Treasures of the Sierra Madre
Palladon, Mag Silver, Sydney, Excellon
Sep 8, 2004
I recently made a trip to Mexico to visit the Santa Cruz property
of Endeavour Silver. I also
made plans to visit a copper property in Utah on behalf of Palladon
Ventures. When I was setting up the trip with CEO George
Young of Palladon, he suggested I extend my trip to Mexico and
see more of the properties in his stable. I did... and other
than a bad case of the Quang Tri Quickstep, the trip was nothing
short of remarkable.
Most gold/silver sites, including ours, tend to expand on the
potential for the precious metals. In a way we do a disservice
to our readers and for that I apologize. My main fixation is
the precarious state of the US and World financial system and
that results in my fixation on silver and gold as solutions to
our monetary problems. But there is a world of commodities out there
which offer just as much, if not more, financial reward than
do gold and silver. If you disagree, just look at a charts of
moly or uranium for the last year or so.
We are in a bull market for real goods. We are in the midst of
a transition from financial instruments of mass destruction,
as Warren Buffett likes to call derivatives, and going into a
massive bull market for real goods of all kinds. And for those
who want to believe a cartel of some kind controls the price
of silver and gold, I hold that Chinese demand for commodities
of all sorts has far more effect on gold and silver than any
This bull market began in 2001 after gold hit a low in 1999.
For the metals stocks a strong correction began last December.
I think we had a bottom in May but we may well test the lows
again. All bull markets go through corrections and this is no
different. It has lasted nine months. It may last another nine
months and it won't make any difference in the end. If you are
swift on your feet, you can trade in and out as Harry Schultz
suggests or simply buy and hold as Richard Russell says.
Across the board you can see many many stocks selling at what
appear to be absurdly low prices. The primary reason they appear
to be selling at absurdly low prices is that they are selling
at absurdly low prices. If you are a contrarian - and that's
the only tried and proven way to make money that I am aware of
- low prices are an opportunity, not a problem. When I write
about a stock or a group of stocks, I am not trying to suggest
these are the best or the only stocks you should consider. We
are in a gold/silver bull market and hundreds of stocks are selling
at giveaway prices. That's a good time to buy, when no one wants
them. When everyone wants them, sell.
Before I expound on Mag Silver - the first of George Young's
companies in North America - I need to give you a little information
on silver in general and Mexico in particular.
Mexico produces more silver than any country in the world. Mexico's
largest producer is Penoles with production of 48.4 million ounces
last year. And Penoles' largest mine is the Fresnillo mine in
the state of Zacatecas with production of about 31 million ounces
yearly. So the Fresnillo mine produces about 2/3s of all the
silver produced by the largest silver producer in Mexico. Silver
at Fresnillo was discovered in 1566 in a surface outcrop.
From 1566 until 1976, the production
of silver continued at the mine based primarily on drifting on
the surface outcroppings. Eventually these ore veins, averaging
700 grams of silver to the ton as well as high grade zinc and
lead, began to run out. Plans were made after 410 years of production
to close the mine in 1976 after total silver production of 500
The veins at Fresnillo are pretty unusual.
While there was minor outcropping, that's how the Indians found
silver in the first place, most of the veins lie deep. As much
as 500 meters below the surface. In the over 400 years of production,
little exploration had been done. So Penoles tried drilling to
see if there were any silver veins in the neighborhood they had
overlooked. And indeed they had. They drilled deep and found
half a dozen more veins. In the first 410 years they produced
500 million ounces and since 1976 have produced another 500 million
A commonly held truism in the mining business is that the best
place to explore is within the shadow of the headframe of an
old mine. With that in mind, Peter Megaw brought the Juanicipio
property to the Sunshine Mining Company years back.
When the Sunshine went belly up two years ago
as a result of $4 silver, Peter snapped up the property and vended
it into Mag Silver.
In April of 2003 Mag Silver went public at $.50. (Mag Silver
Corporation MAG-V $.91 Canadian 25.5 million shares 29 million
fully diluted Market cap of about $27 million Canadian MSLRF-OTCBB
Mag Silver has acquired six major silver properties including
the Juanicipio/Lagartos properties surrounding the Fresnillo
I saw but two out of the six Mag Silver
properties. Mag Silver is hunting elephants and when hunting
elephants, looking in elephant county is always a good idea.
Drilling during 2003 and earlier this year on the Juanicipio
property just 5 km from the Fresnillo Mine proves Peter's thesis.
The property lies right on the NW trending structure. As Peter
explained patiently to me, Mexico has been compacted like an
accordion and then expanded just like an accordion expanding.
I took a picture out of the aircraft when I was
flying from Mexico to Dallas and it shows the nature of the silver
If all that Mag Silver wanted to accomplish is hunting elephants,
they have already demonstrated that not only are they hunting
elephants, they have nailed an elephant. Penoles is currently
using two drill rigs to drill right up to Mag's Juanicipio property
where Mag has found Fresnillo grade silver/lead/zinc mineralization
with with a high grade gold kicker (10 grams to the ton).
