Bell Copper (TSX-V: BCU) CEO Dr. Timothy Marsh on the Perseverance Project Joint Ventured with Cordoba Minerals: Potential for Another Monster Copper Deposit in Arizona
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the President and CEO of Bell Copper (TSX-V: BCU)(OTC: BCUFF), Mr. Tim Marsh. That's Dr. Tim Marsh, if I'm not mistaken. Right, Tim?
Dr. Timothy Marsh: You've got that right, Gerardo.
Gerardo Del Real: How is the day treating you?
Dr. Timothy Marsh: So far, so good.
Gerardo Del Real: I want to talk about what's now called the Perseverance Project, which is a project that Cordoba Minerals (TSX-V: CDB)(OTC: CDBMF) is earning into. It's a joint venture. You had some recent news that I think caught the market's attention. I want to start back in 2012. You have an excerpt on the Bell Copper website, which says:
“On December 14th, 2012, Dr. Timothy Marsh took over Bell Copper with a singular objective: drill Kabba (which is now Perseverance). The hurdles: no cash, Macquarie foreclosure imminent, finance market frozen, 179 million shares outstanding, three lawsuits in progress, frustrated shareholders, angry creditors, no funding for ongoing operations.”
This is the hand that you were dealt. Can you start by providing a little bit of background about your history and your history with this project. Then we can get to talking about the most recent news release, which had some exciting things in it.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Sure thing. The history goes back quite a ways. The word Kabba, which is a geographic name of an old mine up near Kingman, Arizona, first entered my brain in 1997. I began a systematic search of the state of Arizona for undiscovered porphyry copper deposits. The Kabba Mine seemed to have some of the attributes that I was looking for. It's located way out in the middle of a basin, a gravel-filled basin. It may have not received the sort of attention in the past 40 or 50 years of the more modern era of copper exploration that, say, a location up in the mountains may have received, just because it's easy to walk past the bottom of a valley filled with gravel and not get interested in it.
The Kabba mine was a real exposure of bedrock, and it showed some features that suggested to me there was a porphyry copper nearby. I couldn't have told you back then which direction, I was completely uncertain of that. I thought the right things were there to spend some time looking at. The more time I looked at it, the more convinced I was something was nearby.
I was Chief Geologist on the Resolution Copper Project in Arizona, where we were drilling 7,000 and 8,000-foot holes looking at a giant high-grade, porphyry copper deposit. My job was outlined as filling that resource in on 75-meter centers. It was taking months and months to complete a single hole. I thought this is not the way I want to spend my career, grid-drilling somebody else's discovery. I want to get out and find the next one.
I left Resolution, I left Rio Tinto and joined Bell Copper Corporation in 2005 with the caveat that I be allowed to bring along this idea that I had. I got some shares in exchange for the idea. Bell picked it up and began working on it. Bell's focus for quite a number of years was not just Kabba. We had other significant assets; the Granduc Mine up in Northern BC, and a copper deposit on the West Coast of Mexico, the La Balsa Project in Michoacan.
We worked hard to develop those projects and eventually to try and get La Balsa down in Mexico into production, but with all sorts of hurdles, those projects didn't work the way we wanted them to. By the end of 2012, the previous management was through. They had had it. They said, "Tim, if you want to take this thing over, you can have it." I said, "Look, there's one thing I want in it, that's Kabba. I think we're on to something there. I want to pursue it."
I took the reins from the previous management and began working at the problems, the warts in the company that I felt had to be resolved before I could raise money and go out and do the next thing, which I felt was to do more drilling at Kabba.
Gerardo Del Real: Right.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: I cleaned up those messes over the course of 2013 and into 2014, and then started looking for financing. It took a long time. It was just a hard thing to do. I found a strong support in the name of Godbe Drilling Company, who is now our largest shareholder. They were willing at the time because I had worked with them in the past. They had confidence in my geological ability. They believed in the idea that I had. They went out and drilled a 4,000-foot hole for shares. That was K-11. That really showed us that we’re finding the things we needed to.
