Six weeks back Vancouver based Douglas Lake (DLKM) announced a "Name That Property Contest." [pdf] According to the contest form, the property, presently named Mbwemkuru, is a 420 square km gold project with average grades of 94 GPT gold and reserves of 5.2 million ounces. The prize is a $40,000 all expenses paid trip for two to Tanzania.
I know the project well; I've been there twice now. Actually I took every sample released so far. I've taken another 100 pans of sand and gravel and sampled them myself. I know the project better than anyone so I should be able to come up with a good name.
Harp Sangha runs Douglas Lake as President and CEO. He has a long and successful history in mining. His career in mining began as CEO of DLKM at $2.40 on April 10, 2006 with 15 million shares outstanding. By April 10th of this year, he had run the stock all the way up to $.12 with around 40 million shares outstanding. Few executives in mining can claim such impressive numbers.
The present name of the gold project is difficult. You drop the M, slur the bwem and the kuru is pretty simple. It's Bamkuru for me. But I'd love to have an all-expenses paid trip for two to Tanzania valued at $40,000 so I need a good name to win.
To most people a $40,000 trip for two to Tanzania would seem like a lot of money. But Sangha has taken lots of $40,000 trips to Tanzania in the last couple of years. He's taken every hanger-on and stock pumper in Vancouver on the trips, all at great expense. One of the single biggest expenses of the company has been General and Administrative cost. It was always quite remarkable to me because Sangha would take so many people on a tour and so few of them had anything to contribute in any way.
I think I'll call it Bre-X II, that's the most descriptive name I can think of, it has so much in common with the original Bre-X. The project is not 420 square km, it's not 94 GPT and with less than ten samples back, no one on earth would give it a 5.2 million ounce gold reserve.
A casual read of their latest financial reports filed in April shows some remarkable numbers. With assets at $71,513 and liabilities of $1,497,686, essentially the company is bankrupt. Maybe not essentially; definitely is bankrupt. But Mr Sangha has a good scam up his sleeves.
In November of 2007 an employee of, I think it was, Anglo Gold Ashanti acting as a consultant to Douglas Lake, came to Sangha with a placer gold project. Normally everyone in the business avoids placer projects like the plague due to all the fraud surrounding them but Sangha doesn't know a placer project from a gemstone like galena.
Sangha didn't even visit the property; no samples were taken by anyone because Douglas Lake had an exclusive agreement with Canaco (CAN-V) where Canaco could earn up to a 70% interest in any property Douglas Lake comes up with. Sangha didn't want to share the project with Canaco but he was willing to share it with a new group, a Chinese Mining Institute.
Sangha took the Chinese group on a tour in April of this year. Bamkuru was the hit of the projects visited. Evidently there was some sort of agreement about the Chinese financing either $6 million dollars or $10 million dollars depending on who Sangha was talking to or the day of the week. (press release).
I was scheduled to speak at a gold conference in Chicago in April. Sangha called me and told me to get into contact with someone who was flying into the conference to show me pictures taken on the Chinese tour of Bamkuru just a week before.
The fellow briefed me and showed me a hundred pictures of natives working an obviously rich placer project. He told me Sangha had an agreement with the Chinese that the Chinese were going to put $6 million dollars into the company for 20% of the shares.
Sangha asked me to drop what I was doing and come to Tanzania at once to give him an evaluation of the project. I took tools, I took 5 gallon buckets, I took sample bags and I took 15 gold pans. I've been to Tanzania and you can't buy much in the way of supplies.
We met in Dar es Salaam with two young geologists who would accompany us to the field. A day or so later, we flew via a small Cessna to a short dirt strip about 200 miles south of Dar es Salaam. The trip took about an hour and a half.
The landowner (the holder of the mineral rights for Bamkuru [press release]) picked us up and we loaded all our equipment into Land Cruisers for the three-hour trek to Bamkuru. It was pretty brutal. The dirt road started out ok but got progressively worse. One of the big reasons the project is underdeveloped, even by the illegal miners, is that it is so far off the beaten path.
The camp was primitive; we were living in tents on the ground, drinking water from a raw stream and eating goat. It was about the worst conditions I have ever experienced in any property tour.
But the gold more than made up for it. It was everywhere. It's alluvial gold, placer gold, small flakes but not flour size, just perfect for mining. We drove over 22 km from one set of native workings to another. We had gold at one end and we had gold at the other end. No one can say the entire 22 km is mineralized, no one has tested it but the project is both big and it's rich.
