What will Strongbow Exploration Inc (CVE:SBW) do next?
It’s an intriguing question, and not just because the size of its own resource inventory in Cornwall could be on the cusp of a radical upward surge.
There’s also the possibility that following the latest drill hit on the company’s United Downs project Strongbow will be at the vanguard of a renaissance in the Cornish mining scene as a whole.
As the owner of the historic but currently mothballed South Crofty tin mine, Strongbow is perhaps in a better position to lead than any other of the small crop of juniors that continues to nose around in the neighbourhood. But be that as it may, it’s not actually from South Crofty that the current momentum is coming.
The 14.69 metre hit grading 8.45% copper, 1.19% tin and 0.15% zinc is located a few kilometres away from South Crofty on ground that had previously been of secondary importance to Strongbow.
But drilling undertaken by a partner company to search for lithium brines in much deeper geological horizons passed the mineralisation on the way down, and since Strongbow retains all the rights to hard rock mineralisation on this ground, the bonanza copper grade discovered by a cost-free drill campaign comes as something of a double bonus.
Strongbow’s shares moved up sharply on the news when it was released just before Easter, albeit that they’d taken a serious hit in line with the wider coronavirus market crash. The momentum continued on into the new quarter though, and the shares are now bobbing around at six-month highs, having shaken off all the coronavirus damage, and then some.
True, it may take sentiment towards the company a little longer to recover completely, given that plans to list on Aim and raise major funding for South Crofty fell through last year. But the discovery of the drill hit at United allows for a branching out option that wasn’t there before.
So, while plans to work South Crofty up towards a full feasibility study continue to move forward, the potential for a quicker development at United Downs has become an intriguing second string to Strongbow’s bow.
The grades hit at United Downs are typical for this part of the world, but only historically.
Because even when Cornwall was still on the global mining map in the last century, it was really only known for its tin production. True, the county’s record as a major producer of copper dates back much further, but it ended in the middle part of the 19th century.
“Copper mining in Cornwall stopped when high grade copper was discovered in Michigan in the 1850s and most of the Cornish miners moved there,” says chief operating officer Owen Mihalop.
“At that point the rest of Cornish mining switched over to tin.”
Could there now be a copper renaissance coming?
It’s hard to say at this stage, but the drill hit at United Downs has several merits that suggest that further work will be worthwhile. The first is the grade. Hits of this sort of grade are seen only once or twice a year anywhere in the world. Second is the depth. The intercept started at 90 metres, which in mining terms is very shallow. Third is jurisdiction. The UK may no longer be as famous a mining destination as it once was, but it does at least have secure contract law and relatively straightforward permitting requirements. And, with Brexit and the coronavirus lurking in the background, local and national governmental agencies will be keen to allow companies like Strongbow to press ahead with any kind of industrial development that they can.
Fourth, there’s the potential that any mine at United Downs could be served by a plant at South Crofty, for which there’s already a permit. And fifth, there’s also the possibility that further discoveries of a similar type might be made, now that the company knows it’s worth looking.
So, the plan now is for Strongbow to undertake some more exploration at United Downs, on its own account this time, and to see what comes of it.
“These are high value rocks,” says chief executive Richard Williams.
“The grade is running at around 10% copper-equivalent, which you very rarely see. That gives us the opportunity to investigate the potential for early stage production.”
And while work on South Crofty continues, having that whole extra dimension to the story could go a long way towards bringing Strongbow firmly back onto the radar screens of international investors.