Top Mining Minds: Richard Warke, Augusta Resources
With over thirty years spent in the global resource sector, with a particular focus on mining, there is no doubt that Richard Warke provides an experienced and well-respected voice for the resource industry.
In addition to his experience in mineral operations, Mr. Warke has also spent time in oil and gas, forestry, technology, and manufacturing operations. Currently serving as executive chairman of Augusta Resource, chairman and CEO of Wildcat Silver, and director of Plata Latina Minerals, Mr. Warke, who is also the founder of all three companies, was kind enough to take time out of his busy day to describe some of his notable experiences in the resource sector.
You have clearly had many successful ventures in your career in the mining industry. Can you give us an idea of what, in your mind, was your most notable?
Richard Warke: The most notable would be Ventana Gold. In 2006, as part of Wildcat, I decided to purchase very promising gold/silver properties in Colombia. Given that it was in a different political jurisdiction and the primary metal was gold, I spun out these properties into a separate company, which became Ventana. We kept it private for 2 years and raise $20M for exploration. Then in late 2008 we listed it on the TSX and I served as executive chairman until less than three years later, after assembling a management team and financing exploration and development, Ventana was sold for approximately $1.5 billion, more than 25x its original value.
I would say that Augusta Resource also deserves special mention. I bought the Rosemont Copper project for $20M, and it has advanced from an early exploration property to being recognized as one of the best undeveloped copper projects in the world.
Speaking of Augusta, isn’t there a hostile bid on this company as well like Ventana? That surely shows that this is a coveted asset.
Richard Warke: That’s correct. There currently is an unsolicited offer for the purchase of Augusta. Rosemont is a world class asset on the cusp of some significant value creating events, and the offeror is clearly being opportunistic. As a result of this situation, we are in the middle of a strategic review process as well, with numerous parties actively engaged in due diligence and management discussions which further demonstrates the attractiveness of Rosemont.
You started multiple companies in the space of a year. What was the strategy in that move?
Richard Warke: I discovered some great properties and was bullish on commodities at the time. To those unfamiliar with the industry, it may look as if I was spreading myself thin, but I had a long-term focus and understanding that some projects will proceed faster than others, while others take a longer time to advance. More importantly, it is about putting the right team in place to develop the projects and manage the companies.
Ventana truly was a success story and well known in the industry. Tell us a little bit more about the other companies you have under your umbrella and their achievements.
Richard Warke: There are currently three public companies.
1. Augusta Resource owns the Rosemont Copper Project located in Arizona, USA, when in production it is expected to produce an average of 243M lbs of copper per year over 21 years, and will be third largest copper mine in the USA with industry low cash costs. It’s recognized as one of the best undeveloped copper assets in the world.
2. Wildcat Silver has the Hermosa Project, a silver-manganese project also located in Arizona. This will be one of the largest silver mines and the only electrolytic manganese metal mine in North America, expected to produce on average annually nearly 6M ounces of silver and 110M lbs of EMM, also at industry low cash costs.
3. Plata Latina Minerals is a high-grade silver exploration story, which has a portfolio of silver projects in the Mexican Silver Belt. The principal property Naranjillo already has a discovery in progress with the discovery hole returning 10.95 metres of 3,181 g/t silver and 13.28 g/t Au. Plata Latina is my most recent venture and was IPO’d in April of 2012.
Three very unique companies.
What is the key to your success and do you follow the same strategy?
Richard Warke: I have tried to follow two main guidelines for the business.
Firstly, when acquiring properties or projects, they have to be in mining friendly jurisdiction and political stable jurisdiction. They have to stand up to severe technical due diligence and have significant upside potential, and demonstrate the ability to be a low cost producer.
Secondly, like any business you cannot succeed unless you have a first class dedicated management team. People who know their craft and are not afraid to work together for a common cause. There is no doubt that any successes I have had would not have been possible without a full team effort.
Mr. Warke, we appreciate your insight. Thank you for your time.
Richard Warke: You’re welcome.