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Altan Nevada Minerals restructures to capitalize on renewed copper investment

Having been on "care and maintenance" since 2015, TSX-Venture listed junior Altan Nevada Minerals Ltd. has relaunched itself with a restructure and debt-for-equity swap underway and a new focus on its long-dormant Venus copper property in Nevada.

Fresh from a C$1.13 million private placement announced March 8, the company is also completing a debt-for-shares conversion so the funds raised can be put into exploration rather than paying off debt.

At the end of that process the junior will be worth around C$3 million, with just over C$1 million in the bank, Corporate Director Paul Stephen said at the sidelines of the Battery Minerals Conference in Perth, Western Australia on March 12.

With that funding in place, the company will start drilling over the next six months at Venus — which has not been touched despite being in the company's portfolio for eight years.

Surface geochemistry work by Altan Nevada conducted in 2018 revealed copper, gold and silver anomalies suggesting that geological targets exist similar to the known mineralization at Nevada Copper Corp.'s nearby Pumpkin Hollow.

About 2,500 meters of drilling was then proposed for targets ranging in depth from 100 meters to 250 meters below surface, following a 3D induced polarization survey which mapped down to 500 meters in the fourth quarter.

New focus

Stephen, who along with Technical Director Barry Bourne and Chairman and interim CEO John Jones is part of a team that the company built over the past year, told S&P Global Market Intelligence that Altan Nevada was essentially being "relaunched" at the conference having shifted its focus from gold to copper.

He said this relaunch stemmed in large part from the interest that has garnered over Nevada Copper's Pumpkin Hollow project — the first copper development in the U.S. for the last decade — which will be in production by the end of this year, adding that Altan Nevada's executives recently heard Albanese push for more exploration in Nevada.

Pumpkin Hollow started development about four years ago but ran low on funds by the end of 2017. However, the project found renewed momentum thanks to a US$378 million construction financing and recapitalization package, and a C$108.5 million fundraising completed in July 2018.

Along the way, Nevada Copper also picked up former Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese and ex-Barrick Gold Corp. and Rio Tinto executive Matthew Gili as a director and CEO, respectively.

"What gets us excited is that although [Venus] is a relatively small tenement, it's certainly in the right location, and if our theories about where the anomalies go, this could well be big enough to be a standalone discovery — it's certainly in a big porphyry area," Stephen said.

"Equally, if we find something that's shallow and high grade we've got a mine right next door in Pumpkin Hollow, which gives us the optionality of being able to doing a deal with [Nevada Copper]."

While Altan Nevada also has its Black Top, Yellow Cone and Marble Station projects which present "substantial opportunity," Stephen said the new board has not yet reviewed these, and is focusing on exploring Venus for now.

Renewables demand

Arguing the investment case for copper, he said a single wind farm can contain up to 15 million pounds of copper.

There are also few new copper production projects in the pipeline after years of low prices and under-investment in exploration, to the point where 2017 saw the first decline in copper output in 15 years.

Stephen also noted that copper grades have declined 30% globally since 2000, with a large percentage of current supply coming from high-risk jurisdictions like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia, and Chile, the world's largest producer, which are prone to regular strikes.

Nevada, meanwhile, has a jurisdictional advantage where the Anaconda mine operated for 25 years and produced about 360 million tonnes of material. In 2017, 66,224 tonnes of copper was produced in Nevada.