When Mario Stifano found himself alone in an elevator with mine-finder Robert Friedland at the end of a long day of presentations at the BMO Conference, the stars just seemed to align.
“It was around 4:30 p.m., and usually the elevators at the conference are packed around that time, but there he was — it was just him and I,” Stifano, the president and CEO of junior explorer Cordoba Minerals (TSXV: CDB), recalls of the chance encounter in February 2014.
“I introduced myself, told him I loved his speeches, and that I wanted to tell him about our project, where airborne surveys seemed to show similarities with his Oyu Tolgoi project. I had 30 seconds to pitch him.”
Friedland agreed to meet Stifano at 7:30 p.m. that evening to learn more about the company’s San Matias project in northern Colombia, where drilling the year before at the Montiel prospect had returned high-grade copper-gold porphyry mineralization, including a 101.1-metre intercept averaging 1% copper and 0.65 gram gold per tonne.
“I explained the project to him and why I thought it was special,” Stifano says. “He told me why it would be extremely difficult for Cordoba to advance it on its own, and relayed his experience at OT, and how difficult it is to find these porphyries, and how you need a lot of experience and lots of geophysics. He reminded me that it took him 134 holes — some of them really deep — to hit the discovery hole at OT.”
Nevertheless, Friedland was intrigued enough to dispatch the exploration team at his privately held High Power Exploration (HPX) to take a look at the project.
“We didn’t need money at the time, but I was thinking ahead and thought it might make sense for him to look at the project, because you don’t know what the future is going to hold,” Stifano says, noting that Cordoba had already raised $15 million in early 2014 from a syndicate consisting of the Bank of Montreal, Dundee, GMP Securities and Clarus Securities.
At the same time, he notes, Cordoba was signing a number of confidentiality agreements with large base metal companies. “We had almost every major mining company in the base metal space and some of the world’s largest mining companies come and look at our ground in the district,” Stifano says. “But from day one, I always wanted to do a deal with Robert. There’s no better mine finder and explorer than Robert Friedland.”
That year Cordoba found more copper-gold porphyry mineralization at San Matias. At its Costa Azul target, an 800-by-800-metre copper-gold soil anomaly, 2 km south of the Montiel target, results of rotary air-blast drilling were released in August 2014. Intercepts included 31 metres of 0.25 gram gold and 0.6% copper; 30 metres of 0.22 gram gold and 0.7% copper; and 12 metres of 0.2 gram gold and 0.7% copper.
Stifano’s wish that Cordoba would do a deal with Friedland, however, came true in May 2015. Under a joint-venture agreement, HPX will spend $6 million for a 25% stake in the project and another $10.5 million for a 51% stake. They then have the right to carry it to feasibility.
Friedland also owns 37% of Cordoba, a lot of which he bought on the open market, through private placements and by exercising warrants, Stifano says.
“I wanted as part of the joint-venture deal that my partner earn into the property, but at the same time I wanted them to be a shareholder of Cordoba, because I wanted all of our interests aligned,” Stifano says. “That was one of my conditions and Robert agrees with that strategy, and that we need to be aligned in all matters.”
Cordoba holds a 35% stake in the project and does not to need to spend any more funds until completing a feasibility study.
“We did this deal in the early part of 2015, when no juniors could get anything done,” Stifano says. “I’ve always felt that great projects always get financed.”
HPX has a robust treasury to take the project forward, Stifano says. “It raised $100 million with Robert’s own personal money and some additional money from a high net-worth individual,” he says. “They can spend money where they need to spend money. And Robert can raise money — it’s never been an issue for him.”
Another reason Stifano wanted to partner with HPX was because of its proprietary Typhoon technology. “It’s almost like deep induced polarization, but it allows you to go 2 km below surface with significant detail, and they are fantastic at doing inversions, so you can do it in 3-D,” he says.
Cordoba has released drill results from its Alacran target at San Matias, 2 km southwest of the Montiel porphyry copper-gold discovery and 2.5 km from Costa Azul. Highlights included 111 metres of 1% copper and 38 gram gold; 109 metres of 0.95% copper and 0.35 gram gold; and 108 metres of 0.9% copper and 0.36 gram gold.
Alacran covers 270 metres of strike length at the northern end of a 1,300-metre defined mineralized trend, which remains open in all directions and at depth.
Stifano notes that the Alacran discovery confirms his belief that San Matias hosts porphyry copper-gold mineralization and high-grade, skarn-hosted copper-gold systems.
“People always ask me why HPX came into this little company called Cordoba, and the answer is quite simple: the HPX team that visited the project saw a lot of similarities with Oyu Tolgoi,” Stifano says. “We think we’re in a porphyry cluster. There’s a lot of faulting that you would have seen at OT. What we see in a lot of our geophysics is that some of these intrusions are deep and big.
“We’re not talking about 0.2% copper or 0.3% copper, we’re talking some pretty high-grade copper, and this has potential — with a lot of work, obviously — for us to find a world-class, tier-one discovery,” he adds.
“Robert is probably the most aggressive explorationist out there, period. This is what he does. This is what he loves. You can’t fault his track record: Voisey’s Bay, Oyu Tolgoi, Kamoa, Platreef — all his projects are world-class. There is nobody better at finding world-class projects than Robert Friedland and his team. Nobody.”
San Matias is 200 km north of Medellin and 20 km south of BHP Billiton’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine, and within 10 km of two open-pit coal mines operated by a Colombian conglomerate, with access to road infrastructure and power.