At present, there have been approximately 90,000 cases of clinically confirmed SARS-CoV-2 ('Coronavirus'). We estimate that there have been potentially double this number who have been afflicted by the virus but have not reported due to recoveries. There have been approximately 3,000 deaths and 45,000 recoveries, with approximately 42,000 active cases worldwide.
Interestingly, the number of active cases worldwide is trending down despite the virus spreading geographically. Also, the recovery rate vs death rate is trending strongly up implying that medical professionals are becoming increasingly successful at treating the condition.
Despite some expressing fearful, dystopian views over social and mass media, the actual growth of total cases is not exponential and appears to be flatlining in absolute terms.
As can be expected, older individuals who have pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk of death from the virus.
Much of the rhetoric has been around the rate of spread, or the average number of secondary cases arising from a primary case (R0 value). It is estimated that the R0 value for Coronavirus is between 2 & 3. Whilst prima facie, this appears to be high, especially when compounded, it is a small value relative to some other previously common diseases.
Other factors that may determine how prevalent the virus becomes in a nation also include cultural factors as social customs - 'kissing cultures' as generally practiced in Italy and Iran have proven susceptible. Population density, public sanitation, and hygiene will also be large factors in the spread of the virus.
Whilst general fears exist that the Coronavirus may become as prevalent as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, we do not necessarily believe this hypothesis given there are several key differences in circumstances. Most prominent is the fact that modern sanitation and hygiene were still in their infancy during this period in the Western world, as well as the fact that the first World War led to greater densities of people in close quarters most who would have been geographically mobile.
We are beginning to see green shoots out of the chaos. Our monitoring of traffic data from Chinese cities demonstrates an uptick in traffic volume over the past week relative to prior weeks; albeit at still depressed levels. Wuhan at the epicenter of the epidemic is currently experiencing traffic volume about 20% of average; whilst cities further afield appear to be slowly trending back towards their annual averages. We expect traffic volumes to recover fully in a month or two.
We are also encouraged by historical data relating to periods immediately post an epidemic, with an average 6-month return of around +8.5%.
Our evaluation of the data behind the Coronavirus outbreak along with the emergence of some attractive market opportunities leaves us with a positive sense regarding the medium-term market outlook.
Disclaimer: This article does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation; and should not be construed as advice in any way.
Alkane yesterday confirmed another strike of 689 metres @ 0.46g/t gold, 0.19% copper from 402 metres depth from the Boda prospect, stepping out a further 100 metres to the east. This followed up on the initial discovery strike of 502 metres @ 0.48g/t gold, 0.20% copper from 211 metres depth.
We consider this a fantastic intercept, clearly demonstrating consistency and the continuation of grade at depth. We believe the latest result is high quality, having spatially explored a different plane to the discovery hole by apparently skewing to the north. As such we believe the odds of confirming a large scale porphyry system have shortened significantly. Alkane has disclosed that another 2 holes to the south will be drilling along with another to the north, all at 100-metre step-outs. We expect that given the scale and nature of the recent strike, this program will be materially expanded and we expect to see multiple drill rigs on site for the foreseeable future.
Should Alkane confirm sufficient tonnage and grade at Boda, we believe that the deposit will be extraordinarily valuable for several reasons. Most important is the location: in a safe jurisdiction, on flat open grassland, only a 4-hour drive from Sydney and 30 minutes from Dubbo providing a readily available skilled labour force. The economics of mining large mineral deposits in NSW are very well understood given the various operations at Cadia, Northparkes and Cowal. The key levers of any mining operation are: capital intensity, political risk, ore grade, operating cost and byproduct credit value. From our perspective, Boda's geographic location alleviates many of these levers, with of course the scale and ore grade of the deposit still needing to be confirmed by further drilling.
Even though it is still early in the exploration process, there is no doubt that this project would have the attention of all the large Australian miners; BHP, Rio Tinto and Newcrest all who are desperate to increase their exposure to Tier 1 projects on their home turf. The economic potential of large disseminated ore bodies is generally not well understood by Australian investors, which is to their detriment.
Alkane are in the truly fortunate position of being able to largely self-fund exploration at this stage, due to their gold production assets at Tomingley. Tomingley itself has good growth potential with cumulative exploration targets of approximately 2 million ounces on their ground. If successful, this would materially increase the life of mine operations at Tomingley to a range of 10-20 years depending on exploration success. Whilst this is a very handy resource, it is dwarfed by the exploration potential at Boda.
