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ECR Minerals #ECR – Unaudited half-yearly financial results for six months ending 31 March 2021 & Update

LONDON: 29 JUNE 2021 – ECR Minerals plc, the gold exploration and development company, is pleased to announce unaudited half-yearly financial results for the six months ending 31 March 2021 for the Company as consolidated with its subsidiaries (the “Group”), along with a review of significant developments during the period and subsequently.

HIGHLIGHTS 

  • Victoria, Australia continues to enjoy a gold exploration boom, with continued third-party interest in ECR’s Creswick project in Victoria. Discussions are ongoing in respect to a potential commercial transaction in relation to our Creswick project.
  • Late in 2020, the Company took delivery of its new Cortech CSD1300G diamond drill rig and at the same time established a new operational base at Bendigo in the Central Victoria Goldfields.
  • The Company announced three new strategic licence applications, adding new exploration opportunities in North Queensland, Australia. Three applications for Exploration Permits – Minerals (“EPM”) licences have been submitted by LUX Exploration Pty Ltd, ECR’s 100% owned subsidiary.
  • In January 2021, ECR’s 100% owned Australian subsidiary MGA commenced drilling operations at the Byron Prospect in the HR3 area of the Bailieston Project. The Company’s newly acquired ‘Midas’ drill rig was utilised to undertake the first of numerous planned drilling campaigns, all of which are being coordinated from ECR’s central exploration facility compound at Bendigo.
  • Announced results from exploration activity in Victoria included immediate success at the first drill hole at Creswick, intersecting 1m @ 9.68 g/t and confirming high gold anomalies (up to 3.75 g/t Au) along with spatially associated antimony which is thought to be from the mineral stibnite which forms a close association with gold mineralisation. Furthermore, a total of 720 B-horizon soil samples were taken across the central and eastern part of the Bailieston Historic Reserve #3 (HR3) between February and March 2021.
  • Post-period end, the Company’s cash position was strengthened by a £2,000,000 equity financing by Novum Securities in April 2021 to ramp-up drilling and exploration activities on ECR’s gold exploration projects.
  • During the period, the Company issued an aggregate of 11,800,000 share options from the management and consultant option pool to certain key consultants and staff, and also issued an additional 235,420,387 shares from the exercise of warrants and options, receiving a total of £3,289,520.
  • Group total comprehensive expenses of £468,112 are reported for the six months ended 31 March 2021 (£1,846,202 for the six months ended 31 March 2020) and net assets of £6,442,465 at 31 March 2021 (£2,206,211 at 31 March 2020).
  • A Group Operating Loss is reported for the six months ended 31 March 2021 of £403,079, compared with £369,102 for the six months ended 31 March 2020.
  • Adam Jones appointed as a Non-Executive Director.
  • Despite the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, ECR is in a robust financial position and continues to provide shareholders with exposure to an exciting range of gold projects.

FINANCIAL RESULTS

For the six months ended 31 March 2021 the unaudited financial statements of the Group record a total comprehensive expense of £468,112.

The Group’s total assets were £6,522,307 at 31 March 2021, compared with £2,275,479 at 31 March 2020. The increase in total assets has occurred largely due to the increase in purchase of property, plant and equipment and exercise of warrants during the period.

The Group held £3,928,905 of cash and cash equivalents at 31 March 2021, compared with £166,852 at 31 March 2020.  Post the period end, the Group’s cash position benefited from a £2,000,000 equity financing completed by the Company in April 2021.  Cash at 23 June 2021 is £5,242,081.

REVIEW OF PRINCIPAL DEVELOPMENTS DURING THE PERIOD AND SUBSEQUENTLY

The six months to 31 March 2021 and the subsequent period since have been marked by a series of exciting developments for ECR, all of which are related to the Group’s primary strategic activity, of exploration and development in Australia through ECR’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd (“MGA”).

Currently, the Company is focused on an aggressive drilling programme at Bailieston and Creswick properties in Victoria, with two diamond drill rigs working every day to deliver large quantities of drill core for technical review, processing and assay testing. The ongoing pace and sheer volume of core and data recovered, along with the EPM applications in N Queensland is expected to expose ECR to potential new gold discoveries.

Application for 300 Sub-Blocks West of Charters Towers in the Lolworth District of North Queensland, Australia.

In May 2021, ECR Minerals announced three new strategic licence applications with a view to adding new exploration opportunities in Queensland, Australia. These were submitted by LUX Exploration Pty Ltd which is a 100%-owned Australian subsidiary of ECR Minerals.

The three Exploration Permits – Minerals (EPM) in application (27901, 27902 and 27903) represent 300 sub-blocks covering a total 900 km2 of highly prospective ground located within the Lolworth Range, 200km WSW of Townsville and 30km north from Pentlands, North Queensland Australia.

The application area contains metamorphic rocks of the Charters Towers Province, that host historical large gold producing centres such as Charters Tower (6.6M Oz Au) and Ravenswood (>1M Oz Au). The structural and basement geology is poorly understood in the area, suggesting numerous opportunities to find new deposits. The area also contains reported rhyolitic volcanism, which play host to intrusion-related breccia gold deposits in the region such as Mount Leyshon (>2.5M oz) and Mount Wright (>1M oz).

The application area is encompassed on the southern boundary by rich alluvial gold deposits of the Cape River and Gorge Creek area, which drain the southern Lolworth Range.

The east boundary of EPM27902 and EPM27903 is bordered by current exploration permits across the Lolworth dyke swarm; a north-west trending system of rhyolitic dykes and small breccia pipes containing gold, copper and molybdenum.

Historic samples also highlighted tin-tungsten mineralisation in the western areas of EPM27902. Reports show no detailed follow-up work has been undertaken.

ECR considers EPM27901, 27902 and 27903 offer significant potential for precious and base metal discoveries in an area of Australia where multiple large-scale discoveries have already been made.

Soil Sampling – HR3 Bailieston Project

In May 2021, MGA carried out soil sampling generated within the Historic Reserve #3, (HR3) Bailieston in Victoria, Australia. The results of the study were announced on 15 June 2021, and revealed high gold anomalies (up to 3.75 g/t Au) along with spatially associated antimony, which is thought to be from the mineral stibnite, which forms a close association with gold mineralisation. A total of 720 B-horizon soil samples were taken across the central and eastern part of the Bailieston Historic Reserve # 3 (HR3) between February and March 2021.

These findings mean we have now submitted a request for consent to undertake additional exploration drilling at the location, which is over and above initial planned drill holes in the area. The collected samples were tested by portable X-ray fluorescence (“pXRF”) for anomalous pathfinder elements for gold and a selected sub-set of 229 samples have been sent for trace element analysis (TL) for Au, Ag, As, Sb, Zn, Cu and Pb. Results of this work show a strong spatial relationship between Au (gold), Sb (antimony) and to a lesser extent As (arsenic). Plotting of spatial Au-Sb elemental maps reveals trends that may correspond to the weathering of high-grade gold shoots under shallow cover.

Field mapping shows sub-cropping quartz with little to no historical workings associated with these anomalies. Plans have been submitted for approval to drill along strike to test these quartz reefs at depth.

Soils grids were designed over known and possible strike extensions of gold-bearing quartz reefs. A 10m x 10m spaced grid was chosen as it is known that narrow high-grade gold reefs will erode over a small spatial area into the adjacent soil. Soils have been taken from the B-horizon, often at the gravel-clay interface at a depth around 10cm. This is where the gravels have not transported too far from their source rocks. Soils located within gullies and adjacent mullock dumps were removed due to contamination. All soils were sieved on site to < 2mm and bagged, producing a sample around 300g in weight. A total of 720 samples have been taken to date (June 2021).

