Wednesday, 8 December 2010

African Aura Mining files NI43-101 report for New Liberty gold project

African Aura Mining (LON:AAAM, TSX:AUR) has filed a NI43-101 technical report for its 100% owned New Liberty gold project in western Liberia.
It has been previously reported that the resource and grade at the project increased to 1.51 million ounces at 3.78 grammes per tonne (g/t) gold with 5.6 million tonnes (Mt) containing 751,000 ounces in the indicated category and 7 Mt containing 762,000 ounces of gold inferred.
Management is targeting a production of 100,000 ounces per year for the open pittable material.
The resource model will be incorporated into a preliminary economic assessment this December.
African Aura operates iron and gold divisions.
The iron ore division includes its 38.5% interest in the Putu iron ore project in Liberia, which is moving through pre-feasibility managed by joint venture partner Severstal Resources.
The gold division includes New Liberty and the proximal Ndablama, Weaju, Silver Hills and Gondoja gold projects all within the company's Bea Mountain 25 year renewable mineral development agreement.

smartFOCUS wins marketing software order from Betsafe

SmartFOCUS Group (LON:STF) has won a contact to help Betsafe - a northern European online gaming group - improve its marketing efforts.
The company will allow Betsafe to boost player retention and profitability, by using timely and relevant multi-channel communications.
"We're in a competitive and fast-moving business," said Betsafe chief executive Henrik Ekdahl Persson. “To us it's all about the best possible player experience and to maintain the most relevant communication across the player lifecycle,
“With our new CRM tool from smartFOCUS we aim to not only enable us to achieve these marketing objectives, but to do so with increased automation and efficiency.”
Persson highlighted that smartFOCUS’ software will give Betsafe an ‘integrated view of the player’, providing information across channels, history and preferences.
He adds: “We've grown so fast, to 500,000 players, and I'm excited about the stage smartFOCUS and its social media, multi-channel analysis, campaign management and reporting will bring us to next."
Betsafe is now going to use smartFOCUS's packaged game solution, which is specially designed for the gaming market's sophisticated digital marketing needs.
The software suite includes smartFOCUS smartMARKETER, with its Analyzer, Campaigner and Reporter components. It also has the eChannel software which communicates through e-mail, mobile, SMS, landing page, microsites, and RSS, as well as social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.
"Betsafe has undergone a tremendous rate of growth since its launch,”  smartFOCUS interim chief executive Curt Bloom said.
“I'm looking forward to what we can achieve together as Betsafe reaps the benefit of our intelligent marketing solutions, and also deploys smartFOCUS eChannel to communicate with gamers across e-mail, mobile, social networks, web and SMS," Bloom added.
The financial details of the contract were not disclosed.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Desire Petroleum shares dive with U-turn on Falkland oil discovery

It turns out Desire Petroleum (LON:DES) doesn’t have an oil discovery in the North Falkland basin after all.
Last Thursday it proclaimed a new oil discovery after preliminary results indicated that it had found 349 metres of sands and shales with hydrocarbons, including 57 metres of net pay in multiple zones.
This morning Desire told the market that sampling of the main sand has shown that the hydrocarbons are residual and that the mobile fluid is water.
The response from investors was both swift and severe, with Desire shares falling around 50 percent in early deals, to 68.25 pence.
“It is extremely disappointing that the subsequent wireline logs and fluids sampling have dashed all the earlier promise of this being Desire's first oil discovery in the North Falkland Basin,” chairman Stephen Phipps said.
The company stressed that drilling on the Rachel prospect has so far identified five ‘fan systems’ with varying areal extent and reservoir properties, and good reservoir development has been recorded in a number of the fans.
Phipps added: “Despite this setback, the presence of hydrocarbons and good reservoir development have been identified in a number of the Rachel fan sands,
“We therefore continue to believe in the prospectivity of the East Flank Play fairway for future oil discoveries."
According to Desire, some of the sands are of a similar age to those in Rockhopper Exploration's Sea Lion discovery.
The company plans to remap these systems after it has completed its 3D seismic programme in 2011.
Desire’s next drill target will be the Dawn/Jacinta prospect, which is on the southern margin of the basin. The next prospect is independent of Rachel and it is targeting sands at a number of levels.
Another well is also planned after Dawn/Jacinta, but the drilling schedule has not yet been finalised.