Boda deposit and district-scale exploration potentialAt Boda, Alkane appears to have found the extent of mineralisation to the west, however, they still have not found the high-grade core of the porphyry which provides an indication of how truly significant this deposit may be in time. The current results have effectively only scratched the 'halo' of the porphyry itself.
We speculate this high-grade core lies further to the east at depth. Mineralisation remains open along strike (north-south), at depth and to the east. We note that porphyry districts usually contain multiple, clustered deposits, typified by the Cadia complex which contains 5 separate ore bodies. We expect that other deposits may be found in time within a 3-5 km radius of Boda. We consider the 100m interval step out drilling being conducted to be fairly low risk, considering the number of shallow but low-grade historical strikes.
Alkane suggests that the style of alteration and mineralisation at Boda has several apparent similarities as Newcrest's giant Cadia East deposit (2.9 billion tonnes @ 0.36g/t gold, 0.26% copper), including equivalent grade. We note that in the early stages of the Cadia East deposit, the first 4 successful holes were relatively low grade; it was only once exploration was conducted at depth to the east that the high-grade core was discovered.
West North West (WNW) is an extremely important direction in NSW resources, the Cadia deposits and other major mineralised faults broadly follow this angle. We feel this is replicated by the geometry of the Kaiser-Boda complex with further exploration potential along the Belgian and Sullivan faults which runs towards the south-east. Also, we note that Cadia East and Boda both begin from approximately 200m depth.
Our analysis and review of the historical drilling by Alkane and others in the area leads us to the conclusion that it is likely that Boda is already a substantial deposit in its own right. Mineralised intercepts have already been recorded for at least 500 metres of north-south strike, at least 450m in width east-west and at least 800 metres in depth. Whilst this still needs to be confirmed via step-out drilling, we believe there is clear evidence for a large ore body existing at depth.
There is very strong evidence for district-scale exploration potential evidenced by the purchase of an exploration block by Alkane from Impact minerals for $100,000 mid last year; immediately to the south of Boda.
Alice Queen holds the ground only 600 metres east of the latest Boda drill collar with various faulted structures, most prominent being the Belgian and Sullivan faults, running directly into Alice Queen's large tenement that has never been tested. This ground at Boda East must surely be the hottest exploration ground in Australia, especially considering that Alkane appears to have found the western extent of Boda's mineralisation.
Our research suggests the average width of commercial porphyry deposits to be over 1 km, with multiple deposits clustering within a radius of 3-5 kms. We also note that should Boda prove to hold a commercially viable deposit, it is highly likely that any mining lease application would have to extend into Alice Queen's ground given the nature of cave mining, making this an extremely strategic and valuable parcel of land.
Alice Queen we expect will be very interested in Alkane's results going forward in addition to their exploration works on the other side of the fence. The company controls the entire northern part of the Molong Belt, a large area of approximately 700 square kms. There is no doubt that Alkane among others are observing the efforts of their junior neighbors to the east.
Dubbo Project - Australian Strategic Minerals
The Dubbo Project is one of the world's largest and advanced rare earth projects that are in pre-development. The current large resource supports an open pit mine life of over 70 years making this a strategic and valuable asset, especially considering the anticipated rise in demand for rare earth products over the next 10 years. The project has been fully permitted and front end engineering studies completed; along with completed feasibility studies that have been kept current by the company. The feasibility study was conducted on an initial 20-year base case operation scenario, which provided an NPV of $1.24 billion, however, with a large initial capital outlay of $1.3 billion.
There have been further studies conducted to reduce this figure including a staged, modular design as well as more recently some very promising Korean technology that has the potential to materially reduce the capital expenditure and operational costs of the project. We feel there is potential to materially improve the project's projected financial metrics in the case of success for these various initiatives.
We note the recent appointment of an MD for Australian Strategic Minerals and that a decision will be made before the end of the financial year to demerge or spinoff this project into a separate ASX listed vehicle. Should the demerger go ahead, we expect Alkane shareholders will receive shares in the new listed vehicle in proportion to their shareholding, an attractive proposition considering most spinoffs are value accretive to shareholders and the strong industry fundamentals.
