Pacific Ridge Exploration (PEX.V) had a busy summer season as two of its main projects were drilled. At RDP, where Pacific Ridge has a joint venture with Chilean miner Antofagasta, one hole was rushed to the lab, and returned very good copper-gold mineralization: 107.2 meters of 1.41% CuEq within 497.2 meters of 0.66% CuEq). The results of this hole confirm that RDP is a project of merit. Although we are waiting for assay results from the remaining holes (which likely won’t be as strong as the hole that was rushed to the lab), I have little doubt Antofagasta (ANTO.L) will continue to fund continued exploration as part of its C$10M spending requirement to earn a 75% interest in RDP.
Pacific Ridge recently released assay results from the first six holes completed at Kliyul, the company’s flagship project, and all six holes confirmed the presence of broad zones copper-gold mineralization, which clearly warrants follow-up drilling.
Pacific Ridge didn’t waste any time after releasing the results to launch a C$6M bought deal private placement (all flow-through). Although this is less than the C$10M the company originally eyed, this financing ensures the company can launch a sizeable exploration program in 2023.
We caught up with CEO Blaine Monaghan to discuss the recent results from RDP and Kliyul, and to learn more about Pacific Ridge’s plans for the future.
Pacific Ridge released the first assay results from hole RDP-22-05 at the RDP copper-gold porphyry project. As a reminder, Pacific Ridge optioned RDP to senior producer Antofagasta (ANTO.L) whereby the latter can earn a 75% interest in RDP by spending C$10M on exploration and delivering a PEA.
And hole RDP-22-005 hit the sweet spot! The drill bit intersected 497.2 meters of 0.66% copper-equivalent (or 0.96 g/t gold-equivalent, if that’s what you prefer) consisting of 0.37% copper, 0.40 g/t gold and 1.6 g/t silver. Those grades are on the higher end of the BC porphyry spectrum (where 0.3 + 0.3 is deemed feasible, so 0.37 + 0.40 clearly is a good result). Starting at a down-hole depth of less than 16 meters ( literally almost at surface), this hole is one of the longest and highest-grade holes drilled at RDP so Pacific Ridge and Antofagasta are clearly off to a good start. This doesn’t mean we should expect every hole drilled at RDP to return similar values as this hole was rushed. It could very well be the best hole from last year’s drill program at RDP. Only time will tell, but 497 meters grading 0.66% CuEq will be tough to beat.
As shown in the table above, the thick interval contained a number of higher-grade intervals.. Starting at the same 15.8 meters, the 107.2 meter interval of 1.41% CuEq, including 23 meters of 2.32% CuEq is excellent. Pacific Ridge and Antofagasta drilled six holes at RDP this summer, which means the assay results from the remaining five holes should be announced this month.
In November 2022, Pacific Ridge announced assay results from the first six drill holes completed during its 2022 summer drill program at its flagship Kliyul copper-gold project. The company completed 7014.7 m of drilling in 12 holes last year, the largest ever drill program at the Project. A sizeable increase from its first-ever drill campaign in 2021, which totaled 1,544 m in three drill holes. An important step in the right direction to get a better understanding of the mineralization and mineralized footprint.
Assay results from the first six holes contained broad zones of copper-gold mineralization. While some of the headline results are a bit ‘light’ regarding grade, every single hole contained higher-grade intervals that are still hundreds of meters thick).
Pacific Ridge highlighted the results from hole KLI-22-041, and deservedly so. Finding 588 meters of continuous copper-gold mineralization is good news. The grade is a little bit ‘light’ with 0.41% CuEq or 0.56 g/t AuEq (consisting of 0.12% copper and 0.39 g/t gold). Open pittable copper-gold porphyry projects in British Columbia typically grade around 0.3% copper + 0.3 g/t gold. However, that’s just a rule of thumb though.