Gulf Keystone’s Akri-Bijeel discovery report puts oil-in-place at 2.4 bln barrels

Gulf Keystone Petroleum’s (LON:GKP) stake in the Akri-Bijeel oil discovery looks set for a boost after its oil-initially-in-place estimate was put at 2.4 billion barrels (P50).
The company has a 20 percent stake in the Akri-Bijeel field in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
Akri-Bijeel’s operator MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas has now submitted a ‘discovery report’ to the Kurdistan Ministry of Natural Resources.
Bijeel-1 struck oil in March 2010. Subsequently in June, Bijeel-1 produced 3,200 barrels of oil and 933,000 standard cubic feet of gas per day, from the Jurassic formation between 3,804 and 3,967 meters.
MOL then sidetracked the well to overcome technical problems, then in early November a joint test was performed, to produce 3,743 barrels of oil and 618,826 standard cubic feet of gas per day.
It is thought that this level could be increased significantly with the use of artificial lifting systems.
MOL said it will use the discovery report in its planning of an appraisal program for Akri-Bijeel.
Arkri-Bijeel is one of four contiguous fields that Gulf Keystone has a stake in. The most advanced, and highest profile, is the Shaikan oilfield.
It first struck oil at Shaikan back in August 2009. The size of the discovery quickly came into focus, with Gulf Keystone finding several layers of reservoirs. Subsequently Shaikan’s oil-in-place resources were estimated at around 1.9 billion barrels with an upside to 7.2 billion - in a P90 to P10 range.
The first well was not able to test the deeper reservoirs and just last week the first deep appraisal well, Shaikan-2, was spudded to test the entire structure.
Shaikan-2 has been drilled through the geopressured sections of the Triassic age rocks, as well as the Cretaceous, Jurassic and the Triassic all the way down to the Permian, with target depth of 5,000 metres.
Drilling and testing is expected to take six months.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mariana Resources to raise £6.2 mln for exploration in private placement

Mariana Resources Ltd (LON:MARL), an exploration and development company focused in Argentina and Chile, is planning a global private placement to raise £6.2 million before expenses and will use the funds to accelerate the exploration of its project portfolio, and for general corporate and working capital purposes.

In a statement published late yesterday, it said shares will be issued at 40 pence, only just below the closing price in London on the day. The fundraising is scheduled to close on or about December 9.

The placement to investors in North America will be led by Paradigm Capital Inc, while that outside North America will be brokered by finnCap.

The company's primary focus will be to fast-track exploration drilling at its flagship Las Calandrias gold discovery in southern Argentina, to define a resource and evaluate the economic potential of the project.

Mariana has an extensive portfolio of gold, silver and copper projects in Argentina and Chile. In Argentina, in addition to the Las Calandrias gold-silver discovery project, it owns the Sierra Blanca silver prospect and has a joint venture with Hochschild Mining (LON:HOC).

Mariana also owns exclusive exploration rights to a 160,000 hectare area. All of these projects are located in the Deseado Massif gold district in mining-friendly Santa Cruz province of southern Argentina, which hosts four gold/silver mines and several notable bonanza type precious metal prospects.

In Chile, Mariana has a joint venture agreement with US based international mining and natural resources company Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF)  to explore for iron oxide-copper-gold deposits (IOCG) in a 92,000 square kilometre area (SCM Mariana Area) in north-central Chile. The SCM Mariana Area includes two IOCG exploration projects in the highly prospective Atacama Fault Zone, approximately 100 kilometres from Freeport's Candelaria Copper Mine: the 44 sq km Buenaventura and 46 sq km Perro Chico projects.

