The Colombia gold sector has started 2012 with a great deal of energy and interest, with a handful of IPOs advancing, financings, upward stock momentum and buzz around imminent resource statements. This was obvious at the Cambridge House Vancouver Resource Investment show, the first major mining investment event of the year. Vancouver is the home of the junior exploration sector and the appetite of the city’s investors for gold remains strong judging by the line outside the Canadian Royal Mint (see photo).
The Cambridge House show saw over 600 companies exhibiting and presenting, including at least 13 companies with projects in Colombia, at what is becoming an increasingly important event.
Colombia's perceived political risk pro-file is improving but newsletter writer Thom Calandra said he ignores political risk factors in countries such as Colombia "for potential higher returns," advising the audience to "follow the copper" in 2012. In Colombia, he said this means Bellhaven Copper & Gold (TSXV: BHV), which is developing the La Mina copper porphyry project in Antioquia.
BHV is drilling its last hole at the La Cantera target at La Mina and will switch its focus to the Middle Zone prospect where it hopes to release a NI 43-101 resource statement later this year. This will be separate from the existing NI 43-101 resource statement it issued last year for La Cantera. The Middle Zone is thought to be at least as big as La Cantera, although at lower grade and with more complex geology. The company will also undertake more work on the La Garrucha target in the eastern part of its concession, a target that straddles the concession boundary with its neighbour AngloGold Ashanti, so a deal may be done there.
Near to La Mina, Colombia Crest Gold (TSXV: CLB) hopes to start drilling at its Arabia target in mid February. The company says coverage of the stock will soon be initiated by one bank and it hopes to obtain coverage from others later this year. In 2012, it has budgeted 20,000m for drilling with an initial 5,000m that it will follow up if initial drilling hits anything interesting. In has C$6M in the bank and C$2.1M due in IAMGOLD warrants, and if it gets drilling success it will look to do an institutional fund raise later in the year. CLB has identified five porphyry type systems on its properties, the type of target that the major mining companies love, according to Hans, and it will try to discover more as its exploration programme continues. "Arabia has fantastic outcrops that will be drilled as part of the 5,000m programme," says CEO Hans Rasmussen. At Arabia there are two large drill targets: the first is 400m x 800m and the second 300m x 400m, which returned up to 3.8 g/t Au in rock chip samples and 0.04 g/t Au in soil samples.
Further south in the Middle Cauca gold belt, all eyes are on Batero Gold (TSXV: BAT) as the long-awaited maiden resource statement for its Quinchia project in Risaralda is due any week now. BAT has been one of the successes of the Colombian gold story for investors and the stock is gaining momentum once again in anti-cipation of the release. The interest in the company is such that it gave two presentation sessions to interested investors.
In 2011, it drilled 142 holes and 55,755m at Quinchia that continued to expand its porphyry target. Its area has about 2km of strike from Dos Quebradas through El Centro to La Cumbre, where at the latter it has extended the depth of mineralization to 756m. This has a deep oxide zone with a 1 g/t Au shell near surface in the centre of its ore body. The company has identified eight other porphyry targets on its concessions and exploration of these will continue in 2012. BAT will start a scoping study by the end of 2012, and with C$4M in cash it will need to do a financing soon in order to fund its C$17-20M budget for 2012.
BATs neighbour to the south is Seafield Resources (TSXV: SFF) which is planning to update the resource statement of the Miraflores target at its Quinchia project, where it has found that the breccia widens as it gets deeper. The timing of SFFs update may come hot on the heels of the eagerly awaited maiden resource statement by BAT. A scoping study by SRK is expected in March for Miraflores, a project that already has a resource of about 1 Moz Au.
In Caldas, Rio Novo Gold (TSX: RN) is waiting for permits to begin drilling its Toldafria project and hopes to be able to start up in February or March. This will have a 3,000m Phase I and a 5,000m Phase II follow up. It has an existing resource statement of 968,000 oz Au @ 2.38 g t Au based on sampling of tunnels and the drill programme will aim to confirm this. The company plans to update its resource mid year. Toldafria is a high grade vein system with a N-S strike and a stockwork vein system around it. The drill holes will average 300m deep.
