kilometers away.

Grab samples grading 8.12 percent copper and 15.4 percent zinc have been obtained from outcrop at the Waterfall prospect, located three kilometers southwest of the Palmer deposit area.

The Waterfall prospect occurs adjacent to the silver-rich Cap, HG and Nunatak prospects.

At the Palmer deposit area, a total of 7,736 meters of core drilling was completed, consisting of eight wide-spaced exploration drill holes, one geotechnical drill hole, and the extension of a 2014 drill hole.

Drill holes primarily tested areas around the South Wall EM Zone, including the fault displaced offset of the zone referred to as the Lower Offset target.

Mineralization was intersected in three holes, expanding the known extent of the mineralized system about 100 meters east (holes CMR15-72 and 73) and 65 meters up dip (hole CMR15-75).

Mineralization in these holes is chert-barite dominant with base-metal bearing footwall pyrite-pyrrhotite stringer zones.

Significant intersections include 4.2 meters grading 0.5 percent copper, 3.98 percent zinc, 60.4 g/t silver, 0.65 g/t gold in CMR15-75, 3.0 meters grading 2.32 percent copper and 14.9 g/t silver in hole CMR15-75 and 8.0 meters grading 1.33 percent zinc and 21.6 g/t silver in hole CMR15-73.

Four drill holes targeted the Lower Offset target below the Kudo fault, a structure that displaces the down-dip projection of the EM Zone.

One of the four holes, CMR15-69, successfully intersected EM zone-equivalent massive pyrrhotite mineralization and intense hydrothermal alteration roughly 160 meters below the fault, including 7.2 meters grading 0.43 percent copper and 0.46 percent zinc.

The other three drill holes to test the Lower Offset target area did not intersect EM zone correlative stratigraphy.

A variety of geotechnical, engineering, and environmental baseline studies were completed during the summer 2015 exploration season.

The work includes geotechnical studies, rock geochemistry, flora and fauna surveys, fish surveys, surface and groundwater hydrology, water quality, and meteorology surveys.

Author Bio

Curt is President of Avalon Development Corporation, a mineral exploration consulting firm based in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is a U.S. Certified Professional Geologist with the American Institute of Professional Geologists (CPG #6901) and is a licensed geologist in the State of Alaska (Lic. # AA 159).

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 907-457-5159
Contact Curt Freeman

 

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