By Dr. Allen Alper, PhD Economic Geology and Petrology, Columbia University, NYC, USA
Greg Johnson CEO and Chairman, Metallic Minerals Corp. (TSX-V: MMG; US OTC: MMNGF): An Exploration Stage Silver Company Located in the High-Grade Keno Hill Silver District of Canada’s Yukon Territory
Metallic Minerals Corp. (TSX-V: MMG; US OTC: MMNGF) is an exploration stage silver company focused in Canada, particularly in the high-grade, historic Keno Hill silver district. Greg Johnson CEO and Chairman and Chris Ackerman Corporate Communications of Metallic Minerals believe that the district remains significantly under-explored with excellent upside for future discovery. The company’s core project is the Keno-Lightning property in the renowned Keno Hill Silver District in the Yukon Territory, Canada – directly adjacent to, and on-trend with, Alexco Resource Corp’s well-known 67 million ounce high-grade silver holdings. Plans for 2017 include an exploration & drilling campaign focused on 12 identified high-priority targets, with a minimum $1 million budgeted which is likely to expand significantly. Metallic Minerals is led by a team with a track record of discovery and exploration success, including large scale development, permitting and project financing.
Dr. Allen Alper: This is Dr. Allen Alper, Editor-in-chief of Metals News, interviewing, both Greg Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, and Chris Ackerman, LLB Senior Manager - Corporate Communications from Metallic Minerals. Greg, would you like to tell us what differentiates your company from other companies?
Greg Johnson: Metallic Minerals is an exploration-stage company. We're focused in Canada, particularly in the Yukon’s historic Keno Hill silver district. What really stands out about Keno Hill, is its long history of high-grade silver production, over 200 million ounces of silver produced from the district since the turn of the century in the 1900s. We believe that the district remains significantly under-explored, and therefore excellent upside for future discovery, which is really going to be the focus for Metallic.
Dr. Allen Alper: That's excellent! Could you elaborate a little bit on your deposit, any resource information, and also your plans for 2017?
Greg Johnson: Sure. The western end of the district is the area that has historically had the most focus. That is the area that was historically mined by United Keno Hill, and then most recently by Alexco. There are over 40 deposits at Keno Hill, seven of which occur on the eastern end of the district, which is where our land position occurs. Four of these seven historic producing mines were among the highest-grade in the district at over 5000 grams per ton of silver.
We have at least 12 priority targets that we are targeting for follow-up exploration work next spring and summer, culminating with drill testing our top targets as part of our program. Our overall exploration budget for this year will be at least $1 million exploration, which will enable us to conduct significant surface work as well as a drill campaign on these specific targets and areas of historic production – ultimately, we are working towards making new discoveries we can develop into future resources.
Dr. Allen Alper: That sounds very good. Could you tell our high-net-worth readers/investors a bit about your background and your team?
Greg Johnson: Yeah. We have a terrific team here at Metallic. I'm an exploration geologist by training. I've been in the industry for nearly 30 years. This is my third public company. I was one of the original co-founders at NovaGold, and then went on to be president and CEO at South American Silver, Wellgreen Platinum, and now this company. My background has really been a combination of the technical and geological side, where I've been involved in a number of major discoveries in North America and I've worked internationally. But also a large part of my career has been spent on project financing and raising capital for these various deposits and projects. I'm actually quite excited to be in an earlier stage project again, just for the more hands-on element of the geology and to be able to be part of creating new value for our investors through the process of making new discoveries.
I'm joined at Metallic by a terrific team of people, who have a lot of experience in the region, connections with government and First Nations, and just experience and expertise in the area. Sue Craig, our executive vice-president, is a recent recipient of a lifetime achievement award for mineral exploration from the Association for Mineral Exploration in B.C. She worked with me at NovaGold and was the one who led the permitting on the very large Galore Creek copper-gold project when we were both there. She has a really great series of relationships and expertise in the north.
Bill Harris, one of our directors, likewise is an important figure in the Yukon, and has been quite successful in putting together packages of targets on a number of district scale systems like at Metallic. He was involved in this company when it was a private entity, and was part of the team that assembled the original land packages, as well as being a key driver in some of the Keno area acquisitions we’ve made over the past several months.
Tim Thiessen, our CFO, has been CFO for a number of mining companies. He's also involved with Endeavor Silver. He was part of the early team that helped spin out the Silver Wheaton concept. Scott Petsel, P.Geo., our Vice President of Exploration, likewise is an excellent resource and worked with me at NovaGold. Scott was involved in the discovery and expansion of both Galore Creek and the enormous Donlin Creek discovery.
