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Posted by David
The current lack of credit in today’s world markets has left companies scrambling for cash. Mineral mining and exploration companies in particular are finding it hard to keep liquid and to have enough cash on hand to continue operations. As these companies have no income they were previously reliant on raising funds through private placements. This is no longer practical as the vast majority of juniors have extremely depressed share prices and severe dilution becomes a concern. Financing through credit institutions is also a no-go as many of these have become insolvent themselves and those that remain in business have become rather tight-fisted.
Juniors have had to resort to less common methods to raise cash. These include selling shares in assets that they have developed. Bringing in another junior or even senior partner to carry some or all of the costs of exploration for a project is a common tactic. Marifil Mines Ltd. is one such junior with these cash woes.
Marifil’s current cash position is just less than C$100,000, although a rapid reduction in expenses has reduced the burn rate to below $50,000/month. Management has voluntarily reduced salaries by 50%, staff involved with secondary projects have been cut, and the Argentina office is moving to a cheaper location. John Hite, president of the company, has commented that more than $200,000 is due within the next few months in property payments from other projects such as the spin-off of the K-2 potash property to Oxbow Holdings Corp. A $500,000 private placement is also in progress. What is of primary interest is the announcement of a letter of intent (LOI) between Marifil and Yamana Gold Inc (TSX-YRI, NYSE-AUY) that states Yamana’s intention to acquire 51% of Marifil’s Pedernal gold property in San Juan province, Argentina. This is on the condition that Yamana invest at least $2,490,000 into exploration on the property over five years and pay Marifil $510,000. The agreement would also allow Yamana to increase its share to 70% if a pre-feasibility study were provided within thirty months after the five-year period. Yamana now has less than ninety days to complete its due diligence with regards to the property and the agreement.
Pedernal is a “sediment-hosted Carlin-type gold deposit” and shares geological similarities with Yamana’s Gualcamayo property, 250 km to the north in the same rock group. There is a strong silica and barite association with the gold. San Juan is one of the more mining-friendly provinces in Argentina (think of it as Argentina’s Quebec in this regard) and is host to the 13 million oz. Veladero and 18 million oz. Pascua Llama deposits (Barrick). Marifil’s Amarillo is the other project located in San Juan, and was a joint venture with ATW Venture Corp. until this year when ATW decided to forfeit their share in order to focus on their Australian property.
Marifil’s business model of selling or joint venturing all their properties is similar to that of Franco-Nevada. They have numerous precious metals, base metals, exotic metals, limestone, petroleum, and potash projects, and they would rather allow diversity to be their strength, rather than focussing on a single project. The LOI is reflective of this strategy. However, lack of funds has meant that the company has had to restrict its operations to its most promising properties: K-2 (potash) and San Roque (Au-Ag-Pb-Zn-In).
Cost-cutting and actively seeking partners will allow Marifil to continue to operate for the next few quarters, and longer if this LOI goes through. Hopefully by then markets will be giving juniors a break.
Disclaimer: The author holds 1000 shares of MFM and 200 shares of YRI. This article is based on the opinions and experience of the author. Please do your own due diligence when investing.