I can only go so long without writing about another gold teaser — so my deepest apologies if you’re just plain sick of the yellow shiny stuff. While I was traveling last week my mailbox filled up with questions about the “Golden Triangle” teaser, which is all about some of the small gold miners who might grow into riches as soon as British Columbia builds them a transmission line to power their mining operations.
The teaser is from Matt Badiali, for his S&A Resource Report, which is in the top five commodities-related letters over at Stock Gumshoe Reviews, and which gets a lot of attention from my readers both because the stories he spins are spectacular, and because it’s a relatively inexpensive subscription compared to a lot of the high-profile gold and energy newsletters.
But still, one doesn’t want to subscribe to a newsletter just to find a hot stock tip, right? That’s why you’re here, after all, in the land of the free and the home of the Gumshoe.
Badiali is teasing us about several of the small miners who are exploring in the Golden Triangle, and he thinks their valuations could soar when production becomes more feasible in the near future. So let’s get started, shall we?
If you’ve heard of the “Golden Triangle” it may well be because of the high-profile flameout of NovaGold — this particular triangle is the area of northwestern British Columbia, near the Yukon and Alaska borders, that includes NovaGold’s Galore Creek mine as well as dozens of other big gold (and other metal) discoveries and historically significant mines. What it doesn’t have is much infrastructure — as in roads, power lines, or power generation capacity, and it doesn’t have many people, either. They can move the people in if the money is there for mining, but the rest takes time and big investments of the type that a junior gold miner (or even a large one) is rarely able or willing to make on their own, especially for the kinds of deposits that prospectors have been finding in the area (large, relatively low-grade deposits that require energy intensive bulk mining and milling and processing of many tons of rock).
And the big transmission line that is teased is real, too — at least in terms of its potential impact. Planning was well underway for the extension of the transmission line, with NovaGold’s Galore Creek as the major electricity buyer, several years ago — and planning for the line was scrapped late in 2007 when NovaGold suspended work on the mine and reneged on its promise of $158 million toward project financing, then re-started late in 2008 when commodity riches had everyone excited about the potential of these huge deposits.
This is the flip side of the big BC hydropower equation, by the way — I’ve written before about a number of the big hydropower projects and newer run-of-river projects that supply the electricity for the grid, and have to have transmission lines built out to their locations to feed the grid, so there’s a lot of action going on with the BC grid in general these days on both the customer and provider ends (and indeed, there are some potential hydropower projects in or near the “golden triangle” that could benefit from a grid connection, too).
But today, it’s all about some of these huge gold (and other metal) deposits in the golden triangle, many of which are pretty much being held hostage against a future when cheaper electric power makes mining them more feasible … or profitable.
So that’s the essential promise — this transmission line, assuming that it really does go through over the next year or two, will make these pie-in-the-sky resources into real reserves, and the miners will become extravagantly more valuable as a result. There are dozens of miners that own projects up there, though, so which ones is Badiali teasing? Let’s look and see what clues he throws out for us:
“Why mining experts are buying shares of one small gold stock, poised to produce $12 BILLION worth of bullion on the back of a huge new government spending project…
“You see, what almost no one knows is that the new high-voltage power line — called the Northwest Transmission Line — is scheduled to cut right through the heart of one of the most isolated (and untapped) gold mineralizations in Canada… a huge pocket of underground gold formations known as the ‘Golden Triangle’… a mineral-rich zone that has been virtually off-limits to mining companies for the past 150 years because of its remote location and lack of power infrastructure.
“Says Robert Stevens, of the Association for Mineral Exploration in British Columbia: ‘The region to be severed by the Northwest Powerline, which currently lacks sufficient infrastructure, is often called the Golden Triangle because of the great geological potential of several world class mineral deposits.'”
OK, so that’s all fine and dandy — though despite what Badiali implies here, we should note that the mining resources of the “Golden Triangle” are a major reason for the possible transmission line, they’re not just secret beneficiaries.
So which miners? Badiali talks about a few of them, and doesn’t black out their names on the maps and diagrams the way he does with the other companies, so we can probably assume that he’s not teasing NovaGold (NG in NY and Toronto), probably the largest company that’s leveraged to this transmission line, or Skyline Gold (SK in Canada, SYGCF on the pink sheets) or Copper Fox (CUU in Canada, CPFXF on the pinks) since he mentions their Galore Creek, Bronson Slope, and Schaft Creek projects. Still, that doesn’t narrow it down overly much.
And frankly, the clues are not overwhelmingly specific. Here’s what we hear about the first one:
“One of these firms, for example, we recommend you buy IMMEDIATELY — as soon as you finish reading this report. In the next few weeks, this company is scheduled to release a report — called a “feasibility study” — that could mark the addition of as much as 20 MILLION ounces of gold reserves to their property in the Triangle. This is a major development. I recently spoke with the company’s CEO about the issue. If everything goes like I think it will, this announcement by itself could send shares up 100%, OVERNIGHT. Then, I expect this stock to explode even higher in the following months.”
