Skeena, Eskay Creek, Exploration Results

2018 has seen its fair share of stock price reactions to exploration results. The release of Cuale’s trenching results sent Evrim’s stock to 200% returns within a matter of weeks. Great Bear Resource has seen more than a 600% return since releasing the results from Dixie Lake in September. Conversely, Skeena Resource’s Eskay Creek results have garnered zero impact at all. This discussion will investigate some of the market responses to Skeena’s 2018’s exploration results and try to understand the context behind some of the reaction.

Evrim Resources, Great Bear Resources, and GT Gold had great years, achieving 150% to 700% returns so far in 2018. The charts below track cumulative AuEq gram * meters from intervals >5m in length and over 100 g*m. As I would’ve expected, there’s no clear relationship between cumulative AuEq meters and total stock returns. There is, however, a very strong relationship between the timing of the exploration results and the positive reaction. These folks found something that people weren’t expected.

To contrast possible exploration outcomes, look at the Skeena Resources vs. GT Gold. Similar cumulative AuEq meters, very different outcomes. No reaction at all from Skeena’s results. What gives?

Well Skeena resources is pretty small which I would’ve thought would work in its favor (enterprise value of 22.2M). Ok, so what’s wrong with the asset? Eskay Creek. Results looks pretty interesting. 30g/t for 28 meters at 62 meters from surface. Similar lengths and grades from a couple holes. Project is in BC, that’s good. Barrick used to own it. Lots of ounces produced in the past. Hmmm. Ok. So we’ve got a tired old mine that people are discounting. I imagine these results are as the public has expected? Pretty low enterprise value for 1.4M oz of resource in a good jurisdiction with a site that’s probably easier to permit than most. What am I missing here? Let’s go to their website and check it out.

Ok, interesting. Technical report issued on Nov 1st.  What’s this property all about:

  • Geology: VMS
  • Location: BC, Golden Triangle
  • Access: All season road
  • History: Mining started in 1995. Barrick mined it until 2008. On care and maintenance until 2017 when Skeena entered into an option agreement with Barrick.
    • 270 tpd mill
    • Drift and fill
    • Very high grade, 3.3M oz produced from 2.55M tonnes of ore
  • Resource:
    • 207K oz of open pit
    • 589K oz inf open pit
    • 814K oz of indicated underground
    • 261K oz of in underground
  • Option agreement:
    • 10M to Barrick
    • Need to spend 3.5M before 2020
  • Metallurgy:
    • Concentrate production
    • Lots of penalty elements
  • Mining

Ok, so Eskay creek is a tired old mine. Small. Not too surprising that the exploration results didn’t yield too much excitement.

The strip ratio is pretty low for such high grade in the open pit. Kind of interesting. 700K ounces at ~ 5g/t. That could produce a decent amount of cash.

Overall, it’s tough to make an investment thesis. The exploration results didn’t do anything for the share price and they are a long way out… I’m kind of surprised that the exploration results didn’t garner any interest. The property would check a lot of boxes. Nothing special but good jurisdiction and appears to have a decent shot at reopening in the future. Skeena seems cheap.

Underground Development Rates, What’s reasonable?

Imagine you’ve got a gold deposit that’s 500 meters underground. It’s marginal, 5 g/t, 90% recovery, and a fairly expensive mining method. US$400M in capex is alot and your IRR is probably getting stretched. You’re building a 12% ramp so we’re looking at ~4.2km of decline length. 

You’ve already pushed the limit on every other variable, so what can you do to juice up that IRR. Well, what about the underground development rate. Get to the ore 6 months earlier, increase the IRR by 5%. This could be the difference between a stalled project or one that receives financing. 

I can see the motivation to push the limit with this variable. And you can certainly justify a rate that the average investor won’t be able to question because they won’t know any better. Heck, unless you’ve been on the ground at an UG mine most, people in the industry won’t understand what a reasonable underground development rate looks like.

