Alianza Minerals (TSX-V: ANZ) CEO Jason Weber on the Prospect Generator Model, Alianza's Portfolio of Gold and Silver Properties & Experienced Management Team
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the President and CEO of Alianza Minerals (TSX-V: ANZ)(OTC: TARSF), Mr. Jason Weber. Jason, how are you this morning?
Jason Weber: I'm doing very well, Gerardo. Thanks.
Gerardo Del Real: Thank you for coming on. Alianza is a company that I am very familiar with. I'm also very familiar with you. I've been following you since way back in the Kiska days. I think I still have stock certificates somewhere from potential warrants that never turned into anything because of the bear market.
But Alianza is a new company to a lot of people, and it's new because, frankly, you're at the busiest this year and probably as busy as you've been in the past five or six years. Is that accurate, Jason?
Jason Weber: Yeah, it definitely is accurate. It's a combination of some hard work that we've put in the last two, three, four years. It's sort of culminating right now, but then you sort of add onto that the recent uptrend in the metal prices, especially gold and silver, and that's really helped us out. It's made for a busy year.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk a little bit about your background, Jason. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Jason Weber: Yeah. I'm a geologist by training. I graduated from University of British Columbia here in Vancouver and went right into the mining business. Started as a consultant with a consulting firm, what was then called Equity Engineering.
It's probably where I got my first taste of the joint venture business model, because one of the Equity's approaches to business was when times were slow, they would generate exploration ideas, targets, concepts, and then take them to prospective clients, sell them on the idea, and then the client would take the project on, and Equity would get the work out of it.
So, I was exposed to that very, very early in my career. And in fact, we were involved as Equity in a discovery called Wolverine, a massive sulfide deposit in the Yukon Territory.
Gerardo Del Real: Yep.
Jason Weber: We watched everybody around us do well off the discovery, and we were sort of left thinking, "Wow. We could do this for ourselves." We started up our own junior company. It was called Rimfire Minerals, which we then merged with a company called Geoinformatics to form Kiska, which you mentioned earlier.
I ended up running both Rimfire and then its successor, Kiska, as President and CEO, and largely operating under, again, the joint venture business model, although that changed a little bit with Kiska. I think we just sort of put it on steroids, I'd like to say.
Then when I left there, I ended up taking a little bit of time and looking at who I might want to work with. II had known Mark Brown for quite a while, and we had sort of talked on and off about someday doing something together. So, I got together with Mark, and he had a company called Estrella Gold, who's CEO at the time wanting to be a Geo. He didn't want to be a CEO. He and I met, and I ended up taking over the CEO role from him.
That started my tenure here with Mark, which continues to this day. Mark's our Chairman. We merged Estrella with another company that he was involved with called Tarsis. Tarsis had projects in the Yukon and in Nevada. Estrella, the company I was running, had projects in Peru.
So, we put the two companies together with this focus on sort of the Cordilleran regions of North and South America, looking at the belt of mountains that runs up sort of the West Coast of both continents.
That's really sort of been the focus for us jurisdictionally because one, those are some of the best places to work, but two, it's also very well endowed geologically. So, this is, we feel, a very good place to look for metals, especially gold and silver, which is what we mostly do now.
Gerardo Del Real: You mentioned Mark Brown. I'm obviously very familiar with Mark for probably I want to say 11 or 12 years now, if I'm not mistaken. He also sits on the board of Almaden Minerals, who is arguably one of the more successful project generators in this space. That, of course, is the same model that Alianza follows.
I have to mention John Wilson, who I know is a director of Alianza, and who I'm also very familiar with. Top notch Geo, over 40 years' experience, as picky as they get in the business, not only his projects but who he works with. Can you talk about John just a bit?
Jason Weber: Well, so when I mentioned that Mark had a CEO who wanted to go back to being a Geo, that was John.
Gerardo Del Real: I know the story.
Jason Weber: I hadn't met John prior to getting involved with Estrella. We chatted on the phone one day and hit it off right away. It was really nice because for me, when you walk into a new situation, there's a whole corporate memory there that you don't possess.