We used the K-11 core to convince Rio Tinto in 2016 to come into the project. Rio had a very different focus than what I was looking for. They were looking for a high-grade, shallow chalcocite blanket. They ran geophysics over a very large area. They found a tremendous IP anomaly, an electrical, geophysical anomaly that ended up changing my focus, pushing me further east. In spite of the fact that they drilled quite a few holes – seven holes – their focus was shallow.
They stopped the holes in places that gave me heartburn having to stop the holes where we did. It was clear their target wasn't where we drilled. It didn't obviate their target, the target that I believe that they were looking for still lies out there to be found. They had seen enough for them and they walked, returning to us any interest that they may have earned through their option agreement. We had 100% of the asset back in our hands, and went looking for the next partner. We had every significant big company in the world look at the data, and for one unusual reason or another, they all said no. None of which made a lot of sense to me, but that's the difference between them and us.
We pushed ahead and eventually found a partner in the way of Cordoba Minerals. Between Mario Stifano and myself, we got along well. Mario understood the opportunity. The guys had me up there to Vancouver to present to HPX's team, and they liked what they saw. We pushed ahead with drilling what I thought at the time was the very best hole that needed to be drilled out there, which was K-20.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk about K-20 in just a bit. Beforehand, I want to provide a little bit of context. You weren't just blindly walking around Arizona looking for the next big deposit. Perseverance lies within a porphyry copper trend that, if I'm not mistaken, is right between Freeport's Bagdad Mine and Origin Mining's Mineral Park Mine. Northwestern Arizona, or Arizona in general period, has produced, I believe, 10% of all of the world's copper. Is that correct?
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Yeah, it's a prolific copper producing region. If you compare it to Chile, it's more concentrated copper than in Chile. Chile, the copper is strung out over much of the length of the Andes. You have to cover a lot more ground to find just as much copper in Chile. Arizona is more concentrated. Probably only 20% of the state is uncovered where geologists can kick the rocks and see what they're looking at. Arizona has, in history, been a very prolific producer of copper. Again, 10% of the world's copper has come from here. The opportunity is great in that only 20% or so of the state has been thoroughly explored, because much of the rocks are buried.
Gerardo Del Real: You find a partner in Cordoba Minerals in August. Fast forward to September, it didn't take long. I remember speaking with Mario. He said, "Look, we're swinging for a home run. There is either a monster down there or there's not. There is not really going to be any in-between."
Just this week we get some news. Obviously, hole K-20, which is a 2.1 kilometer step-out from prior deep drilling. You got a lot in that core that looked really pretty. I know you must have liked it as it was coming up. Tell me a bit, I'm not a geologist, but for the geologists out there, tell me a bit about what you liked from K-20, what the approach is moving forward, and when we can expect the next drill to get out there and start looking and seeing if you've got a tiger by the tail here.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Yeah. The fact that gives us so much confidence about the size of the system that we're exploring for, is the fact that it's exposed in the mountain range 9 kilometers to the west of us. We can put our boots on it. It's spectacular, it is. Really, the thing that has kept me pursuing this over the years is that exposure in the footwall. It's the more spectacularly veined and altered porphyry copper system that I've ever seen. It's clearly the deep part of a porphyry system. It's the roots. It's not where the copper drops out, although there is some copper back in there and a lot of molybdenum. It's not the part where the copper should drop out.
It's very compelling evidence that a huge volume of hydrothermal fluid has moved up through those rocks and into rocks that used to be above it, and now are faulted down off into the valley. We know the size of the system. It compares with the biggest in the world. What we haven't demonstrated conclusively yet is what is the grade? What did it produce?
We got a tantalizing hint in K-20. Over hundreds of meters we've seen chalcopyrite, pyrite veins. Many of the chalcopyrite veins are further altered through a process called hypogene enrichment to the copper minerals, bornite and calcite. Those are better than chalcopyrite in that they've had the iron removed from the sulfide mineral structure, and they're consequently higher grade materials. You send less material if that's what your ore is made of. If it's made of bornite and calcite, you'll send a half or a third as much material to the smelter, and it's much cheaper to process. What we've seen in the veins in K-20 is that this process of upgrading from chalcopyrite, which is what the average Arizona mine sends to the smelter, has been upgraded through a natural process to bornite and calcite. That's just the grade before a miner and a smelter.