We consider Alkane to be an outstanding investment proposition given its exposure to 3 unique projects, all which have the potential to add material value over the coming months.
Disclaimer: This article does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation; and should not be construed as advice in any way. The author holds shares in ALK & AQX.
Alkane Resources is a gold producer with outstanding gold-copper exploration potential as well as holding an undeveloped rare earth project, which is anticipated to be demerged at some stage this year.
Alkane's recent discovery strike at Boda was the best porphyry exploration discovery hole in the Lachlan Fold Belt outside the Cadia, Cowal and North Parkes mines in the last 20 years; according to John Holliday, the discoverer of the world-class Cadia deposit and a technical consultant to Alice Queen (another portfolio holding).
The discovery strike of 502m @ 0.48g/t Au, 0.20% Cu from 211 metres in depth, ended in strong mineralisation to the end of hole. We believe this is exceptionally significant. The strike is exceptionally gold rich relative to other porphyry deposits, and we are encouraged by the fact that the copper grade appears to increase at depth. Importantly, a clear high-grade zone of approximately 361m of over 1g/t exists between 228m and 589m intervals. To put it into context, this high grade zone of strike was superior to the Cadia Hill discovery hole which struck 243m @ 1.21g/t Au; and superior to the current reserve grade at Cadia East. A lot more work needs to be conducted by Alkane to prove that a large deposit exists, but the potential for a large, commercial discovery is clear.
Alkane are currently waiting on assays from a second, deeper hole being drilled 100 metres to the east of the initial strike, to test at a planned depth of 1100 metres. An additional 4 holes are planned for the current exploration program however, we expect the number of metres drilled to increase significantly in the case of step out holes at Boda.
Large porphyry deposits are generally clustered, typified by the monstrous Cadia-Ridgeway complex which spans almost 20 sq km and enjoys a rich mineral endowment of 38 Mozs of Au & 8.3 Mt of Cu. We note that mineralisation at the Cadia complex, broadly runs in an east-west direction for approximately 7kms. With Alice Queen’s Yarindury tenement only 700 metres away from Boda's discovery hole, we believe that there is very strong potential that the mineralisation that Alkane discovered at Boda, may extend onto the Yarindury tenement. Accordingly, our portfolio has significant exposure and leverage to the outcome of another successful hole at Boda.
Alkane also possess an operating 1 mtpa plant at its Tomingley gold project, currently producing around 30,000 ozs of gold per annum. We expect production to increase over time as higher grade ore is mined, along with further definition of resources at Rosewell, San Antonio and El Paso; which will increase the life of mine significantly for the project.
We believe the upcoming demerger decision for the Dubbo rare earth project will also be a key catalyst for the company, and has the potential to significantly rerate the stock on the basis of its ‘pure’ gold-copper exposure.
We consider Alkane to be a compelling investment proposition, given the numerous near term catalysts on the horizon.
Disclaimer: This article does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation; and should not be construed as advice in any way. The author holds shares in ALK & AQX.
This is an addendum to our investment thesis released on Adriatic Metals ('ADT').
We have been requested by several investors to share our research on similar projects as Vares. We have found that the overall quality of the Rupice deposit has been largely overshadowed by the perception of Bosnia as a mining jurisdiction. We hope this brief comparison will demonstrate the utter uniqueness of the still-growing Rupice deposit relative to other base metal peers.
Base metal projects are often converted to copper equivalent (CuEq) to provide a simple method to compare different deposits, especially in the case of polymetallic deposits. ADT has not provided CuEq figures, most likely as the Vares project deposits are copper poor; and have used gold and zinc equivalents (AuEq, ZnEq) as a proxy. We thought it would be beneficial to convert the resource to CuEq just to provide a broad economic comparison relative to other projects.
Accordingly, for the Rupice deposit, we come up with an approximate CuEq of ~6.2%. This includes the contribution of barite and takes into account the preliminary met recoveries disclosed by the company. We should note that 'equivalent' grades should never be used solely as the basis for an investment decision by investors, and more detailed analysis should be conducted.
The following comparison charts demonstrate how unique and undervalued ADT is relative to comparable base metal projects.
It is extremely rare for a resource project to possess an IRR >100%, an NPV above AUD$1 billion and a payback period of less than 12 months. There is a material shortage of commercial base metal development projects available. This is largely due to the exploration decline post-2012 and a continuing skew towards gold relative to base metals in terms of exploration spend. The overall quality of new base metal has fallen dramatically over time, as many high grade and close to the surface deposits have already been discovered.