My comments to Sangha were simple. Bamkuru is both very big and very rich. The flaw in the ointment is that there would be a very real temptation to think of it as just another Bre-X scam. From the gitgo I cautioned Sangha to not be tempted to over promote the project. I may as well have been talking to myself.
I am a partner in a placer gold operation in Northern BC. My partner, Max Fuerstner, is one of the most experienced operators in Canada. I know how big placer operations are run and I've mined placer for years in Alaska myself. I got started in mining in a placer operation in Alaska in 1980. I know what a placer operation is. Max is mining .2 grams gold per cubic meter in BC and is happy to find it.
I panned dozens of samples everywhere we saw the native miners working at Bamkuru. I had our two geos take grab samples so we could send them out for testing. They had little equipment with them; Sangha was dead broke and couldn't provide them with anything but a simple GPS that proved useless. Our only map was in latitude/longitude and the GPS only provided UTM. Neither geo knew how to convert from one to another.
The project is very similar to Witswaterrand in South Africa, source of 60% of all the gold ever mined. It's an alluvial flood plain, an inland sea. I made the comment to Sangha that every geologist I ever knew would immediately start talking about the source of the gold and totally ignore the fact that it doesn't make any difference at all. With that much gold, it doesn't matter where it comes from.
Sangha wanted to convince me that the whole 22 km was mineralized and it was 4 km wide but I ignored him. No one had been over the entire property and couldn't say. He also told me the gravel extended down 6 meters but there was no area on the property anywhere that you could see bedrock. No one can say how deep the gravel was, I saw pits 10 meters deep. None hit bedrock.
How rich is the project? No one knows yet. I took 10-15 samples that were sent back to Canada for testing. The grades varied from a little gold to 40 gpt. All of the results were meaningless because we took them entirely casually; I just wanted a feel for the grade of the gold.
After my first visit, I concluded the average grade would vary from 1 gram per meter to 5 grams per meter. When talking about placer gold, all grades are given in yards or meters. You process placer gold with heavy equipment and all heavy equipment is measured in capacity in meters or yards. Measuring a placer project in tons is like measuring milk in drops. Professionals just don't do it. But with Douglas Lake, there is no issue of using professionals.
By now Sangha was telling me the Chinese had agreed to put in $10 million dollars for 20% of the company and they loved Bamkuru. As we were driving around the project, I realized that we were driving on beach sand almost everywhere. If that top meter or two of plain sand was mineralized, this wasn't a big project; it was a giant project that could easily be world class.
The landowner took us to another area where the native miners were working and they were mining the sand level. In fact the natives making the most money were the ones mining the sand. It's far easier and cheaper to work. I would guess the natives working the sand were processing 3-5 grams each per day and the natives only panning gold were making 1-3 grams per day. By the way, this is the only project I have ever seen or heard of where you could use a gold pan (and only a gold pan) for production. Nowhere else do you use a gold pan for anything but testing.
I took two of my precious hand-carried-from-Miami-5-gallon buckets and asked the landowner to buy some concentrate from the miners. All of the miners use mercury to capture the small gold particles. They have balls of gold left after they burn off the mercury but they don't have the native original gold.
I wanted the concentrate to both test on a Falcon in Vancouver and pan down so I could look at the gold. Prior to my arrival, no one had even thought to look at the gold. I took another precious bucket and had it half filled with just plain sand. The grade of that sample would be critical. If it ran several grams as I suspected, the operation could be put into production in short order at a very low cost.
The limiting factor in that deposit being mined was availability of water. The rainy season runs from December to May. During that time there is lots of water, after that there is less and less until the rains come. It's not anything that any geo takes into account but it's something every placer miner would immediately figure out.
My guess was that with spending $3-4 million dollars, ordering equipment at once and starting a mapping program, the operation could be producing gold by the start of the rainy season. As cash flow starts in December, you buy and ship the heavy equipment needed for a big operation. If they watched their money closely and managed the operation right, Bamkuru could be producing at a rate 100,000 ounces a year within 12 months. At this point I was asked if I'd take charge of the project, and I committed to spending two weeks per month for the next year to eighteen months, in Tanzania. In essence I was prepared to drop everything else I do, for the Bamkuru project.
I would see many of my conclusions come out in press releases but would not be identified. Nor would my plan be adopted.
Sangha had a real problem. When we drove back to Dar, he had a signed agreement with the landowner but he needed to nail down the Chinese. He needed to raise money and all doors were shut to him. He was strapped for cash. I wired him $68,000 without even a signed agreement because he had to have money to pay the expenses and to get to China to do the deal. I knew that after I had bailed Sangha out financially three times in the past, he wouldn't stiff me. Or would he?