All soils were systematically analysed in-house using ECR’s owned Olympus pXRF. Analysis is undertaken using three sequential beams with a 15 second count attributing to each beam. Results are evaluated for traditional pathfinder elements such as As, Ag, Pb, Zn, Cu and Sb.

Soil with moderate arsenic content (generally > 40 ppm) and soils spatially close to extensions to known reef lines were selected for further trace elemental analysis for Au, Ag, As, Pb, Zn, Cu and Sb. A total of 229 sub-samples have been selected and sent to ALS laboratories, Adelaide, South Australia. Method Au-TL44/ME-ICP44 was chosen for analysis.

A detection limit in ppm is sufficient given the proximity to possible gold sources. Any Au-TL44 results greater than 1 ppm was analysed by Au-AROR44, which is used for ‘ore grade’ analysis. A 50g charge from a 95% passing 75µm pulverise was chosen due to the likely presence of coarse gold.

Thirteen samples returned gold values above 0.1 g/t Au. Silver, Copper, Lead and Zinc results are low within the soils.

Arsenic is traditionally used as a pathfinder element for gold mineralisation and occurs at moderate levels within soils at HR3 and is fairly distributed, masking blind gold deposits.

Antimony (Sb) results are variable with high results correlating spatially with high gold assays.

Rock chips taken during 2018 along strike of the main soil anomaly showed a visible speck of coarse gold. Assays for these rock chips were analysed using a small charge fire assay resulting in variable results (up to 0.32 g/t Au) reflecting how coarse gold can be missed using traditional assay methods. Furthermore, non-executive director (Adam Jones) in February 2019 has found coarse gold by using a metal detector within the shallow soils in the vicinity of the reported soil anomalies.

Early Successful RC Diamond Drilling at Creswick Project

MGA has made great progress to date with the completion of the four diamond holes at Creswick and 909.2m of diamond drilling has been undertaken efficiently at the Creswick Project.  So far, the Company has received assay results from hole CSD001, with gold intersected in the first drill hole.

The first hole, CSD001 has been completed to 295m. This hole is an orientation hole to establish the position of the Dimocks Main Shale (DMS) and associated structures. As previously reported (21 June 2019) data from the RC drilling conducted in 2019 showed a lack of geological continuity indicating faulting and folding of the DMS. CSD001 intersected quartz zones within the DMS in addition to multiple reefs above and below it. Drilling of CSD001 has demonstrated that much of the 2019 RC drilling was done into the minor reefs above the DMS.

CSD001 revealed three parallel reef systems above the DMS that have been folded by small and large parasitic folds. The DMS was reached at 72m down the hole and continued to 93m and intersected two 2m quartz zones at the upper contact and at 86m with minor veining throughout the shale. The hole continued to 295m to test the folding and faulting beneath the DMS and encountered an additional 8 reef zones that mostly related to east-dipping faults and minor shales. 76 of the 108 samples sent for laboratory testing from CSD001 have been reported from the lab with the best result 1 m @ 9.68 g/t from an east-dipping fault beneath the DMS. Results from the final 32 samples are awaiting laboratory analysis.

CSD002 was collared 10 m to the west of CSD001 and drilled steeper to target where projected parasitic folding and the mineralised east-dipping fault intersect the DMS. The previously reported result from 2019 from CSR005 of 1m @ 81.0 g/t came from quartz in the parasitic folds. Drilling of CSD001 intersected an 8m quartz zone where the DMS and these structures intersect plus minor veining throughout the shale. The core from CSD002 has been logged, sampled and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Work to better understand the nugget effect at Creswick is ongoing. As described in the release dated 5 November 2019 grade variability due to the nugget effect was demonstrated at Creswick with some of the initial samples under-reported and others over-reported.

Outlook, Future Prospects and COVID 19

The Board of ECR Minerals plc is very positive in regard to the outlook for the Company and for sustained demand for Gold over the longer term. We remain enthused over the potential and prospectively of the Company’s projects in Victoria, Australia.

As a consequence of COVID 19, governments around the world have imposed restrictions on

international travel, and in particular extensive restrictions have been imposed on domestic travel within Australia. These restrictions have meant that until May 2021, the board have been unable to visit the assets. However, the team on the ground in Victoria have continued the work at site without interruption, and as a result there has been no significant negative impact on the Company from the coronavirus.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

 

ECR Minerals plc

 

Tel: +44 (0)20 7929 1010

David Tang, Non-Executive Chairman
Craig Brown, Director & CEO
Email:  info@ecrminerals.com
Website:  www.ecrminerals.com
WH Ireland Ltd Tel: +44 (0)161 832 2174
Nominated Adviser
Katy Mitchell/James Sinclair-Ford
Novum Securities Tel: +44 (0)20 7399 9425
Broker
Jon Belliss
SI Capital Tel: +44 (0)1483 413500
Broker
Nick Emerson
Brand Communications Tel: +44 (0)7976 431608
PR & IR
Alan Green

 

ABOUT ECR MINERALS PLC

ECR Minerals is a mineral exploration and development company. ECR’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd (“MGA”) has 100% ownership of the Bailieston and Creswick gold projects in central Victoria, Australia, has eight licence applications outstanding including two licence applications lodged in eastern Victoria. (Tambo gold project). MGA is currently drilling at both the Bailieston and Creswick projects and has an experienced exploration team with significant local knowledge in the Victoria Goldfields and wider region. https://mercatorgold.com.au/

ECR also owns 100% of an Australian subsidiary LUX Exploration Pty Ltd (“LUX”) which has three licence applications covering 900 km2 covering a relatively unexplored area in Queesnland, Australia. https://luxexploration.com/

Following the sale of the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold projects in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd (TSX-V: FSX) and the subsequent spin-out of the Avoca and Timor projects to Leviathan Gold Ltd (TSX-V: LVX), MGA has the right to receive up to A$2 million in payments subject to future resource estimation or production at any of those projects.

ECR has earned a 25% interest in the Danglay gold project; an advanced exploration project located in a prolific gold and copper mining district in the north of the Philippines, and holds a royalty on the SLM gold project in La Rioja Province, Argentina.

FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS

This announcement may include forward-looking statements. Such statements may be subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate and therefore actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward looking statements. Any forward looking statements contained herein speak only as of the date hereof (unless stated otherwise) and, except as may be required by applicable laws or regulations (including the AIM Rules for Companies), the Company disclaims any obligation to update or modify such forward looking statements as a result of new information, future events or for any other reason.

 

Please find the full financial statements here

The rise and fall – or should we say, fall and rise – of the gold market in 2021

by Hannah Howes

Gold investment demand fell early this year, largely attributed to outflows in gold-backed ETFs as growing expectations of higher interest rates influenced investor attitude, according to the most recent World Gold Council (WGC) report (Gold outlook for 2021 positive, despite uncertainty – World Gold Council (miningweekly.com). When analysing this trend more closely, it has been noted that investment demand actually saw positive growth in the retail market with ETF outflows negatively impacting the overall picture. The WGC market intelligence manager Krishan Gopaul notes that the “The overall picture of investment falling in the quarter really hides two different stories – we see the ETF outflows but there is still the more positive growth story on the bar and coin side”.There has also been an increase in consumer demand which has been further enhanced by low gold prices, one of the major buyers of such commodities being China and other emerging markets. The catalysed global economic recovery, bolstered by swift vaccination efforts, has also boosted consumer confidence in the technology sector raising demand by 11% year on year.

