Roundup 2014 speakers discuss how investors can profit and companies thrive
by Greg Klein
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We’re near bottom, we’ve hit bottom, the worst is behind us—over the last few wretched years those comments have come repeatedly from speakers at industry conferences. So maybe Victoria Yehl put it best in her January 30 closing remarks at Roundup 2014: “You, as the attendees and the delegates, let us know what’s going on in this industry … almost every evening at the Seawall Bar and Grill. It was certainly a higher level of enthusiasm than we’ve seen for a number of years.”
As chairperson of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia’s annual event, Yehl was referring to the evening get-togethers, known for a non-market type of liquidity. But boozy as it might have been, can so much enthusiasm be dismissed?
Yehl thanked company sponsors who came through despite tough times and noted a near-record crowd of 6,643 people from 37 countries, a possible indication of not-so-tough times ahead. Roundup 2014’s five last speakers further developed that sentiment.
The guardedly optimistic group included Rick Rule, who told investors they can be contrarians or victims: “The choice is yours.” Discussing some potential “fire sale prices” in resource stocks, the chairman of Sprott US Holdings said, “When I talk about coal now people say, ‘Global warming, you’re the culprit.’ I love it when people aren’t merely bored, they’re hostile.”
Uranium, he added, “is cheap. Zinc is cheap. People hate nickel…. Until three or four months ago natural gas was cheap, cheap, cheap.”
Bull markets follow bear markets “as day follows night,” Rule argued. But he warned that although a valuation’s increase might be inevitable, it isn’t necessarily imminent. Profits require time and patience, he emphasized.
Turning the forum’s attention from investors to companies, Silver Wheaton TSX:SLW president/CEO Randy Smallwood said most financing has been coming from various types of debt. The streaming model, he maintained, allows companies to optimize their portfolios through deals on non-core assets. “Seventy percent of silver does not come from silver mines,” he pointed out. About 40% comes from copper mines, another 15% from lead-zinc operations. Those miners “aren’t interested in silver. They’re driven by copper, they’re driven by lead-zinc.”
A new type of deal announced in November offers some juniors additional hope, Smallwood said. Silver Wheaton stepped in earlier than usual to give Sandspring Resources TSXV:SSP an initial $13.5 million to take its Toroparu gold project in Guyana to feasibility.
“If they had gone out and raised $13.5 million in the market, their current shareholders would have lost 33% of the value of that project…. What they did was give us 10% of the gold, if we fund them another $135 million when they get to the point of construction. It’s pretty attractive for their shareholders. It makes a lot of sense for juniors to consider this.”
But with prefeasibility in place, Toroparu was already quite advanced. Exploration geologist Miles Thompson discussed earlier-stage projects and the “bizarre disconnect between markets and the time needed to find and develop mines.”
“Unfortunately the easy stuff has already been found and our job is becoming increasingly harder,” said the director of Reservoir Minerals TSXV:RMC and CEO/chairman of Lara Exploration TSXV:LRA. For all that, Reservoir has been successfully raising money and spending it in Serbia for over 10 years. “We follow the prospect generator business model, which means we work the same way the pharmaceutical industry works, the software industry…. We see ourselves as R&D teams. We build projects, we define targets, we work out projects for mining companies and investors.”
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