“Panther Metals,” says chief executive Darren Hazelwood, “is built to be a true exploration play.”
Certainly, if you were to hypothesise an ideal exploration company there’s a good chance it might look like Panther (NEX:PALM).
The company has a portfolio of gold and base metals exploration assets in underexplored areas in two of the world’s most highly sought-after jurisdictions, Ontario, Canada and Northern Territory, Australia.
And it has a team of mining industry professionals that taken together look capable of delivering at almost every level.
At the top, in the chair, is Kerim Sener, a man who has put in the hard yards in mining and then some, having taken Turkey-focussed Ariana Resources PLC (LON:AAU) all the way from early stage exploration to fully fledged and well-established gold production.
Chief executive Darren Hazelwood, who holds just over 10% of Panther, has extensive knowledge and experience as an investor in the natural resources space and has the energy and optimism that you need to make things happen in what is often an unforgiving sector.
Mitchell Smith, the chief operating officer, is also a key man at Global Energy Metals (CVE:GEMC), another company which has a suite of assets in both Canada and Australia, but this time in cobalt, and he brings a deep knowledge of capital markets and long-standing experience of working in the exploration space.
Nick O’Reilly, one of three non-execs, is the current independent competent person for Metal Tiger Plc (LON:MTR), another of Aim’s standout successes over the years, and has run his own consultancy business for a long time.
As for the other two non-execs, Simon Rothschild’s extensive network in London’s junior mining sector is perhaps unsurpassed and Kate Asling’s experience, of numerous public listings and financings, in the capital market team at accountants RSM gives her the ability and foresight to keep Panther on an even keel as and help grow the business on London’s main market.
It’s a highly attractive line up that could be held up to any aspiring junior miner as a blueprint for how to build a board. What’s more – and this is perhaps most important – the combined cost of this board comes in at a paltry £110,000 a year.
To put that into context, directors of junior mining companies on the Aim market routinely pay themselves upwards of £50,000 and more each, with no cashflow to support the wage bill and nothing but equity financings and ongoing dilution to help them stay afloat.
Panther is not like this. Indeed, with such an experienced board it couldn’t be – none of the directors would allow it to happen.
Instead, the vast bulk of funding will be spent on the ground at the Canadian and Australian exploration assets.
The Canadian assets have been held for a little over a year and as such are slightly further advanced.
At the Big Bear project, north of the northern shore of Lake Superior, Panther has been active in consolidating claims on the Schreiber-Hemlo greenstone belt, billed as Canada’s “most prolific mining region”.
Around 90 kilometres to the east is the famous Hemlo mine, operated by Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD), while further north Great Bear Resources (CVE:GBR) is working on the same greenstone belt as Panther and has recently seen its shares quadruple in value on the strength of drilling success.
Panther is some way behind, having spent much of this year consolidating the claims that comprise its Schreiber, Big Bear and Little Bear projects, all of which are contiguous. Indeed, it’s the former fragmentation of all these projects which has mitigated drilling to date on what’s otherwise one of the most prospective greenstone belts in the world.
But the time is now coming when drilling will get underway.
The exact path to financing the next round of exploration ought to become clear within a matter of weeks, following which Hazelwood wants to undertake a drone-borne high resolution aerial geophysics survey to check out a huge anomaly just north of Hays Lake on the Big Bear project.
After that the plan is to undertake around 1,200 metres of drilling on qualified targets.
“There’s a huge amount of upside if we do it right,” says Hazelwood.
Meanwhile, at the Australian Marrakai gold project, which already boasts several highly encouraging historic gold hits, Panther is currently planning its next move.
“Large scale open pit mining operations have been active in this area,” says Hazelwood.
“Recent nearby discoveries include Rustler’s Roost and Tom’s Gully. We’re located just down the road, around 70-100 kilometres outside of Darwin.”
All told, there looks to be an interesting period of newsflow ahead as Panther progresses its Canadian and Australian assets.
The market for exploration companies is generally held to be weak at the moment, but with the right kind of backing a company like Panther could go a long way. After all if, as seems increasingly likely, we are now a little way past the bottom of the market, then from here on in, the only way is up.
A company that’s already on the ground cutting deals and delivering exploration results will stand head and shoulders above the swathe of newcomers that will get active when the recovery does get underway.
This one will certainly be interesting to watch.