As metals investors early in a new bull market, we endlessly assess metal moves and worry that the market is going to fail. And so we should: critiquing one’s thesis is essential.
But I would point to two current market themes that suggest there is still a lot of interest in mining.
The first is price moves on discoveries. I can’t point to a zillion examples because discoveries, by definition, are rare. But if you haven’t seen it already, take a look at Camino Minerals’ (TSXV: COR) share price.
Yup, that’s a price that shot from $0.35 to $1.81 in three days.
The cause was a discovery hole at Camino’s Los Chapitos project in Peru. Known was a zone of oxide copper mineralization at surface; unknown was what lay underneath. Camino drilled through the oxide and through a layer of magnetite into 106 metres of sulphide mineralization averaging 1.3% copper.
Eighteen months ago, I would wager the exact same hole would have elicited nothing more than a yawn from investors. The market was dead. Today it boosts the stock six-fold. Investors are engaged.
The second theme is major moves, by which I mean moves by mid-tier and major miners. Lately we are seeing an announcement almost every week of a miner investing in or partnering with a junior explorer. The latest deals include Barrick putting at least $18 million into ATAC and its Yukon property (and as much as $63 million) and Kirkland Lake putting $10 million into Metanor Resources.
Three years ago Barrick was barely spending a penny on exploration. Capital conservation was the name of the game; taking risks on new assets was shunned after massive debacles at Pascua Lama and the like. Now this: a steady stream of strategic investments, moves by majors to get a foot in the door with good exploration assets and teams.
Not only do such deals provide confidence that the market is strengthening, they are making it possible for explorers to explore.
Discoveries like Camino’s don’t happen unless drills are turning. Drilling takes money. The market is far stronger than it was 18 months ago, but capital remains constrained.
In that context the cash that majors are injecting into explorers is multiplying the potential for success in the field, for companies to make discoveries, grow deposits, demonstrate economics, and create the market success that is the reason we invest.