Gerardo Del Real: The quartz-molybdenite veins at the bottom of the hole were very interesting to me. Can you talk to us a bit about why those are important where you found them?
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Yeah. The quartz-molybdenite veins are something that just doesn't get up and wander a large distance away from a porphyry copper system. You find them in the heart of the porphyry. You find them very sparingly on the fringe. It's as good an indicator as any of distance from the heart of the system. What we were seeing in the bottom of a hole is that we're very close to bumping into the thing we're looking for. I haven't found the thing that I set out to find. A volume of rock that's been intensely veined and shattered, we haven't poked into that yet.
We've found sheeted veins filled with these different ore-related minerals; the quartz-molybdenite, the bornite, calcite, chalcopyrite. All of these things are happening in sheeted veins that give us some hints that we're right alongside a porphyry copper system. We see the types of wall rock alteration; the propylitic, the potassic, the sericitic alteration that are typical of porphyry copper deposits. We saw them from the collar of K-20, at least once we got down under gravel, all the way to the bottom. The vertical extent of alteration in mineralization in K-20 is in excess of 700 meters.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. We know that the joint venture is with Cordoba Minerals. We also know that Robert Friedland's HPX Exploration is, I believe, 72% shareholder of Cordoba Minerals. I understand that the next step is going to be HPX using their proprietary Typhoon IP tech to map the shallow sulfide distribution. Can you talk about the next steps, Tim?
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Sure. Kennecott Exploration got out early on and ran a standard induced polarization survey and demonstrated that there is a large area of chargeability down in the bedrock. That's presumably rocks that have disseminated sulfide minerals in them like pyrite, chalcopyrite, calcite, all sorts of things. Kennecott demonstrated that. They acquired a lot of ground to the east to make sure that whatever might continue off in that direction had been covered by land or mineral rights that we would control, but they never did a follow-up survey. They left their IP anomaly hanging on the edge of the survey, the most chargeable ground they found was on the edge of the survey. They never finished it off.
One aspect of this Typhoon system coming to the project is that it will allow us to expand on the IP anomaly that Kennecott originally defined. Typhoon has the capability to look much deeper than the conventional IP that Kennecott used. Probably has the ability to look up to twice as deep, so down in the 2-kilometer range, which is deeper than our deepest drill holes out there. We'll be able to detect if some chance we stopped our deep holes K-11 and K-12 too soon. And it'll certainly tell us if the shallow Kennecott holes, the 400 and 500 meter Kennecott holes, were stopped over the top of a large, chargeable sulfide body. We're real excited that Typhoon is coming to Perseverance and hold out a lot of hope that it will show us right where the guts of this system lie.
Gerardo Del Real: I got to believe being able to test that theory is deeply satisfying for you.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Yeah. It's been a long, long time coming. There's been a lot of ups, a lot of downs. Every time we have to pull back, stop a hole, and reconsider what we've seen, it's a bit of a heartbreak. It only takes about five minutes walking back over that footwall zone to know that the pursuit is worth it. It will be rewarded very richly, and gives me the courage to keep pushing along and keep looking for the next investment dollar to keep the drill turning.
Gerardo Del Real: I know it was a tough 2018. It's been a tough junior resource space. Shares have responded well, you're up over 55-60% here over the last few days. I'm excited to see these holes get drilled here within the next coming months. I hope that you're able to come back on and take some time to explain the results when they're released. I've got to congratulate you on, no pun intended, your perseverance in seeing this through. Fingers crossed.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Yep. I'm excited for the opportunity. I'd be happy to join you in the future to explain what we find.
Gerardo Del Real: Thank you so much. I'm actually looking forward, if there is an opportunity, to visiting the project. We'll chat about that.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: Yeah, you'd be welcome.
Gerardo Del Real: Thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.
Dr. Timothy Marsh: You're welcome.