Despite the fact that the price of gold fell off its recent highs and that Venezuela gave some not so subtle hints that it may nationalize its mining sector, Canada’s junior mining stocks held up reasonably well. The TSX Venture Exchange, home to the most speculative explorers, ended the week up 0.65 percent.
Investors in Venezuelan exploration companies were running for the exists after President Hugo Chavez said the country will do away with some foreign mining concessions and no longer extend new ones. It has been roughly a quarter of a century since I heard of a country nationalizing its mining sector but press feed out of Venezuela suggests that this draconian strategy may once again be rearing its ugly head.
Chavez was reported as stating that a new state-owned company would build a mine in Las Cristinas. This of course hit Crystallex International, which is awaiting permits to mine the long-troubled Las Cristinas deposit, hard. For its part Crystallex tried to sooth concerns by reporting that there has been no change in the status of the Las Cristinas project or Crystallex’s mine operating contract in Venezuela. Investors are not willing to wait and find out which side is right as shares in the junior dropped C$0.85 to close the week at C$1.70 on heavy volume.
Heaviest hit however were shareholders of Gold Reserve, which holds the Brias deposit adjoining Las Cristinas. The company ended the week down C$1.35 to C$2.69 well off its C$6.74 52-week high, while Bolivar Gold dropped a modest C$0.23 to C$2.64.
The small uranium companies continued to attracted buyers and leading the pact was Laramide Resources. The junior holds the advanced Westmoreland copper-gold-uranium project in Queensland, Australia where politicians are easing their stance against further uranium development and the company recently acquired Homestake’s uranium portfolio in the western United States. Laramide ended the week up C$0.85 to C$4.90.
Junior Crosshair Exploration and Mining moved ever so close to a new 52-week high on good volume. The company has been running an airborne radiometric and magnetic survey over its Moran Lake uranium property in Labrador and has a joint venture with Rubicon Minerals in Newfoundland as well as the Beigou gold project in China. Crosshair ended the week up C$0.10 to C$0.82.
Another star uranium performer was Western Prospector Group. The John Brock-led junior reported more good drill results for its Saddle Hills Uranium project in Mongolia. Hole 5006 of the Gurvanbulag Main Zone drilling hitting 2.12% U3O8 over 7.1 metres. Shares in the junior added C$0.45 to close at C$5.45.
Moving to base metals, Norsemont Mining rode high on drill results from the first seven holes at its Constancia project in Peru. Although the results basically just confirm the previous drilling by Rio Tinto and Mitsui, investors gobbled up shares in the junior. Norsemont ended the week at C$3.79, up C$0.72.
There is nothing like high-grade gold values to excite the market and a classic case this past week was Full Metal Minerals. The company reported that drill hole C05-12 collared on the Lucky Shot property in Alaska returned 219.06 grams gold per tonne over 4 metres, including a 0.66 metre section that returned a mind-boggling 1,267.52 grams gold per tonne. All was not rosy however, as four of the other reported holes returned only low grade gold intercepts. Full Metal’s stock added C$0.03 to C$0.88 on heavy volume.
The Canadian gold producers fell in unison with gold late in the week. Barrick Gold ended the week at C$33.76, down C$0.48; Placer Dome ended the week C$0.35 lower at C$19.85, while Goldcorp lost C$1.08 to close at C$22.94.
Moving forward investors will be keeping a close on the impact of Hurricane Rita as it hits the US coast. Setting its sights on Texas, Rita could once again put the oil markets into over drive, which would be a drag on economic growth but could be good for gold. Stay tuned.
The price of copper is holding at near-record levels. Check out explorers International Barytex and their high-grade Shitiru project.