TNR Gold fine tuning royalty model for green energy metals
Renowned mining investor Frank Holmes has spoken out about his fondness of mining royalty companies.
In terms of value proposition, they outperform mining equities and serve the important role of connecting exploration plays with financiers during lean bear markets, he says.
Kirill Klip, CEO and President of TNR Gold Corp. (TSXV: TNR), fell into this business model when he bought shares in gold mining royalty company Royal Gold for about $5 each, back when gold traded at $300 an ounce (it hasn’t traded in the $300s since 2003). He cashed out of that investment at over $70 a share and has been hooked on the royalty model ever since, where royalty proceeds funnel into new opportunities, he told InvestorIntel.
Klip says his version of a royalty company is slanted towards metals with high exposure to usage in electrical vehicles – lithium, copper, and even gold. His most mature investment to date is a position in International Lithium Corp. (TSXV: ILC), in which TNR holds a 14.1% equity interest after convertible debentures and warrants are exercised and a 1.8% net smelter royalty (NSR) on the Mariana brine project in Argentina. The key to this project is the involvement of joint venture partner Ganfeng Lithium Co., one of China’s largest processors of the material.
But the investment that could return really big bucks is another NSR that TNR holds in the Los Azules copper project in Argentina, currently being developed by former Goldcorp founder Rob McEwen. TNR holds a 0.36% NSR royalty on the project, which could return $35 billion over a 35-year mine life. A looming copper crunch as the market could move into structural deficit by 2020 means that major mining companies are hungry to pounce on attractive projects being developed by juniors. A preliminary economic assessment shows that Los Azules could deliver 415 million pounds (188,241 metric tons) of copper production a year for the first ten years of mine life with cash costs of $1.11 a pound, according to TNR.
“Investors are putting a larger discount on our cashflow because people do not expect that McEwen Mining will put this project into production,” Klip said. “All majors are looking for a good copper project and there is more and more interest.”
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Despite higher prices, other externalities have evolved in favor Los Azules. Investors have returned to Argentina thanks to the reformist policies of Mauricio Macri, who was elected president in 2015 following a decade of rule by protectionist policies by Cristina Fernandez and her predecessor and husband, Nestor Kirchner. Macri’s government fared well during key mid-term elections last October, providing investors with greater optimism that he will be elected to a second term next year. The Argentine government recently signed a bilateral agreement with Chile, a key milestone for Los Azules which straddles the border of both countries.
The third major component in TNR’s portfolio is the Shotgun gold project, located close to NovaGold and Barrick Gold’s Donlin project in Alaska. Early resource numbers suggest the project holds 20.7 million tons of ore with an average gold grade of 1.06 grams a ton, with a 0.5 g/t cut-off grade. Barrick and NovaGold’s project obtained a key environmental approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in April, indicating the government of Donald Trump is more amenable to mining in Alaska. Once again, external factors are moving in TNR Gold’s favor.
Klip’s next step with Shotgun is to find an exploration partner of the same caliber as McEwen. One of TNR’s board members, Greg Johnson, founded NovaGold and was instrumental in the discovery of Donlin. He is entrusted with the task of finding that partner, Klip said. Don’t bet against TNR repeating the success it has had so far in ILC and Los Azules.
Matt Craze has covered commodity markets for more than 20 years, working as a researcher at CRU International, and for over 10 years as a ... <Read more about Matt Craze>