Medusa Mining expands high grade gold-silver prospect at Saugon

Medusa Mining’s (LON:MML, ASX:MML, TSX:MLL) recent drilling has extended the mineralised gold-silver zones of  the Saugon project's First Hit Vein prospect to approximately 200 metres of strike and, and they remein open along strike and at depth.
This key exploration project is around 10 kilometres from Medusa’s Co-O gold mine in the Philippines, where it is currently working to double output to 200,000 ounces of gold per year.
The best assays had widths ranging from 0.75 to 4.55 metres, with grades ranging between 9.63 - 28.07 grams per tonne (g/t) gold and 125.13 - 413.6 g/t silver. The deepest high grade assay had 3.35 metres grading 11.71 g/t gold and 154 g/t silver, from around 180 metres.
"These new high-grade gold-silver drilling results, whilst confirming and extending significantly the 2004 results, have the hallmarks of a substantial mineralised structure,” managing director Geoff Davis said.
He adds: “The deepest high grade intersection ... and the robust new northern zone intersections indicate scope for substantial increases to this mineralisation,
“Work is on-going to further evaluate its potential to develop as a new deposit".
The First Hit Vein was initially uncovered at the Saugon project in back in 2004. The company thinks this earlier campaign found the ‘neck’ of a hydrothermal system, which may have more substantial zones of mineralisation at depth and along strike.
Subsequently, Medusa completed 34 new drill holes, for around 7,493 metres, and the results broadly confirm the 2004 drill holes, with some wider intersections with mid-range grades as well as narrow zones of high grades.
The drilling programme is aimed to repeat the 2004 un-surveyed holes to establish the geometry of the system and gain a better understanding of the mineralisation.
Drilling is still underway at Saugon.

Cluff Gold readies drill bit for 7 new targets at Baomahun

Cluff Gold (LON:CLF, TSX:CFG) has identified 7 new drill targets at its wholly owned Baomahun project  in Sierra Leone.
The targets were identified following an airborne versatile time domain electro-magnetic survey (VTEM Survey). They are all near surface and they are interpreted as having strikes and dips similar to mineralisation in the existing resource area - which currently has a total resource of 2.4 million ounces of gold.
"We are delighted with the results of the VTEM Survey, which confirm our belief in the significant upside at Baomahun,” chairman and chief executive Algy Cluff said.
“We now have in place a defined schedule to both drill-test these new targets whilst also ensuring that the feasibility study remains on track.”
Around 6,000 metres drilling will test the new targets from January onwards, as part of a larger US$12 million work programme which is already underway.
A separate 20,000 metre drilling programme is already underway at Baomahun.
Algy Cluff added: “Following our recent fundraising, the company is now well positioned to take an aggressive approach to its exploration programmes across all three assets."
It raised US$15 million late in October after Macquarie Bank arranged a private placing.
The company’s primary assets are Baomahun, the Kalsaka mine in Burkina Faso and the Angovia mine in the Ivory Coast.
Between them Kalsaka and Angovia produce around 100,000 ounces of gold per year.
Yesterday, Cluff released new exploration drilling results from Kalsaka and unveiled its plans for another 63,000 metres of drilling.
It told investors that it intercepted significant sulphide mineralisation and drill highlights included 15 metres at 7.44 grams per tonne gold from 90m depth.
Cluff is planning a 63,000 metre drilling programme, encompassing diamond core, reverse circulation and rotary air blast drilling, which will commence in Q1 2011, supported by regional geophysics and geochemistry which are underway.
The company’s strategy at Kalsaka is two-fold: to extend the oxide reserves to ensure continuity of the existing heap leach operation, while targeting both the oxide and sulphide mineralisation within the wider Kalsaka exploration permit and neighbouring Yako exploration permit.
The latter may justify the construction of a conventional CIL/CIP plant so as to generate improved metallurgical recoveries with a faster leaching cycle, thereby increasing the economic returns compared to the existing oxide heap leach operation.