The cyclical elements of gold demand have been heightened by the 10% decrease in gold price in the first quarter, in combination with the global economic recovery in response to positive Covid-19 outlooks. Senior Market Analyst Louise Street at WGC has observed that “having seen investors take shelter in gold from the initial impacts of Covid-19, the first quarter saw a sell-off in the gold price as confidence in economic recovery grew and US interest rates rose sharply,”adding that, notwithstanding this, gold holds a strong position in the most well-balanced portfolios. This is particularly so given the repeatedly reported fears of inflation. In previous years where records show inflation rates of over 3%, the price of gold increased 15% on average (https://www.gold.org/goldhub/research/outlook-2021). When looking ahead to the next few less-tumultuous years, Louise sees “reasons to be optimistic about the gold market”due to the resilience of the markets main drivers, low interest rates and increasing yields.

History ready to repeat itself?

The only certain thing to come from the past year is uncertainty in abundance. That said, when it comes to gold mining, we can remain confident in the fact that the Victoria goldfields, southern Australia, continues to stand as a reputable and reliable source of precious metals. This follows decades of mining in the region, in the wake of a glimmering spotlight launched by the 19thcentury gold rush. Testament to this fact is the nugget of gold rested assertively on my mantel, panned by myself during a trip to the Sovereign Hill attraction at the Ballarat Gold Mine.

AIM listed ECR Minerals (AIM: ECR) is a company on the brink of a gold fest from current drilling in the territory, focused on delivering the next multi-million ounce gold resource. ECR outright owns the Bailieston and Creswick projects located in Central Victoria, Australia, and with an operational HQ at Bendigo, is able to process and fast track core samples and assay results.

As well as holding financial interests in the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor projects, following the sale of those licenses to TSX-V listed Fosterville South Exploration Ltd for up to £1.3 million. Further retaining a 25% interest in the Danglay epithermal gold project located in Northern Philippines and a net smelter royalty agreement from the sale of the SLM gold project in Argentina.

Creswick

The Dimocks Main Shale, a geological feature believed to be have great gold potential, is home to Creswick and extends some 15km from the aforementioned mining centre of Ballarat.

Drill sites for the current programme are 2.2km south from those used in the previous drill programme in 2019, individual samples of which returned assays as high as 80.97 g/t gold over one metre. A study by pre-eminent consulting geochemist Dr Dennis Arne, whose experience includes extensive consultancy at the exceedingly successful Fosterville gold mine in Central Victoria, emphasized the significant gold exploration potential at Creswick, and ‘nuggety gold mineralisation’.

Bailieston

Also located in the sought-after central Victoria region, Bailieston is not far from the renowned Fosterville mine owned by Kirkland Lake Gold. Bailieston is base to ongoing drilling in the HR3 area, undertaken using ECR’s own diamond drill rig, with prospects also including Cherry Tree, Red Moon and Yellow Moon. Assay results have been announced for four holes in the HR3 area, with a further four holes awaiting final geological interpretation. What has been reported is that BH3DD005 holes 6 and 7 indicate the hypothesized central anticline does exist and represents a favourable target for gold mineralisation. Quality samples have been recorded from drilling by ECR at the Blue Moon prospect in 2019, including a 17.8g/t sample from a 2 metre interval. Making Blue Moon a noteworthy new discovery.

Through previously selling three Victoria licences (Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects) for cash and royalties to TSX-V listed Fosterville South Exploration Ltd, and a number of warrant exercises, the company is fully funded to continue drilling at its 100% owned Creswick and Bailieston projects through to into 2022. This strong cash position has given the company desirable footing moving forward, enabling them to push for the launch of further drilling programmes across existing property and acquire new opportunities.

In the recent Proactive Investors interview, ECR Minerals CEO Craig Brown spoke to Andrew Scott, highlighting the recent news of application for three new licenses in north-east Queensland, Australia. These permits are to cover a total of 900sq km of highly prospective ground within the Lolworth Range. Historical mining in the region totals 24.4mil ounces, equivalent to $48 billion worth of gold. Despite this, the area is relatively unexplored, offering “huge potential” according to Craig. As well as emphasising that he expects the gold price to only gain strength, with the precious metal being the hedge against inflation concerns.

Despite the recent retreat in share price, dropping from 4.25p in January, to 1.89p in May 2021, ECR’s strong cash position attributed to the aforementioned license sales and warrant exercises puts the company in an enviable industry spot. This, in combination with the fact the company owns a diamond drilling rig, currently operational at Bailieston while a contractor’s rig is active at Creswick, means ECR Minerals is set for a prosperous 2021/22 as demand for gold remains bullish. Making the current share price a bargain investment.

Money Guide interview ECR Minerals #ECR CEO Craig Brown

ECR Minerals #ECR CEO Craig Brown is interviewed by Money Guide. In the interview Craig discusses:

  • ECR now owns its own diamond drilling rig that can drill as deep as 1300 metres.
  • Tambo Gold Project, easy access, low costs. Principal geologist and Bruthen local boy Dr Rod Boucher is currently out conducting fieldwork
  • There are currently two parties interested in the Creswick project. One party is undertaking due diligence, although as Craig explains the progress has been hampered by the Victoria lockdown quarantine measures.
  • Drilling will shortly commence at the Bailieston project. This is located close to the Fosterville Gold mine, which has v low operating costs, producing 500,000oz a year and is ‘printing money’. Craig says that some ‘big players’ have moved into the region recently, and one is interested in Bailieston (HR3, Blue Moon, Cherry Tree).
  • ECR is very undervalued vs. peers – Craig looks at Fosterville South (TSX-FSX), which acquired ECR’s Avoca, Timor & Moormbool licenses earlier this year. The company currently has a value some 12 times that of ECR, and while the Golden Mountain project is progressing, Craig argues that ECR has ‘better projects’.

USD28tn COVID bill keeps the Gold bull case intact for ECR Minerals #ECR and the new Victoria Gold rush.

In October 2020 IMF economic counselor *Gita Gopinath described coronavirus as the worst crisis since the Great Depression, adding that the pandemic would leave deep and enduring scars from job losses, weaker investment and children being deprived of education.

In its flagship world economic outlook, the IMF said stronger than expected Q2 and Q3 performances would see global output fall by 4.4% in 2020 compared with the 5.2% drop forecast during the summer.

The groundbreaking news of a vaccine with high efficacy rates from both Pfizer and Moderna triggered strong rallies in global stock markets, and while this led to a downward correction in the gold price, most market analysts remained bullish on gold over the longer term.

US Investment Group Energy & Capital are of the view that gold remains in a bull market super cycle. Energy & Capital editor, Gold bug, and investment analyst Luke Burgess said “The historic gold run of 2011 actually began in 2001, when gold was trading around $300 per ounce.”

“The same exact gold super-cycle happened in 1971–1980, when gold ran from $50 per ounce to almost $700,” Burgess added. “The value of the U.S. dollar is being weakened every day and there is nothing that the Federal Reserve or politicians can do to stop it. This will continue to have a tremendous effect on gold prices and the gold market in general.”

Energy & Capital are ultra bullish in outlook, with a $6500oz target price for the yellow metal within 2 years. While other commentators are more circumspect, the view on the longer-term trend is clear.**

“It is worth recalling that the driver of investment flows into precious metals has ultimately been sourced from a powerful impulse lower in real rates,” TD Securities said in a note.

“The U.S. Federal Reserve’s continued attempt to spark higher inflation expectations should suppress real rates deeper into negative territory. This will continue to drive investment appetite for precious metals, as capital seeks to shelter itself from increasingly negative real rates.”

Junior Gold Miners Flourish

It has been an extraordinary year for junior gold miners. Despite the recent gold correction to $1860oz, global gold producers are under more pressure than ever to replace their depleting reserves. The major gold producing conglomerates face declines in production, shrinking reserves and a potential increase in production costs, which means it is cheaper (and faster) for these companies to buy developed or developing gold projects.

As a result, there has been a rush to develop and fast track quality assets, which for some junior miners has meant revisiting dormant mining projects. The latest tools, survey techniques and desktop assets available to mining engineers have proved invaluable in the search for precious metals within existing dormant assets and mines around the world.

As gold prospecting continues apace in far flung and remote areas, this year has seen the goldfields in Victoria, South Australia thrust into the limelight once again.

A major mining centre since the 19th century gold rush, modern technology has today has paved the way for another gold rush in the region.

Indeed the Geological Survey of Victoria estimates that some 75 million ounces of high-grade gold is currently awaiting discovery, and with grants available to mining companies operating in the region, it is no exaggeration to say that companies are literally queuing up for licenses.


As an incumbent operator owning some of the most fertile territory in Victoria, London listed ECR Minerals (LSE: ECR) is already at the front of the queue, with its 100% owned Bailieston and Creswick Victoria gold projects, plus the recently acquired Tambo Gold project.

ECR also has financial interests in the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor projects following the sale of those licenses to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd (TSX.V:FSX), raising $500,000 plus $1 for every ounce of gold discovered. ECR also has interests in projects in the Philippines and Argentina.

Creswick

Creswick is situated within the Dimocks Main Shale, a geological feature considered to be highly prospective for gold, and which extends to the Ballarat gold mine centre and further south. ECR’s exploration licenses cover approximately 7km of this region, and along with several other mining companies with licenses in the region, has applied for a further license covering a further 140 sq km between Creswick and Ballarat.

A recent study by pre-eminent consulting geochemist Dr Dennis Arne, whose experience includes extensive consultancy at the Fosterville mine, (now the largest gold producer in Victoria), underlined the significant gold exploration potential at Creswick, and ‘nuggety gold mineralisation’. Joint venture / earn-in talks are continuing at Creswick.

Bailieston

Bailieston is also at the centre of the current gold exploration boom in Victoria, sited as it is a few km east of the world class Fosterville mine. Fosterville has delivered spectacular investment returns over recent years for owner Kirkland Lake Gold, not to mention some of it’s now millionaire shareholders.

The Bailieston license areas include a raft of prospects, including HR3, Black Cat, Cherry Tree, Red Moon and Yellow Moon, and with drilling permissions now received, the company reported last Friday that its newly acquired drilling rig will shortly be en route to the HR3 prospect from ECR’s new operational base at Bendigo. Work also continues apace at the Cherry Tree prospect, with soil geochemistry and geological mapping recently completed.

ECR’s Baillieston project also has a high profile neighbour in the form of mining giant Newmont, which has a license application in for ground immediately to the north of ECR’s Black Cat prospect.

Tambo Gold Project – Local Knowledge

One of the key advantages lies in the fact that ECR’s principal geologist Dr Rodney Boucher was born and raised in Bruthen, East Victoria, and therefore has an intimate knowledge of the region. In September 2020, this area knowledge was further employed by ECR when it lodged two new license applications for the new Tambo gold project in eastern Victoria. ECR CEO Craig Brown highlighted Dr Boucher’s knowledge in the stock exchange press release.

“Good quality exploration ground available for direct application is very difficult to find in Victoria, so we are very pleased to have identified and applied for the Tambo project, which covers a sizeable area of prospective geology near historic goldfields and has received little contemporary exploration.”

Brown added “Our principal geologist, Dr Rod Boucher, was born and raised nearby in Bruthen. He grew up gold prospecting with his father throughout the application areas and has an in-depth knowledge of the gold potential in the small streams and gullies. He is a descendant of gold miners from a locality once known as Boucher Town between Cassilis and Swifts Creek and completed his third-year undergraduate thesis on the geology of the Tambo Crossing area.”

Untapped Potential

There is a sense that despite the rush of license applications in the region, the current day Victoria gold rush is still very much in its infancy.

As other leading mining companies, including Newmont Corporation (NYSE: NEM), Power Metal Resources (LSE:POW), Red Rock Resources (LSE:RRR), Fosterville South and a host of other smaller mining groups queue for licenses, their respective CEO’s will no doubt be harbouring ambitions for a Kirkland Gold–esque share price explosion.  Indeed, Kirkland’s share price has rocketed over 2,200% in the past few years thanks to its ownership of the Fosterville Gold Mine and a 315% jump in annual gold production between 2014 and 2018 .

Despite movement restrictions in the Victoria region due to Covid-19, the foresight of the ECR board and CEO in securing the key licenses has not been lost on investors.

Following a further £600,000 fundraise in July, and further £400,000 from warrant exercises, ECR took the decision to acquire it’s own diamond drilling rig to press on with exploration Bailieston and Creswick. Investor bulletin boards are agog with anticipation, but despite the share price having nearly trebled between June and September 2020, in November the stock still trades on a ridiculously modest £13m market cap.

If, as all the pundits seem to be saying, we are at the start of a new Victoria Gold rush, then expectations that shares in small, incumbent explorers like ECR will deliver spectacular Kirkland-style increases in value may not be so far fetched after all.

*Source The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/13/imf-covid-cost-world-economic-outlook

**Source Reuters:

https://www.reuters.com/article/global-precious/precious-gold-holds-tight-range-as-vaccine-progress-offsets-rising-cases-idUSL4N2I43M1

 

ECR Minerals’ Craig Brown updates Andrew Scott at Proactive on talks with potential partners for key gold assets in Australia

ECR Minerals PLC’s (LON:ECR) Craig Brown tells Proactive London’s Andrew Scott they’re in active discussions with potential partners on its Bailieston and Creswick projects in Victoria, Australia. ECR’s recently sold licences comprising the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd for a total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5mln.

ECR Minerals #ECR – Unaudited Half-Yearly Results for the Six Months Ended 31 March 2020

ECR Minerals plc, the gold exploration and development company, is pleased to announce unaudited half-yearly financial results for the six months to 31 March 2020 for the Company as consolidated with its subsidiaries (the “Group”), along with a review of significant developments during the period and subsequently.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Victoria, Australia continues to enjoy a gold exploration boom and interest from third parties in ECR’s projects in Victoria is strong, with several discussions taking place in respect of potential commercial transactions over our Bailieston and Creswick projects.
  • Announced results from exploration activities in Victoria included positive findings of an alteration study on RC drill cuttings from the Creswick project (March 2020), and confirmation of very high grade gold mineralisation at Creswick by the completion of ‘full bag’ testing (November 2019).
  • In January 2020, MGA, ECR’s 100% owned Australian subsidiary, received a research and development expenditure refund of A$555,212 (approximately £295,515) from the Australian government.
  • The Company completed the sale of its Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA in February 2020 and retains an NSR royalty of up to 2% to a maximum of USD 2.7 million in respect of future production from the SLM gold project.
  • Post-period end, the Company sold licences comprising the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd for total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5 million announced in April 2020.
  • Post-period end, the Company’s cash position was strengthened by a £500,000 equity financing and the receipt of A$500,000 from Fosterville South Exploration Ltd in April 2020.
  • Group comprehensive expense of £1,846,202 for the six months ended 31 March 2020 (£480,368 for the six months ended 31 March 2019) and net assets of £2,206,211 at 31 March 2020 (£3,876,921 at 31 March 2019).
  • The Group Operating Loss for the six months ended 31 March 2020 reduced to £369,102, compared with £438,145 for the six months ended 31 March 2019.
  • Despite the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, the Directors’ believe ECR is in a robust financial position and continues to provide shareholders with exposure to an exciting range of gold projects.

FINANCIAL RESULTS
For the six months ended 31 March 2020 the unaudited financial statements of the Group record a total comprehensive expense of £1,846,202, including, a one off exceptional item of (£1,602,539) which pertains to the disposal of the Company’s Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA. This amount cannot remain capitalised under applicable accounting standards, although this amount could be recovered from future royalty payments in relation to the SLM gold project in Argentina, which is owned by Ochre Mining SA, if they progress to production.

The Group’s net assets were £2,275,479 at 31 March 2020, compared with £3,876,921 at 31 March 2019. The reduction in net assets has occurred largely due to the disposal of Ochre Mining SA, as explained above.

The Group held £166,852 of cash and cash equivalents at 31 March 2020, compared with £622,457 at 31 March 2019. The current cash position of the Group today is £742,379.

In January 2020, Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd (“MGA”), ECR’s 100% owned Australian subsidiary, received a research and development (R&D) refund of A$555,212 (approximately £295,515) from the Australian government. This refund relates to qualifying expenditure incurred by MGA in the year ended 30 September 2019. The qualifying R&D activities pertain to research into turbidite-hosted gold deposits within MGA’s exploration licences in Victoria. Post the period end, the Group’s cash position benefited from a £500,000 equity financing completed by the Company and the receipt of AUD$500,000 from the sale of licences in April 2020.

The financial information included in the 31 March 2019 announcement have been restated due to a change in the accounting treatment of the R&D refunds received by MGA. As well as the refund noted above, a refund of A$318,971.73 (approximately £175,188) was received in May 2019. This was previously categorised as other income in the interims to 31 March 2019. The amount received has been offset against exploration assets following the restatement.

REVIEW OF PRINCIPAL DEVELOPMENTS DURING THE PERIOD AND SUBSEQUENTLY

Sale of Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects (the “Licences”) in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd

In April 2020, ECR announced that Fosterville South Exploration Ltd, which listed on the TSX Venture Exchange that same month, had agreed to acquire MGA’s 100% ownership of the Licences by way of Currawong Resources Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fosterville South, for total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5 million, as follows:

  1. A$500,000 in cash, which was paid to MGA immediately;
  2. A further payment of A$1 for every ounce of gold or gold equivalent of measured resource, indicated resource or inferred resource estimated within the area of one or more of the Licences in any combination or aggregation of the foregoing, up to a maximum of A$1,000,000 in aggregate;
  3. A further payment of A$1 for every ounce of gold or gold equivalent produced from within the area of one or more of the Licences, up to a maximum of A$1,000,000 in aggregate.

ECR considered the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor licences to be high-potential but non-core to the Company, and the Company maintains exposure to upside from the projects as a result of future resource estimation or production, through a royalty arrangement as set out above.

Alteration Study – Creswick Gold Project
In February 2020, MGA commissioned Dr Dennis Arne to carry out an alteration study of cuttings (chips) generated by the RC drilling at the Creswick project in 2019. Dr Arne is a preeminent consulting geochemist in Victoria, whose experience includes previous and on-going reviews of geochemistry at the highly successful Fosterville gold mine in Central Victoria owned by Kirkland Lake Gold.

The results of the study were announced on 27 March 2020, and showed good indications of hydrothermal fluid flow related to gold mineralisation in a number of drill holes at Creswick. Importantly, the variation in the results, with some areas ‘lighting up’ and others not, is potentially useful for identifying gold-bearing shoots.

‘Full Bag’ Sampling – Creswick Gold Project
In February 2019 MGA completed a total of 1,687 metres of reverse circulation (RC) drilling in 17 holes at Creswick, targeting multiple quartz vein orientations within the Dimocks Main Shale (“DMS”). The drilling identified more extensive quartz than anticipated, in a zone exceeding 60 metres in width (more than twice the 25 metres expected), with quartz identified in more than one third of the 1,687 metres drilled. Gold mineralisation was identified in the majority of holes, with grades in nine holes ranging from 0.6 g/t gold to 44.63 g/t gold (1.44 oz/t).

MGA’s geologists hypothesised an extreme nuggety distribution of gold based on the results of drilling and other observations, including capturing a small 0.27 g nugget in gravity tests conducted on a single sample bag. In order to assess the significance of this effect, MGA’s consultants devised a testing program using gravity and electrostatic concentration (GEC) on full bags of RC drill cuttings, which would constitute the whole sample recovered from each metre of drilling (less sub-samples obtained at the time of drilling via a splitter mounted on the drill rig). In nuggety gold systems, increasing sample size increases the chance of nuggets being captured in the sample, and thus being appreciated as part of the gold endowment of the system.

Using the GEC method on the full bags, MGA was able to subject larger, more representative sample sizes to analysis. A total of 129 ‘full-bag’ samples were analysed using the GEC process. In parallel, 74 duplicate sub-samples obtained at the time of drilling via the rig-mounted splitter were analysed by the Leachwell method at Gekko Systems. This was done to enable comparison with the assay results (obtained by the same method) for the first set of sub-samples, to assist in classifying the nugget effect as extreme, major or minor.

Grade variability due to the nugget effect was demonstrated by the results of the exercise, which were announced in November 2019, but some consistency between results was also seen, and indicates the nugget effect may be less severe than initially thought. Overall, the programme confirmed the presence of nuggety gold mineralisation in the Dimocks Main Shale (DMS) at Creswick, some of which is very high grade.

MGA’s tenement position at Creswick covers approximately 7 kilometres of the DMS trend, and the 2019 drilling only tested approximately 300 metres of this. ECR therefore believes there is significant potential upside in the project.

Sale of SLM Gold Project
In February 2020, the Company sold its wholly owned Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA, which holds the SLM gold project in La Rioja, Argentina, to Hanaq Argentina SA (“Hanaq”). The sale allows ECR to focus on its core gold exploration activities in Australia.

Hanaq is a Chinese-owned company engaged in lithium, base and precious metals exploration in Northwest Argentina including Salta, Jujuy and La Rioja, with a highly experienced management team.

ECR retains an Net Smelter Return (“NSR”) royalty of up to 2% to a maximum of USD 2.7 million in respect of future production from the SLM gold project. ECR believes that Hanaq has the operational capabilities and access to Chinese investment capital necessary to put the SLM project into production, subject to the usual prerequisites such as further exploration and feasibility studies being successfully completed (if deemed necessary by Hanaq) and to the necessary permits for production being obtained.

The founder and CEO of Hanaq Group, of which Hanaq Argentina SA is part, is Mr Xiaohuan (Juan) Tang, who has a substantive track record in Latin America, including responsibility for the successful permitting of the Pampa de Pongo iron ore project in Peru in his former capacity as General Manager of Jinzhao Mining Peru. Pampa de Pongo is one of the largest iron ore deposits in Latin America. Mr Tang has degrees from Tsinghua University in China, and Imperial College, Cambridge University and Oxford University in the UK.

Outlook, Future Prospects and COVID 19
The Directors’ of ECR Minerals plc are very positive regarding the outlook for the Company, gold and the prospectively of the Company’s projects in Victoria, Australia.

As a consequence of COVID 19, governments around the world have imposed restrictions on international travel; restrictions have also been imposed on domestic travel within Australia. These restrictions have meant that the board have been unable to visit the assets. However, the team on the ground in Australia continue the work at site without interruption. Accordingly, there has been no significant negative impact on the Group from the coronavirus.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

ECR Minerals plc

Tel: +44 (0)20 7929 1010

David Tang, Non-Executive Chairman

Craig Brown, Director & CEO

Email: info@ecrminerals.com

Website: www.ecrminerals.com

WH Ireland Ltd

Tel: +44 (0)161 832 2174

Nominated Adviser

Katy Mitchell/James Sinclair-Ford

SI Capital

Tel: +44 (0)1483 413500

Broker

Nick Emerson

FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS
This announcement may include forward looking statements. Such statements may be subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate and therefore actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward looking statements. Any forward looking statements contained herein speak only as of the date hereof (unless stated otherwise) and, except as may be required by applicable laws or regulations (including the AIM Rules for Companies), the Company disclaims any obligation to update or modify such forward looking statements as a result of new information, future events or for any other reason.

ABOUT ECR MINERALS PLC
ECR is a mineral exploration and development company. ECR’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd has 100% ownership of the Bailieston and Creswick gold projects in central Victoria, Australia.

Following the sale of the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold projects in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd (TSX-V: FSX), ECR has the right to receive up to A$2 million in payments subject to future resource estimation or production at those projects.

ECR has earned a 25% interest in the Danglay gold project, an advanced exploration project located in a prolific gold and copper mining district in the north of the Philippines, and holds a royalty on the SLM gold project in La Rioja Province, Argentina.

Link here for financial statements

Monetary Stimulus = Currency Devaluation = Increasing Gold Demand

As the world starts to emerge from the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis, the implications for the unprecedented monetary stimulus measures employed by Governments around the globe to support citizens in lockdown are becoming ever clearer.

As stock markets roar back from the coronavirus-led rout, advisers to the world’s wealthy are urging them to hold more gold, questioning the strength of the rally and the long-term impact of global central banks’ cash splurge, Reuters writers commented.

In a note for Kitco News, Allen Sykora noted Gold had started a new week on firmer footing amid worries about the rising number of COVID-19 cases. “The price of gold jumped to its highest in more than a month this morning ($1,757), after surging coronavirus cases heightened concerns over a delay in global economic recovery,” said a research note from commodities brokerage SP Angel. Analysts cited news reports showing that while social distancing in March and April slowed the spread of the virus, reopening in a number of U.S. states and European nations has coincided with a new wave of infections.

Commerzbank believes the U.S. economic recovery is “hanging in the balance” with a likelihood of “increasing calls for the U.S. government to implement further stimulus measures, especially as [Federal Reserve Chair Jerome] Powell had already called for more fiscal stimulus during his virtual testimony before the U.S. Congress last week,” Commerzbank also believes the U.S. Fed is “likely to keep the pedal to the metal – i.e. to expand its balance sheet”… and thus the issue of currency debasement/inflation ..”will remain high in the minds of market participants.”

Geologists speculating with fees for professional services

This ‘pedal to the metal’ approach to monetary easing and the conseqential strength in gold continues to drive investor interest in junior gold explorers. Increasingly this sector is seeing mining geologists taking fees for their work in shares as well as cash, as armed with knowledge and experience, a successful drilling campaign can have a transformational effect the valuations of small cap explorers with quality projects, meaning that professional fees can potentially multiply in value. The majority of small mining companies however only have one or two key projects in their asset portfolio, so micro-cap explorers that own a broad spread of assets are particularly sought after.

AIM listed ECR Minerals (AIM: ECR) is firmly in the latter category. The company 100% owns the Bailieston and Creswick projects in Central Victoria, Australia, and also has financial interests in the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor projects following the sale of those licenses, detailed below. In addition ECR has earned a 25% interest in the Danglay epithermal gold project in the north of the Philippinesand and holds a net smelter royalty on the SLM gold project in Argentina.

Creswick

Creswick has long been viewed as a potential pivot project for ECR after the highest grade duplicate result of 80.97 g/t gold came from a 1 metre interval that originally assayed 44.63 g/t, confirming the original findings announced on 8 May 2019. Referred to by ECR as ‘nuggety gold mineralisation’, a study by pre-eminent consulting geochemist Dr Dennis Arne, whose experience includes extensive consultancy at the highly successful Fosterville gold mine in Central Victoria, underlined the significant gold exploration potential at Creswick

Bailieston

Bailieston is also at the centre of the current gold exploration boom in Victoria, located close to the highly successful Fosterville mine owned by Kirkland Lake Gold. The project potential was underlined by the arrival of mining giant Newmont Exploration with a license application for ground immediately to the north of ECR’s Black Cat prospect. The Fosterville mine is located approximately 50km west of the Bailieston project.

Flagship Projects Set to Deliver Value

The focus on Creswick and Bailieston prompted the board decision in April 2020 to sell three further Victoria licences (the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects) to TSX-V listed Fosterville South Exploration Ltd for an upfront cash payment of A$500,000, plus additional potential of a further A$2 million based on resource estimates and gold production.

This, added to the two recent R&D cash refunds and the GB£500,000 placing at 0.5p mean that ECR are fully funded and ready to spend on further developing the two flagship assets.

And with external parties currently reviewing data on the Bailieston and Creswick gold projects with a view to potential commercial transactions and joint venture opportunities, the ECR board believes that both projects “hold considerable potential and inherent value for the Company.”

Currently valued at just GB£3.9m, there are great expectations for ECR in the coming months despite the restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown. Given the compelling backdrop in the Gold market and the ‘pedal to the metal’approach to monetary easing by Governments around the world, ECR shareholders could be set for a bonanza if Creswick and Bailieston come good.

References:

Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-gold-wealth-analys/worlds-ultra-wealthy-go-for-gold-amid-stimulus-bonanza-idUSKBN23P253

Kitco: https://www.kitco.com/news/2020-06-22/Gold-prices-trade-to-one-month-high-on-COVID-19-concerns-analysts.html?sitetype=fullsite

 

 

 

ECR Minerals #ECR – Sale of Exploration Licences for total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5 million

ECR Minerals plc (LON: ECR), the gold exploration and development company focussed on Australia, is pleased to announce the sale by ECR’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd (“MGA”) of the licences comprising the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects (the “Licences”) in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd (“Fosterville South”) for total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5 million.

Fosterville South, which recently listed on the TSX Venture Exchange with the code FSX, has agreed to acquire MGA’s 100% ownership of the Licences by way of Currawong Resources Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fosterville South, for the following consideration:

1. A$500,000 in cash to be paid to MGA immediately;

2. A further payment of A$1 for every ounce of gold or gold equivalent of measured resource, indicated resource or inferred resource estimated within the area of one or more of the Licences in any combination or aggregation of the foregoing, up to a maximum of A$1,000,000 in aggregate;

3. A further payment of A$1 for every ounce of gold or gold equivalent produced from within the area of one or more of the Licences, up to a maximum of A$1,000,000 in aggregate.

Craig Brown, Chief Executive Officer of ECR, commented: “We are delighted to sell these non-core but high-potential licences to Fosterville South, while maintaining exposure to upside from the Licences as a result of future resource estimation or production.

We believe Fosterville South is well placed to advance the Licences with its strong local exploration team and backing from North American high-net worth and institutional investors, while ECR will continue to concentrate its resources on our core projects in Victoria, Bailieston and Creswick.

The initial cash to be received from this disposal, in addition to the recently announced placing for £500,000, puts ECR in a robust working capital position which we can apply toward development of our core projects.

It is worth noting that other external parties are currently reviewing data on our Bailieston and Creswick gold projects with a view to potential commercial transactions, including joint venture opportunities, although there can be no guarantee that any transaction will occur. In addition, whilst ECR remains open to transactions on these licence areas, the ECR board believe both to hold considerable potential and inherent value for the Company.”

Further Information

The Licences comprise exploration licences EL5387 (Avoca project), EL006280 and EL006913 (Moormbool project), and EL006278 (Timor project) in Victoria, Australia.

The book value of the Licences as derived from ECR’s unaudited management accounts for the period ended 30 March 2020 was approximately A$282,000, which is the equivalent of approximately £144,000, based on £1 = A$1.9626*. No turnover, profits or losses are attributable to the Licences.

The maximum potential cash consideration receivable by MGA in respect of the sale of the Licences is A$2.5 million, which is the equivalent of approximately £1.275 million, based on £1 = A$1.9626*

The Company intends that the consideration to be received immediately, and any future consideration received, will be applied by ECR to augment its ongoing working capital position as well as towards its exploration and development activities.

MARKET ABUSE REGULATIONS (EU) No. 596/2014

The information contained within this announcement is deemed by the Company to constitute inside information as stipulated under the Market Abuse Regulations (EU) No. 596/2014 (MAR). Upon the publication of this announcement via Regulatory Information Service (RIS), this inside information is now considered to be in the public domain.

*Exchange rate derived from closing price on Bloomberg at 17 April 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

ECR Minerals plc

Tel: +44 (0)20 7929 1010

David Tang, Non-Executive Chairman

Craig Brown, Director & CEO

Email:

info@ecrminerals.com

Website: www.ecrminerals.com

WH Ireland Ltd

Tel: +44 (0)161 832 2174

Nominated Adviser

Katy Mitchell/James Sinclair-Ford

SI Capital Ltd

Tel: +44 (0)1483 413500

Broker

Nick Emerson

ABOUT ECR MINERALS PLC

ECR is a mineral exploration and development company. ECR’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd has 100% ownership of the Bailieston and Creswick gold projects in central Victoria, Australia and the Windidda project in the Yilgarn region, Western Australia.

ECR has earned a 25% interest in the Danglay epithermal gold project, an advanced exploration project located in a prolific gold and copper mining district in the north of the Philippines. An NI43-101 technical report was completed in respect of the Danglay project in December 2015 and is available for download from ECR’s website.

Junior Gold Explorers Continue to Shine Amid Global Market Volatility

The year 2020 has already delivered what HM Queen Elizabeth would refer to in her end of year speech as an Annus Horribilis. It is still only April 2020, and Covid-19 continues to wreak almost biblical levels of havoc and human tragedy across the globe. In our previous article on junior gold explorers, we stated that it seemed trite to discuss investment opportunities in the midst of the ongoing battle against CoronaVirus. But life does go on, and so does mining exploration, even with the movement restrictions currently in place.

Gold Set To Rebound Following Monetary Stimulus Measures

Although gold has retreated from the late March highs of $1700 oz, at $1646 the yellow metal still sits close to year highs, well above the 2019 highs of $1277 last August.

Kitco, a website dedicated to gold and metals believes a major rebound in gold is just around the corner as prices look ready to surge on massive global monetary policy stimulus and unprecedented fiscal policies. United Overseas Bank (UOB) head of markets strategy Heng Koon said their forecast is “for gold to rebound significantly in the quarters ahead to USD $1,650 in 2Q20, $1,700 in 3Q20, $1,750 in 4Q20 and $1,800 in 1Q21.”

“Once the USD funding crunch potentially dissipates across 2Q20, massive global monetary policy easing coupled with unprecedented fiscal policy stimulus will light the fuel for further gold strength.”

Heng also added that global central banks “have not only floored rates near zero but many have also entered into large Quantitative Easing programs. These significant stimuli bode well for gold and will be the fuel for gold’s rally once the USD funding crunch abates across 2Q.”

This compelling backdrop continues to drive healthy levels of investor interest in junior gold explorers. Across the globe, the focus on gold is manifesting itself in investor speculation into small cap explorers with quality projects. Most small explorers however only have one or two key project in their asset arsenal, leaving little room for any disappointment. However, there are a handful of micro-cap gold exploration plays offering a broad spread of assets, and consequentially an attractive risk profile with significant upside potential.

Once such company is AIM listed ECR Minerals (AIM: ECR), which has 100% ownership of five gold exploration projects in Central Victoria, Australia, and four exploration licences in the north-eastern Yilgarn region of Western Australia.

ECR’s Bailieston at the Centre of the Current Gold Exploration Boom

ECR’s Victoria projects include Bailieston, Avoca, Timor, Creswick and Moormbool. Indeed Bailieston, which targets epizonal / epithermal gold mineralisation of the Melbourne Zone, is at the epicentre of the current gold exploration boom in Victoria, being located close to the highly successful Fosterville mine owned by Kirkland Lake Gold. Recently, Australian mining giant Newmont arrived in the district with an application for ground immediately to the north of the Black Cat prospect.

Study Data Endorses Creswick Potential

During Q4 2019, ECR reported ‘nuggety gold mineralisation’ in the Dimocks Main Shale prospect at Creswick, some of which proved to be exceptionally high grade. Creswick has long been viewed as a potential pivot project for ECR after the highest grade duplicate result of 80.97 g/t gold came from a 1 metre interval that originally assayed 44.63 g/t, confirming the original findings announced on 8 May 2019.

On March 27th, ECR announced the results of a study carried out by Dr Dennis Arne, a pre-eminent consulting geochemist in Victoria, whose experience includes extensive consultancy at the highly successful Fosterville gold mine in Central Victoria owned by Kirkland Lake Gold.

The well-regarded Dr Arne’s involvement was seen as a solid endorsement of Creswick’s potential, and indeed the results did not disappoint, as ECR CEO Craig Brown pointed out.

“We are very pleased with the results of this study, which show good indications of hydrothermal fluid flow related to gold mineralisation in a number of drill holes at Creswick. Importantly, the variation in the results, with some areas ‘lighting up’ and others not, is potentially useful for identifying gold-bearing shoots.”

Brown added that the results “underline the significant gold exploration potential that we believe exists at Creswick, where our tenement position covers approximately seven kilometres of the Dimocks Main Shale (DMS) trend, of which our 2019 drilling tested only approximately 300 metres.”

Windidda Progress

ECR’s Windidda Gold Project, based in the Yilgarn region of Western Australia originally consisted of a package of nine exploration licence applications covering a 1,600 square kilometre area with the potential to host komatiite hosted nickel-copper-PGE (platinum group element) mineralisation, as well as orogenic gold. Five exploration licences have been granted, and in its full year results statement at the end of March 2020, ECR said the remaining four licence applications had been withdrawn, in light of objections to the expedited grant procedure from native title parties and the findings of preliminary desktop work to assess the prospectivity of the licence areas.

Consolidation, R&D Cash Refund and Focus

A micro-cap gold explorer can only operate so many projects and licenses, and indeed with the burgeoning potential of Creswick now at front and centre, the board took the decision to sell its wholly owned Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA, which holds the SLM gold project in La Rioja, Argentina.  The sale to Hanaq Argentina SA still sees ECR retain a Net Smelter Royalty of up to 2% to a maximum of US$2.7m in respect of future production from the SLM gold project, while removing ongoing costs associated with acquiring and running an exploration license.

There has been further good news on the funding front too, as the group also received a significant cash refund under the Australian government’s R&D Tax Incentive scheme. A$318,972 (approximately £171,000) was received in relation to the financial year ended 30 June 2018, and received a further refund of A$555,212 (approximately £295,515) in relation to the fifteen month period ended 30 September 2019.

The qualifying R&D activities relate to research into turbidite-hosted gold deposits within the Company’s exploration licences in Victoria. It goes without saying that these two refunds have also provided a significant boost to ECR’s cash position.

The biggest boost however came on Monday 6 April 2020, when, in the midst of the upheaval and disruption caused by COVID-19, ECR announced that it had raised a further GB£500,000 in a placing at 0.5p. That ECR was able raise funds in some of the most challenging stock market conditions in living memory more than anything else underscores the quality of the asset portfolio.

Still trading on a miserly GB£2.5m capitalisation, the market has ascribed little more than the value of the administrative work undertaken to secure the licenses, with no premium whatsoever for the results from Creswick or any of the other work undertaken to ascertain the prospectivity and value of ECR’s projects.

Selected Junior Gold Explorers Offer Great Value

Amid unprecedented efforts to limit the spread of CoronaVirus, the fiscal and monetary stimulus measures announced by the world’s major economies over the past month are global policy events without precedent in peacetime. Gavyn Davies of the FT pointed out that the increase in fiscal spending and loans in the US this year alone “will reach more than 10 percent of GDP, larger than the rise in the federal deficit through 2008 and 2009.”

This wholly supports the UOB / Kitco view that the gold price is set for a major rebound in the months ahead. As such, this rebound is likely to be reflected in the valuations of junior gold mining explorers with strong project portfolios. Fully funded for the coming year, and with nine projects and licenses in key territories across Australia, ECR Minerals should be integral to any junior gold explorer portfolio as the world grapples with the challenges and uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic.

References:

Kitco – Here’s how gold prices will get to $1800 in the next three quarters – https://www.kitco.com/news/2020-04-01/Here-s-how-gold-prices-are-going-to-1-800-in-the-next-three-quarters-UOB.html

FT – Gavyn Davies: Can the world afford fiscal and monetary stimulus on this scale? –  https://www.ft.com/content/0f289d20-6e97-11ea-89df-41bea055720b

PBOC Easing Boosts Gold Price & Investment Case for Junior Gold Explorers

Investors seeking to capitalise on a bullish gold market in 2020, and in particular the next raft of discoveries, will no doubt be aware of the impact that the easing in monetary policy by the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) has had across markets in China, still reeling from the CoronaVirus.

With the yellow metal long viewed as the definitive safe haven investment, markets have also seen a surge in interest at the more speculative end of the gold spectrum, most specifically across junior gold explorers. AIM listed ECR Minerals (AIM: ECR) is one such company currently in focus.

Creswick Potentially Transformational for ECR

Prior to the recent surge in the gold price, ECR had already seen a transformational 2019 in regard to developments across it’s six flagship projects.The final quarter saw developments across the explorer’s key Creswick project in Victoria, Australia, with ‘nuggety gold mineralisation’ confirmed in the Dimocks Main Shale (DMS) prospect at Creswick, some of which proved to be exceptionally high grade.

Creswick is viewed as a potentially transformational project for the company, particularly given that the highest grade duplicate result of 80.97 g/t gold came from a 1 metre interval that originally assayed 44.63 g/t, confirming the original findings announced on 8 May 2019.

On February 20th, ECR announced it had appointed Dr Dennis Arne to carry out a lithogeochemical study of cuttings (chips) generated by reverse circulation (RC) drilling at Creswick in 2019. Dr Arne is a preeminent consulting geochemist in Victoria, whose experience includes extensive consultancy at the highly successful Fosterville gold mine in Central Victoria owned by Kirkland Lake Gold. Bringing someone of this calibre in to review the drilling samples is a solid endorsement of Creswick’s potential, and has set tongues wagging amongst the investing cognoscenti across social media channels. In typical understated fashion, ECR said the results of the study “are anticipated to be valuable for the purposes of future exploration at the Creswick.”

Elsewhere in Central Victoria

Activity continues across ECR’s other projects in Central Victoria, with a number of potential exploration programmes for the Bailieston project, (including further drilling at the Blue Moon prospect), are under consideration, along with soil and stream sediment sampling in the Cherry Tree South and Ponting’s areas.

ECR Interests Realigned

With six key projects across Australia, a country estimated to have the largest gold reserves globally, ECR’s CEO Craig Brown and the board have taken the decision to realign the group’s many interests to focus on Victoria Gold Projects, (Creswick, Bailieston, Avoca, Timor & Moormbool) and the Western Australia Windidda Project.

In this regard, on February 5th the group announced the sale of the SLM Gold Project in Argentina to Hanaq Argentina SA, a Chinese-owned company engaged in lithium, base and precious metals exploration.

The move sees ECR retain an NSR (Net Smelter) royalty of up to 2% to a maximum of US$2.7 million in respect of future production from the SLM gold project. Craig Brown stated that he was.. pleased to retain exposure to potential upside from the SLM gold project in the form of a royalty on future production..we believe that Hanaq has the operational capabilities and access to Chinese investment capital necessary to put the SLM project into production. And more importantly, it aligns the group’s operational activities exclusively across the six key Australian projects.

Windidda Progress

While activities across the Victoria projects are well documented, (not least because of the the Bailieston project is adjacent to a prospect territory acquired in 2018 by global mining giant Newmont), ECR has been pushing ahead its Windidda Gold Project based in the Yilgarn region of Western Australia. This consists of a package of nine exploration licence applications covering a 1,600 square kilometre area with the potential to host orogenic gold deposits. At the end of January ECR published an update on Windidda, stating that four exploration licences had been granted in the north-eastern Yilgarn, and announced a further license award on February 20th.

Aside from Gold, the region is also highly prospective for nickel-copper-PGE (platinum group element) mineralisation, so consequently ECR has commissioned a consultant to complete additional geophysical modelling and a review of historical activity reports for areas to the south of Windidda to better understand the potential prospectivity of the project.

Undervalued

The sale of the SLM Gold project has certainly saved ECR from the ongoing costs associated with acquiring and running an exploration license. There was further good news on the funding front too, as the group also received a cash refund for research and development (R&D) expenditure of AU$555,212 (approx GB£295,515), added to which for the year to 30 September 2019, the group carried forward corporate income tax losses of AU$ 66,341,587 (approximately GB£35.3 million) which are expected to be available for offset against future taxable gains.

Despite this, the current market capitalisation of GB£3.6 million reflects little more than the value of the administrative work undertaken to secure the licenses, with no premium whatsoever for the results from Creswick or any of the other work undertaken to ascertain the prospectivity and value of ECR’s projects.

Safe haven

While it seems trite to discuss investment opportunities in the midst of the shock, havoc and terrible human cost wrought on China and the world by CoronaVirus, the event has already significantly impacted on many of the larger resource and energy groups who provide raw materials to satisfy China’s enormous burgeoning economy.

As already highlighted, the impact on the China stock market (and global markets) has to some degree been mitigated by quantitative easing measures by the PBOC, but the consequential weakness in resource and energy stocks has inevitably driven investors to seek returns elsewhere, i.e. gold. So on February 20th, Beijing cut the one-year loan prime rate to 4.05% from 4.15%, prompting China’s banks to further lower the benchmark borrowing costs for new corporate and household loans.

On the subject of rate cuts and easing, Neils Christensen, a journalist at leading bullion website Kitco stated on February 17th that analysts “remain optimistic that (gold) prices can push higher as easing from the People’s Bank of China could ignite a further drop in global interest rates.”

This view is backed by other pundits too. Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, said that economists are still trying to estimate the full impact the spreading virus will have on the global economy. He added that this uncertainty will continue to support gold prices. “We have seen monumental demand destruction this past month and that won’t be resolved anytime soon,” he said. “Central banks will be forced to ease again, but the question is just how much impact further easing will have.”

As China and the world struggles to get to grips with limiting the spread of CoronaVirus, the strength in the gold price looks likely to be sustained throughout the year. This strength is likely to be reflected in across junior gold mining explorers with strong project portfolios. With the raft of project developments and drilling updates scheduled for early 2020, ECR is likely to benefit from this continued focus.

by Alan Green

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