What's it worth?
We examined a peer group of approximately 25 undeveloped resource projects globally and noted the following:
Unfinanced projects on average trade at circa 30% of NPV. We believe that ADT should at minimum, trade at the peer group average.
Financed projects on average trade at circa 55% of NPV. We believe that ADT should trade at a premium to the peer group average as they advance through the permitting, feasibility and initial financing processes which we believe will occur over the next 12 months.
ADT is without a doubt, the standout base metal project in terms of IRR, NPV, capital efficiency, and other economic metrics.
What happens now?
ADT possesses a unique resource of almost unparalleled quality which drives the projects exceptional potential economic returns along with a very favourable cost jurisdiction. Over the next 12 months, we expect the company to continue to build upon the initial resource at Rupice as well as further explore brownfield and greenfield prospects selectively. We also believe that within this time frame that the company should complete a detailed feasibility study as well as completing the permits required for the mining and processing operations. We should add that any further discoveries or extensions in the project life will only increase already exceptional returns. We also note that the upcoming LSE listing will broaden ADT's investor base and likely provide another potential catalyst for the stock to rerate.
Disclaimer: This article does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation; and should not be construed as advice in any way. The author holds shares in ADT.
Adriatic Metals ('ADT') are a base metal developer in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), with a world-class resource in a global scale mineral province.
The breakup of Yugoslavia and the consequent Bosnian war, along with high upfront costs for mining concessions has largely preserved the exploration opportunity in BiH despite a long, proud history of mining. As such, the area has barely been touched by modern exploration techniques which bode well given its geographic and geological locality. The team at ADT recognised the significant opportunity at hand and managed to secure a portfolio of high-quality assets via its first-mover advantage; it is still the only listed resource company globally with operations in the BiH.
The BiH is a stable, democratic nation with a favourable regulatory environment and supportive of mining. Foreign investors possess the same rights as locals, tax and royalty rates are very attractive and the costs of operating are extremely low. Serbia, which borders Bosnia, has attracted significant investment from a multitude of mining majors in a similar geological setting. ADT's founders discovered a warehouse of Yugoslav era technical reports dating back 30 years, providing valuable information on historical brownfield projects and exploration activities that allowed it to grasp the low hanging fruit in terms of prospectivity.
Consequently, the company has made a world-class, poly-metallic greenfield discovery in Rupice (9.4mt @10.1 g/t Au equivalent) along with significantly advancing a brownfield asset in Veovaca, collectively referred to as the Vares project. As a result, ADT was the ASX's best performing IPO in 2018. We believe the potential for further quality discoveries is high given the lack of systematic, modern exploration.
ADT has released a very detailed Scoping Study, highlighting the incredible economic potential of the Vares project. Broadly the project economic outcomes have been modeled by the company as follows:
Process Plant throughput: 800 ktpa
Initial capital expenditure: USD$178 million
FID to first production: 13 months
Payback period: 8 months
Post Tax NPV discounted at 8%: USD$916 million (approx AUD$1.3 billion)
Post Tax IRR: 107%
These are world-class metrics by any measure, with an economic capital intensity (initial CAPEX/NPV8) less than half of comparable projects we have examined.
We examined a couple of acquisitions for comparable projects (albeit with inferior economic returns) and noted that:
S32 acquired Arizona mining at a value approximately 70% of the project's NPV8 - at scoping study stage
Zijin acquired Nevsun at approximately 90% of NPV8 in neighboring Serbia - at pre-feasibility study stage.
ADT is currently trading at approximately 18% of NPV8 - at scoping study stage.
As such we believe any transaction would need to be priced at a minimum of 60% of NPV8 for the management team (who hold ~30% of the company) to even consider. Large miners like Rio Tinto, Lundin, Freeport McMoran and Zijin are active in neighboring countries and would find ADT a very attractive acquisition now that there has been demonstrable progress in terms of feasibility studies. There is a profound lack of quality projects available globally and this has driven up acquisition prices substantially over the last 10 years. We also note that base metals are at a cyclical low and ADT's ground is still very much under-explored, which will provide comfort to any potential acquirer.