But what I saw that interested me wasn't the Juanicipio property.
It is identical to Fresnillo with a gold kicker and no doubt
Penoles will be tapping on the door of Mag soon wanting to talk
JV. But Peter Megaw isn't just hunting elephants in the very
heart of elephant country, he's using nuclear weapons to hunt
them. While I was at the property, they were in the midst of
moving the drill rig 25 km to the NW of Fresnillo.
Mag Silver did a magnetic IP study on the entire district and
the results showed it's possible the district extends not just
5 km from Fresnillo to the Juanicipio property to possibly 25
km to the NW where the ground is identical to that of Fresnillo.
By now the 800 meter hole has been completed at Lagartos which
targeted two distinct IP anomalies. If the assay results show
Fresnillo grade structures, Peter Megaw and Mag Silver may well
have bagged their elephant. Expect results to be released in
If it was all that simple to discover millions of ounces of silver
or gold, it's pretty logical to wonder just why it hasn't been
done before in the same area. And the answer is fairly simple.
All in costs to drill in the area run about $200 US per meter.
So an 800 meter hole which will only test two structures about
500 meters below the surface costs about $160,000. Those sort
of holes blow big holes in budgets rather quickly.
All investing in penny juniors is crap shooting and don't let
anyone kid you elsewise.
[Barb swears I just made up this word]. What you are looking for is good management who
have come up with some good projects with 10-bagger or higher
potential. Earlier this year Mag was selling in the $2.50 range.
Three weeks ago it was selling barely above the IPO price. That
doesn't make a lot of sense. They have made a lot of progress,
are on the verge of potential stardom and have six good properties
in their stable. At $2.50 I wouldn't be waving my arms and legs
but at below $1 making money on Mag is about as difficult as
falling off a bike.
Peter Megaw is one
of the genuinely nice people in the industry. While he is a PhD,
he does speak English and does a great job of communicating complex
geological theory to boneheads such as me. And he speaks fluent
Spanish and Swedish and can get by in French. Figure that one
out. And the four days we spent together driving across Mexico
were a delight (with the exception of this click
Our next stop after the Fresnillo district was to see the gold
property of Sydney Resources at Inde in the state of Durango.
(Sydney Resource Corporation
SYR-V $.41 Canadian 16.5 million shares outstanding 22.5 million
total including options and warrants at higher prices $6.7 million
market cap SYROF-OTCBB - website).
Sydney has entirely different management from
Mag Silver, the common denominator is Peter Megaw as geological
consultant. Sydney optioned the Inde property earlier this year
and stands to earn up to a 70% interest over time. Full details
can be found on their website.
Inde shows production of gold going back as far at 1532 and has
produced between 1-2 million ounces of gold. Miners sought high
grade structures consisting of oxide ore in both vein and carbonate
hosted mineralization. While sulfides are known, no mining has
been done below the water table.
Sydney has been working on a surface mapping and trenching program
to define potential drill targets. Trenching results already
received indicates the potential for a low grade surface bulk
operation previously not envisioned.
Inde wasn't the sort of project that grabs you by the throat
and screams "Buy me, Buy me" at you but if you subtract
the cash on hand from the market cap, you come up with a net
market cap of about $4.7 million. Having an office and a two
line phone in Vancouver makes any company worth $5-$6 million
so it's not much of a stretch to see the company is pretty cheap.
Good results on the search for low grade, bulk tonnage would
hit the stock like a shot of Cuban coffee so it's worth keeping
Sydney on the radar screen. Unlike the other projects I saw on
the trip, I didn't demand Peter stop the truck so I could call
my broker and buy some shares but at any lower price, I personally
would be a buyer.
The next project we visited was enough to stop the truck
and make a phone call to my broker. From the minute Peter started
talking about it, it sat up like a tiny puppy in a pet shop window
on its back legs and barked, "Buy me, Buy me." So I
The Platosa Project is a very high grade silver property(11900
grams to the ton over 5.6 meters for one intercept) in the State
of Durango. Excellon Resources - (EXN-V $.18 Canadian,
shares outstanding, 147 million shares fully diluted, market
cap $19.8 million Canadian (corrected) - website)
- is in the process of driving a ramp with the intent of going
into a large scale bulk test mining with December as a production
According to Excellon, "Platosa
strongly resembles several of the world-class Carbonate Replacement
Deposits (CRDs) of Mexico such as the Santa Eulalia, Naica and
Ojuela deposits, all of which have produced millions of tons
of high-grade mineralization. Like Platosa, these deposits had
minor surface expressions that were followed to the bulk of the
It's a complicated project. Part of it is a JV with Apex silver
with Excellon holding a 51% interest and Apex holding the remaining
49% and part of it (the most interesting part) being 100% owned
Excellon is going into production. Over the next 14 months they
expect to produce about $15 million US in free cash flow after
expenses. It will cost them $10 million US to open a ramp and
do the mining. But they have the cash in hand. The website has
barely been updated in two years and it's largely responsible
for the dismal state of the stock. I have talked to Peter Megaw
at some length about it. And I have seen a Power Point Presentation
which is brilliant, but it isn't available through their website.
