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Mariana Resources plans a very active start to 2016

There can be no doubt that Mariana Resources was one of the hits of this year’s Mines & Money Conference in London.
Mariana Resources plans a very active start to 2016
With a partner like Lidya, local bureaucratic delays are likely to be kept to a minimum.

There can be no doubt that Mariana Resources (LON:MARL) was one of the hits of this year’s Mines & Money Conference in London.

That the competition was rather lacking in substance wasn’t Mariana’s fault.

Indeed, it rather made the company shine out even more as a lone beacon in what many regard as a still darkening mining world.

The reasons, though, are simple.

Mariana has what every junior miner would like to have, and would especially like to have when markets are as tough as this: a high grade gold project with several million ounces in it.

If that sounds like an oversimplification, then yes, it is.

In mining, nothing’s ever simple, and there remain, of course, the various economic studies that need to be carried out into the company’s Hot Maden project in north-east Turkey before anyone can really cash in in a big way.

The other disclaimer is that Mariana only holds 30% of Hot Maden, with ownership of the rest safely tucked up inside a major Turkish conglomerate called Lidya, but in the long run being a minority partner looks likely to work out well for Mariana.

In a tough market it knows that the funds required to get Hot Maden built are likely to be relatively straightforward to attain.

And with a partner like Lidya, local bureaucratic delays are likely to be kept to a minimum.

At any rate chief executive Glen Parsons is exhibiting very few doubts.

“Three million high grade ounces just for starters is a serious mine,” he says.

“That’s the key thing. People must actually focus on that. This is a serious proposition. It’s moving very fast towards production, and as far the cost of bringing this to production for Mariana goes, you just have to look at the future cash flows.”

Quite what those cash flows will be remains to be seen, as a formal model hasn’t yet been released to market, but because the intercepts at Hot Maden have been exceptionally high grade there seems little doubt that it will eventually be mined at substantial profit.

“There’s margin all the way down to US$700 gold,” says Parsons. “Lidya is continually busy pulling in knowledge on all aspects of this deposit.”

Indeed, 2016 is likely to witness further extensive drilling at Hot Maden as the partners look to drill 20,000 metres in support of a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) that’s currently slated for the third quarter.

Ahead of that, work will also be undertaken on the metallurgy and the mine design, and naturally there will be a resource update following on from all that drill work.

So, it should be a busy year even before the PEA arrives, and the path after that is clear too.

“2017 should be the year of definitive studies,” says Parsons, “and probably a production decision.”

A back-of-the-envelope assessment at this stage would likely put the cost of constructing a mine at Hot Maden at a couple of hundred million US dollars, 70% of which would be borne by Lidya.

As for Mariana’s end, the potential cash flows that Parsons mentioned are already having some effect.

“The way we’re seeing institutions come into our stock I think we’ll be able to equity finance our 30% portion, with debt making up the rest,” he says.

The question though, is at what price?

Gold has stalled at just under US$1,100 per ounce, following the Fed’s decision to move US interest rates up a notch. That’s good and bad.

First the good: there’s been no collapse in the gold price in the context of the new environment of rising interest rates.

On the other hand, the well-flagged plan to increase rates further in due course - if cautiously - is hardly bullish for gold either.

It probably won’t matter for the economics of Hot Maden itself, but sentiment is another matter and Parsons and his team will have to manage expectations well in order to ensure dilution is kept to a minimum.

And, on the strength of their performance so far, you wouldn’t bet against them. 

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