It’s been a busy six months for Wallbridge Mining (TSX: WM; US-OTC: WLBMF).
In March the Wallbridge board green-lighted production at the company’s small Broken Hammer copper–platinum group metal (PGM) open-pit project in Sudbury, Ont., a deposit it discovered in 2003.
Construction got underway in April, and by June the first ore had already been shipped to Northern Sun Mining’s (TSX: NSC; US-OTC: LBEFF) Redstone mill in Timmins.
In July Wallbridge signed hedging contracts for 20% of Broken Hammer’s projected payable copper, platinum, palladium and gold to ensure that the project meets cash-flow objectives.
As of Aug. 26, concentrate from Broken Hammer with a net payable metal value of US$1.3 million had been shipped to smelters for final processing.
Last month, Wallbridge secured a US$1.5-million bridge loan facility and purchase contract from Auramet International LLC. The loan gives Wallbridge some breathing room in the form of more working capital for the start-up phase, and will bridge the period until the mine generates enough revenue.
Wallbridge granted Auramet 600,000 share-purchase warrants with a 15¢-per-warrant exercise price expiring in August 2016, and signed an agreement in which Auramet takes up all of the precious-metal content in the gravity concentrate produced at Broken Hammer.
But Broken Hammer is really just a way to generate cash flow to fund Wallbridge’s many other exploration programs in Sudbury without diluting shareholders. The company is the third-largest mining landholder in Sudbury after Vale (NYSE: VALE) and Glencore (LSE: GLEN), with 650 sq. km of mining claims in the Sudbury Camp, and 11 joint-ventures on 40 projects.
Broken Hammer will be mined out by the second quarter of 2015, and CEO Marz Kord, a mining engineer, says that the open-pit project “provides us with an opportunity to not only generate some cash, but also provides us with expertise and experience in mining small-scale projects with a lot of opportunities similar to Broken Hammer in the Sudbury Camp.”
Wallbridge has focused most of its activities on the Wisner properties near Broken Hammer and the Sudbury Camp joint-venture, both with Lonmin (LSE: LMI; US-OTC: LNMIF). Lonmin is also Wallbridge’s largest shareholder, owning 15% of the company.
The Wisner properties could host Sudbury’s “footwall-type” copper, platinum, palladium and gold deposits, including small near-surface deposits — similar to Wallbridge’s Broken Hammer — as well as larger higher-grade deposits at depth that are similar to elsewhere in the Sudbury area, the company says.
The properties include several high grade copper-PGM occurrences and over a dozen identified target areas within a 10 km strike length of prospective geology. The properties are next to Broken Hammer and several nickel–copper–PGM deposits owned by Vale and Glencore.
The 2014 exploration program at Wisner includes drilling, mechanical stripping and prospecting, with a total budget of $2.6 million from October 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014, funded by joint-venture partner Lonmin.
The current program includes preliminary drilling to determine the extent of mineralization seen at surface and to test various geophysical and geological targets.
A second phase of deeper drilling will follow-up significant intersections to determine economic potential.
So far anomalous copper and copper–PGM mineralization has been identified in nearly all drill holes and target areas tested as part of the current program.
Wallbridge also joint-ventured with Lonmin — the third-largest platinum producer in the world — on the Sudbury Camp joint venture, which was formed in 2002 to explore for PGMs, nickel and copper on nine of Wallbridge’s properties.
Meanwhile, with Impala Platinum Holdings (US-OTC: IMPUY) — the world’s second-largest producer of PGMs — Wallbridge is joint-venturing on the Parkin Offset project along the northeastern rim of the Sudbury basin.
The fifty-fifty joint venture covers a 9.4 km strike length of the Parkin Offset dyke, which includes the past-producing Milnet mine. The project includes Parkin, a near-surface indicated resource of 290,928 tons (264,000 tonnes) at 0.70% copper, 0.65% nickel, 0.03% cobalt, 0.62 gram platinum per tonne, 0.80 gram palladium per tonne, 0.23 gram gold per tonne and 6.3 grams silver per tonne.
Wallbridge is also exploring for PGMs, nickel and copper on its East Range properties. The East Range properties cover 20 sq. km and include the 62%-owned Frost Lake joint venture with Xstrata Nickel, which is now part of Glencore.
“Over the past two years our exploration budget has in fact been in the $5-million-plus range,” Kord says. “For a junior whose market cap is $10 million, it’s quite an aggressive exploration program. But the majority of the exploration funds are coming from our joint-venture partners.”
Outside Ontario, Wallbridge created Duluth Metals (TSX: DM; US-OTC: DULMF) in 2005 to explore and develop projects in Minnesota and in 2010 created Miocene Metals (TSXV: MII) to explore and develop porphyry copper–gold–molybdenum projects in B.C.
In July, Duluth Metals regained control of its Twin Metals Minnesota project from its joint-venture partner, Antofagasta (LSE: ANTO), after Antofagasta dropped its option to buy another 25% of the project. Wallbridge describes Twin Metals as the one of the largest undeveloped copper–nickel–PGE deposits in the world.
Duluth Metals owns a 60% stake in the Twin Metals project. Wallbridge is the second-largest shareholder in Duluth Metals (after Antofagasta), with just over 10 million shares, or 7.4% of the company. Wallbridge’s stake in Miocene Metals, meanwhile, amounts to 40.5%.
Over the last year Wallbridge has traded within a range of 4.5¢ to 12¢ per share. At press time it traded at 5¢ per share. The company has 167 million shares outstanding.