It is important to note that while the entire 588 meter interval is lower grade, it does contain a higher-grade interval of 336 meters of 0.61% copper-equivalent (0.15% copper, 0.62 g/t gold and 1.04 g/t silver) starting at a vertical depth of 106 meters and reaching a total depth of 442 meters. While 0.41% CuEq is a little “light”, 0.61% CuEq is quite good. In fact, that is the fourth-best interval ever returned from Kliyul. This interval ‘carries’ the entire hole because if you filter out the 336 meter interval from the longer 588 meters, the residual grade of the remaining 252 meters is just over 0.14% copper-equivalent, and that would barely make the cut-off grade in a mining scenario.
We see a similar result in hole KLI-22-040, which returned 528 meters of 0.42% CuEq. That is okay but not spectacular, but when you look at the detailed intervals, we see that there is a 266.5-meter interval starting just 89 meters down-hole with an average grade of 0.60% CuEq.
Right before Christmas, Pacific Ridge closed its bought deal private placement for a total of C$6M. The placement consisted of 18.75 million flow-through units priced at C$0.32 per unit with each unit consisting of one flow-through share and half a warrant. Each full warrant (9.375M warrants were issued) allows the warrant holder to acquire an additional share at C$0.40 within a two-year period. Should these warrants end up being in the money and exercised, Pacific Ridge will receive an additional C$3.75M in cash.
Pacific also issued 1.125M compensation warrants to the underwriters (on top of the C$360,000 finders fee which represents 6% of the financing) with a strike price of C$0.32. These compensation warrants will also expire in December 2024 and if exercised, they would bring in an additional C$360,000 which means that the warrants issued as part of this financing could bring in approximately C$4.1M in hard dollars if they are exercised between now and the end of 2024.
Additionally, Pacific Ridge disclosed it received a C$0.5M cash payment from BMC Minerals as part of the Fyre Lake sale. While BMC was originally supposed to pay C$850,000 by December 31, 2022, both parties agreed to amend the payment schedule to C$0.5M due by the end of last year, followed by an additional tranche of C$0.4M by the end of Q1. A good deal as Pacific Ridge basically gets C$50,000 more for granting a partial extension of just three months. Receiving C$900,000 three months later instead of C$850,000 means Pacific Ridge will receive 5.5% more cash, for an annualized return of in excess of 20%. As Pacific doesn’t need the cash right away, granting a three-month extension in return for a C$50,000 payment increase is a solid deal. Also keep in mind that Pacific Ridge will receive an additional C$1M cash payment when BMC’s mine has been in commercial production for one year.
The combination of the flow-through financing and the C$0.5M cash payment from BMC Minerals puts Pacific’s treasury in a healthy position just north of C$7M in cash.
A frank and open discussion with CEO Blaine Monaghan
The 2022 drill program at Kliyul has once again proven the existence of broad zones of copper-gold mineralization. While the headline result of 588 meters of 0.41% CuEq in hole KLI-22-041 is very thick, it is a little bit light on grade for a B.C. porphyry project (as operating costs on a per-tonne basis will likely be higher than similar South American porphyry projects). However, within that 588-meter interval, there is a really nice interval of 336 meters at 0.61% CuEq which has a gross rock value in excess of US$50/t using $3.75 copper. We see similar broad zones of copper-gold mineralization in your other drill results. What is your take on the structure of the mineralization?
Although the first six drill holes from the 2022 drill program at Kliyul are lower than your typical South American porphyry deposit/mine, they are, on average, similar or better than your typical B.C. porphyry deposit/mine. This provides me with a lot of confidence that if we can outline enough tonnage at Kliyul, it could work. Also, besides grade, I think it is very important to consider political risk when comparing B.C. porphyry deposits/mines to South American deposits/mines. There is a very good reason why many senior producers are currently seeking exposure to B.C. deposits/mines. I expect this trend to intensify as political risk in South America continues to rise.
Although, we have completed a limited amount of drilling at Kliyul, only 8,558 m to date, we have materially expanded the mineralized footprint and it remains open in every direction. There does appear to be a higher-grade core at the Kliyul Main Zone and we believe that 2-km long east-west trending Valley Fault could be an important controlling trend.
You have now confirmed that the Kliyul Main Zone is not fault-bound to the north or to the west. What do you mean by that, and how does it impact future drill (and exploration) programs?
