A Revamped Management Prepares for Silver Production in Idaho
By Kevin Michael Grace
2010 Vancouver Mining Forum Special
According to Charles Pitcher, the new CEO of United Mining Group, the toughest challenge for any junior mining company is “determining when you cut off the exploration and really get into development.” In hiring Pitcher and new director Chip Clark, UMG has made that decision, and the market has given its assent—UMG’s share price has nearly doubled in the last month.
Under the leadership of former President/CEO Greg Stewart, UMG acquired the historic Crescent Mine in Idaho’s Silver Valley. (UMG is earning 80% of the mine from SNS Silver.) Crescent, which produced 25 million ounces of silver, is positioned between the Sunshine Mine, which produced 328 million ounces, and Bunker Hill, which produced 161 million. Crescent has NI 43-101 indicated resources of 6.1 million ounces of silver, consisting of 324,000 tons grading 18.7 ounces per ton and 4.1 million ounces inferred, consisting of 211,000 tons grading 19.5 opt.
Stewart is now President, Chief Operating Officer and Board Chair. Pitcher, the former President/CEO of Western Canadian Coal Corp, explains, “We’re trying to bring a development focus to the company, which is my background: development and operations. And Chip Clark is an ex-vice president of Newmont; his résumé speaks for itself. Between the two of us, we’re bringing development strength to the environmental, fabrication and contracting side, which Greg has run for years.”
UMG took two further steps toward development last week. First, it secured milling capacity from New Jersey Mining Company, whose mill is four miles from Crescent. Grant Brackebusch of NJMC is one of the two just-hired consultants who Pitcher says “will be on the ground” at Crescent. How close is the mine to production?
Pitcher responds, “We’re having a look at that now. It looks like we’ll doing bulk samples within the next six months, but full-time production is about 18 months out there. We have a view to shortening that back to 12 months, but we really won’t know until we complete all our studies over the next two to three months.” The studies include a preliminary economic assessment from SRK, which is due in early December.
In addition, Pitcher reports, UMG has completed the rehabilitation of the Hooper Tunnel and is well into the construction of the Countess Portal decline that will be 1,600 feet in length. An internal 1,400-foot access three compartment raise will be started in January.
The second big step toward development is UMG’s 265% expansion of its holdings at the Crescent site. Pitcher explains, “Silver mining is basically narrow veined, and you need a lot of these veins, a lot of strike land. We believe the properties we picked up are extensions of what we already have. We plan to mine in modules. In my view, about 200 to 250 tonnes a day. We think we have the potential of developing about two or three of those modules in different exploration areas on our ground right now. We’re doing one now, and we believe we have another we’re working toward in exploration.”
We’re going to be a significant and profitable producer —Charles Pitcher
Two years from now, Pitcher predicts, “We’ll certainly be in production on the first module and well on the way on the second. We’re going to be a significant and profitable producer. In three years, I think we’ll be looking north of 300 tonnes a day.”
UMG is one of the featured companies at Canaccord’s 2010 Vancouver Mining Forum, October 14. When asked what it is that separates the best junior miners from the rest, Pitcher’s reply is succinct: “Aggressiveness.” As for what distinguishes UMG, he is more expansive: “We have the expertise in house now, and we have the operations.”
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