Herencia Resources raises £4.7 mln for 2011 work programme at Paguanta gold-silver-copper-lead project

Herencia Resources (LON:HER) has raised £4.7 million via a share issue to advance its 70% owned Paguanta copper-silver-lead-gold project in Chile.
Specifically, the funds will be used to commence the feasibility study for the proposed Patricia mine, drill the Doris copper-silver prospect and the La Rosa porphyry-copper target and undertake infill-step out drilling of the Patricia mineral resource.
“The support shown for our plans for the Paguanta project, from both existing and new shareholders, has been outstanding.
“We are now funded to undertake a comprehensive work program in 2011 which is scheduled to include drill programs on all three project areas and commencement of the feasibility study,” said managing director of Herencia Resources Michael Bohm.
A total of 270.7 million shares were issued by Herencia at a price of 1.75 pence per share.
Herencia Resources has recently announced that the Paguanta project was worth US$90.4 million after an update of the project's economic model. In October it upgraded the mining inventory.
The recent upgrade increased the inventory by around a third to 1.66 million tonnes. Consequently Herencia now gives Paguanta a net present value of US$90.4 million.
The latest economic assessment also highlighted the project’s potential to increase its value. Herencia reported to 'sensitivity' cases that estimated Paguanta’s value in the future.
The ‘Post-Feasibility’ case assumed that a further 740,000 tonnes are added to the mining inventory in 2011, in this scenario Herencia believes Paguanta could be worth US$139.5 million.
Meanwhile, the ‘Upside Case’ assumes that Herencia can double the current 1.66 million inventory, which would give Paguanta an estimated value of US$184.9 million.
A week ago, Herencia hired a contractor to carry out geophysical work on the Doris prospect.
The work programme is expected to start in the first week of January, and it should be completed by the end of the month.

Frontier Mining shares rise on release of Benkala copper project JORC report

Frontier Mining (LON:FML) announced the completion of a JORC resource estimate for its Benkala copper deposit in Kazakhstan, making the company “even more confident” that the project will be a success.
The completion of the estimate is very good news for Frontier, as it had been long awaited by brokers and investors and regarded as a major milestone that will boost its share price.  The stock was trading up 7.8 percent at 6.88 pence in early deals.
The report met the company’s expectations, as it is generally in line with Soviet estimates, showing almost 1.5 million tonnes (Mt) of copper.
Now there is yet more to look forward to.
Frontier expects to increase this resource, categorisation and quality, having submitted additional infill drilling data to engineering consultancy Wardell Armstrong International (WAI).
“On sulphides, we are moving forward with our plans to complete exploration and fully define the deposit. We are now even more confident that our Benkala project will be a great success for the company,” said chief executive of Frontier Erlan Sagadiev.
The gross attributable measured resource stands at 2.5 Mt grading 0.55% copper containing 14,000 tonnes. Indicated resource amounts to 94.5 Mt grating 0.45% copper for 425,130 tonnes contained and 66.76 Mt at 0.42 copper for 282,450 tonnes of copper in the inferred category.
The gross attributable resource stands at 194.15 Mt at 0.45% copper for 878,400 tonnes of copper contained in the measured and indicated category and 133.52 Mt at 0.42% for 564,900 tonnes inferred.
“We are pleased that this key deliverable of a resource estimate to JORC standards has been completed.
“Most importantly it largely supports our oxide estimates and quality for our ongoing SX/EW project,” said Sagadiev.
The JORC report marks the continuation of the rapid progress Frontier has been making with Benkala development.
Just a little over a week ago, the company signed a US$4 million loan with HSBC (LON:HSBA) to fund the Benkala development.
Furthermore, HSBC has indicated it is ready to provide a further US$15 million to develop Benkala, provided Frontier meets certain unspecified conditions.
In June Frontier said it had begun the construction of the open pit mine at Benkala, with initial production set to begin in the first half of next year.
Frontier plans to build the second electrical power line to the Benkala mine after the first one was built in 2009.
Frontier currently has a 50% indirect interest in the Benkala Copper Project which is managed by a joint-venture company, KazCopper.  The other 50% of Benkala is owned by Coville Intercorp, a private Kazakh mining group.
The company is set to take full ownership of Benkala, after it agreed a US$86.3 million paper deal with Colville Intercorp.
According to Edison, the deal is valued at US$61.8 per tonne of copper, which is a 9.9 percent discount to FML’s pre-deal enterprise value per tonne.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Planet Payment reports more strong revenue growth in Q3

