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Aurasian Minerals happy to play the long game

Formed from the bones of the Papua New Guinea gold explorer Triple Plate Junction, Aurasian Minerals’ edge now is exclusive access to Newmont Mining’s play book for South East Asia.
Aurasian Minerals happy to play the long game

Formed from the bones of the Papua New Guinea gold explorer Triple Plate Junction, Aurasian Minerals’ (LON:AUM) edge now is exclusive access to Newmont Mining’s play book for South East Asia.

A major plus is that the author of much of that work and one of Newmont’s former senior geologists, Bruce Kay, has joined Aurasian in a similar role to find “one more giant ore body”.

Tony Shearer, chairman, is optimistic but cautions it will be a slow and steady development process.

The company is navigating some tricky political waters, he says, and must move cautiously.

The main focus is three countries, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, which are still very new to the modern mining environment.

Myanmar will be the main target but the former Burma has barely emerged from being a closed country. Laos, meanwhile, has a moratorium on exploration.

How it steers around these and other issues pose the greatest challenges for the company, Shearer believes.

“It is real pioneer work. The targets are straightforward but getting title to them with the right benefit for us is the challenge,” he says.

“The question is can we get into these countries in a way that we have security over tenements and in a way that we know what lies ahead in the way of tax and royalties?”

There has been some exploration already but Aurasian is coy about revealing details until it has some of these ownership issues resolved.

“What we’ve done so far has been reasonably quick, but we haven’t come out publicly with the result of our exploration because that would just tell everyone what our targets are.”

It means investors must put a lot of faith in the reputation and experience of Aurasian’s new management, although the collective CV does much to reassure.

Bruce Kay was the former head of global exploration for Normandy before Newmont bought it.

Jon Loraine was Normandy’s international MD while chief geologist Paddy Waters was senior geologist at BP Minerals after spells at Normandy and Anglo American.

Shearer himself hails from finance house Singer & Friedlander, while Chris Goss, one of Aurasian’s non-executive directors, has a long history in the area through work for World Bank’s investment arm, the IFC.

It’s a powerful looking forward line, but even so Shearer admits Aurasian is a high-risk counter.

A patient, methodical strategy to ensure all of the 'I's are dotted and 'T's crossed also means Aurasian is not going to be a high news flow story – at least not in the early days.

Investors will need to be patient, he says.

Cash holdings currently are about £1mln, with potentially another US$0.75mln to come once an exit from Wamum in PNG is settled. Against that are US$450,000 of exploration commitments this year.

Bolstering the balance sheet though is the presence of Newmont. The US gold mining titan has around a 25% stake and is very supportive, according to Shearer.

Newmont was not looking to spend much itself on greenfield exploration, he says, so it made sense to give its data to Aurasian and introduce the company to Kay to see what they could get out of the database.

Shearer is confident a substantial amount can be gleaned, but it will take time and patience.

For those prepared for that, the rewards could be significant especially as at the current 0.4p share price, the market value is a paltry £1.5mln.

Bruce Kay, because of his reputation and experience, has all of the important contacts and also knows what work has been carried out by companies other than Newmont, says Shearer.

“So not only do we have the database, we have assembled what we think is all the relevant data that has existed.”

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