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How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 3: Jurisdiction)

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Mining Jurisdictions

“Location, location, location…”

This famous real estate adage also matters in mining. After all, it’s an industry that is all about the geology—but beyond the physical aspects and the location of a mineral deposit, there are also social and environmental factors that create a mining jurisdiction.

Common Mistakes With Jurisdiction

We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.

Part 3 of the series focuses on six signals investors can use to gauge a company’s preparedness for the jurisdictions they operate in.

jurisdictions

View the two other parts of this series so far, covering mistakes made in choosing the team as well as those made with a company’s business plan.

#1: Geological Potential: Methodical Prospecting or Wild Goose Chase?

It all starts with a great drill result, but even these can be “one-off” anomalies.

Mineral exploration is a methodical process of drawing a subsurface picture with the tip of a drill bit. A mineral discovery is the cumulative effort of years of research and drilling.

The key to reducing this geological risk is to find a setting that has shown previous potential and committing to it. Typically, a region is known to have hosted other great discoveries or shares a geology similar to other mining districts.

Signs of Methodical Prospecting:

  • Lots of geological indicators
  • Potential for further discovery
  • Sound science

#2: Legal Environment: Well-Paved Path or Minotaur’s Maze?

Now that you have identified a region with the prospective geology you think could host a discovery, a company will have to secure the permits to explore and operate any further.

However, a management team that cannot navigate a country’s bureaucracy will face delays and obstacles, costing investors both time and money.

Without clear laws and competent management, a mining company’s best laid plans become lost in a maze with legal monsters around every legal corner.

Signs of a Well-Paved Highway:

  • Existing laws encourage mining investment
  • Relatively low bureaucracy
  • Well-established permitting process
  • Legacy of mining contributing to economy

#3: Politics: Professional Politics or Banana Republics?

A good legal framework is often the outcome of politics and stable governance—however so is a difficult legal framework.

The political stability of a nation can turn on one election and so can the prospects for developing a mine. An anti-mining leader can halt a mining project, or a pro-mining leader can usher forward one.

A positive national viewpoint on mining may be enough to lure investment dollars, but local politics may determine the success of a mining company.

Signs of Professional Politics:

  • Positive history with mining companies
  • Politically stable jurisdiction
  • Rule of law respected
  • Changes in government have little effect on the mining industry

#4: Infrastructure & Labor: Modern or Medieval

Sometimes it is the discovery of valuable minerals that spurs national development, but this can also happen the other way around, in which development can encourage mineral discovery.

A mining company looking to build a new mine in a country with a tradition of mining will have an easier time. Access or lack thereof to modern machinery and trained employees will determine how much money will be needed.

That said, if a company is looking to develop a mining project in a new mining region, they must be ready to help create the skills and infrastructure it needs to mine.

Signs of a Modern Jurisdiction:

  • Developed roads to access and support operations
  • Trained labor for staffing and development
  • Well-established grid lines and back-up power systems

#5: Community: Fostering Friendship or Sowing Enemies

Mining operations have a significant impact on the local community. Good companies look to make mutually beneficial partnerships of equals with local communities.

Ignoring or failing to respect the local community will jeopardize a mining project at every stage of its mine life. A local community that does not want mining to occur will oppose even the best laid plans.

Signs of a Friendly Relations:

  • Operations bring community together
  • Local history shows support for mining
  • Understanding of local concerns and regional variety
  • Company contributes to economic growth and health of the community

#6: Environment: Clean Campsite or One Night Party

There is no way around it: mining impacts the environment and local ecosystems. But, mining operations are a blip on the radar when it comes to Earth’s timeline.

Mine sites can again become productive ecosystems, if a company has the capacity and plan to mitigate mining’s impacts at every stage of the life of a mine—even beyond the life of a mine.

Signs of a Clean Campsite:

  • Development plan mitigates environmental damage
  • Well-planned closure and remediation
  • Understand how communities use their environment

Bringing it together: ESG Investing

These six points outlined above point towards a more complete picture of the impacts of a mining project. Currently, this falls under what is labeled as Environmental, Social and Governance “ESG” standards.

Mining companies are the forefront of a big push to adopt these types of considerations into their business, because they directly affect natural and human environments.

ESG is no longer green wash, especially for the mining industry. Companies that understand and apply these concepts in their business will have better outcomes in the jurisdictions they operate within, hopefully offering investors a more successful venture.

Geology does not change on the human time scale, but bad management can quickly lose a good project and investor’s money if they do not pay attention to the other attributes of a jurisdiction.

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Mining

How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 4: Project Quality)

Mining is a technical field that manages complex factors from geology to engineering. These details can make or break a project.

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Quality Mining Projects

Mining is a technical field and requires a comprehension of many complex factors.

This includes everything from the characteristics of an orebody to the actual extraction method envisioned and used—and the devil is often found in these technical details.

Part 4: Evaluating Technical Risks and Project Quality

We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.

Here is a basic introduction to some technical and project quality characteristics to consider when looking at your next mining investment.

Mining Project Quality

View the three other parts of this series so far:

Part 4: Technical Risks and Project Quality

So what must investors evaluate when it comes to technical risks and project quality?

Let’s take a look at four different factors.

1. Grade: Reliable Hen Vs. Golden Goose

Once mining starts, studies have to be adapted to reality. A mine needs to have the flexibility and robustness to adjust pre-mine plans to the reality of execution.

A “Golden Goose” will just blunder ahead and result in failure after failure due to lack of flexibility and hoping it will one day produce a golden egg.