Gerardo Del Real: Yep.
Jason Weber: So, having John around, available, part of the team, has been really important for me. As Estrella, when we came on, we had a joint venture with Cliffs at the time, and I knew nothing about the back story on that. And it was John who was really able to sort of keep me in the loop and how to approach things, because that was right at the time when Cliffs imploded. So, it was a bit of a tough stretch to navigate, so having John there was fantastic.
Of course, he's a very good geologist and as you say, very picky. So, having that expertise still involved, he's still on the board today. In fact, when we put the two companies together, Estrella and Tarsis, the CEO of Tarsis at the time was a fellow named Marc Blythe.
Gerardo Del Real: Correct.
Jason Weber: He's also still on the board, so I have the two prior CEOs of both companies still on my board, which I think is pretty rare really. You don't get that kind of team very often. Usually when that happens, the old CEO leaves, takes off.
Gerardo Del Real: Yep.
Jason Weber: On to greener pastures, whatever. Right? So, it's been very good for me to have both of those guys around.
Gerardo Del Real: It's an extremely strong team. I don't think it's a coincidence that I mentioned earlier that you're going to be relatively new to a lot of people in this space, but you've been working really hard behind the scenes. I don't think it's a coincidence that you've been able to bring in the types of properties and the quality of properties that you've been able to bring in.
I believe you have six active projects in 2019. If I'm not mistaken, you have five projects that are optioned and/or leased, four to major companies. Can you speak to that a bit and the priority, Jason?
Jason Weber: Yeah. It's interesting. We went through such a bear market. You're out there, you're showing your projects. At an early-stage company like Alianza is at with its projects, it's some of the hardest work is to bring in those new partners.
Gerardo Del Real: Absolutely.
Jason Weber: Especially, if you're working in areas that are new. If you're right next to Goldstrike in Nevada or near one of the new discoveries in the Golden Triangle here in British Columbia, the sell's obviously easier. But when you're in a bear market where there's not a lot of activity in areas that you can really sort of get a story behind, you're now doing it all on the technical story, the geological story that you can put together. Sometimes, you're limited by the amount of data you have because these are very early-stage projects.
We spent a good three or four years putting together data on projects and going out when we could scrape enough money together and collecting a bit more data and hopefully add to the story that we were building. Then we'd take that to somebody else and show it to the next major group.
I really try – not that I don't like doing deals with other junior companies – but I try to stick more to the mid-tiers, the producers, and even up into the majors because what I can get from a partnership from them is usually access to expertise.
I really value that in the relationship, and that's one of the reasons I like the joint venture business model as much as I do is my team take projects to a certain level. And then I can tap into this, not only the funding that they bring to the table, but the expertise that they may have in-house or have available to them externally.
Think of it this way. This has happened in my projects in Nevada that I was partnered with Hochschild. We needed somebody to help us unravel the stratigraphy on one of our projects. There's three or four or five different people I could call, but they might not give me the time of day.
Gerardo Del Real: Sure.
Jason Weber: But if Hochschild gives them a call, and says, "Hey. We've got some projects we want you to help out on," they take that call. That's one of the advantages of having these partnerships, especially the producers. But that work, as I said, it's very time consuming. It's very difficult, and sometimes it comes down to the concept of how organized is your data?
I got this comment again this weekend being down in Nevada from our partner, "We really value how good of shape your data is in." And that it's nice to get that little reminder every once in a while, because when you're doing the work and you're putting the data together, if it's not in a good shape, you go to show somebody else, they look at it, and they're like, "I got to sift through all this?" They won't spend the time to do it. They'll go look at the next project that's got a good data set that they can dive into and they can assess very quickly whether they want to go any further with it or not.
So, we spent a lot of time putting old datasets together, compiling them, put them into good shape so that we had a product that we could then go sell. That's a lot of the work that we did through the bear market.
