Core rig at the Ice Prospect
In today's stumbling economy, with junior mining stocks that seem to be frustratingly stalled, investors are desperate to find a company that has some good news to share and isn't about to come back to the market to dilute its shares when it needs to raise capital.
One company, which has adopted the prospect generator model, is seeing a lot of opportunity on the horizon with new exploration and several joint ventures, including a new joint venture with a much larger company.
We recently spoke to Ken Cunningham, President and CEO of Miranda Gold Corp (TSX-V: MAD), who had some exciting news to share about a new joint venture in the works. We talked about Miranda Gold's joint venture and why investors might want to pay close attention to the prospect generator business model in this struggling economy.
Miranda Gold has several projects in Alaska and Nevada, and has started doing work in Colombia as well.
Mr. Cunningham said: "Our headquarters is in Nevada and the Carlin Trend has been worthwhile for us. We've been involved in the discovery of millions of ounces of gold there. But Nevada is mature and the big deposits aren't sticking out of the ground anymore. We wanted to get into a frontier jurisdiction where you might go up to an outcropping ore body and sample it with a rock hammer rather than having to spend $50,000 or $100,000 or more with drill holes. That was the rationale [for looking at new jurisdictions] and if you look at Colombia, it did not participate in the last 30 years of gold exploration because of things like the drug cartels. To a large degree, those [hindrances to gold exploration] have been dealt with by the government in recent years. So the country is looking for outside investment. Historically, Colombia was the most endowed in gold of all of the South American countries. The Spanish galleons sailing back to Spain were predominantly carrying gold produced in Colombia. So we felt that Colombia was a great opportunity."
Mr. Cunningham admitted that Colombia has recently become popular with many gold mining companies but he asserted that Miranda Gold is different: "A lot of juniors rushed into Colombia when money became available in 2009 and 2010. Colombia was a 'flavor of the month'. But we went in there with a focus and with some of our top talent and our Nevada staff; we've established an office in Medellin with Colombian geologists. We've been building up databases and putting together mineral models of the types of deposits that we know can occur in Colombia and the types of deposits that we want to focus our exploration on. We're not a flash in the pan."
With that as the background, Mr. Cunningham revealed what he was most excited about for Miranda Gold: "We're really proud and excited about the Letter of Intent that we announced of Agnico-Eagle (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) becoming an alliance partner in Columbia. We announced that earlier this month and we're expecting a draft [very soon] of the formal agreement. So in terms of our exploration efforts in Colombia, it's pretty much a game-changer for us."
"It's a real winning situation for Miranda, in terms of funding and having a joint venture partner just waiting for us, and it's a win for Agnico-Eagle because it gets them into a premiere jurisdiction with their feet running rather than having to start from scratch," said Mr. Cunningham.
We dug deeper into the news to find out the details of the deal. Mr. Cunningham said: "It's a 3-year commitment for Agnico-Eagle to become our funding partner on a 70/30 basis. We'll be generating projects, which is what Miranda does, and then we'd have Agnico-Eagle standing in line to take those projects (if they like them) in singular joint ventures. Agnico-Eagle would have to produce a feasibility study to get a 70% interest in the project itself."
This is good news for the company, its treasury, and its shareholders: "By having Agnico-Eagle as a funding partner for the next three years, we've been able to cut our annual budget in Colombia by 70%. We've been running internally about a $700,000 budget and our fiscal year ends this month so we'll go into our 2013 budget year (hopefully) with Agnico-Eagle's funding. We're looking at $1,000,000 or $1,100,000 as our budget so we'll have a stronger presence."
More good things are happening in Colombia. Separate from the deal with Agnico-Eagle is a deal with another junior company, which was still pending at the time of this interview: "One of the things we are hoping to find this week is a new project in Colombia," said Mr. Cunningham. "It's a company that wants to do business in Colombia and wants to do business with Miranda. They've looked at Miranda and have become significant shareholders of Miranda. So we're hoping that before the month is out, we've found the acquisition of a new project in Colombia that we can hopefully roll into a joint venture with the company."
After discussing the relatively new playing field of Colombia, we asked about some of the other projects that Miranda Gold was working on. Mr. Cunningham pointed out that they have several projects going on so he just highlighted his favorite: "My favorite project is still our Red Hill project. It's a joint venture with a company called NuLegacy Gold (NUG: TSXV.), right in the heart of the Cortez Trend (in Nevada). It's right on strike and lined up with the new discovery that Barrick announced – a 3.5 million ounce discovery, which later increased to 7 million ounces, and in their latest quarterly report they said they'd have a new estimate by the end of this calendar year. And just to the south of their deposit is our deposit which has a drill hole where we got 13 meters of 8 grams. Unfortunately, drill holes are running $200,000 to $300,000 so it's not easy [to fund] for our junior partners."
The Miranda Gold business model of project generator seems to be a smart move, especially in today's economy. Mr. Cunningham explained: "Our investors have 8 different projects that are being drilled by other people, leaving our treasury at something around $5.8 million which is a 2.5 – 3 year treasury for us. We are executing deals like the Agnico-Eagle deal, which is going to provide funding for 3 years in Colombia. So we're not at the mercy of a bad market where we have to go out and create dilution. I think our business model is the business model that makes sense in this market. What I tell brokers and potential investors is that in this particular environment, Miranda is the type of company that someone should look at if they are risk tolerant to the junior resource sector. We try to mitigate risk by generating projects and rolling them into joint ventures."
Mr. Cunningham has a lot to be excited about: In a market when other companies are struggling to pay the bills and fund new discoveries, Miranda Gold is moving forward into new jurisdictions and with some exciting discoveries and joint ventures.
Miranda Gold Corp
Unit 1 - 15782 Marine Drive
White Rock, British Columbia V4B 1E6
NuLegacy Gold: http://nulegacygold.com