Almaden Minerals (TSX: AMM) CEO Morgan Poliquin Talks About Ixtaca Pre-Feasibility Metallurgy, Project Economics, and Blue Sky Exploration
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today once again, is president and CEO of Almaden Minerals (TSX: AMM)(NYSE: AAU), Mr. Morgan Poliquin. Morgan, thank you for joining me.
Morgan Poliquin: Thank you for having me on once again.
Gerardo Del Real: Absolutely. Almaden Minerals had news yesterday, and the headline reads; Almaden Provides Ixtaca Pre-Feasibility Program and Metallurgical Update: Confirming Ninety Percent Recoveries for Gold and Silver in Limestone With Reduced Leach Reagent Consumptions. Can you share the details there? I know it's work that's been ongoing, and frankly work that we've been aware of; but it's great to see the confirmation of the work. I think it speaks to the quality of the work, that's leading into this pre-feasibility study.
Morgan Poliquin: Thank you very much. I think that was a great way of characterizing it. Obviously, we've been doing work on the recovery side of things, for the resource we've defined at Ixtaca for a long time. This is pre-feasibility work, and it's more detailed, and it gets into the specifics of how much ... Obviously, very different reagents are used to recover the gold from the ground up rock; how much do you have to grind up the rock?
When you're doing the preliminary work; you want to know that you can get the recoveries, and you can recover the metal out of the rock. We showed that throughout the course of the last few years, since our discovery; but as we all know, the devil's in the details. You have to do the more comprehensive test work to get to the advanced level, such as pre-feasibility, which is typically the most advanced technical level. Feasibility studies are historically, where you would do a lot more financial analysis.
That's the way we're approaching it; this is a very advanced level of work. The details have confirmed our earlier test work, which was of course was more preliminary. We're very excited to have that, there were no surprises here. That's, I guess to us, not a particular surprise; you always have to get the data in hand. For us, the mineralogy, it's the first principles approach here. We saw that the minerals were the right kind of minerals, from which you can recover the gold and silver readily. That's bearing out with this test work now.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. The headline says it confirms ninety percent recoveries for gold and silver in limestone. You mentioned about the devil being in the details; that's important, because if I understand it correctly, the limestone domain, it actually represents ninety percent of the total metal produced under the Amended PEA? Is that accurate?
Morgan Poliquin: That's right. It's the bulk of the deposit, is hosted in that unit; We have two other units, that also host mineralization. They're not unimportant, obviously it's far less important in terms of the payback and the economics than the limestone. We're working on those now, and we feel that there's room for improvement. Those two units, had not as good a preliminary recoveries in the earlier work. We're working on those units now, and we expect that we'll be able to report on them in the coming weeks and months here, as we work towards finalizing our PFS.
This for us, is the main confirmatory work that we wanted to achieve here, and are delighted to report on. We'll be doing more work as well, and we hope that we'll continue to see similar things to this as we move forward.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. A lot of people, including myself, believe that the pre-feasibility study will be the catalyst that finally forces executives, behind their computer screens to write that check. When can we anticipate that pre-feasibility study; is it still on schedule for early 2017, Morgan?
Morgan Poliquin: That's the way we see things right now. Of course, we have external engineers that are working on these things. I think the main focus right now, that we try to explain in the latest news release; is that we're excited about looking at the mine plan again. In January we had a, what we would, I guess, colloquially call an Armageddon mine plan; where we showed that the deposit is pretty robust with our lower price case, the base case was $1,150 gold and $16 silver. The lower price case, was I believe $14 silver and $1,000 gold. We showed an eighteen percent after-tax IRR with that, those lower prices.
I think we've shown that the deposit is robust to lower prices, but is that the mine plan that you would have, at let's say today's prices? There's opportunities there, and that's a part of the work that we're doing, along with all the other detailed engineering like this, that we've reported on here today, and like all the geotechnical, geomechanical matters. Happily, all the work that we've been doing over the last few years is, in terms of field work, is really complete; now it's about putting it all together.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. You talked about the possibility for an expanded mining plan, using different price assumptions. A part of what's so exciting about Ixtaca, is the exploration potential, and that's been demonstrated with recent news releases showing new zones of veining. How is drilling progressing? I understand that's still ongoing, and obviously you're still finding more gold and more silver in some pretty good grades.
Morgan Poliquin: Yeah. We've had some success with ... I guess to back up, if I have an opportunity to do so, would just be to explain to people once again; that this is a brand new discovery. There's no historic mines, or workings, or exploration on the project, prior to our involvement. In 2010, we made this discovery, which was really a year before the market started to soften and get really awful, as many of your listeners will know.
We haven't had the luxury of being able to run around and explore the entire property, which is very large. This discovery was what we call a blind discovery, meaning it was under clay alteration, and it wasn't exposed at surface. We have a lot of this clay alteration around, which we think will possibly obscure other potential vein systems.
Our focus here is, in the short term, is on veins that could be immediately adjacent to the existing resource. When I started to look through all our exploration data more recently, once again, I started to see holes that we're drilled a little further, hit some things out here. It's still open, right adjacent to the amended PEA pit. Let's have a look at some of these things we've intersected, and see if they turn into something broader. It appears so far, that we're able to define some additional mineralization, either in some cases within areas that were poorly understood within the pit, and adjacent to the pit.
We have no idea what kind of an impact these will have at this point, but we're drilling them. I think the broader exploration potential is still out there. Yeah, that's how we're approaching this right now.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. That drill program, the ongoing drill program, Morgan; where is that now, two rigs?
Morgan Poliquin: Yeah. We have two rigs on site at the moment, until certainly the end of the year, that we anticipate that will be the case. We're focused, obviously, on some of these zones we have identified that are, as I mentioned, very close to the existing defined resource. I still think that there is, you might call it blue sky; a lot of potential regionally on the property as well. At the moment, we're more focused on the in-close potential; I think for the short term, that will continue to be the case.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. Morgan, thank you so much for your time today. Anything you'd like to add?
Morgan Poliquin: No, I'm really appreciative of you following us here as usual. We're delighted to have this news. When you're working on these kinds of advanced studies, it's hard to know; a lot of people talk about this, as the nuclear winter of an exploration and development company. All this engineering news is not very exciting, but it's really important. I think that would be the message I'd want to let people know is, that while it's just a ho-hum news release metallurgy; it's really important because this advanced the level of study, is really what your mine plan is based upon. The devil is in the details, and happily so far the details are confirming what we had thought with our earlier work.
Gerardo Del Real: It's a pleasure, Morgan. It's great to see an exploration and development company exploring and developing. Thank you again for your time.
Morgan Poliquin: Thank you, Gerardo, I really appreciate it.