We also picked up some other projects. Our Haldane project in the Keno District of the Yukon, that's a project we just brought on last year. And you compare that with our Nevada projects we've had in the portfolio for over four years now I think.
It's a bit of a balance. It's taking stuff that you already have in your portfolio, keeping on building the story but then also bringing some fresh new stuff in because you've got to flush the portfolio clean every once in a while. Projects aren't moving, they're not going anywhere, maybe it's time to let them go, and you bring something else in that that you can move forward.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk a bit about those projects and provide a bit of context. You mentioned Hochschild, of course, and you have three active sediment-hosted gold projects. Is that right? That you've optioned to them?
Jason Weber: Yes. We have two that you could call on the southern end of the Carlin Trend near Kinross's Bald Mountain Mine. That's our Bellview and BP projects that are probably 15 and 40 kilometers from the Bald Mountain Mine. And then the third project is one called Horsethief, which is further to the southeast, almost at the Utah border near a little town called Pioche, Nevada. That one is a sediment-hosted target, but it's an off-trend sentiment-hosted target. There's no defined Carlin Trend or any of the other major trends in Nevada. It doesn't sit on any of those. It's sort of a newer area, which I sort of alluded to earlier.
When you're putting together a project like that to sell, can be difficult because you don't have the context around it to say, "Well, there's this mine here 10 kilometers away, and this mine 4 kilometers away. It's the same geological settings, stratigraphy, everything," for your sales pitch.
But I would say Horsethief is the highest priority project we have, with the Hochschild joint venture. That's the one that we're pushing to get some drilling done. I don't know if we'll get it done this year now. But if we don't get some drilling in by the end of this year, it'll be early next year on that project.
Gerardo Del Real: You did just finish some drilling at your project in the Keno district in the Yukon. Can we speak to that? Because I believe that assays are anticipated, what, in the next few weeks?
Jason Weber: Yeah. And, this may be a good sort of time to set up the other angle of our business model, in that while we were biased towards the joint venture business model, both Mark and I feel that having a project that you can run with yourself, have a little more control over timing, news flow, targeting, everything. It's kind of nice to have one of those in the portfolio. And for us, that's our Haldane project in the Keno district, the Yukon territory.
The timing is kind of nice on that in that we picked the project up a year ago, probably a year and a half ago I guess now. Of course with the price of silver coming up, interest in the project has actually been very strong. We've had a fairly easy time raising money for it.
We set out to do our own drilling this year. We did a small trenching and groundwork program in June, refined some of our drill targets. Started drilling in sort of mid-August and finished it up about a week ago. Crews, just about a week ago, the site and drilled four holes on three different targets. Two of the target areas were brand new, had never seen a drill hole before, and the third area we drilled has had a grand total of 13 holes into it before. So, it's a very early-stage project.
But it sits in a district in the Keno District that's produced over 220 million ounces of silver in its almost 100-year history. It's just starting to come to life again with the work that Alexco Resources has done on their Keno package, revitalizing some of the old mines that are on their property but also making some significant new discoveries that are going to be deposits in their new mine plan. They're just waiting for their last permit to get their mining operations underway there.
It's a great place to be if you're looking for silver. It's got quite a nice, I say simple, geological story to look for these targets. Doesn't mean they're necessarily easy to find, but the story is simple and once you're on to one, knowing what you know from the rest of the district, I think there's a real strong possibility that more discoveries are going to be made up there outside the Alexco land package. We feel Haldane has very strong potential to be that next discovery up there.
Gerardo Del Real: Oh, you mentioned the historic production, and I'm looking at some numbers. I think the average production grade was 1,149 grams per tonne silver, 5.62% lead, and 3.14% zinc. So, if there is a discovery of significance with some tonnage to it, it's probably likely going to be higher grade. Is that correct, Jason?
Jason Weber: Yeah. That's sort of one of the hallmarks of the Keno District is just that the deposits there have been such high-grade producers. It's really interesting because – oh, I can't remember – there's 62, I think, different target areas on the property that Alexco has that range from, I guess, showings right up to mined-out deposits.
