Almaden Minerals (TSX: AMM) CEO Morgan Poliquin on Renewed Exploration Focus at Ixtaca Project and Market Response
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the President and CEO of Almaden Minerals (TSX: AMM)(NYSE: AAU), Mr. Morgan Poliquin. Morgan, how are you?
Morgan Poliquin: I'm marvelous. Thank you very much, Gerardo. And you?
Gerardo Del Real: I am well. I am excited to see that Almaden is back doing what it does best, what the team is known for, which is exploration. You've been incredibly successful, you and your father and the team for decades on end.
You had some news here recently that I wanted to touch on. The headline reads, "Almaden Identifies New High Priority Exploration Target at the Ixtaca Property." When I visited the property, several things were clear. It was clear that the project had overwhelming community support. It was clear that the project was robust. But it was also very clear walking the property that there was a lot more to explore. So I am excited to see that you're back at it.
Can you provide a brief overview on the renewed focus towards exploration while we work through the permitting situation?
Morgan Poliquin: Absolutely. Thanks so much for the opportunity. It's really exciting. As you say, we're explorers by nature. This whole area that we've been working on in what I call eastern Mexico through the last couple of decades, and specifically here at Ixtaca, these are areas of uneroded, highly preserved epithermal systems. Epithermal means near-surface hot fluids.
Basically in a volcanic environment, these hot fluids come from deep down and gasses boil off them and go up near to the surface and cause hot springs and steaming ground. Down below somewhere, if in a good one of these systems, in veins, in fractures, gold drops out and silver, and deeper down lead and zinc and silver. Basically if the system is highly preserved, then you're not seeing the gold part of the system. You're seeing the clay top of it, which is what the steam and so on causes near surface to the rocks, changes them to claim minerals. That's what attracted us to Ixtaca in the first place. Indeed, I spent a lot of time flying around in a helicopter, looking for these clays zones all over, using different means like satellite images and so on.
Ixtaca and the general area, Puebla, is known for its pottery, which comes from the clay in these areas. That's what attracted us here in the first place. Over top of the Ixtaca deposit, there's a whole bunch of volcanic that is changed, altered we say, to clay. Beneath that in the limestone units underneath, we found epithermal veins. Of course the story is well-known, the gold and silver that we encountered there in these veins, but the clay alteration extends much further.
It's not easy exploration because you're drilling beneath where you don't see gold and silver at surface, beneath to find it, these areas of clay. But what's exciting is that there's a relatively new satellite that provides a lot more detail. Looking at that data and rejuvenating and refreshing everything that we've done, which we've been doing recently as we've reported, we came up with a big area of clay alteration that we already knew about, of course, and some targets within it, based on clay alone that we're really, really excited about.
That's the nature of this news release. Of course, we're working right now to better define those targets. It's a target area that's quite separate from the veins that we found.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk about the SE Alteration Zone, which you describe as about 1.5 kilometers by 1 kilometer in size. That's a pretty substantial target. Is that the target that you're focusing the bulk of your energies on now?
Morgan Poliquin: We have targets that are up there in terms of my excitement level. Outside of this target too we've got something called the Tano Zone, which we've done even some preliminary drilling and on. That's about 1 kilometer southwest in the other direction from the Ixtaca deposit.
This is southeast. What makes it, the SE Alteration Zone, particularly compelling is that the alteration extends from where it exists over the deposit in the volcanic on the hill above the deposit, continuously to the southeast. Obviously that scale a target needs some detailed work and some drilling. There's no X marks the spot. It's a big area, as you said, but we are working on getting some Xs, to use that metaphor, with all other techniques.
We're looking at our soil data, our geophysical data, and so we're hoping to dial in. But what's exciting about it is it's basically a continuance of the alteration associated with the deposit but quite far away. , , If we were to encounter something underneath this large area of alteration , it would be completely separate from the known deposit.
Gerardo Del Real: The market is clearly rewarding Almaden with a robust share price. We've had a pullback in most of the juniors, 30%, 40% pullbacks, and here Almaden is near a 52-week high.
Two things are clear there. The permitting situation, is it anticipated to be resolved in a favorable fashion? I know that's ongoing. I know it's kind of sensitive for you to get into. I won't ask you to, other than to comment on whether or not that is still moving forward the way that you had hoped.
Morgan Poliquin: We reported on some progress with respect to – and I'm just trying to remember the date here, but I think it was September. We were able to report obviously progress there that we thought was a very positive step. In Mexico right now, like many places in the world, COVID and other matters are causing things to be perhaps slower than we all would've liked. I think everyone understands that the whole world isn't operating at optimum efficiency here.
We've got a great team in Mexico and we think we have a great deposit. We're doing all that we can do, we believe, to ensure that we're on top of the situation and obviously advocating for the deposit in the appropriate and transparent ways.
Gerardo Del Real: The second thing that's obvious that the market anticipates is it seems like it believes there's more to be discovered at the project. I've long speculated that the project is a takeout target because of the robust nature of the economics that surround it, the fact that the company has a mint condition mill in its portfolio, and the fact that, frankly, when and if this is permitted, this could lead to a resurgence, or emergence I should say, of exploration and mining in eastern Mexico. This part of Mexico doesn't traditionally see a lot of that. So the market clearly believes there's more to be discovered.
What does the timeline look like for the field work that's ongoing and potential drilling?
Morgan Poliquin: We've got people in the field right now. It is a big area of clay alteration of course. As I always point out, even before the Ixtaca discovery, it could just be clay. There is no guarantee we're going to hit anything, but we've proven now that beneath this clay at the Ixtaca deposit, there's gold and silver.
We feel that we have an understanding of the unique signals that are specific to each deposit like Ixtaca that we can apply to this area. We're using them right now with people in the field. We're going to be taking rock samples, possibly soil samples and doing additional analysis and leading up to drilling.
I don't know when exactly right now we feel we'll be ready to test those targets, but we're doing everything we can to get prepared for that. It's an exciting time for us to get back to exploration. Like I say, at exploration you never know what you're going to find and that's the key. Hole number one, we got very lucky hitting the Ixtaca deposit in the first hole.There's absolutely no guarantee that there is anything else there, but we think that the best place to look for something is where there is something. Time and time again throughout the mining world deposits have a habit of growing.
Obviously we're very hopeful that could be the case here, and we've got a great target. Right now, we're focused on defining it better so that we can be really specific when we get into drilling, which we hope will be sometime soon.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. Morgan, thank you so much for that thorough update. I appreciate it and hope that we are chatting soon with some permit news.
Morgan Poliquin: Very good. Thank you so much for the opportunity again.