We wanted to cover your Strategic Business Update released on 6 November 2018, but firstly should ask about your thoughts on market conditions?
For private and institutional investors conditions are pretty awful although there is evidently a keen search by investors for stocks to acquire that could be positive performers even in present market conditions.
We have to demonstrate that ECR is in that category through our work and communications about our progress.
For resource companies on the markets, those with established businesses and cash can keep working through the downturn phase and make ready for the upturn.
ECR raised money in July and as a result, has the working capital to run until Q3 2019 as previously publicised. We are in a strong position operationally and financially and that makes us a positive investment proposition, in my view, at this time.
On the gold side of your business, Australia seems the focus right now. Why is that?
The Victoria region has been a stunning producer of gold over the years and was the location of one of the great nineteenth-century gold rushes. What’s better is that we believe there is considerable gold still to be discovered, and we are exploring for it right now.
We are greatly heartened by the exceptional success of the Fosterville mine in Victoria, which has produced more than a million ounces of gold to date and has ramped up production significantly of late, announcing record quarterly gold production of 90,000 ounces in Q3 2018. The mine is also notable for the discovery of significant bonanza grade mineralisation at depth in recent years. Fosterville is located in the same district as ECR’s Bailieston and Moormbool gold projects.
Our strategic and well-publicised objective is to find a substantial multi-million ounce gold deposit in the region and we are on an exciting pathway. We have published exploration results across a number of our many targets in the last few months and the results have been very exciting for the team.
We have already identified a gold system at the Blue Moon target and a large gold system at the Creswick target and more work is underway across the portfolio that will bring further updates to market.
In summation, we have multiple targets, very positive initial exploration results and our ongoing campaign is in full swing. There is a lot to aim for here and we have the resources and capable in-country team to get the work done.
You have mentioned Argentina and opportunities there in respect of “corporate avenues”. Can you elaborate?
I can’t be too specific, but we are pro-active in the background in Argentina and are reviewing a number of project opportunities and corporate options that may have the potential to add value.
Adding value is one thing, but we appreciate crystallisation of value is paramount for shareholders and we are very switched on to that.
Argentina is a resource-rich country and largely supportive of mineral exploration and development. We have strong and growing local relationships and there are increasingly more opportunities and more avenues we could pursue. We are active in moving initiatives forward and will update shareholders as soon as we have material progress.
The Iceberg due diligence is taking some time, in fact, more than originally planned, why is that?
We have been presented with a lot of data and are going through all the information.
One thing is key, acquisitions should be structured well and project due diligence conducted very carefully. If it takes more time to do a thorough job, all companies should do that and not be afraid to extend option periods. You protect shareholders that way.
Also, in the challenging conditions working capital is a scarce resource and there are a number of high potential projects available. Our job is to apply working capital to the best options and the process of due diligence ensures we do just that.
What other gold opportunities are you considering?
We have a good pipeline of Australian gold opportunities mainly in Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Whether we will pursue any additional projects depends on multiple factors including a project’s fit within the Company alongside our other gold interests; whether the project costs are comfortably within our management and financial resources; and whether we can see a value crystallisation route for shareholders.
We are looking at early stage exploration and projects with existing resources.
Turning to energy metals and minerals can you explain what you mean by “interest from third parties”?
As a Company, we are very excited by gold as a commodity focus, and we know our current and potential investors are too. That should not mean that we turn off to other opportunities and it has become increasingly clear to us that there is considerable interest in the energy metals and minerals segment.
The general interest of investors is a good thing and we need to be aware of that. However, there are also a number of organisations external to ECR who are keen to build a pipeline in energy metals and minerals.
In fact, the evident strategic drive to build this pipeline is demonstrated by the potential offer of capital to finance new ventures should the company be able to identify suitably meritable projects.
What is particularly appealing is the interest in ECR to act as a vehicle for new opportunities in respect of gold and energy metals & minerals.
Market conditions may be difficult but that is giving us a real opportunity to stand apart from the crowd by building our business in this downturn phase. The cash at bank and potential third party engagement helps of course.
Can you give us an indication of the type of energy metal or mineral project you are looking for?
Again, its difficult to answer too specifically as that information should be centred on market announcements. However, we have identified through our network various interesting projects in Australia and elsewhere. These are across multiple commodity categories including cobalt, copper, lithium, uranium and vanadium.
We want projects that our shareholders will appreciate and that can also engage the interest of new potential investors. We also want projects that can attract external finance with an emphasis on project level financing helping to reduce dilution at corporate plc level, something we know is very important to shareholders.
You seem very positive about the ECR business at the moment. What excites you the most about the business?
The work that goes into the Company is relentless at times, especially now with so much underway. So you need the excitement to keep you buoyed up.
I am delighted to be working closely with our Chairman David Tang, who apart from being very commercially minded, has an extensive network across many Asian countries and is able to bring ECR to the attention of that network. We have plenty of support provided we build our business with projects of real merit and potential.
It feels like it is ECR’s time but an intensive amount of effort is going in to make that happen.