On my way back to Dar I called home and Barbara told me that someone called Ullrich Schade from Douglas Lake in Vancouver had emailed her and said there would be a conference call with me the next day.
No one had ever mentioned a conference call to me. Frankly, telling the world what you are doing in a deal like this is dumb. Sangha only had an informal agreement with the landowner and it would be easy to convince him [the landowner] he could do better. And bankrupt companies really shouldn't be bringing attention to themselves. Douglas Lake had done no testing at all to see if the mineralization continued onto surrounding properties.
The original conference call never took place because we were late getting to Dar es Salaam. I went to Sangha's room and told him I'd never heard of anything as stupid as scheduling a conference call without talking to the person who you were going to do it with. I ended up doing something from London the next day but I was told it was only being listened to by existing big Douglas Lake shareholders. It wasn't, it was posted on chat boards because the Douglas Lake employees were trying to get it out. I now realise they were trying to pump the stock price.
You can get into deep trouble with insider information. At this stage, it wasn't a done deal. It was a nice property that DLKM might do something with in the future and someone might put money into it. Puffing it up in May was simply stupid and useless. We didn't have enough information to educate anyone, much less an ordinary investor. I have told Sangha and all of the people around him 20 times to not turn this into a Bre-X; they didn't need to.
That didn't stop them. Here is a link to the canceled conference call where Byron Hampton of Douglas Lake makes some really interesting claims on May 8, 2008 after being told to not over promote the project. I think they would qualify as fraud; it's up to the SEC to determine that.
Twice Byron calls the project 950 km. It's not. To the best of my knowledge, it's 430 square km. That sound's picky but when you see so many false claims in a row, you realize it's probably deliberate.
Byron claims the company is just in the process of closing on the project. False. Sangha had an informal written agreement and closing wasn't going to be until the end of June. The agreement was contingent on a major cash payment and Douglas Lake was technically bankrupt.
Byron claims all quarters of the project had been sampled. False. One of the dumbest things I have seen them do and it's still true is fail to test the borders. I suspect they are going to make some other landowners very rich. Professionals in mining secure their land position first and make grandiose claims later.
Hundreds of samples have been taken from as deep as 12 meters. False. I took every sample and did every pan myself. We sent about 15 off to Canada. All I wanted to know from the panning was some idea of distribution and grade. The gold was everywhere and I didn't see anything I would say was more that 5 grams. 5 grams is giant, there is no reason to puff that up, it's 25 times what my partner is mining in BC.
I flew to London as scheduled the next day. Byron chased me down and I did a short call from my hotel room. Newswire didn't record the call permanently but the link to it was up until mid-June. Again, I was told that only existing Douglas Lake shareholders were listening. I hit the roof when I found it posted on a chat board. Officers and insiders have no business posting on any chat board for any reason. It's fraud for an officer to be posting under a false name.
Someone asked me how big the project was and I said something to the effect that it was less than 100 million ounces and more than 5 million ounces. I stand by that today. It's very big. I also said something to the effect that we had to be careful that we didn't give the impression of it being another Bre-X. That very valuable advice was totally ignored.
I made a quick trip to Peru and went up to New York to the New York gold show. Sangha stayed in Tanzania a week or so after me and called me when he arrived in Vancouver. He wanted me to go to China with him to nail down the Chinese. I was a little shocked because I had always been told the Chinese deal was a done deal but here he was changing his tune one more time.
Sangha wanted me to go with him to China to help him negotiate the deal with the Chinese. But I am only a shareholder of Douglas Lake; it's not my job to do their deals with the Chinese even if I was paying all of Harp's expenses. He did get the samples of the gravel off to the lab and the bulk samples off to Falcon for testing.
Upon Sangha's return, we began making plans for travel to Bamkuru in June. The original story was that the Chinese money would come in about the 10th of June. It didn't come in. It wouldn't come in for another month even if Sangha told me a dozen times it was on the way.
I had one of my placer experts with some time available ready to come about the same time. If we could get a representative of the Chinese together with the best placer guy we could come up with, we could get the project moving forward. I had lined up the four best placer people I could find to act as advisors.
To this day I don't know what the real story is with the Chinese. Every time I talked to Sangha, the story changed. The dollar amount changed, their intentions changed but always they were on the verge of sending the money.
Douglas Lake is a US company, listed on the OTC Bulletin board. SEC regulations call for an 8-K report to be filed within four days with any material change. I would think a $6 million dollar deal would be a material change to a bankrupt company but no 8-K has been filed. Gus Sangha resigned as a director and that also calls for an 8-K to be filed. None was. Doing the deal in the first place called for an 8-K to be filed.