Planet Payment (LON:PPT and PPTR; OTC:PLPM) kept up its strong momentum in the third quarter, with a 32 percent rise in year-on-year revenue.
The company said it is benefiting from increased transaction processing volumes, due to an increased number of active merchant locations and improving economic conditions.
“As a result of our efforts this year ... and taking into account the customary fourth quarter seasonal uplift in our business, we look forward to increased revenue and gross profit, resulting in positive cash flows and adjusted EBITDA for the balance of 2010," chairman and CEO Philip Beck said.
The group's payment processing platform allows merchants and financial
organisations to process and reconcile payments across any currency at the point of sale.
"Our services help acquirers open new sales channels, merchants sell more goods and services and cardholders enjoy informed choice and transparency at the point-of-sale,” Beck added.
It now has 46 banking and processing customers who have continued to roll out Planet Payment's products and services in sixteen different countries.
As a result it now has 3,800 more active merchant locations compared with the third quarter of 2009, a 39 percent improvement.
The company highlighted that it began activating the merchant pipeline in recent months - with 1,600 new merchant locations in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and South Africa.
In the three months ended 30 September 2010, Planet Payment's total revenue increased 32 percent to US$15.5 million (Q309: US$11.7million), gross profit grew by 22 percent to US$5 million (Q309: US$4.1 million).
Earnings (adjusted EBITDA) also improved, rising to US$0.4 million (US$0.2 million).
With the solid revenue growth Planet Payment was able to cut its net losses substantially.
It nearly halved losses to US$0.4 million (Q309: US$0.8 million), a 44 percent improvement year-on-year, and a 47 percent improvement quarter-on-quarter - from the $0.7 million loss reported in the preceding three month period.
Overall for the first nine months of 2010 Planet Payment had total revenues of US$43.2 million, up 31 percent from 2009. Gross profit has grown by 18 percent to US$13.7 million with net losses narrowing to US$2.7m, a 13 percent improvement from the US$3.1 million loss for the comparative period of 2009.
Daniel Stewart analyst Simon Willis said the results show an improving trend, even though it was impacted by the Visa moratorium on providers’ forex transactions.
“The lifting of the Visa moratorium in early October is a material positive, as is the recent placing,” Willis said.
“The opportunity to launch in Latin America post the Visa announcement provides significant potential upside.”
Operationally Planet Payment said it has been working to broaden and enhance its services.
It has expanded debit card processing capabilities, with the certification of Maestro for the Middle East and Africa.
It has also improved its technology to support online PIN entry in the Middle East and Africa, and reached agreements to integrate to the iPAY gateway into a suite of enhanced, e-commerce, merchant fraud detection and prevention services.
Looking ahead the company said that momentum continues to build with its strong pipeline for  multi-currency processing services in existing and new regions.
Post-period, Planet Payment raised US$6.03 million in a share placing.

Slovenia success could transform Ascent Resources

Ascent Resources (LON:AST) is a stock many people struggle to understand.

There are too many moving parts to this oil and gas play, its critics claim.

While this might have been true in the past as boss Jeremy Eng amassed more 20 promising assets, the story recently became a very simple one.

The publication of a report by RPS Energy on the company’s Petişovci-Lovaszi project area in Slovenia was the game changer.

It provided independent corroboration of Ascent’s own work by confirming a P50 gas-in-place estimate of 412 billion cubic feet.

If the reserves are proved up, then Petişovci-Lovaszi will be one of the bigger onshore gas fields in Europe.

More than that, the RPS report should help filter out the noise and focus investor attention on this one, potentially company transforming asset.

Of course there is more to Ascent than Petişovci-Lovaszi.