I found a paper called “Selecting an Appropriate Decline Development Advance Rate” by S.M. Rupprecht that summarizes some information on development rates in South Africa.

Repprecht started off talking about the impacts of accelerating cash flow and the NPV benefits. Ok, nothing unexpected there. 

The most useful/interesting component of the article was the development rate/month for South African operations. It’s unclear if these are FS parameters or actuals. In any case, I think this is a pretty useful chart that presents the ranging assumptions that companies could feasibly use. 

High Level:

  • Standard Dev – 70/80 meters per month, anything more should make you ask questions.

Conflation

“There is something (here, perception, ideas, theories) and a function of something (here, a price or reality, or something real). The conflation problem is to mistake one for the other, forgetting that there is a “function” and that such function has different properties.” – Nassim Taben, Antifragile

People often look at something and determine the value. They can be right or wrong and not know why. The physical characteristic of the subject can bear no resemblance to its function. I think this is a pretty powerful statement.  

The function of something can be completely different than the subject and inform the observer of what is relevant. In our context, the something is drill results. The function of something is the price action. Great results can lead to great price action or none at all. What does the price action tell us? Maybe the something isn’t that important. Maybe it’s a function of the jurisdiction, operator, the team (f(grade, team, jurisdiction)). If we look at comparatively positive results maybe we can learn something about the other variables in the equation. 

I’ve continued the analysis of 2018 exploration results, looking at average price returns after the release of significant drilling results. In the chart below you’ll see the price return in daily increments after the release of exploration results. 

I’ve sorted the data by the return two weeks after the information release. The range of results is quite large. Moosehead, Dixie Lake, Fenelon, Tatogga, and White Gold saw share price increases continue for quite a while after exploration results. Other properties not so much. So what distinguishes these properties from the rest? If there’s a steady stream of exploration results than this could propel the stock higher. Maybe it’s the the quality of release?

The chart above shows that there is a weak relationship between price returns and au grade*interval length. There are properties, however, that have great results with poor share performance… What separates Moosehead from Madsen? Tatogga from Copperstone? 

What was the function that resulted in Sokoman Iron Corp’s share price appreciation??? Could we have predicted it?

North American Intercepts – 2

I did some more digging into the drilling data. I wanted to create a more definitive list of prospects before I start to looking into more details.

First off, what do these charts show? They show drill results from properties located in North America. The drilling occurred in 2018 and the minimum interval width is 5 meters. Why 5 meters? While I’m sure that this will eliminate a lot of interesting data from some properties, I want to focus on robust results that are consistent over mineable intervals. Narrow vein mining is fine. Too complex for me though… Also, these are exploration/development properties. No producers.

The chart above shows all of the North American exploration results, grouped by property and coloured by gold grade * interval meters. If we whittle these down to grade meter levels > than 400 g/m than the image shrinks to:

Ok, this was helpful. Now we have some properties to look at. So what ones stand out? 

  • Railroad Pinion – Gold Standard Ventures Corp
  • Windfall Lake – Osisko
  • Madsen – Pure Gold
  • Cariboo – Barkerville
  • Kiena – West Dome
  • Cheechoo – Quebec Precious Metals Corp
  • Dixie Lake – Nemont and ???
  • Tatogga – GT Gold
  • Goldlund – First Mining

Some of these are familiar names, some not so much. This seems like a good list to start digging into. In my next post I’ll start investigating Railroad Pinion.

156 North American Gold Intercepts

First off, I’m not a geologist. I’m just interested in this domain.

I was wondering…

What was the most successful exploration program in 2018? What is the most interesting development project in North America (based on 2018 drilling results)?

Who knows? What do you think?

Projects with best intercepts:

  • Windfall Lake
  • Madsen
  • Fenelon
  • Kiena
  • Clarence Stream

Projects with a lot of good intercepts that weren’t mentioned:

  • Cariboo
  • Railroad-Pinion
  • Premier
  • Val-d’or East

I wonder who drilled the most? Should probably normalize for that.