Equitas Resources looks to Brazil gold production as well as Labrador nickel exploration
by Greg Klein
“How do we add value in such a difficult resource market?” A problem vexing many ambitious explorers, for Equitas Resources TSXV:EQT “it kept coming back to cash flow, cash flow, cash flow,” says president Kyler Hardy. But another question followed: “How do we get that and not abandon our vision” of a Voisey’s Bay-type nickel discovery in Labrador?
The answer may lie in a small-scale gold producer with considerable expansion potential. Under a binding letter agreement announced January 15, Equitas would acquire Alta Floresta Gold, a privately traded British Columbia company with interests in six Brazilian gold properties, one already undergoing modest production. The parties see opportunity to ramp up output to complement an aggressive drill program 30 kilometres south of Voisey’s.
The takeover target has an approximately 60% stake in Alta Floresta Gold Mineracao Ltd, which holds the six properties, five with production licences, covering over 184,410 hectares in western Brazil’s Mato Grosso state and Para state to the north. Straddling the border of both states is the 44,768-hectare flagship Cajueiro project.
Its Baldo zone now churns out about 100 gold ounces a month, Hardy says. Modest to be sure, but “you look at some of the legends of the business, they built massive companies off of small cash flows. Placer Dome was founded off a very similar project in Papua New Guinea.”
While not necessarily envisioning similar grandeur, the parties have a three-part plan for Cajueiro, where a 2013 resource estimate defined four zones as follows:
Crente zone, 0.5 grams per tonne cutoff
- indicated: 4.53 million tonnes averaging 1.2 g/t for 168,000 gold-equivalent ounces
- inferred: 3.02 million tonnes averaging 1 g/t for 100,300 ounces
Crente zone, 0.3 g/t cutoff
- indicated: 7.4 million tonnes averaging 0.9 g/t for 203,000 ounces
- inferred: 5.26 million tonnes averaging 0.8 g/t for 127,400 ounces
Baldo zone, 0.3 g/t cutoff
- inferred: 1.41 million tonnes averaging 1.3 g/t for 61,100 ounces
Matrincha zone, 0.3 g/t cutoff
- inferred: 1.56 million tonnes averaging 1.1 g/t for 52,900 ounces
Marines zone, 0.3 g/t cutoff
- inferred: 1.17 million tonnes averaging 0.7 g/t for 27,200 ounces
All four zones have potential near-surface oxide expansion, Equitas stated, while five additional anomalies offer additional encouragement.
A three-phase plan for Cajueiro would begin with installing a small gravity plant to process Baldo’s saprolite mineralization. In production only since June, the alluvial operation currently languishes at about 35% recovery. Phase II would call for a carbon-in-leach plant between the Baldo and Crente zones, less than one kilometre apart. Initial metallurgical tests suggest gravity separation and cyanide leaching could push recovery above 85%. Phase III would use operating cash flow to ramp up Cajueiro into open pit production.
Hardy foresees a fast-paced timeline, with the CIL plant in place within six months and commissioning complete over another two months. The gear has already been sourced with “everything we need within 50 kilometres of us,” he says. The weak Brazilian real helps lighten costs.
Also on the agenda are 12 to 20 shallow drill holes for an updated resource. The 43-101 will also provide figures for production and costs. A PEA would follow within months.
Infrastructure’s good, Hardy points out, with road connections to nearby towns where staff live, rendering a camp unnecessary. The Juruena belt has a longstanding mining history and good community relations, he adds.
The deal would bring together a strong management team from both companies. Key Equitas figures would stay on—Hardy as chairperson, Zimtu Capital TSXC:ZC president Dave Hodge as director and Voisey’s veteran Everett Makela as VP of Exploration. Joining them would be president/CEO/director Chris Harris, with 29 years’ experience in mining finance, energy and commodities. New director Alan Carter’s 30-year career includes service with Rio Tinto NYE:RIO, BHP Billiton NYE:BHP and Peregrine Diamonds TSX:PGD. Technical adviser Michael Bennett’s CV shows 24 years’ experience in South America, where he’s credited with three gold discoveries.
While the new plan puts the Garland nickel project on hold pending revenue from Brazil, Equitas still has aggressive drilling in store for Labrador.
The share swap would leave Alta Floresta Gold as a wholly owned subsidiary of Equitas, with the latter being held approximately 50% by Alta’s former shareholders. Among other requirements, Equitas must raise $2.5 million. That could come at least partly through a private placement but possibly through a debenture or equipment financing as well, Hardy says. Prior to closing, Alta Floresta Gold “will use commercially reasonable efforts” to increase its stake in Alta Floresta Gold Mineracao from 60% to 100%.
The parties hope to sign a definitive agreement by January 31 and close by February 19 or soon afterwards.
“I’m excited,” enthuses Hardy. “It’s a cash-flow opportunity for the company and we’re gonna rock this.”