It has the right to back into a former Swiss project it sold earlier this year, it must decide whether to use or lose a gas exploration licence in the Netherlands and has a gas producing asset in eastern Hungary.

However Petişovci-Lovaszi is crucial to its immediate prospects, so we better take a closer look at it.

Investors make the mistake of thinking the Slovenian project is something of a punt, a high risk exploration play.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is actually a development story.

The area has been drilled extensively. First in the 1940s by a fuel-hungry German army looking for oil and then in the 1980s.

Petişovci-Lovaszi’s gas is what finance director Simon Cunningham describes as being on the “conventional side of tight”.

By that he means the well Pg-11 is expected to flow without the help of any of the state-of-the art extraction techniques associated with tight gas.

However, with the help of horizontal wells or maybe even fraccing the flow rate will improve markedly.

There is a ready market for the gas – Petişovci-Lovaszi could provide Slovenia with 10 years supply and cut entirely Slovenia's reliance on Russia for this important source of energy. 

Meanwhile, both the infrastructure and processing facilities are in place, while the political will is also there if it leaves Slovenia self-sufficient.

This just leaves the small matter of getting the gas out of the ground.

Drilling on the first well at Petişovci-Lovaszi begins later this month and the evaluation programme, which will include extensive coring amd specialist wireline logging, is expected to take around 40 days to complete.

Ascent’s experts will then compile and interpret the results.  There ought to be enough data to optimise the geological modelling over the entire project area.

With such a lot of work in store, Cunningham isn’t committing to an exact release date for the results from Pg-11, saying only that they will be available at some point in the first quarter of next year.

However the information will be pivotal to the firm’s future prospects. Once management has the data it can decide how it finances the project, with the capital costs estimated at between 100 and 150 million euros.

One way to bankroll the potential 28 hole programme at Petişovci-Lovaszi might be to find a farm-in partner.

But Ascent doesn’t really want to dilute down its 75 per cent stake in the project (the Slovenian state national oil company and the semi-state company Petrol jointly own the other quarter share).

So it may look to debt-finance Petişovci-Lovaszi. Cunningham says there are sources of funding out there including possibly the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development as a possible partner.

“Farming in is about risk mitigation and funding but also provides an access to technical expertise,” the Ascent finance director said.

“It is a double edged sword. Obviously you get someone to carry you through the drilling programme.

“But it (Petişovci-Lovaszi) is fairly large and instantly producible and the returns are very, very strong.

“We would want a very good farm-in deal. And if we can’t get one, we would look at debt funding.

“If you look at what we have done in the past, we would normally have farmed in at this time.

“That we haven’t is a reflection of the fact we are definitely bullish on this project.

“If you want to transform yourself from a £25 million market cap company to a £250 million market cap and if you are going to do it organically you going to have to take a large project forward with a large interest.

“We see this first well (Pg-11) as a low risk exercise and the opportunities it opens up in terms of the funding and the farm-out are worth the risk.

“We are already in negotiations about the funding. The decisions on funding will depend on the initial flow rate from this well.

“However, even if it doesn’t flow conventionally then it won’t be the be all and end all. It is very much about understanding the field.”

One senses that Cunningham is quietly optimistic, particularly given what Ascent already knows about Petişovci-Lovaszi.

It is now a case of convincing the market of the project’s development potential.

“Where we are was drilled for oil and gas back in the 1940s by the Germans,” he explains.

“Essentially they drilled the shallow oil horizons, but deeper is the tight gas target between 2,000 and 3,000 metres.

“Gas has been flowed from those reservoirs back in the 1980s. In the old Yugoslavia they drilled down with some prehistoric completion techniques and flowed the gas.

“So 10Bcf has been flowed from the horizons we are chasing. So it is not as if there is no production history.

“Essentially it (Pg-11) is very much a technical exercise. This is tight gas, but a borderline conventional/ unconventional play if that makes sense. We are a borderline tight play.

“In the US the technology to stimulate gas from tight sands has evolved significantly in the last 20 years and is now bread and butter stuff in the industry.

“So what we are doing is not cutting edge. It has been done before, just not in this field.