Looking ahead we see several catalysts on the horizon:
London stock exchange listing in progress - we expect the LSE listing to cause ADTs value to rise given the current valuation differential between Vares and similar projects
Further potential exploration upside from current and future drilling programs at Vares (4 rigs onsite) - has the potential to further improve project economics
Exploitation, operating and mining licences - all currently being progressed
Environmental and planning permits - all currently being progressed
Further geotechnical, mining, environmental and metallurgy studies leading to the completion of Definite Feasibility Study within 12 months.
Risks we see are:
Potential delays in permits and licences - this has been a minor issue in the past but appears to be proceeding more smoothly now.
Sovereign risk - we consider this to be in line with neighboring Serbia
Outcomes from further feasibility studies resulting in marginally higher CAPEX
We believe ADT is a very compelling, well-priced opportunity for the resource investor with material potential upside that may be realised via a takeover from a larger miner or by the company bringing the project into production in its own right.
Disclaimer: This article does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation; and should not be construed as advice in any way. The author holds shares in ADT.
Towards the start of the 2019 calendar year, we identified a strong investment thematic in junior gold companies driven by the confluence of 3 primary ideas:
We believe this thematic is still strong and in this wire, we discuss a number of qualitative factors that help assist us in identifying high-quality gold opportunities and outline 2 names that tick our boxes.
Generating our own ideasWhile it is very difficult to quantitatively screen companies due to the early-stage nature and non-financial characteristics of these companies, there are a number of different methods of discovering companies in this space. The most common of these are: sell-side (broker) research, industry comparisons and independent project assessors (typically covering later stage companies).
However, we tend to rely heavily on our own proprietary research library of almost 1000 primary research pieces to generate ideas and identify broad brush investment thematics.
We largely avoid secondary research, but do find it useful on occasions to confirm and question the veracity of our own primary research efforts.
Geological factors1: Depth and scale
These factors are very important in determining whether a deposit may be economic. A general rule of thumb is that the deeper a deposit, the higher grade it needs to be economic – this is a function of higher mining costs at depth. This should be looked at in conjunction with the scale of a deposit, as generally the larger the scale the lower the cost.
2: Geometry and mineralisation style
The shape of a deposit is an important indicator of potential mining cost for example, a gently dipping equidimensional (spread consistently in all directions) shaped deposit will almost always be cheaper to mine than a steeply dipping, planar deposit. Disseminated (spread uniformly) style mineralisation deposits are preferable to vein or reef hosted mineralisation from our perspective, again due to lower processing costs.
3: Historical context and potential exploration upside
We have a preference towards ‘time capsule’ projects where little modern exploration has been conducted. This could be for a number of reasons including areas where mining exploration has been banned, or where exploration was not conducted due to a low commodity price environment. We consider that exploration upside is generally considerably larger with these particular projects, given the historical context.
Corporate factors1: Location/jurisdiction:
This is important from an economic and strategic perspective. Government royalty rates can vary significantly between jurisdictions, along with the general legal and social environments. A resource situated near infrastructure will generally hold an advantage over a similar more isolated deposit. Being close to other producing mines allows optionality in terms of commercial outcomes for example, a smaller deposit that may not be large enough to support its own processing plant could potentially utilise a neighbouring mine’s processing plant for a fee.
2: Management team and corporate strategy
Pursuing a prudent strategy can expedite the time needed to bring a deposit into production, and add considerable value to a project whilst mitigating risk. One common mistake we see is rushing into production too soon for marginal or higher-cost projects. Mineral production has its own skill set quite different from mineral exploration.
3: Overall economic evaluation
To be robust and minimise downside, any economic studies on the deposit should use conservative assumptions and incorporate all costs. In the gold sector, a commonly used metric ‘AISC’ (all-in sustaining cost) is one of the most misquoted with each producing company using their own poetic licence to their quoted metric. Investors should perform their own calculations instead of relying on company provided AISC figures. In addition, we have a bias to project with relatively low capital intensity which usually results in a higher project IRR. Higher metallurgical recoveries are positive.
4: Ability to build relationships with credible larger counterparties:
This is an important factor especially when considering commercial terms could be negotiated for production or exploration. A management team that can attract large partners to the company or its projects, adds credibility from our perspective.
