How do you go from zero to sixty in record time? Whether you’re a Nascar driver or a gold miner the answer is the same – experience. Balmoral Resources, a fledgling Canadian gold miner, got a good head start because of who they had behind the wheel.
Balmoral President & CEO Darin Wagner spent his first ten years as a project generator and exploration geologist with two of Canada’s largest exploration and mining companies Noranda (now Xstrata) and Cominco (now Teck). More recently, he served as President and CEO of West Timmins Mining through the discovery of a high-grade gold zone in Timmins, Ontario to the acquisition of West Timmins by Lake Shore Gold in an all share deal valued at $424 million that was completed in November of 2009. As a result, Darin was able to attract a raft of notable industry professionals that a normal mining start-up could only dream of, including Canaccord founder Peter Brown and Haywood boss John Tognetti.
Today, Balmoral is putting their money to work and they are currently drilling the Fenelon and Martiniere properties in central Quebec. We sat down with Balmoral’s President & CEO to find out more about the genesis of Balmoral Resources and the company’s future plans.
Darin thanks for joining us, could you tell us a little more about how Balmoral Resources was founded?
Coming off the heels of the sale of West Timmins our team was looking for a scalable opportunity in the precious metal space to found our next venture around. Through one of our current directors – Gordon Neal – we had been introduced to Henk Van Alphen and his team at the Cardero Group and agreed to join forces on this new venture with them. Having assembled a veteran and market savvy team, with a number of successful ventures to their credit including West Timmins, MAG Silver, International Tower Hill and Cardero Resources, and having located a vehicle which we could acquire and finance readily we set out to locate a prospective package of assets for Balmoral which would allow us to quickly gain market traction and asset value for our shareholders.
How many different projects did you look at before you decided on the package of 5 properties?
Lots! In total I think we reviewed well over 100 individual opportunities and examined prospects in no fewer than 8 countries. We were looking for the right mix of advanced assets with clear upside, a resource base to provide a basis for market valuation and earlier stage projects with exploration upside. It was important to us that these assets be located in favourable – read safe, mining friendly and financeable – jurisdictions and that the package or property be drill ready so there would be no lengthy delays getting the projects up and running quickly.
Why did you elect to pursue two different property acquisitions in two separate areas?
Balmoral’s assets came to together in two transactions, both announced and completed in conjunction with each other in order to assemble a district scale opportunity along the Detour Lake trend in central Quebec. One of the transaction, a purchase of non-core assets from a copper-gold developer American Bonanza, allowed us to acquire the high-grade Fenelon and Martiniere gold projects along the Detour trend, the N2 project in Quebec and the Northshore Property in Ontario. Collectively these assets host over 935,000 ounces in historic gold resources (non 43-101 compliant as the resources were drilled out prior to the implementation of NI43-101) which we purchased for roughly $6.3 million in cash and shares, our roughly $7.0 per in-situ ounce. We combined this purchase with an option to earn a 60% interest in the large Detour East project in Quebec to assemble our asset base giving us the dominant land position along the Detour Trend in Quebec, a good resource base for a start up and massive exploration upside.
Can you share with us your exploration program for 2011?
We launched our first drill program with two drills, one on each of our Martiniere and Fenelon projects, on January 20th, 2011, just over two months from the date we came public with the asset package. To date we have completed 21 holes and another 35 are planned in this phase 1 program which we hope to complete by early April. This is the first phase of the program which will see drilling on at least 4 or our five projects in 2011 and, everything according to plan, resource updates on at least three fronts over the next 12-14 months. The current market in gold is very strong and we believe that when conditions like these exist explorers need to be as aggressive as possible in driving their assets forward. Our 2011 exploration budget is $7.5 million and that may expand as warranted by results.
Is the company looking at additional projects within Canada or outside of Canada?
In this business you are always on the lookout for opportunities. In the case of Balmoral we continue to look for additional acquisition or corporate opportunities and would consider opportunities in any of the major North American gold districts if they fit with our growth plans and drill focused exploration model. Our most recent hire, Exploration Manager Richard Mann, has spent several years with a major Canadian based gold producer and in that role has had the opportunity to review and examine a number of prospective gold projects worldwide. We will certainly draw on that experience and our own industry contacts and experience in trying to identify the next valuable piece of the Balmoral puzzle.