Many mining projects can come into operation quickly based on complex and detailed studies of a mineral deposit. However, it requires actual mining to prove these studies.

Some mining projects fail to achieve nameplate tonnes and grade once production begins. However, a team response to varying grades and conditions can still make a mine into a profitable mine or a “Reliable Hen.”

2. Money: Piggy Bank vs. Money Pit

The degree of insight into a mineral deposit and the appropriate density of data to support the understanding is what leads to a piggy bank or money pit.

Making a project decision on poor understanding of the geology and limited information leads to the money pit of just making things work.

Just like compound interest, success across many technical aspects increases revenue exponentially, but it can easily go the other way if not enough data is used to make a decision to put a project into production.

3. Environment: Responsible vs. Reckless

Not all projects are situated in an ideal landscape for mining. There are environmental and social factors to consider. A mining company that takes into account these facts has a higher chance of going into production.

Mineral deposits do not occur in convenient locations and require the disruption of the natural environment. Understanding how a mining project will impact its surroundings goes a long way to see whether the project is viable.

4. Team: Orchestra vs. One-Man Band

Mining is a complex and technical industry that relies on many skilled professionals with clear leadership, not just one person doing all the work.

Geologists, accountants, laborers, engineers, and investor relations officers are just some of the roles that a CEO or management team needs to deliver a profitable mine. A good leader will be the conductor of the varying technical teams allowing each to play their best at the right time.

Mining 101: Mining Valuation and Methods

In order to further consider a mining project’s quality, it is important to understand how the company is valued and how it plans to mine a mineral resource.

Valuation

There are two ways to look at the value of a mining project:

  1. The Discounted Cash Flow method estimates the present value of the cash that will come from a mining project over its life.
  2. In-situ Resource Value is a metric that values all the metal in the ground to give an estimate of the dollar value of those resources.

Mining Method

The location of the ore deposit and the quantity of its grade will determine what mining method a company will choose to extract the valuable ore.

  1. Open-pit mining removes valuable ore that is relatively near the surface of the Earth’s crust using power trucks and shovels to move large volumes of rock. Typically, it is a lower cost mining method, meaning lower grades of ore are economic to mine.
  2. Underground mining occurs when the ore body is too deep to mine profitably by open-pit. In other words, the quality of the orebody is high enough to cover the costs of complex engineering underneath the Earth’s crust.

When Technicals and Quality Align

This is a brief overview of where to begin a technical look at a mining project, but typically helps to form some questions for the average investor to consider.

Everything from the characteristics of an orebody to the actual extraction method will determine whether a project can deliver a healthy return to the investor.

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Gold

Comparing Recent U.S. Presidents: New Debt Added vs. Precious Metals Production

While gold and silver coin production during U.S. presidencies has declined, public debt continues to climb to historically high levels.

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Gold and Silver Coin Production During U.S. Presidencies

Recent U.S. Presidents: Debt vs. Coins Added

While precious metals can’t be produced out of thin air, U.S. debt can be financed through central bank money creation. In fact, U.S. debt has skyrocketed in recent years under both Democrat and Republican administrations.

This infographic from Texas Precious Metals compares the increase in public debt to the value of gold and silver coin production during U.S. presidencies.

Total Production by Presidential Term

We used U.S. public debt in our calculations, a measure of debt owed to third parties such as foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, while excluding intragovernmental holdings. To derive the value of U.S. minted gold and silver coins, we multiplied new ounces produced by the average closing price of gold or silver in each respective year.

Here’s how debt growth stacks up against gold and silver coin production during recent U.S. presidencies:

 Obama's 1st term (2009-2012)Obama's Second Term (2013-2016)Trump's term (2017-Oct 26 2020)
U.S. Silver Coins Minted$3.7B$3.3B$1.4B
U.S. Gold Coins Minted$6.7B$5.1B$2.9B
U.S. Public Debt Added$5.2T$2.9T$6.6T

Over each consecutive term, gold and silver coin production decreased. In Trump’s term so far, the value of public debt added to the system is almost 1,600 times higher than minted gold and silver coins combined.

During Obama’s first term and Trump’s term, debt saw a marked increase as the administrations provided fiscal stimulus in response to the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin to recover from COVID-19, what might debt growth look like going forward?

U.S. Public Debt Projections

As of September 30, 2020, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, debt had reached $21 trillion. According to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, it’s projected to rise steadily in the future.

 2021P2022P2023P2024P2025P2026P2027P2028P2029P2030P
U.S. Public Debt21.9T23.3T24.5T25.7T26.8T27.9T29.0T30.4T31.8T33.5T
Debt-to-GDP ratio104.4%105.6%106.7%107.1%107.2%106.7%106.3%106.8%107.4%108.9%

By 2030, debt will have risen by over $12 trillion from 2020 levels and the debt-to-GDP ratio will be almost 109%.

It’s worth noting that debt will likely grow substantially regardless of who is elected in the 2020 U.S. election. Central estimates by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget show debt rising by $5 trillion under Trump and $5.6 trillion under Biden through 2030. These estimates exclude any COVID-19 relief policies.

What Could This Mean for Investors?

As the U.S. Federal Reserve creates more money to finance rising government debt, inflation could eventually be pushed higher. This could affect the value of the U.S. dollar.

On the flip side, gold and silver have a limited supply and coin production has decreased over the last three presidential terms. Both can act as an inflation hedge, while playing a role in wealth preservation.

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