5: Catalyst/s to rerate the stock:
This is one of the more important elements in our process and can be either external, internal or multi-faceted. One must remember that the company cannot change the physical resources that may or may not lie within their ground and accordingly be very selective when investing in this space, taking a ‘resource first’ approach.
Preferred namesOur preferred names in the junior gold space are Yandal Resources (YRL:ASX) and Alice Queen (AQX:ASX).
Yandal Resources: Multiple catalystsYandal currently has a gold resource of approximately 200,000 ounces at their flagship Flushing Meadows deposit at a grade of 1.3 g/t. The deposit is at very shallow depths of less than 150m, is currently 1.8kms in length and is open at depth and in multiple directions. As such, we think there is strong potential for the size of this deposit to increase materially. This deposit, whilst planar and dipping is very shallow and likely to be able to be cheaply mined via an open pit. This tenement of 472 sq km has been historically held by majors during times of lower gold prices, and has had virtually no exploration over the past 20 years.
Yandal's projects are located in the Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia; this locality is thought to hold up to 30% of the world’s resources and is regarded as a Tier 1 jurisdiction. All the projects are located within trucking distance of multiple gold mills operated by 3rd parties, so can be commercialised rapidly. The quality and largely oxidised nature of the current resource ensures that this ore will be sought after by gold processors. The company intend on further building out its resource base via lower risk extension drilling and have recently started a program of 20,000 metres.
The management team are experienced, credible and focused having worked on the neighbouring projects that are held by Echo Resources.
Northern Star, who have just acquired Echo, holds 15% of the company; with the Top 20 shareholders holding 80%.
We think there are multiple potential catalysts for the company to rerate and believe the company will become increasingly attractive as they build out their resource base.
Alice Queen: More upside than downsideAlice Queen has a gold resource of around 500,000 ounces at its Horn Island project, in the Torres Strait, at a grade of 1.9g/t. The deposit is shallow with a maximum depth of 250m. Horn Island was reopened to mining activities in 2014, after a 25-year hiatus.
Since then, AQX has lightly explored and applied modern exploration techniques to the project, attracting Saint Barbara (SBM:ASX) as a joint venture partner. What is so unique, is that SBM agreed to excise the existing 500,000-ounce deposit and associated infrastructure from the joint venture; with an option to buy into these areas for a 70% interest by paying ‘fair value’. We believe there exists significant potential at depth for the discovery of further gold resources, along with potential extensions at shallower depths.
Horn Island is located in the Torres Strait, Queensland. Northern Queensland hosts a gold endowment of around 40 million ounces, with 19 million hosted in Intrusion Related Gold System (IRGS) deposits; the system speculated to exist at Horn Island. The company intend on progressing the Horn Island project further in conjunction with SBM. The management team are committed, practical and focused; and have a world-class consultant team.
Horn Island has significant existing infrastructure in place including a deep water port, a domestic airport, and existing freshwater supply. We believe that this should translate into significant savings in terms of capital expenditure and consequent superior returns, should a mining operation recommence.
The company have a proven track record of attracting and working with larger counterparties, having attracted SBM and Newcrest to its projects in the past.
The company also hold very prospective exploration ground in NSW, less than 1 km from Alkane’s discovery at Boda; this was regarded as the best Australian porphyry discovery in 20 years.
Again, we see multiple catalysts for AQX to rerate notably, the exploration program being funded by SBM as well as further exploration success on the neighbouring tenements in NSW held by Alkane.
Disclaimer: Datt Capital currently holds shares in AQX and YRL.
Alice Queen ('AQX') are a junior exploration company that hold 3 projects: 1 gold development project in the Horn Island gold deposit and 2 very prospective exploration projects in the Horn Island JV and the Lachlan Fold projects.
Horn Island gold deposit
AQX has defined a shallow, open pittable inferred resource of 492,000 ozs (7.96 Mt @ 1.9g/t), with a maximum depth of 250m. Horn Island has significant existing infrastructure in place including a deep water port, a domestic airport, and existing freshwater supply. It also is the logistical hub of the Torres Strait, being easily accessible from the mainland. Being a brownfield operation, it's likely that the company could potentially utilise some remnants of the old mining operations.
As part of our evaluation process for Horn Island, we made a number of assumptions to determine what a potential mining operation may look like. Readers should note that this is purely a hypothetical exercise, especially given the current inferred nature of the deposit.
