New board, new strategy, new projects, and new energy: Alien Metals Ltd (LON:UFO) is just emerging from a process of rebirth, following a changing of the guard at the top, and the difference is palpable.
Onto the scene bounds Richard Shemesian, a major backer of the reinvigorated Alien, and a man whom London investors may remember from the last mining boom, when he helped turn a lowly-rated iron ore Aim and ASX-listed vehicle called Aztec Resources into a A$300mln company that was able to sell out to the Chinese at just the right time.
Shemesian’s been cooling his heels somewhat since then, although he’s still involved with Artemis Resources (ASX:ARV), which he has just helped raise A$6mln and which is moving forward with exploration in, amongst other places, the Paterson Range.
Now he’s back in London though, having helped orchestrate a revitalisation and re-financing of Alien, and full of plans.
He’ll be helped along the way by new technical director Bill Brodie Good, who was appointed in July, and who brings a steady geological hand to the tiller - his impressive CV that boasts significant time at the top end of SRK among its many highlights.
Together they plan to transform Alien from the somewhat sleepy-eyed silver company it had ended up becoming under the tenure of the previous management, into an aggressive new acquisition vehicle that aims to hoover up opportunities in the mining sector as they arise.
Ah, you may say, but isn’t the mining sector lying heavily in the doldrums at the moment – what could possibly be done?
But it’s just when things seem at their worst that the smart money comes in. After all, from that point on, the only way is up.
So, is then safe to call the bottom of the cycle?
Anyone who makes such a call might risk being made hostage to fortune, but what is worth noting is that there are currently at least four mining companies trying to get listed on London either on Aim or on the Standard List at the moment, iron ore’s been strong all year, there’s a record-breaking gold price in Australia, and gold has been strong too in other currencies, and where gold goes so often does the rest of the junior mining sector follow.
What’s more, the majors are starting to come back to the juniors in a significant way. Within the last few days Glencore (LON:GLEN) has agreed a £1mln investment in Group Eleven Resources (CVE:ZNG), it’s well known that major miners are sizing up Conroy Gold for a possible partnership, Greatlan has been boosted by the interest of Newcrestl, and MOD has just been taken out by Sandfire Resources (ASX:SFR).
And it’s in this context that Alien Metals is about to start making some serious noise. It’s quite possible the company couldn’t have picked a better time.
First off, there’s the legacy assets, the quality of which has been a more than pleasant surprise to Brodie Good and Shemesian.
The portfolio of Mexican silver and base metals assets was valued at just under £3mln a couple of years ago by analyst Michael Green at Align Research. Since then, significant progress has been made, particularly on Donovan 2, San Celso and Los Campos.
A bullish report from Donovan 2 which showed the presence of a volcanic massive sulphide and high copper grades sent Alien’s shares rocketing up to 0.47p back in April. But that was then followed by the identification of gold and by further strong copper showings.
Meanwhile, work on San Celso and Los Campos has revealed more about the significant upside that is on offer. At San Celso the average silver grade is currently running at higher than 200 grams per tonne, with some showings grading significantly higher, and the most impressive of all ringing in at 1,389 grams per tonne.
And at Los Campos, recent and historic sampling confirm very high grades up to 547 grams per tonne.
What’s more, Brodie Good will be out visiting the Mexican projects fairly soon, and will be looking to evaluate tailings dumps that may contain upwards of a million ounces of silver, from old workings on the projects. After all, it’s not as if these projects are in virgin country. On the contrary, this is one of the richest silver producing areas anywhere in the world, and as if to confirm it C$£300mln company Endeavour Silver is just across the Los Campos tenement boundary, and the company’s formerly-owned San José mine continues to produce at a significant rate under the behest of new owners Quintana.
The plan is to move these projects forwards as exploration and development plays, but not to allow them to use up all the company’s focus.
Because although the silver assets are nice to have, for the Alien Metals, they are just the start. As a prospect generator, the company plans to cut deals on other assets and with increasing momentum as time goes on. Already there’s an option on an iron ore project which sits in the same neighbourhood as assets owned by Fortescue and Hancock, and which could end up being worth several tens of millions of dollars.
Other deals are likely to follow. Shemesian mentions possibilities in silver and precious metals, and in particular PGMs.
One way or another, this company is not going to sit still. The thinking is that today’s market capitalisation of around £2mln can be significantly be boosted by dealflow, and by cash generation from the Mexican tailings. Some well-known faces in fund management have already come into the story PA. How long it is before they bring their respective institutions into the story in a big way remains to be seen.