Robust earning reports, optimistic economic data on the jobs front and promising M&A deals were not enough to fuel a sustainable rally on the U.S. markets this past week. Even gold issues, often thought of as a hedge against weak markets, failed to gain any substantial ground despite the fact that the price of bullion ended near a 1-month high. For the most part, investors seem to be sitting on the sidelines with a few brave souls buying a smidgen of small cap exploration issues. This helped the TSX Ventures Exchange, home to the most junior exploration issues, rebound ever so slightly from the previous week’s 6% drop.
Corriente Resources investors ran for the exits shortly after the company published a positive feasibility study on its Mirador copper project in Ecuador. The company is looking at a 25,000 tonne per day open-pit operation, based on an indicated resource of 111 million tonnes grading 0.67% copper and 0.22 g/t gold. The operation would run 12 years. Not bad, so why the sell-off? Well, on Wednesday, Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez was ousted by Congress, after a week of increasingly violent protests. The reason: Gutierrez was accused of abusing his power by meddling with the country’s top court. Gutierrez, the third president of the Andean nation to be toppled amid popular unrest in eight years, was replaced by his vice-president, Alfredo Palacio, after clashes between opposing protesters in which two people were reported killed. Corriente ended the week at C$1.70, down C$0.38.
Another Ecuadorian explorer that did manage to gain ground on good exploration news was Iamgold. The company reported that an additional 13 diamond drill holes on its Quimsacocha project returned the goods with hole 168 yielded an impressive 28 meters grading 61.9 g/t gold, 69.5 g/t silver and 1.8% copper. Political turmoil overshadowed the results only briefly as Iamgold surged C$0.96 on the week to close at C$7.66
Despite a stellar gain in price over the past year, tungsten explorers have been largely ignored by investors. Some of them finally took notice last week, as North American Tungsten nearly doubled in value. The junior owns 15% of the World’s known high-grade tungsten reserves/resources through its 100% ownership of the CanTung mine and the MacTung deposits in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The junior added C$0.45 on the week to close at C$0.97 on strong volume.
It was a case of more of the same for Eaglecrest Explorations at its San Simon property in Bolivia. The latest drill results show some high-grade hits and some low-grade. Targeting the Dona Amelia zone hole 114 returned 15.3 g/t Au over 0.8 meters, while hole 115 cut 0.8 meters grading 0.5 g/t. Despite the continued erratic nature of the system, the Vancouver-based junior continued to move higher adding another C$0.02 to close at C$0.21.
Greystar Resources also continued to drill more of the same material. In this case, the consistency remains firm with 11 new holes indicating the potential to upgrade the March 2005 resource study of 3.45 million ounces of gold and 14.5 million ounces of silver within an Indicated resource of 87.26 million tonnes grading 1.23 g/t gold and 5.2 g/t silver, plus another 4.52 million ounces of gold and 16.9 million ounces of silver within an Inferred resource of 111.51 million tonnes grading 1.26 g/t gold and 4.7 g/t silver. Investors still seem to be hesitant because of Colombia’s political risk and lower grade gold factors. Greystar ended the week at C$4, up a dime.
In the Rodney Dangerfield camp of “I get no respect,” is soon to be Mali gold miner and Eritrean gold-rich massive sulphide finder Nevsun Resources. The Vancouver-based junior tallied more impressive drill results from its Bisha concession NW Zone volcanogenic massive sulphide deposit. The NW Zone is located 1.5 kilometers to the northwest of the Bisha Main deposit. Drill results included a 22.1-meter section running 1.42% copper and 4.67% zinc. If that was not enough, the company followed up with news that its Tabakoto Mine construction program in Mali is targeted for a production start during third quarter 2005. It is anticipated that following commissioning the production rate will be stepped up at Tabakoto to full capacity of 105,000 ounces of gold per year within 3 months of start-up. Good news, but investors only yawned as Nevsun ended the week at C$2.54, up C$0.23.
Moving over to the large gold miners, Placer Dome ended the week up C$0.25 to close at C$18.30, while Barrick Gold lost C$0.15 to close at C$27.85. The smaller gold producers fared somewhat better with Meridian Gold adding C$0.77 to close at C$19.58 and Kinross gaining C$0.12 to finish the week at C$6.72.
Moving forward the bulls will need to think about future earnings as the current reporting season winds down, as well as the prospects for inflation. Growth in the U.S. coupled with China’s better-than-expected 9.5% growth in GDP, continues to help drive broad increases in metals prices, even if the stock prices don’t reflect it.