Hypothetical Project Assumptions and Parameters:
80% of inferred JORC resources converted to Indicated or better status.
1 Million tonne per annum plant capacity
LOM of ~6.5 years
Average gold production per annum: ~56k oz
Gold price: AUD$2,000/oz
Recovery rate of 93%
Initial Capex: $60 million
All-in Sustaining Cost: ~AUD$1,200/oz
Discount rate: 8%
NPV using assumptions above: ~$160 million
We consider our assumptions reasonably conservative; for example, the company has disclosed that metallurgical recoveries from the ore are ~98% whereas we have assumed a lower figure of 93%. We also note that our assumptions are blunt, and do not consider any optimisation studies generally conducted as part of a Bankable Feasibility Study ('BFS') process.
As the company progresses the development of the deposit via additional infill drilling to upgrade the resource estimate to Indicated or better, we expect further value accretion. We expect that the company will conduct further studies on the deposit to a BFS standard. We estimate it will cost the company approximately $3.5-4.5 million to conduct the necessary works and studies to delivery a BFS for the deposit and take approximately 12-18 months to complete. This expenditure should provide significant value add for shareholders.
Having examined a large number of gold deposits, we consider inferred resources that have a higher degree of uncertainty, to be fairly valued at a range between 2.5-3.5% of in-ground value relative to the spot price for shallow deposits which are sub-250m in depth. This provides us a range between $55 and $77 per inferred ounce at a gold spot price of AUD$2,200. As such we consider that as a raw, undeveloped project the Horn Island gold deposit would be worth ~$30 million, possibly more considering the existing infrastructure in place.
Horn Island JV
St Barbara ('SBM') a mid-tier gold miner has entered into a JV with the right to earn 70% of the Horn Island Exploration Project, encompassing Horn Island and Prince of Wales Island, by sole funding $4 million over 36 months. The agreement specifically excludes the Horn Island gold deposit as well as the existing critical infrastructure and sites necessary to begin a mining operation. SBM has been granted an option to acquire a 70% in these areas for 'fair value'. SBM may withdraw after committing a minimum amount of $500,000 within the first 12 months of the JV. AQX has agreed not to commence mining operations at the Horn Island gold deposit during the term of the JV. However, further progressing the project to the completion of a BFS is allowed. AQX will manage SBM's ground operations on Horn Island for a fee under a services agreement.
The JV will be targeting Intrusion Related Gold System (IRGS) deposits. Out of a total discovered gold endowment in Northern Queensland of ~40 million ozs ('Mozs'), over 19 Mozs are contained within IRGS deposits in this region. It is believed that IRGS deposits are generated by the collision of major tectonic plates and are focused mainly on the Ring of Fire region around the Pacific Rim which hosts a gold endowment of over 100 Mozs. This proliferation extends into Queensland which was a tectonically active region 200 million years ago. We note that IRGS deposits are on average larger than types of gold-bearing systems; providing a potentially large reward for successful explorers. The sweet spot in terms of exploration for IRGS deposits is in the 200-500m depth range, where AQX has barely explored.
IRGS deposits can be discovered using a systematic approach including but not limited to: geochemical sampling, reverse magnetic analysis, interpretation of drill samples & multi-element metal zoning. We note that AQX has performed significant analysis works to date, performed by world-class technical consultants in Scott Halley (geochemistry), Gregg Morrison (IRGS specialist) and Ben McCormack (structural geology). We note that should an IRG system be proven to exist on Horn Island, Prince of Wales Island to the immediate west will represent an outstanding greenfield opportunity for the joint venture being 3 times as large within a similar geological setting.
Horn Island Conclusion
We note that the Horn Island JV agreement, allows SBM to acquire a 70% interest in the Horn Island gold deposit and associated infrastructure for 'fair value'. According to our research, recent transactions for commodity projects at the BFS stage have ranged between 40-70% of NPV8 value depending on various factors including capital requirements, depth of resource, commodity type etc.
As such, this may result in a significant bullet payment made to AQX, of an amount above the company's current market capitalisation, should SBM exercise this right and assuming AQX has completed a BFS.
Should SBM withdraw from the JV at any time, AQX will remain well placed to deliver the project in their own right having conducted the studies necessary to obtain project finance.
