Four intrepid juniors on the hunt for riches in the middle Americas:
Toronto-based junior Ascendant Resources (TSXV: ASND) picked up the venerable El Mochito underground zinc-lead-silver mine and concentrator in Honduras from Nyrstar (US-OTC: NYRSY) in December for $500,000, and is intent on rehabilitating the mine and ramping up production.
The mine, located 220 km northwest of the capital city Tegucigalpa in the country’s northwest, has operated almost continuously since 1948.
El Mochito is probably best remembered in the Canadian mining community as having been the crown jewel of zinc miner Breakwater Resources, which was acquired by Nyrstar in a friendly $663-million deal in mid-2011.
Ascendant president and CEO Chris Buncic says that since October, the company has raised $40 million to fund operational improvements, capital projects, equipment and exploration.
In January the mine produced at 1,600 tonnes per day, but Buncic says this could increase to 30% in the short term and more than 50% within the next 18 months.
Mineralized material is mined from the Nacional, Santo Nino, Lower San Juan, Salva Vida, Yojoa, La Leona, Imperial and Canoe manto and chimney orebodies, with zinc and lead concentrates with silver credits produced by differential flotation and shipped to a warehouse at the port of Puerto Cortes, 35 km north of San Pedro Sula on the Gulf of Honduras.
From there it’s shipped to Nyrstar under a 10-year offtake agreement.
A historic resource estimate from 2015 tallied 5.4 million measured and indicated tonnes grading 4.9% zinc, 1.7% lead and 44.70 grams silver per tonne, plus 3.9 million inferred tonnes at similar grades.
This implies at least a seven-year mine life from the measured and indicated resource at a rate of 2,000 tonnes per day.
In March, Ascendant added Neil Ringdahl as chief operating officer. He previously worked at Orvana Minerals and Apogee Silver.
In December, Ascendant changed its name from Morumbi Resources and consolidated its shares on a 1-for-5 basis.
Vancouver-based Calibre Mining (TSXV: CXB) has enjoyed success at its grassroots Borosi gold concessions in northeast Nicaragua.
Calibre has wholly owned properties at its Borosi concessions, but also attracted high-profile partners at other Borosi concessions, including B2Gold (TSX: BTO; NYSE-MKT: BTO), Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG), Centerra Gold (TSX: CG) and Rosita Mining (TSXV: RST), who are spending up to $35 million on various joint ventures with Calibre.
Legendary gold mogul Pierre Lassonde is also at the table, with a 14.1% interest in Calibre as of September 2016.
A recent highlight was the calculation in December of a maiden resource at Calibre’s wholly owned Primavera gold-copper porphyry deposit of 45 million inferred tonnes grading 0.54 gram gold per tonne, 1.15 grams silver per tonne and 0.2% copper (or a 0.84 gram gold equivalent) for a contained 782,000 oz. gold, 1.7 million oz. silver and 219 million lb. copper, at a cut-off grade of 0.5 gram gold.
Calibre says a maiden drilling program on its wholly owned Monte Carmelo gold skarn project is ongoing, and will consist of a minimum 2,500 metres.
It adds that two exploration joint-venture programs funded by Iamgold (the Eastern Borosi project) and Centerra (the Siuna project) are advancing, including Iamgold’s drill program at the Risco de Oro and Guapinol gold-silver projects.
It’s hard to understand why OceanaGold (TSX: OGC) ever got involved in El Salvador — the firm’s first foray into the Americas before having better success at the newly opened Haile gold mine in South Carolina.
In its most recent financial results, OceanaGold recorded a one-off general and administrative charge of US$8 million to pay the legal costs of the El Salvadoran government in a losing case brought by the company against the government in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
OceanaGold had demanded that the government pay US$250 million in compensation for blocking development of its El Dorado gold mine project in El Salvador, but the tribunal ruled in the government’s favour in October 2016.
OceanaGold said it was “disappointed” in the decision and would “review the ICSID’s ruling in detail before evaluating the next steps related to its El Salvador business unit.”
OceanaGold acquired the El Dorado project and the lawsuit against the government that dated back to 2009, when it bought the project’s Vancouver-based, Catherine McLeod-Seltzer-led owner Pacific Rim Mining in November 2013 for $10 million in shares at a 50% premium.
ROYAL ROAD MINERALS
Royal Road Minerals (TSXV: RYR) has succeeded in its all-share bid to acquire Caza Gold (TSXV: CZY; US-OTC: CZGDF), with 90% of shares tendered as of Feb. 27, which led to a compulsory acquisition of the remaining shares.
With its own gold-silver properties in Colombia and Nicaragua, Royal Road targeted Caza because of its early stage Nicaraguan properties covering 425 sq. km in the central Nicaraguan gold belt, including the Los Andes gold-silver project and the Piedra Iman copper-gold project.
A couple of weeks earlier, Royal Road closed a private placement offering that raised a gross $3.6 million by selling 36 million units at a dime apiece, with one unit comprised of a share and half a warrant, with a whole warrant entitling the holder to buy another share at 20¢ within two years.
Royal Road was founded in 2010 by the original founders of Lydian International, which discovered and developed the Amulsar gold deposit in Armenia.
Up until this latest deal, Royal Road’s focus has been its La Golondrina gold property in the La Llanada gold-mining district of Narino province in southern Colombia.
Royal Road describes La Llanada as an underexplored region of high-grade, intrusion-related gold deposits, and the source of the rich Barbacoa alluvial gold district.