Sunward Advances in Colombia
By Greg Klein
Talk to COO David Forest about Sunward Resources’ TSX:SWD Titiribi Gold-Copper Project, and you get why so many mining and exploration companies are moving into Colombia. “Geologically, there’s nothing like it,” he says. “There’s nothing on the planet with that kind of potential that’s so underexplored. Nothing happened there for 50 years. It’s phenomenal terrain, completely underexplored. The security and safety situation is fine in 90% of the country now.”
A look at last September’s Titiribi resource update supports his enthusiasm. Using a cutoff of 0.3 grams per tonne, the indicated category estimates 142.94 million tonnes grading 0.48 g/t gold for 2.2 million ounces gold and 0.15% copper for 465.9 million pounds copper. The inferred category projects 372.7 million tonnes grading 0.51 g/t gold for 6.08 million ounces gold and 0.08% copper for 645.7 million pounds copper.
With gold in the ground and money to burn, drilling continues. “We’re up to nine rigs now, and we’re expecting to go to 11 over the next couple of months,” says Forest. “The company’s well financed; we’ve done some big financing over the last year and a half, so we’re going to push it pretty hard. We raised $51 million in January, and last April we did $25 million, and in total the company’s raised over $80 million.”
Assays released November 10 from the project’s Cerro Vetas zone include
- 0.56 g/t gold and 0.12% copper over 315.2 metres
(including 2.11 g/t gold and 0.34% copper over 22.5 metres)
- 0.36 g/t gold and 0.24% copper over 135.5 metres
- 0.33 g/t gold and 0.15% copper over 66.6 metres
- 0.72 g/t gold over 27 metres
- 0.47 g/t gold over 30 metres
- 1.88 g/t gold over 7.5 metres
“These results were fairly groundbreaking for the project because it’s a bulk-tonnage porphyry, so the assumption was the grade was always around 0.5 and 0.2,” Forest explains. “We smashed through that about a year ago, discovering some zones that were above a gram, but this is the first time zones above two grams have been discovered, making a new benchmark for the grade on this project.
He continues, “We were looking at doing a scoping study, but now that we’ve discovered these higher-grade zones, the feeling is we might do more drilling and figure out what we’ve got before we start wrapping economics around it. So at this point, the plan is mostly just drill. We’ll work on expanding the resource, then we’ll decide what we want to do on the economic side.”
According to Forest, Titiribi’s infrastructure is excellent. “We’re 70 kilometres from Medellin on a four-lane paved highway. It’s a historic mining area, so there’s power to the site. We’re very well positioned.”
And so are many others. Titiribi’s position in Colombia’s Middle Cauca Gold Belt put Sunward in proximity to juniors and majors alike. Gran Colombia TSX:GCM has begun trial mining at its Zancudo high-grade underground gold project and plans to complete prefeasibility for its nearby open-pit Marmato Gold Project in early 2012. AngloGold Ashanti proposes to start building a $3-billion Colosa Gold Mine in 2014. Those in the exploration stage include Colombian Mines TSX:CMJ at the former Yarumalito Gold-Copper Mine, Continental TSX:CNL at its Buriticá Gold-Silver-Zinc Project, Bellhaven TSX:BHV at La Mina Gold-Copper Project and Batero TSX:BAT at the Quinchia Gold-Copper Project.
As the above suggests, the “historic” mining area Forest refers to is actually prehistoric. Archeologists have found gold figurines old enough to make Columbus seem like recent news.
We’re up to nine rigs now, and we’re expecting to go to 11 over the next couple of months. The company’s well financed; we’ve done some big financing over the last year and a half, so we’re going to push it pretty hard —David Forest
The region is also “probably one of the best operating environments in Colombia,” Forest says. “It’s in Antioquia, which has very strong rule of law and tradition of order. We don’t have any security at site.”
The company doesn’t have security at its other project either—but for entirely the opposite reason.
“Murindo-Mande Norte is at the other end of the spectrum,” Forest concedes. “It’s the only part of the Cordillera, from Alaska down to Tierra del Fuego, that doesn’t have a road going through it, because it’s basically swamp. Access is tough. There’s a number of issues including FARC [the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] and indigenous groups. If you can name an issue in Colombia, that region’s got it. The prize, if and when we can get in there, is enormous. It’s an anomaly the size of Yaletown [a high-density Vancouver neighbourhood], with copper sticking out of the ground. For 30 years, everybody’s known about this unbelievable anomaly, but it’s remained a place where nothing happened. We’re working on getting in there and, if we can, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Regardless, the combination of Sunward’s management team and Titiribi’s potential attracts some big players. “The company’s well-financed through our affiliations with the Electrum Group and Paulson & Co out of New York,” Forest emphasizes. “Those guys own a big chunk, and management owns 30%, so it’s a very tightly controlled company. Amongst the top 10 shareholders, we control 70% or 80% of the company now. All the people working on this are shareholders and are working alongside the other shareholders.”
As of November 1, Sunward had cash on hand of $60 million. At press time, the company had 136.9 million shares trading at $2 a share for a market cap of $273.8 million.