Gran Colombia Gold (TSX: GCM) saw its stock price decimated in 2011 as a result of its merger with Medoro Resources. How-ever, the company is fighting back and highlighting its strong gold production growth potential in the coming years. GCM aims to increase production from 90,000 oz Au in 2011 to 540,000 oz Au in 2016. It will expand production at its Segovia Oper-ations from 65,000 oz Au in 2011 to 200,000 oz Au in 2014 via a two-phase project: Phase I will see the capacity of its Maria Dama plant increase from 750 tpd to 1,000 tpd to take production to 130,000 oz this year. Phase II sees the development of a new mechanised mine and 2,500 tpd plant at the Los Aves/Poma Rosa project to the west of the existing Providencia and El Silencio Mines. This will increase overall production to 200,000 oz Au in 2014. GCM expects to release a resource statement for its Segovia Operations in the coming weeks. Its main production jump will be at its Marmato project in Caldas from 2015. GCM will receive a prefeasibility study for Segovia at the end of March and will release an updated resource statement to provide greater definition about its plans to build a mine capable of producing an average 340,000 oz/y Au. Socialization work is underway with local communities and it hopes to make good progress on this front throughout 2012.
In Santander, CB Gold (TSXV: CBJ) drilled 31,500m in 2011 and will drill 55,000m in 2012 at its Vetas project. CBJ is exploring the 1-3m wide high grade veins that it has on its concessions where underground mining may be possible, and will look to produce a maiden resource statement by the end of the year. The area is an historical mining district and some of its concessions are already exploitation licences due to the presence of existing artisanal mines.
Meanwhile Eco Oro (TSXV: EOM) is working on a feasibility study for an underground mine at its Angostura project with things moving along nicely on the political front according to interim president & CEO Ana Stylianides. The reconfigured project will not have a large pit nor use heap leach technology and will have much reduced plant and infra-structure. The company is starting to socialize its new project and hopes that local communities will be more accepting of this lower impact approach. The new project will target the high grade oxide ore body and the transitional ores. It is also drilling two other targets in the region. An updated resource statement and a scoping study are due within a few weeks with a prefeasibility study due in 3Q12. The company has about 3 Moz Au at Angostura.
Private company Atico Minerals is expected to IPO on the TSXV in mid-February having completed its fund raise. The company initially hoped to raise C$6M @ 50¢ but raised C$10M, testament to the continuing popularity of Colombia and also of people 'following the copper'.
Llaves de Oro is another private company that will IPO this year, with its Popales project in Antioquia, just to the north of Continental Gold's (TSX: CNL) Buritica project. The company has planned a seven-hole drilling programme which it will begin once it has gone public and raised funds. The company was founded by Michael Smith, the original CEO of CNL when that company was formed in 2007.
Atlantis Gold is another private company looking to go public in Canada in 2012. It has concessions in the Segovia Remedios region of Antioquia where Gran Colombia Gold is prominent. Atlantis has taken over 8,000 rock chip and stream sediment samples at its San Miguel property that have returned results of up to 43.7 g/t Au in rock chip samples. It has identified three corridors of mineralization about 8km long that trend NW-SE via soil geochemistry, veins and tunnels, with veins that look similar to those GCM mines to the south. These are on strike with GCMs El Silencio Mine. "I think we have a good address here as we have Touchstone Gold (AIM: TGL) to the north and *GCMs+ El Silencio (TSX: GCM) to the south," said president and CEO Michael Terrell. Atlantis raised US$8M privately over the last two years and will look to raise C$6M @ 40¢ at its IPO financing in the coming months.
Unfortunately it is not possible to report any conclusive progress about what is happening to the concession system in Colombia. A straw poll of explorers was reminiscent of the joke that if you put four lawyers together you get seven opinions. For what they are worth, opinions include: