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How a junior copper and gold explorer added the coveted Santa Cecilia project to its portfolio

Jocelyn Aspa Jocelyn Aspa, The Market Herald
0 Comments| November 15, 2021

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The copper price has had a booming 2021 — having reached an all-time high of US$4.90 in May of this year — and companies in the space have been reaping the benefits of this year’s hottest metal.

Meet Vancouver, BC-based Torq Resources Inc. (TSXV:TORQ,OTCQX:TRBMF, Forum), a junior exploration company focused on exploring a top-tier copper and gold portfolio. Under its belt are the Margarita iron-oxide copper gold project, the Andrea copper porphyry project and its recently acquired Santa Cecilia gold-copper project in Chile.

(Click image to play video)


SH: Torq’s announcement last week that it acquired the Santa Cecilia gold-copper project in Chile, which sent the stock price up by about 30% - tell us about this project and what has investors so excited about it?

SW: Well from a business perspective the project has us very excited because it ticked a few boxes that were very important to us when we were out trying to do an acquisition. In fact, this asset, although it's the third one we've acquired was the primary reason that we did a country entry into Chile in the first place. So, I guess that speaks right away to the fact that we have a great deal of confidence in the jurisdiction. We like Chile because of its depth of mineral exploration and development, the local talent, you've got a great mining DNA that exists in Chile. We like it because of, I will let Michael expand on this, but the mineral endowment. So, the great world's greatest copper mines are in Chile.

It's an environment where you can get things done. You can get permits, communities are commercial that will work with you to mutually benefit both sides. ESG very important to us. The Chile system allows us to do things the way we would like to do. So, it really ticked all the boxes. Investors aren't scared of Chile, the way they are perhaps other jurisdictions, the ones that remain, it still hosts the potential to have these massive gold-copper projects and Mike, perhaps you can expand on some of the technical reasons why we're so happy to be in there.

MH: Yeah, certainly. I mean, the Santa Cecilia project is a very unique asset. First of all, it's situated within the Maricunga Belt, a huge endowment with world-class deposits and in particular Santa Cecilia, is surrounded by the Norte Abierto joint venture, which is held in a 50-50 between Newmont and Barrick and it's immediately adjacent to us. When you look at just the pure endowment around us, if you stand on top of the hill at Santa Cecilia and you just do a 360-degree panorama within 10 kilometers, there's 60 million ounces of gold and 13 billion pounds of copper. So, there’s an incredible endowment immediately around us. The other thing that's so special about Santa Cecilia is that exploration is basically being frozen in time since the 1990s. There was a major mining company that first did the first exploration campaign on Santa Cecilia from ‘88 to ‘90 and then it basically sat dormant except for two holes that were drilled in 2012. When you step back in time like that, that's exactly when the major discoveries in the nineties were being made in Maricunga.

Santa Cecilia also has proven mineralization, there are really three themes that I would stress here. There's oxide gold mineralization on surface, there's high-grade gold and silver veins and very importantly there's also bona fide copper-gold porphyry mineralization. So, we're in an extraordinary position being sort of frozen in time in the 1990s and yet knowing there's a large mineralized system on the property.

SH: How is it that this project was available, and that a junior exploration team like yourselves was able to acquire it?

SW: Well, typically a junior exploration company like ours would not be able to acquire it, frankly. I actually think we're going to have to thank COVID for this a little bit. We had to pivot in our business, just like everybody else, to adapt to the conditions that we would put in. So, we decided to find a way to operate, and we did so by partnering with a fantastic group of entrepreneurs and technical people down in Chile led by a gentleman by the name of Waldo Cuadra who’s now our in-country manager.

Typically, this is a role that we would have implanted with someone from our team up here [in Vancouver] because it takes time to build that kind of trust with someone to run your whole country operation like that, but we very quickly found that Waldo and our group and his group were all very like-minded. So, it was a very seamless integration. So, like I said earlier, we went to Chile determined to get this asset, I can tell you the owner would not pick up our phone calls but once Waldo and his team joined us, they started picking up the calls. They're very embedded in the Chilean mining industry. They're very heavily respected in the Chilean mining industry. So coupled with that team, when we approached the owner, they were amenable to having a discussion, and here we are today.

SH: When will you gain access to the project to start exploration and drilling?

MH: Well, we should be getting access to the project, hopefully here by the end of the year, that's our goal. Obviously, we require a social license but the community that hosts the Santa Cecilia project is a commercial community and has made agreements given the mining scenario all around us. Our goal is to be out there in January and get the rigs turning as soon as possible and advance our own on the project. I mean, obviously, it's a beautiful thing to have confirmed mineralization already sort of partly defined. Obviously, we want to expand upon that but there's also a number of targets that we want to develop that we think could really deliver here as well.

SH: Now that you acquired Santa Cecilia – will you continue to work to acquire additional projects in Chile?

SW: Obviously, acquisition and building out a portfolio of opportunities was our primary focus, that was the front burner. But we began drilling recently at our Margarita project, we've got this Santa Cecilia project, and we've got an additional project all to work on [the Andrea project]. So, we are reserving a little bit more bandwidth to review the submissions that are coming through, and frankly, it's kind of an embarrassment of riches sometimes because when you get a project like Santa Cecilia. All of a sudden, and we've noticed over the years when something like this happens, we get a whole bunch more submissions because people say, ‘oh, they're acquiring, and look how much they pay for it,’ and so forth, but I can tell you that we got a lot in our hands right now. Our company's culture is going to be transferring now from an acquisition primary focus to acquisition say as a secondary or tertiary focus, and exploring and moving forward our current assets is going to be our primary focus, our front burner.

SH: You also recently started drilling at your Margarita project in Chile – can you update us on the progress there?

MH: Yeah, certainly. I mean, we finished the first hole and we’re onto the second. We've got a 17-hole program, roughly 4,000 meters. It's going pretty smoothly now. We expect first results from the first couple of holes early in the new year. I mean, obviously labs are slow around the world, so that's the realistic timing of things and we should be wrapping this drill program up prior to the end of the year as well.

SH: The price of copper recently spiked, so your timing seems to be quite favourable – did you focus your company on copper and gold because of your outlook for the metals?

SW: Well, I think certainly our belief in a continued strong metal environment gives one the confidence to go and do this, but we are acquiring metals, this is what we do. So, we will be doing it irrespective of what copper is supposed to be doing. Sure, it's nice to be doing it into a rising metal part market, rather when not just mining-centric people are paying attention to what you're doing. Obviously, the audience for this sort of thing, because the mainstream is now paying attention to what's happening with copper, they are discussing uses for green energy and all this and so forth has become quite topical. I think that only can serve to benefit us as we tell our story.

SH: Over the last eight months, Torq has hired a team in Chile, acquired three projects in that country, and is now drilling at one of those projects – can investors expect the next eight months to be just as busy?
SW: Absolutely, but more so with generating results our current assets. So, absolutely the starting gun has had the trigger pulled on it and it's time to go in terms of working on these projects

FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a paid article produced by Stockhouse Publishing.

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