Taken together, we have a team with decades of experience in this particular region, track records of discovery and advancement, and we're all here because we're excited about the prospects for the company and excited about adding value. The team collectively owns a considerable amount of the company, about 25%. We've participated in each of the financings and really feel strongly that this is the beginning of a new bull market, and this is the entity and vehicle that we want to be involved in.
Dr. Allen Alper: That sounds great. That's very important that the management team has faith in the company and has put down money and is backing the company. That's fantastic.
Dr. Allen Alper: Could you tell me a little bit about your capital structure and your finances?
Greg Johnson: Yeah. We're listed under the symbol MMG on the Toronto Venture Exchange, as well as MMNGF on the U.S. OTC market. The shares are trading at around the 40 cent Canadian level, over the last month or so. The company has held up well in the recent correction since the August peak. We have just under $2 million in cash, about $3 million in callable, in the money warrants, that we would expect to see come in over the next year or so, so we're in good financial shape in terms of moving into this next field season. We have about 37 million shares outstanding, not including the warrants.
Dr. Allen Alper: That's very good. What are the primary reasons our high-net-worth readers/investors should consider investing in your company?
Greg Johnson: I think one of the biggest opportunities, when looking at investment in a company like Metallic Minerals, is that in addition to the exceptional team that we have talked about is the prospectivity of our location. This is a district that has a proven track record of producing high-grade silver deposits. But it’s not just a case of close-ology. We already have seven historic producers on our ground, so we know that high-grade Keno type mineralization occurs there. Our properties have seen a lot less historic exploration because of the previously patchwork private ownership. The eastern end of the Keno Hill silver district was privately controlled and work done was very basic. Now that this land package has been integrated under Metallic Minerals and we see that the geologic conditions on our holdings are comparable with those that host the exceptional recent discoveries by Alexco as well as some of the largest historic deposits in the district, we have a huge opportunity in this target rich environment to step into major new discoveries.
Exploration is often an extremely high-risk venture, but when you can be exploring next to existing producing mines, the probability for success is greatly enhanced, and when you can be doing that in a district with a track record of production and an understanding like we have at Keno, it significantly reduces your overall exploration risk. I think we have an excellent opportunity to create new discoveries, to grow those discoveries into resources, and with an existing mill at our neighbor Alexco and their operations, I think this is the kind of situation where we can take those resources and rapidly advance them into producing assets.
Dr. Allen Alper: That's excellent! I think those are very good reasons for our high-net-worth readers/investors to consider investing in your company.
By the way, what are your thoughts on what's about to happen with silver in 2017?
Greg Johnson: I think we're quite bullish overall. We look at that long-term silver to gold ratio, and at the current levels around 70 to one, it's at the high end of that historic ratio, so we think both gold and silver are likely to do well, but I think there's an opportunity that silver may do better than gold and outperform because of that historic ratio, which a longer term average might be closer to 50. At some periods in the market, that ratio drops as low as 30. When you look at the geologic ratio, it's probably more like 15 to one. We're quite bullish on silver. I think things are laying out nicely with this retracement. I think it's taken some of the speculative froth out of the sector. I think so far in the year it seems to be pointing to higher prices for the metals, which should translate to higher prices for the producers and the explorer-developers.
Dr. Allen Alper: That sounds great. Really excellent! Is there anything else you'd like to add, Greg?
Greg Johnson: Chris, did we hit all the highlights? Is there anything else you can think of?
Chris Ackerman: Yeah, I think that was comprehensive, but I would encourage your readers to have a look at our website and, particularly, our presentation where we’ve provided some maps and cross-sections. I think they really offer a good visualization of what Greg mentioned as far as the geological conditions at Keno and how those preferred host rocks and trends continue from Alexco’s ground on to our own. We haven't really gotten out and told the story at all yet, so you're among the few and first, Al, to hear it. That's something we'll look to expand on in 2017 as well, just so people become aware of the opportunity. I think the progress with Alexco will put some eyes on the story, too.
Dr. Allen Alper: That's great!
Greg Johnson: That's a good point. We're well-known up in the Yukon because it's a pretty small place, and clearly the investors that are in Metallic right now understand the story through our direct communication. But as Chris points out, we haven't marketed this story. We are just starting to get out a little and, in fact, will be at PDAC in Toronto, so we’ll see you there. We're really only a six-month-old company and it's pretty early days in terms of market awareness of what we have, but we are starting to get some interest from newsletter writers and others who are recognizing where we are, the opportunity in regards to potential discoveries, and the relationship with Alexco. So I think this is going to be one that still has a lot of room to go in terms of awareness-building and potential identification of new investors.
Dr. Allen Alper: I appreciate you allowing me to be one of the first to get the word out about your company. It sounds very exciting to be in such a strong silver district with such a great community, and a great technical team, a broad team. Excellent!
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