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"I'd rather have a strong gold price in two years when I'm out raising money"

Midas Gold CEO Stephen Quin will be out trying to raise a lot of money for the planned US$1 billion Stibnite gold-antimony project in central Idaho in two years, all going to plan with the company’s permitting, so he’s naturally more concerned with what the metal’s price trajectory will look like then. Except that the gold price and related market sentiment is undoubtedly one of the factors affecting Midas’ share price now.
"I'd rather have a strong gold price in two years when I'm out raising money" "I'd rather have a strong gold price in two years when I'm out raising money" "I'd rather have a strong gold price in two years when I'm out raising money" "I'd rather have a strong gold price in two years when I'm out raising money" "I'd rather have a strong gold price in two years when I'm out raising money"

The old Yellow Pine pit at Stibnite in Idaho

Like all single-project companies in a pre-development window, Midas is not getting much love from the market.

Its major market re-rating most certainly comes with the long-awaited permitting of Stibnite.

The process started in September 2016 and is, according to Quin, roughly at the halfway mark - based on the most recent scheduling of the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for public review by February next year. This would mean, potentially, a final EIS by October next year and a final record of decision from federal agencies in March 2020.

But the company sitting on one of North America's next significant gold mines has a current market value below C$200 million (US$155 million) at a time when so-called contrarian investors are out in force looking for assets and opportunities.

Sage gold investor and company builder Rob McEwen was among the contrarians at the Beaver Creek Precious Metals Summit talking up the appeal of portfolio-building now, when the gold sector (in North America at least) was at sixes and sevens, and the availability and price of assets was positive. McEwen is not alone.

Several company CEOs have already commented at the event in Colorado on the increased number of parties (and intermediaries) trying to advance M&A and joint venture deals.

One described Idaho as "the new Nevada".

As well as a hive of juniors who've come in mainly to revive old mines and try to find new ones, Idaho has seen significant recent investments by the likes of Agnico Eagle and Barrick Gold, which spent US$38 million on Midas Gold shares in May. Midas shares hit a 12-month high that month but have traded back down to around US65c/C85c.

The gold price has largely gone backwards in that time.

"I would characterise it as sort of in no-man's land," Quin said of the yellow metal's price.

"Are we in a weak gold price environment or a strong gold price environment? The gold market isn't deciding which way it's going.

"Obviously a stronger gold price would be better. But it is what it is.

"In a couple of years [when we] will be funding the project to construction [and] we've got an equity component to that then the gold price becomes a major factor."

Midas aims to establish a plus-300,000ozpa mine with a 12-year mine life that could easily extend to 15 with conversion of current resources to reserves. The US currently has only five gold mines producing 300,000oz or more a year.

Quin said plus-300,000ozpa producers occupied a unique sector niche, and valuation, assuming they made it through permitting to production and weren't acquired on the way.

On the subject of M&A, Quin said Midas had looked at a lot of opportunities, including some in Idaho, and maintained none stacked up against the near-mine and other targets on the Stibnite property as growth prospects for a company with a big, long-life mine, with associated infrastructure, and with the community and environment programs Midas has already spent years and millions of dollars developing.

The Stibnite growth pipeline includes targets with much recent and historic drilling already on them, and high-grade, underground targets of scale.

Development is wrapped up in the same permitting process Midas is pursuing to restart the three main pits at Stibnite, and a new state-of-the-art plant and other infrastructure.

Quin said Barrick Gold was a "helpful equity investor" in the company.

"They have been helpful in offering access to their expertise, whether it's metallurgy or … resources," he said.

As part of the company's extensive community relations program, Quin had to reassure local community groups in Idaho that Midas remained an independent entity.

"Barrick is an equity investor and assuming conversion of the convertible notes, and they are well in the money now and therefore likely to get converted, then they would be about 11.5-12% of the equity in the company.

"So it's not that they own Midas Gold," he said.