The variation in the styles of mineralization is quite significant. You'll get some that are massive sulfide veins. Others are these quartz breccias. If you were new to the district and you started working on a project, you'd say, "Well, this doesn't look anything like what they see at Keno." But in fact, some of the variations they see there, it is actually something that they see at Keno. Everybody thinks of it as massive sulfide, galena basically, veins that are carrying all the silver.
It's really nice to have that historic exploration and development there that you can sort of lean to. And the Alexco people have been great sort of sharing information and being very open to the geological community in Yukon and hosting tours. And you can just pull them up and ask questions, and they've been very good to deal with.
Like in our project, you mentioned high grade, back in between 1918 and 1927, there's almost 25 tonnes of over 3,000 grams of silver mined from one of the showing areas at Haldane, and another 2 tonnes of 4,600 grams of silver. And both those had over 50% lead with them, so obviously, high grade. They went after some high-grade pods of mineralization within these veins. It just shows you that the property can host that high-grade mineralization.
Gerardo Del Real: The next catalyst, obviously, drill results from that project. When do we anticipate those?
Jason Weber: So, we drove four holes, as I said, three separate areas. So, the first target area, well, I'm expecting the results from that hole to be in the next week to 10 days. I guess we're nearing the end of September here, so I'll say early October. And then, the rest of the results would follow sort of a week to 10 days each after that. That's my best guess on lab turnaround time.
Gerardo Del Real: Good, good, good. I see insiders own approximately 15% of shares. What does the share structure look like?
Jason Weber: So, it's about 81 million shares outstanding right now, and I believe it's 125 million shares fully diluted. That 15% share ownership is insiders, and then there's another 30% held by very close associates of the company. Of that 81 million shares, almost 50% of that is held by a very close group to the company. And then, even outside from that, there's probably another 10 to 15% of, I just call, very supportive shareholders who have been with us for a long, long time now that still hold their shareholdings.
Even though you look at it and say, "Ah. It's 81 million shares," it is still fairly tightly held, and I think you see that in our trading sometimes. There isn't a lot of trading that goes on, although it's changed during the last sort of six to eight weeks with all the activity in the gold and silver price.
Gerardo Del Real: Well, I got to think that the trading volume has ticked up also because of the opportunity with the new supportive macro environment with gold and silver moving higher. What's the market cap look like?
Jason Weber: Well today, it's sitting around $0.07. We're at a $6 million market cap, which obviously as a CEO, I think is very low. I would like to see that much higher. But as you say, we still are relatively unknown, and we're just starting to get on the radar screen of lot of people. You know how that goes. It's people take time, get to know you, get to know the stock, the story, what you're doing, and now I think we're just starting to see that.
Gerardo Del Real: And six years later, you become an overnight success.
Jason Weber: Yeah, exactly, yeah. Overnight success in six years. You know what? If you can do it in six years, you're doing pretty good.
Gerardo Del Real: That's right. That's right. Well, you're awaiting assays. I know you have to be excited about that. I'm looking forward to chatting again, Jason, to follow up on those assays, and of course, we can talk about what's next at that point. Anything else that you'd like to add?
Jason Weber: No, I think we covered a lot there. I think the opportunity right now is, as an investor myself, I look at some of the other groups that I really like, and you can see a lot of room for movement to the upside. I think for investors who aren't necessarily fully invested into the gold and silver space, right now is such a good time.
I think we're in for a nice, nice market here. I think the timing for our company in particular is very good. So, I'm just really pleased with the way everything's come together and then the uptick in the market to bolster that. I think it looks good for us going forward.
Gerardo Del Real: Agreed. Much like real estate, a lot of the money is made buying right. I got to believe at $0.07 Canadian and a market cap where you're at, it's a pretty opportune time to take a look and then do a little bit of due diligence.
Jason, I'm looking forward to chatting as soon as those assays come in, and thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Jason Weber: Yeah, absolutely anytime. Thanks, Gerardo.