That kind of scale is pretty rare up there, even with those big potential resources that have been discovered over the years, so since this ad started circulating about ten days ago I’d guess that here they’re talking about old S&A favorite Seabridge Gold (SA in New York, SEA in Toronto). If so, Seabridge was a bit early in releasing their feasibility study — or at least the preliminary one — because they issued the press release with the basics of that study on March 31. That feasibility study was on their KSM deposit, which is now the largest resource in Canada and one of the largest potential gold mines in the world with now about 30 million ounces being converted to “proven and probable” reserves, so yes, it’s pretty impressive that the company, even after a huge run over the last five years, is still valued at less than a billion dollars (market cap $970 million, no debt).
Seabridge is not a miner — or at least, they don’t really want to be a miner. They focus on what they consider to be the most lucrative part of the gold mining process: turning undrilled assets in the ground into proven and probable reserves, advancing the permitting process, and making a feasible plan for extracting that gold profitably, and then selling or partnering their property and plan to someone who will do the mining and take on the operational risks. That strategy has served them pretty well so far, so although the preliminary feasibility study didn’t send the stock soaring there are some potential catalysts in the year or so to come — they will complete the permitting process within a year or so, they think, and it seems that chances are pretty good that they’ll be selling this massive mine to someone, or selling half of it to a partner who will do all the work. This KSM project is down near the southern end of what most folks consider the “golden triangle,” so they also don’t need the transmission lines and infrastructure to come quite so far as some of the others.
So that’s my best guess for the golden triangle pick number one … how about the other two that he thinks are the best bets?
Well, dang it, I went through the ad and it doesn’t seem to me that he teased out any details about those two other favorites — so we’re left in the dark. What are the possibles?
If we look at the map that Seabridge provides in their presentation materials, one name that jumps out at me is Silver Standard Resources (SSRI), a company I’ve looked at a few times before thanks to their large Pirquitas mine in Argentina and the big portfolio of potential silver projects they have under exploration and development. But they also have two significant projects under development in the “golden triangle”, both of which also have significant silver resources, as one might expect, but one of which, Snowfields, is right next to Seabridge’s KSM project and offers a huge potential gold resources (measured and indicated resource of almost 20 million ounces — no proven reserves yet, but they do have what they say is an “aggressive” drill program this year).
So that actually sounds pretty compelling to me — Silver Standard has had problems at Pinaquitas in keeping their costs down during the first year or so of mining and processing, and had to raise money back in January at prices far lower than the shares had been in December (the stock was above $24 late last year, they had a large secondary offering at $17), so it might be that if you think silver and gold are going up SSRI has some nice leverage with the potential for improving operations at PInaquitas (which is still a very young mine, just started shipping to smelters last year) and getting in on the gravy train of the “golden triangle” as they convert some of that resource to reserves and enjoy the expected benefit of BC infrastructure coming their way.
Of course, there’s always the risk that the transmission line won’t go where folks want it to, or won’t be on schedule, or won’t do what they hope it will do — I haven’t followed that story all that closely, but this is a project that gets support from both “green” energy groups and miners, which is always an uneasy alliance, BC has huge hydro resources they can tap into the grid if they get better transmission lines, but it’s probably also true that the biggest potential for electricity bringing a lot of money to the northern part of the province is in ecologically “challenging” mining. Canada is a mining friendly country, obviously, and everyone likes jobs and tax dollars, but I have no idea whether there will end up being further fights over the transmission line — if you want to keep tabs on the line, there is a “pro transmission” website available here (many of its backers are the mining companies hoping for power), and if you’re feeling skeptical you might find this BC online magazine article more to your liking. The local “city” has a newspaper that covers this project pretty closely as well, the Terrace Standard.
And yes, the mainstream press may not have exactly “run with” this story yet, but the Canadian press covers mining a lot more thoroughly than their south of the border cousins — there was a good article in the Vancouver Sun back in December about many of the miners I mention above (and below).
And other miners? Badiali has released free articles with some of the possible names, including other stocks like Imperial Metals (III in Canada, IPMLF on the pinks) and Capstone Resources (CS in Canada, CSFFF on the pinks) that are reasonably sized, and there are also plenty of tiny ones, including folks that have been working the area for ages and waiting for the transmission line, like Skyline Gold (SK in Canada, SYGCF pinks), and some that are sniffing around the larger sites — like Eskay Mining (ESK in Canada, ESKYF on the pinks), for example, which holds a lot of property near the now defunct Eskay Creek Mine (formerly a big resource for Barrick until it “ran its course.”) So you can peruse those as well and see if anything catches your fancy as a possible speculation. I’m happy to throw out Silver Standard and Seabridge as possible guesses for Badiali’s “top three” golden triangle picks, in part because these companies are both pretty big already and have a proven track record … but there are dozens more firms prospecting, exploring … or just plain waiting … in the triangle, if you’ve got a favorite tiny speculation, feel free to let us know what it is.
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