“We are looking at this Pg-11 well and as far as we are concerned we expect it to be a conventional producer.

“But that’s not the main reason for this drill. The project will be a good project if it flows conventionally.

“However if we can bring this unconventional stimulation to it, the project is significant. We are talking a multiple of your flow rate using unconventional stimulation.”

As I mentioned earlier, there are other projects of interest in the Ascent portfolio that are perhaps the icing on the cake.

Switzerland is a case in point. Ascent sold its operation there in April to eCORP Europe for 8 million euros. However it retains the right to acquire 45 per cent of any discovery from the Hermrigen 2, Essertines 2 and Linden 2 appraisal wells by paying its share of the drilling costs.

Cunningham calls it a "no risk look” at a 150 billion cubic feet gas project.

“It is a big target, we always wanted to drill it,” he adds.

“The deal we have done is the best in the industry I know. “We get our money upfront and if it is successful we get to back into it. It is a free exploration option.”

Elsewhere the group has the promising Latina Valley oil project in Italy and two offshore blocks in the Netherlands, where it must decide by Christmas whether to bring in a farm-in partner, or surrender the licence.

“In each area including Slovenia, we are operating in a low risk regulatory environment, not deep water Africa,” Cunningham points out.

“We are not off the coast of Ghana or Indonesia. We are in an area where you can be fairly robust in drilling with a low risk of interference. We can drill cheaply in a safe regulatory environment.”

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cairn’s unsuccessful Greenland campaign to cost US$185 million

Cairn Energy (LON:CNE) confirmed disappointing exploration results in Greenland, with none of the three wells finding viable hydrocarbon resources.
The unsuccessful exploration program is set to cost around US$185 million.
The company stopped drilling on the 30 September, as mandated by the Greenland Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP).
Two wells have been plugged and abandoned, while the other has been suspended for possible re-entry at a later date.
The Alpha-1S1 well encountered oil shows in the ‘volcanic’ section before drilling was halted. The well did not reach the anticipated Mesozoic section before 30 September.
It has now been suspended. Cairn said the well may by re-entered at a later date to either side-track or drill deeper.
Cairn reported that the T4-1 well failed to encounter any significant hydrocarbons and found only thin reservoir sands.
Previously in August, Cairn revealed that the T8-1 well encountered gas in thin sands. However the well did not result in a commercial discovery.
Both T4-1 and T8-1 were plugged and abandoned.
The company said it is planning another exploration program for 2011.
Broker finnCap commented on the news in its 'Morning Note', saying the confirmation that drilling ceased at the end of September and that no commercial discovery had been made will be of limited surprise to the market - the biggest surprise being that the company took 3 weeks to update the market - with the shares off 10-15 percent in recent weeks in anticipation.

"With most of the downside now priced in we retain our 'hold' rating, with a lower target price, but maintain a negative stance given: 1) limited news flow potential; 2) significant reinvestment risk; and 3) the risk, albeit low, that the partial sale of Cairn India to Vedanta collapses," finnCap added.

Cairn stock was trading 5 percent lower in early deals today.

StatPro unveils cutting-edge liquidity risk software

Investment software specialist StatPro Group (LON:SOG) has come up with a product that takes a new approach to measuring the liquidity risk of an investment.
Liquidity risk measures how easy or difficult it is to sell a particular stock or share.
A highly liquid stock might be offloaded in a time of crisis at a minimal loss because there is a ready market for it.
However disposing of an illiquid investment is often problematic, particularly when the volumes involved are large.
The StatPro software differs from the other liquidity risk devices in that it doesn’t solely rely for its data set on observed buying and selling prices of a stock, or particular investment type.
Instead, factors such as market capitalisation, the percentage of ownership of a stock and the size of an issue for a fixed income instrument are taken into account.
“The risk manager can then drill down through every component of liquidity risk, discovering how much is coming and from where, without any previous knowledge of the portfolio,” StatPro said in a release to the stock exchange this morning.
“This tool enables the risk manager to x-ray the liquidity risk of the portfolio, spotting any challenging situations.”
Chief executive Justin Wheatley said says there has been a great deal of innovation in the area of risk, in particular mathematical modelling of the concept of “value at risk”.
However very little research has gone into the liquidity risk, he added.
“The reason is that while measuring market risk you can create models that are calibrated with market data, you cannot do the same for liquidity risk,” Wheatley explained.
“The approach we have developed is a major achievement in measuring market liquidity risk when trading volume and market price information is not available and we are thrilled to offer this enhanced solution to our clients.
“We continue to invest in product development and believe this adds significant value to our offering."

