"If I am correct and the underlying quartzites beneath the massive Central Tintic replacement deposits also contain precious metals, we may be looking at many millions of ounces of gold in vein systems with similar bonanza grades to those at the Trixie."
Could you speak about your experience at IG Copper prior to the establishment of Tintic Consolidated Metals?
IG Global Group has developed into a holding company for my global investments. It started with IG Copper, when I took over the Lundin Group’s assets in Russia in 2008. I advanced the Malmyzh copper-gold project as a private company and ended up selling it to Russia Copper in 2018 for US$200 million, realizing 22x on IGG’s initial investment. It was a success story during the commodities down-cycle and in a challenging jurisdiction. After the sale, we had money to invest. I had been looking at Tintic in Utah for the last 10 years, and decided to go after it. I made a joint venture with Chief Consolidated, so IG Tintic was created and we currently have 75% of the project.
Today, the Group consists of mineral exploration projects and mining service companies in Utah with Tintic Consolidated Metals; the Russian Far East, with drilling services company Kolymageo and IG Far East, which operates the Durmin project JV as Pacific Mining LLC; and Kazakhstan, where we just set up IG Copper & Gold.
What have been the first steps in the large land position you control in the East Tintic district of Utah?
Within Tintic, the first project was the restart of the Trixie mine, a high-grade gold-silver deposit. We got underground in June 2020 and by September made the discovery of an ultra-high grade vein on the 625’ level of the mine, the “T2” vein. By December we were in production and selling our first gold and silver dore bars to the Asahi refinery in Salt Lake City.
The T2 has turned out to be a significant structure, with bonanza ore grades from the tens to the hundreds of ounces per ton (oz/mt). It is a previously unknown structure adjacent to the 75-85 vein that was historically being developed. It contains two steeply plunging bonanza grade oreshoots with mine face samples showing up to 8 feet of 102 oz/mt Au and 192 oz/mt Ag. High grade stockwork zones adjacent to the bonanza veins contain 1-3 oz/mt Au. The high gold grades encountered here represent some of the highest gold grades in tellurates (100+ oz/mt Au) ever seen in underground mines in the US. Production is underway and a resource is being created through development and drilling to support production for many years to come. Just on the T2 structure itself, a million-ounce resource is possible, and the district is very large.
The overall plan is to increase Trixie’s production to 300 tonnes per day (mt/d). Investment has been very modest at around US$26 million because there was infrastructure already in place as Trixie was mined up until 2002. As we ramp up production and optimize recoveries and sales, Trixie will be one of the lowest cost producers, my target being US$300 per ounce (US$/oz, cash cost).
After Trixie, the next project is Eureka Standard, just down strike from this one. The project was mined in the past and there is a lot of opportunity at depth. So, looking at the big picture, Tintic is a patchwork of outcropping opportunities all over the place, with potential for millions of ounces in precious metals, as well as for a world class porphyry copper deposit at depth.
What are the main particularities of Tintic’s geology?
The reason major companies are interested in this area is because of Tintic’s potential for porphyry copper-gold systems, like Malmyzh. I agree with that, but in addition, underneath all these old base metal systems, there are gold systems. We see a consistent pattern across all of these old mines. The district is huge and was the biggest producer of base metals in the US many decades ago, but nobody thought to check the gold potential underneath. Underneath the Central Tintic District, where we control much of the mineral rights, these old base metal mines are an order of magnitude larger than those in the East Tintic where Trixie is located. If I am correct and the underlying quartzites beneath the massive Central Tintic replacement deposits also contain precious metals, we may be looking at many millions of ounces of gold in vein systems with similar bonanza grades to those at the Trixie.
Do you have plans to go public anytime soon?
I think the right strategy is to stay private. We put Trixie into production, have cash flow and are on our way to building a critical mass to do more exploration. The private company model is easier to manage and the best formula for shareholders as long as you have the capacity to raise capital. Looking at the future, however, there is always the possibility that we spin out Trixie into a different entity, and then have the rest of the district under a new company that we could list on the public markets.
As an explorer, why do you think the gold industry has been unable to find new elephant deposits?
The biggest problem is that, somewhere around the mid-1990s, majors threw in the towel on exploration. When you are an exploration company, if you do not find something, you die. That is not the case for major companies, so this has resulted in inconsistency and a lack of continuity in exploration. This is a poor model for the industry. In the case of the East Tintic, the land ownership was very fragmented, making exploration of the broader potential impossible. Today, the district is consolidated into 14,000 acres, making it highly attractive for investment in exploration.
What is your perspective on the gold price for 2021?
I am not a gold nut but I believe gold will probably go up to US$2,000/oz. All the nations are having to spend a lot of money on public stimulus and infrastructure projects, and we will see a devaluation of currencies against gold and commodities in general. IGG is mainly a copper and gold explorer, and both will do well in the coming years.
Finally, could you summarize the main activities for Tintic Consolidated Metals over the next months?
We will continue ramping up production at Trixie and optimizing the operations. With regards to exploration, we currently have an auction underway to attract a Tier 1 or strategic partner to explore for the porphyry copper deposit, that we all believe has immense potential. TCM will be focused on exploring Eureka Standard and North Lily next, drilling that from surface and also via an underground access from Trixie. Historically, both Eureka Standard and North Lily have gold content of over 32 g/mt and in some areas it goes up to 60 g/mt. The potential for more high grade bonanza type structures in this area is incredible.