My expert and I traveled to Dar es Salaam on the 10th of June at my expense. Just before I left for Tanzania Byron Hampton sent me the initial lab results of the dozen or so samples I took in May. They varied from 40,800 ppb to nominal.
The initial ramp job on the shares started with my "conference call" in May. It should have never taken place. The stock was $.18 a share and Sangha wanted it higher. So he pumps up the project by using me. At that point, there was only an agreement with the landowner and no deal with the Chinese. To call it premature to be hyping a project would be an understatement of the 1st order. By linking my name to the project, it gave credibility to DLKM for the first time in 30 months and the stock zoomed from $.18 to over $.50 in a few days.
The ramp job really took speed while I was in Dar in early June. On June 11th, the company released a press release claiming that of 6 samples taken, the average grade was 94.77 gpt and one sample was as high as 408.3 gpt. I hit the roof. The entire release was fiction.
Byron Hampton sent me a copy of the original lab results a week before. The lab quoted the results in ppb (parts per billion) and the highest result was 40,800 ppb or 40.8 grams per ton.
The press release overstated the results by a factor of 10-fold. Even Barbara was quick enough to realize that claiming 408 grams gold per ton was probably dead wrong. She took it upon herself to refuse to post what obviously was an incorrect release.
I emailed both Sangha and the IR firm and told them they need to issue a correcting press release at once. But, at that point I didn't understand the scam. Overstating the results by a factor of 10 wasn't a mistake on their part any more than Hampton claiming the project was 950 square kilometers; it was a deliberate effort on their part to ramp up the shares. And it worked, the stock shot up to $1.01 before collapsing to under $.50.
It took a week for Sangha to get the action he wanted from the stock so he delayed the correcting press release for six days after I initially told him about the over promotion. To add insult to injury, Sangha claimed the lab confused parts per billion with parts per million and the mistake was all the labs. But the lab didn't make a mistake, they quoted in ppb and if they had made a mistake, no one would have known it anyway. If anyone confused ppb with ppm, the results would have been off by a factor of 1000, not 10.
And while I told Sangha in the first place to not release these grab sample results because they were meaningless to an investor, he didn't even release all the results, just the best six. There were a dozen results, not six.
By now, I was getting pretty shell-shocked. I was pretty tired of telling them to stop the over promotion only to wake up and find yet another totally misleading release.
On June 12th Sangha paid to have a 3-minute press conference. I don't know how much it cost but companies pay for it. It's little more than an ego ride for the CEO; I can't imagine it having an impact with any serious investor.
In the recording, Sangha claimed that the company had six employees out on the project sampling a 500x500 meter area and using 100 villagers to trench.
I couldn't believe it when I saw it. I was in Tanzania and I saw it on the Saturday after he recorded it on Thursday. There weren't any six geos in the field, there were two. There was no trenching program; a trenching program in placer would be 100% waste of time. Trenching is what you do on a hard rock deposit. And we hadn't hired any of the villagers to do anything, much less 100 of them.
I emailed Sangha and he came back telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about, he had sent out two more geos on Friday. Well, I came back on Saturday and there were only two geos total. They stayed there only because I told them to finish up their sample program. I was buying plastic bags and having our pilot bring them. And two geos plus two geos still doesn't add up to six except under Sangha mathematics.
On June 15th, some bright spark determined they needed a new name so they came up with the "Name That Scam" contest. Based on a dozen random grab samples taken by me and only six reported, they were now claiming a 5.2 million ounce gold reserve at 94 grams average grade. That's nothing short of remarkable and the scammiest claim I've seen anyone make in 7 years of running my web site. Under SEC regulations the word Reserve is very specific. I suspect that a dozen-grab samples probably doesn't qualify.
Byron Hampton continued the string of pump-and-dump promotions with an interview with Minesite on July 3, 2008 where he claimed, "'It's mineralized for sure over a two and a half by 20 kilometer strike', says Byron Hampton." I'm glad that Byron who has never been to the site knows it's mineralized "for sure." That will save a lot of money on exploration. He claimed the project could be producing 100,000 ounces a year within a year.
Hey, that figure came from me and it was based on having adult management that seems to be missing.
A director of Douglas Lake, Dr David Groves, from Australia is now overseeing exploration at Bamkuru. With production of over 500 papers on almost all aspects of mineralogy under his belt, Dr Groves is one of the most highly qualified hard rock geologists in the world. Notice I said hard rock.
