Ian Peres’ Moneta is Lean, Mean and Hungry for Gold
By Ted Niles
“I think it is a risky and frankly stupid proposition to go into production,” says Ian Peres, Moneta Porcupine’s President and CEO. “It’s the job of mid-tiers and majors to actually go to production. Our job is to find the gold.”
And it’s a job that obsesses Peres. “Prior to me joining, Moneta’s most significant program was 15 years ago,” he says. “When I came in I raised six million dollars—the largest treasury position the company has ever had—and we undertook a 30,000-metre drill program this year: the largest exploration program the company has ever had.”
The most recent assays, reported October 28, from the Southwest Zone of Moneta’s Golden Highway Project in northeast Ontario are a testament to Peres’ ambition: 3.89 grams per tonne gold over 1.3 metres, 4.1 g/t over 1.7 metres, 3.43 g/t over 1.3 metres and 3.93 g/t over 36.4 metres (including 5.85 g/t over 20 metres and 10.68 g/t over 7.4 metres).
Moneta, which has a current market cap of $39 million, does not yet have an NI 43-101 resource estimate for the Southwest Zone, but between 1994 and 1997 Barrick Gold developed an historical resource of 624,500 ounces gold inferred at a 3 g/t cut-off. Barrick spent $4 million on the exploration of a 150-metre envelope extending to 450 metres depth. As Peres explains, “We are targeting outside of the historical resource. Rather than try to just convert that resource to a 43-101, we’re focussing on below the 450-metre mark because that’s where the majority of the substantial grade and width starts in the Abitibi Gold Belt. And we are seeing the largest vein zone ever intersected on the project. We believe that this could be connectivity to the historical resource at depth, but with substantially improved grades and widths.”
Such grades are no fluke. Moneta’s wholly-owned Golden Highway Project—which comprises a number of properties including the Southwest and 55 Zones, as well as the Windjammer Property—is located on one of the Abitibi’s most prolific gold-bearing structures, the Destor Porcupine Fault Zone. Moneta holds roughly 10% of the Belt, and there are only three producers there with bigger land holdings: Goldcorp, Lake Shore Gold and St. Andrew Goldfields. “All of our properties are located immediately adjacent to what we call ‘elephants,’” Peres says. “Meaning current and past producers.”
Moneta is no elephant, but it has a long memory. Peres notes, “We just rang the bell on October 12 celebrating 100 years since the company’s incorporation. On July 11, 2011, we will be ringing the bell again to celebrate 100 years as a continuously-listed company on the big board TSX.”
But it has been anything but business as usual for Moneta since Peres became Moneta’s CEO two years ago.“The old approach of leave everything on care and maintenance and don’t spend too much money because you don’t want to dilute the shareholders is, frankly, a bunch of baloney,” he declares. “It doesn’t work in this environment. We have to drill; we have to expand the resource base; and as long as gold continues to be strong, then we will generate shareholder value.”
Our job is to find the gold - Ian Peres
As befits his history as accountant and merchant banker, Peres is extraordinarily careful when it comes to how company money is spent. Moneta is run from two locations: its field office in Timmins and Peres’ home. He is CEO, acting CFO and corporate secretary. Moneta’s annual burn rate is only about $300,000.
“I take my fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders very seriously. We have over 85 cents on the dollar going into the ground,” he stresses. “When I took over I completely revamped the board. I’ve introduced to the company Warren Bates, of Pelangio success. I’ve brought in Sethu Raman, the geologist responsible for the Timmins Gold deposit. And we have Sprott Asset Management as our institutional investor; they own over 10% of the company. So Moneta is completely different from what it used to be.”
If not production, what is Peres’ ambition? “Quite simple,” he says. “We are exploring to continue to build gold resources. And when we bring the gold resources up to critical scale—which is probably close to two to three million ounces—the objective is to undertake a pre-feasibility study and, ideally, to do a deal with a mid-tier or major, someone like St. Andrew Goldfields, 20 kilometres to the east of us, and deliver to them a package of the mill, the property, and the resources.”
“People have to be educated,” Peres concludes. “I say this because in the case of Moneta there is no big nugget driving the interval. This is strong continuity of mineralization; exactly what an investor needs to understand. Because just imagine we have these results, plus we hit a nugget or two—then our numbers will look spectacular.”