It’s very important, especially the fault to north. Past operators believed that that fault, the Valley Fault, constrained mineralization to the north. The Valley Fault has been mapped over a 2-km strike length and if we can continue hitting mineralization on the other side of the Valley Fault, which we now call Kliyul North Block, we could more quickly build tonnage.
Looking at the map, it looks like you have defined the Kliyul Main Zone over a strike length of 300-400 meters with a width of 200 meters and a vertical depth of around 5-600 meters. Is that correct?
Yes, that’s correct. Which again is very important as those dimensions are demonstrating that Kliyul has size potential.
Let’s not forget that you have only reported the first six drill holes from Kliyul, you have another six holes to report. When do you expect to hear back from the lab regarding these holes? How is the turnaround times these days?
We expect to report the remaining six drill holes this month. I would have expected labs to turn around assays much more quickly than last year as there wasn’t as much drilling activity in 2022. Turn around time was better than 2021 but not by much.
You just closed a C$6M bought deal financing. Are you fully funded for 2023? Do you have a preliminary exploration plan in place?
Was very happy to have closed the C$6M dollar financing. We will end the year with a very healthy C$7.3M in the treasury which means that our 2023 exploration plans are fully funded. Right now, we have budgeted approximately C$5.0M for continued drilling at Kliyul and C$2.0M for an inaugural drill program at the Chuchi copper-gold project, which we optioned from Centerra Gold (CG.TO, CGAU) in early 2022.
We were pleasantly surprised with the assay results from the first hole drilled at RDP. It was also the only hole you rushed to the lab. Did you do that because the mineralization was so obvious?
Yes, the mineralization was pretty obvious and our partner, Antofagasta, who has the right to acquire a 75% interest in RDP by spending C$10M and delivering a PEA, was keen to see the initial drill results.
When do you expect the remainder of the holes to be published?
We expect to report the remaining five holes this month.
How does the agreement with Antofagasta work? Do you have a joint technical committee that decides on where to drill?
They can acquire a 75% interest in RDP by spending C$10M and delivering a PEA. The 2022 program was budgeted at C$2M and included 1,861 m of drilling in six holes. Yes, there is a technical committee comprised of representatives from Pacific Ridge and Antofagasta that reviews the exploration plans and budgeting. Pacific Ridge is the operator until Antofagasta acquires the 75% interest.
Is it safe to assume that the 2023 budget will only be finalized once Antofagasta sees the remaining drill results, or has Antofagasta already committed to funding further exploration at RDP in 2023?
The technical committee is reviewing its 2023 exploration plans and budgeting, but no decisions have been made at this time.
In our previous discussions, you mentioned you would like to have a strategic partner on the corporate level. How did the C$6.0M bought deal financing fit into this perspective? Did you just want to shift gears right away and take the flow-through money while it was available? Does this mean a strategic investor is off the table in the near future?
We continue to pitch a number of corporates in the hopes of securing a strategic investment. I’m confident that we will secure a strategic investment if we continue delivering strong results. One of the reasons why I was so pleased to have closed the $6M dollar financing is because that eliminates funding risk. The markets are extremely volatile. I wanted to ensure that we had secured the capital required to execute our 2023 exploration plans now, rather than wait.
Although Pacific Ridge intersected significant porphyry copper-gold mineralization in every drill hole, materially expanded the mineralized footprint at the Kliyul Main Zone and confirmed that the Kliyul Main Zone is not fault bound to the north, the share price dropped 25-30% on the news. This may have been a classic case of ‘buy on the rumor, sell on the news’ combined with copper values that, on average, were lower than the copper values returned in the 2021 drill program. Regardless, the company’s shares currently trade at C$0.25. This could represent an excellent entry point for investors as additional drill results from RDP and Kliyul are expected this month. Further, Pacific Ridge is fully funded to execute its 2023 exploration plans, which includes drilling at Kliyul, Chuchi, and RDP (likely). 2022 was the company’s busiest exploration season ever and 2023 is shaping up to be even busier!
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