Bamkuru is a placer project and hard rock geos look down their noses at placer projects. As a matter of fact, I'll cover any bet that Dr Groves has never written a paper on any placer project. Selecting a hard rock geo, no matter how qualified, for a placer project is like demanding the world's top Boeing 747 pilot try to fly a helicopter. Maybe he could, but he's the wrong guy.
Geologists tend to make the same mistake. They confuse exploration with mining. But exploration is not mining, it's only exploration. The entire purpose of exploration is to make one decision; is this a mine or isn't it? A few days at Bamkuru is enough to convince any real placer person that it's a mine. Placer mining doesn't require $50 million dollar plants or $50 million exploration budgets.
A placer person can pan gold and tell you in five minutes if that area is productive. Remember, my partner in BC is producing gold from something containing only 4% of what we found at Bamkuru. Exploration people specialize in spending money and what Bamkuru needs is someone concentrating on making money.
I took one of the world's top placer experts to Bamkuru in June. After the visit and the samples we took we came up with a plan of operation. It called for spending about $3 million dollars for equipment and infrastructure between now and December. We could be in production in December at a rate of 10,000 ounces a year. We would take the cash flow from that initial program and dam up one of the creeks to provide water for washing the gold during the dry season. And we would order the heavy equipment necessary to process 200 meters of 3-gram material an hour.
200 cubic meters of 3-gram material an hour, 16 hours a day, 330 days a year works out to 100,000 ounces of gold a year. Rafal and I came up with the plan, Sangha and Groves never even looked at it.
Douglas Lake is on the verge of making a $100 million dollar mistake. The limiting factor on the project is water. You can work in the rainy season starting in December but when the rains end in May, there is less and less water. So if the company has equipment in place in December, they can produce through May. But if they dam up one of the now small creeks, they can contain enough water during the rainy season to continue to work through the dry season.
But everything is conditional on having the equipment in place in December and that's not going to happen unless the equipment is ordered today. And Douglas Lake doesn't have a single person who knows enough about placer equipment to order the right equipment. So by the time their hard rock experts find the gold (hint, ask the natives, they all know where it is) the rainy season will have started. It will take 4-6 months to ship the equipment and by the time it arrives, there will be no water for processing.
The seemingly tiny error of not ordering equipment today is going to cost Douglas Lake 18 months of productive time. It will be December of 2009 before they have both water and equipment.
When I first saw the pictures of Bamkuru, I fell in love with it. It is the giant discovery the market has been waiting for. The majors hate placer mining and if you mention the word, they will throw you out of their office but if you got into production at a rate of 100,000 ounces a year and solved all the infrastructure, security and native relation issues, the market would pay attention. Instead, a group of half-wit stock pumpers who don't know a gemstone from galena or a ppb from gpt are over promoting the project to beat the band.
It's going to be a perfect example of how when management is stupid enough, they can screw up the best project. The landowner is furious; Sangha announced completion of the deal on June 30th, right on schedule. But the Chinese know and the landowner know, Sangha didn't close the deal, the money didn't arrive until a week later. It was just one more lie in a long series of lies. Yes, Sangha has paid the landowner, but for the life of me I don't know who, apart from Sangha and the sender of the money, knows how much was sent, or where it came from.
There are two other directors at Douglas Lake. I hope they take some positive action before the SEC steps in. If Sangha stays as president, I suspect we will see a $.08 stock again. If adult management takes over, the stock is a $2 stock and if someone gets smart enough to hire someone who has ever stepped foot on a placer project, the sky is the limit.
There have been about a dozen misleading stories and pump-and-dump press releases. Other directors have stood by and ignored the illegal over promotion.
I wish someone would explain the limits of placer gold projects to DLKM's hard rock experts. There isn't a single placer gold project in a major or mid-tier publically traded mining company in the world.
Mining companies hate placer gold projects, they are almost always scams. You could come up with a 5 million ounce resource and a major still won't touch it. If you can't prove that you can solve the production and security issues, the project is worthless. Concentrating on developing a resource is meaningless without solving the mining issues. None of the people in control of this deposit has any experience with placer. None.
I'm out about $125,000 in money sent directly to Sangha to advance the project and my expenses. I'm also a big shareholder in the company. We have removed Douglas Lake from being an advertiser on 321gold and they will not be back until the pump-and-dump crap stops.
I was part of this project until I objected to Douglas Lake hyping the project by a factor of 10. That's just nuts. I used to want to help with it and now I am sickened by what Sangha has turned the project into. It's long past time he either resigns and the company hires adult management or does a joint venture with someone who can advance it in the way professional mining companies work. This is not the way to run a world class project, as it stands right now it's being run like a giant scam.
Douglas Lake Minerals
Aug 3, 2008