Basically, Excellon and Apex have gone to an area of old production
in NE Durango State. Peter and his people have found a Carbonate
Replacement system which seems pretty large. Certainly it is
high grade. On what they refer to as the Core property, a property
not part of the Apex JV, they have drilled an indicated 65,000
tons of high grade silver/lead/zinc. It averages 75 ounces of
silver to the ton, 12% zinc and 15% lead.
Generally it is considered heresy in the mining industry for
junior mining companies to be considered exploration companies
yet to go into production. It's perfectly OK for 99 out of 100
to waste every dime of their shareholders' money drilling holes
until states like Nevada look like Swiss cheese but the very
suggestion of going into production brings out the garlic and
Basically Excellon is going to produce between $20 and $30 million
dollars in the next 14 months. Depending on the prices received,
they should net between $10 and $20 million dollars. I consider
that a smart move. $15 million in cash buys a lot of professional
Their $10 million dollar website fails to mention anything about
going into production on what is a tiny scale. I call it a $10
million dollar website because they have a brilliant story and
the website utterly fails to tell the story. So the website,
the $10 million dollar website, is costing shareholders $10 million
in market cap. If they earn $10 million, which is on the low
side for the metals, ($.25 Lead, $.35 zinc and $4.80 silver)
in the next year or so, the stock ought to be much higher than
a $9 million dollar market cap.
Peter Megaw believes the known 65,000 ton resource is merely
the end cap of a far bigger system. Post mineralization faulting
has broken the deposit into 6 distinct zones but by working backwards
in exploration, Peter believes he can chase down a lower grade
but far bigger bulk target.
Since Excellon plans on using contract labor as much as possible
and direct shipping the ore to a refinery nearby, their costs
will be relatively high on a per ton basis but with $650 per
ton ore, a few bucks higher cost is relatively meaningless. Excellon
is adding only three people to their staff to run the operation
and that doesn't take a brain surgeon or rocket scientist to
I like the concept and the stock. We were buyers at $.20 a share.
Making money on Excellon is going to be about as difficult as
falling off a bike. Be careful should you decide to buy. The
liquidity just isn't there. It would be there if they ever got
around to telling their story but right now it's not. If you
put in a market order to buy shares, you will get scalped. Naturally
you are responsible for your own due diligence.
A week in Mexico was all that my system could handle, I flew
out of Torreon after my visit to Platosa to my next stop in Salt
Lake City to meet with George Young, CEO of Palladon.
Palladon Ventures - (PLL-V $.41 Canadian 20.6 million
shares, $8 Million dollar market cap, $4 million in cash on hand,
PLLVF-OTCBB - website)
- has put together a commanding land position by consolidating
a number of claims in the Milford area 200 miles SW of Salt Lake
City. The area is probably the last and best chance for a major
copper property in the United States.
George picked me up at the airport
and we went over to Bingham Canyon to see what he would like
to find for Palladon. Bingham Canyon is the first and largest
open pit copper mine in the world. Since opening in 1906 they
have mined over 6 billion tons of rock. Bingham Canyon has produced
enough copper to wire every house and factory in Mexico, the
United States and Canada. But they are soon to run out of ore.
Palladon Ventures is a work in progress. Right
now George and his crack management team are trying to define
their business model. There were a dozen or more mines operating
in the Milford district in the past and there is already milled
ore waiting to be processed. They have an option to earn into
65% of the 70,000 acre district. They are considering going into
production ala Excellon albeit on a far smaller scale.
What they have accomplished is to consolidate the district. All
by itself, that is a major victory. The project will look far
more attractive to a tentative JV partner the larger it is.
I've owned the stock for months, bought at a
higher price on the recommendation of a good friend. With a net
market cap of $4 million, it wouldn't take much in the way of
news to bump up the stock. Probably the ideal situation would
be to get into a JV with one of the copper majors but management
is looking quite seriously into bootstrapping themselves into
cash flow by processing the already-stockpiled ore.
In addition to the Western Utah Copper Project, Palladon has
a slew of mostly gold properties in Patagonia, Argentina. With
management as experienced as George Young, I look forward to
more and better news.
Our opinions are our own, we are not paid in any way to write
about companies. Most of them are companies we have invested
in so read anything we write with an eye to our potential bias.
And please take some responsibility for doing your own due diligence.
By the time you read this (Tuesday
7th) I will be winging my way to Las Vegas to the gold show,
I'll be back on Friday, so please don't send me email until Friday.
September 7, 2004