by Greg Klein
Struggling junior? Not this company. Since its trading debut in April 2015, First Mining Finance TSXV:FF has compiled 25 projects covering some 300,000 hectares, from early stage to a PEA with 4.4 million gold ounces indicated. Just as aggressively, the company boosted its treasury to a current $35 million. Now First Mining looks forward to a $21-million exploration and development program for 2017 that includes 47,000 metres of drilling.
“We were able to execute on the vision of the company, which last year was to take advantage of the bear market and acquire projects,” VP of investor relations Derek Iwanaka explains. “I don’t know of any other company that was able to acquire as many projects, or projects as good as we got, during that period.”
Certainly there were deals to be had for canny acquisitors. But that was while many other companies faced financing difficulties. First Mining bucked the trend last August by closing a $27-million private placement. How did they pull that off?
“Quite easily,” responds Iwanaka. “We were literally turning down millions of dollars. We had over $70 million in orders but we didn’t want that kind of dilution. So we just took the $27 million. That should carry us for at least the next few years, including all the drilling and overhead.”
First Mining seems to have something that eludes others.
“First of all we have Keith Neumeyer at the helm, who runs a multi-billion-dollar company as it stands,” says Iwanaka. “Keith has been adept at starting companies during very bad times and manoeuvring them so when times are good we can reap the rewards for our shareholders.”
Among companies founded by the First Mining director were First Quantum Minerals TSX:FM and First Majestic Silver TSX:FR, where Neumeyer’s president/CEO. First Majestic acts as a sort of mentor to First Mining, placing some FR directors in FF’s management and board, helping to get the new company started, lending it about $1 million, vending three Mexican properties and even providing office space.
Among considerations behind an acquisition are “size and quality of the project,” Iwanaka points out. “We look at projects with good grade, scalability, exploration upside. The jurisdiction’s quite important to us. We’re basically looking at North America, but not the North. We will look at South America as well. Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland are our favourite places although we could go to other provinces too. In the U.S. we see Nevada and Arizona as fairly mining-friendly states. We could probably look at New Mexico as well. We do have some early-stage properties in Mexico, where First Majestic has its base, but we certainly focus on Canada.”
As for commodities, “we particularly like gold but silver, platinum and palladium are also attractive, as well as base metals—anything that’s exchange-tradeable.”
Other factors include “the price of the projects, the holding cost, the infrastructure. In many cases the projects we take already have roads and power lines going to them.”
If gold’s the company’s focus, the Springpole flagship explains why. Described as one of Canada’s largest undeveloped gold projects, the northwestern Ontario potential open pit came with the past owner’s 2013 PEA. Using a 0.4 g/t gold cutoff, the 2012 resource showed:
First Mining has work underway to bring the resource and PEA up to date. But looking back at 2013, the report calculated a post-tax NPV of US$388 million using a 5% discount, with a 13.8% post-tax IRR. Initial capex came to US$438 million with payback in 35 months of an 11-year mine life.
“We expect the updated PEA will be even more robust,” Iwanaka says. “The U.S. dollar has appreciated since 2013, when it was at par. We’re also looking at increasing the recovery and the pit shell. Those three things could substantially improve the economics and we hope to have the new PEA out probably by the first half of next year.”
With assays pending, a four-hole, 1,712-metre fall program provided metallurgical fodder. Next summer’s agenda calls for another 6,000 metres of infill to upgrade the resource. In the meantime, pre-permitting environmental and baseline work will soon begin.
A newer acquisition gets even more rig attention next year. Goldlund, about 60 kilometres north of Dryden and roughly 200 klicks south of Springpole, has 27,000 metres planned to upgrade the resource and work towards an eventual PEA. The former open pit and underground operation came with an estimate that First Mining considers an historic non-43-101. Using a 0.4 g/t gold cutoff, it showed:
Cameron, maybe another 100 kilometres south of Goldlund, gets up to 9,000 metres of infill to pump up the measured and indicated prior to PEA. Using a 0.5 g/t cutoff, a 2015 resource from Chalice Gold Mines TSX:CXN showed:
Moving to southwestern Newfoundland, Hope Brook will see 5,000 metres of exploration and infill. A high 3 g/t gold cutoff gives the current resource:
Again, a resource upgrade precedes a PEA, this one slated for late 2017.
Back in Ontario and roughly 110 kilometres northeast of the Springpole flagship, autumn drilling has wrapped up at Pickle Crow. Assays from the nine-hole, 1,319-metre campaign are expected in early 2017. The former mine came with a 2011 inferred resource that used a 2.25 g/t gold cutoff for an underground deposit and a 0.35 g/t cutoff for an open pit deposit:
With assays to come, drilling to do and announcements for other North American projects anticipated, First Mining plans a steady news flow, says Iwanaka.
by Greg Klein | November 16, 2016
A well-financed company with an opportunistic approach to low valuations, First Mining Finance TSV:FF has begun another Ontario drill program. Announced November 15, the Pickle Crow gold project gets up to eight holes totalling 1,100 metres. The company began drilling its Springpole gold project last month.
The first such program on Pickle Crow since First Mining took over PC Gold a year ago, the rig will target the western extension of the project’s Core mine trend in hopes of finding high-grade, vein-type gold.
Pickle Crow produced 1.45 million ounces of gold and 168,757 ounces of silver between 1935 and 1966.
A 2011 inferred resource used a 2.25 g/t gold cutoff for an underground deposit and a 0.35 g/t cutoff for an open pit deposit:
The property lies about seven kilometres from a provincial highway, about 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
“With drilling at our Springpole gold project well underway, and with drill programs planned for our other mineral properties in the coming months, this is an exciting time for First Mining as we take the initial steps toward enhancing the value of the assets we have accumulated over the past year and a half,” said president Patrick Donnelly.
Roughly 110 kilometres southwest, the company began Springpole’s 1,500-metre program last month for metallurgical tests. First Mining plans an updated PEA for H1 2017. Springpole comes with a 2012 resource that used a 0.4 g/t gold cutoff for an open pit deposit:
First Mining’s portfolio holds 25 North American assets. Five projects in Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland have resource estimates. The company closed a $27-million private placement in August, raising its treasury to $37.3 million at the time.
by Greg Klein | July 12, 2016
A rebate could save Group Ten Metals TSXV:PGE up to a third of its exploration spending on the Drayton-Black Lake gold project in northwestern Ontario. On July 12 the company announced the Junior Exploration Assistance Program approved a maximum $100,000 rebate. The provincial government’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and the Ontario Prospectors Association sponsor the program.
The company proposed a 20-hole, 2,000-metre drill campaign for the project’s Moretti area where historic, non-43-101 results averaged 18.65 grams per tonne gold in a 4,087-kilogram bulk sample and 14.1 g/t for an 8,069-kilo sample.
The property, partly staked and partly under option, sits 10 kilometres south of the town of Sioux Lookout in the vicinity of First Mining Finance’s (TSXV:FF) Goldlund project and Treasury Metals’ (TSX:TML) Goliath project.
The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is a provincial Crown corporation that invests in regional businesses. The Ontario Prospectors Association approves JEAP funding following a review of expenses submitted after early exploration work has been completed.
In the Yukon, Group Ten has Phase II exploration planned for its Catalyst PGM-nickel-copper project adjacent to Wellgreen Platinum TSX:WG. Group Ten holds three Yukon projects with the dominant land position in the Kluane Ultramafic Belt. The company’s portfolio also includes the Duke Island copper-nickel-PGE project on the Alaska Panhandle.