In summary, we believe that the Horn Island JV has the potential to deliver a multi-million-ounce resource in time, at depth. We believe the fact that SBM, within the JV agreement, restrains AQX from initiating a small scale mining operation is telling. We note that the company's discovery cost per oz is exceptional at under $20/oz, relative to the industry average of circa $30/oz. We believe this reflects the genuinely under-explored nature of Horn Island as well as the significant and thorough geological analysis the company conducts prior to major drilling works.
NSW Lachlan Fold Projects
AQX hold 4 exploration tenements that encompass the entire northern part of the Molong Volcanic Belt, on-trend with the globally significant Cadia-Ridgeway mine operated by Newcrest ('NCM'). The area is prospective for large scale Au/Cu porphyry deposits.
NCM entered into an exploration JV with AQX in 2017 covering some of these tenements. Under the terms of the prior JV agreement, NCM could earn up to an 80% interest in the Mendooran tenements over 9 years by spending $10 million. 3 diamond core holes were drilled under NCM JV, with no material results disclosed. We note that the NCM JV targeted the most accessible prospects, rather than the best prospects which lie within a State Conservation Area, where special permits are required. These permits were not in place for the term of the JV, although AQX has recently disclosed in their latest presentation that a land access agreement is near, with permission expected to be granted by the end of the calendar year.
NCM terminated the JV however, we consider this to be positive. Our preference when investing in junior explorers is that it retains a majority stake in their most prospective ground when engaging in a JV. This ensures that shareholders receive the appropriate benefit in the case of success. We have found that exploration projects can be 'lost' in the bureaucracy of a larger company, so we prefer companies that retain material exposure and control over their core prospects. We also noted that the Yarindury tenement was acquired after the NCM JV was executed, so was not included in the JV. The sedimentary cover in this tenement is shallower at around 200m depth, so believe that AQX can explore this tenement in their own right. AQX has disclosed that drilling will commence in the next couple of weeks on the northern targets at Yarindury.
Alkane's recent discovery strike at Boda, was the best porphyry exploration discovery hole in the Lachlan Fold Belt outside the Cadia, Cowal and North Parkes mines in the last 20 years; according to John Holliday, the discoverer of the world-class Cadia deposit and a technical consultant to AQX. The discovery strike of 502m @ 0.48g/t Au, 0.20% Cu from 211 metres in depth, ended in strong mineralisation to the end of hole. We believe this is exceptionally significant. The strike is exceptionally gold rich relative to other porphyry deposits, and we are encouraged by the fact that the copper grade appears to increase at depth. Importantly, a clear high-grade zone of approximately 361m of over 1g/t exists between 228m and 589m intervals. To put it into context, this high grade zone of strike was superior to the Cadia Hill discovery hole which struck 243m @ 1.21g/t Au. A lot more work needs to be conducted by Alkane to prove that a large deposit exists, but the potential for a large, commercial discovery is clear.
Large porphyry deposits are generally clustered, typified by the monstrous Cadia-Ridgeway complex which spans almost 20 sq km and enjoys a rich mineral endowment of 38 Mozs of Au & 8.3 Mt of Cu. With Yarindury only 700 metres away from Boda's discovery hole, we believe that there is very strong potential that the mineralisation that Alkane discovered at Boda, may extend onto the Yarindury tenement. Whilst still early days, we believe that the strike at Boda has added immense value to AQX's Lachlan Fold tenements and significantly increased the odds that AQX can perhaps make their own discovery.
We consider the upside potential and leverage to success within these tenements to be extremely large.
We consider that Alice Queen hold 3 very attractive projects: 1 gold development project in the Horn Island gold deposit and 2 very prospective exploration projects in the Horn Island JV and the Lachlan Fold projects.
It is our opinion that the company's value is strongly underpinned by the existing gold deposit on Horn Island which we consider in isolation to be worth the company's current market capitalisation of ~$30 million. We believe the market is ignoring the considerable potential upside from both the Horn Island JV and the Lachlan Fold projects. Successful exploration by the Horn Island JV will result in a clear and substantial monetisation event via SBM's right to purchase 70% of the Horn Island deposit. Successful exploration at the Lachlan Gold projects will result in enormous value creation for shareholders.
As such, we view Alice Queen as an attractive investment opportunity given the large, asymmetric potential upside balanced by what we perceive as limited downside.
Disclaimer: This article does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation; and should not be construed as advice in any way