Oxford Nutrascience gets UK patent for chewy confectionery composition technology

Oxford Nutrascience Group PLC (LON:ONG) said it has been granted a 20 year UK patent for its chewy confectionery composition technology.

It is valid from the date of submission, 7 August 2006, and covers the company's technology which allows sugars to be replaced with fibres and for the product to be fortified with vitamins and other nutraceutical ingredients.

An application for a European chewy confectionery patent was submitted on 27 March 2007, and granting of the European patent is expected in due course.
Chairman and chief technology officer Marcelo Bravo said: “The granting of this patent in the UK strengthens the commercialisation of our chews. “This addition to our patent portfolio provides further validation of the company's strategy of developing intellectual property that can be successfully exploited to build a business in the medicine and consumer healthcare sector.”

Two weeks ago, Oxford Nutrascience announced the launch of Chewyz, a reduced sugar, high fibre, vitamin-enriched soft chew which will initially be sold through Tesco Nutri Centre stores.

Each sweet contains 50mg of Omega 3, vitamins A, C, D & E and 35% fibre. So they are healthier than normal soft chews.

Initially Chewyz will be sold into the confectionery market via high street and supermarket outlets.  But eventually they will be rolled out into the global confectionery and healthcare markets, starting with the US next year.

The launch of the chews follows the signing of the manufacturing agreement in May with Lamy Lutti, one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in Europe.

Further chews are due to be brought to market during 2011.

Oxford Nutrascience is gaining traction for its innovative functional food products.

In September it revealed it was licensing out its Chewitab technology to DCC Health & Beauty Solutions.

The agreement is open ended and non-exclusive.

Oxford will earn royalties on any DCC product sold in chewable tablet form, including healthcare supplements.

DCC is a service provider to healthcare and mail order companies and it has an enviable client list, which includes Merck, GSK, Healthspan and Vitabiotics.

Thor Mining shares boosted by update on gold and rare earth assets

Thor Mining (LON: THR, ASX:THR) shares were up around 8 percent in afternoon deals after the publishing of its quarterly update, in which it reflected on progress at the Dundas gold project.
Final assays from initial sampling has identified clusters of elevated gold values, and include five previously unknown gold anomalies.

“The best of these contain the greatest concentration of high gold values encountered in the project to date,” Thor said.

The company has increased its interest in Dundas and it has been actively exploring the project during the three months ended 30 September 2010.
Thor upped its stake in Dundas from 51 percent to 60 percent, after it issued 45 million Chess Depositary Interests (CDI) - tax efficient securities on the Australian Securities Exchange - to the vendors.

Ultimately it can acquire the entire project at its option, subject to successful exploration results.

On the ground Thor is preparing to start drilling, on targets identified by the sampling. Drilling is expected to get underway in the December quarter.

The company also updated investors on its other assets, most notably in relation to the Daicos rare earth prospect in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Thor said that increasing rare earth commodity prices has prompted it to re-evaluate Daicos.

Previously, reconnaissance sampling returned high uranium and rare earth element (REE) values from very radioactive samples.

The best assay had 19.37 percent uranium, 26.52 percent Niobium, 6.25 percent Tantalum and 2.68 percent Yttrium.

Thor also noted that the improvement in tungsten prices is encouraging for the Molyhil tungsten-molybdenum project.

Molyhil’s development is currently on-hold in anticipation of a recovery in Tungsten and Molybdenum prices.

The company noted that the Tungsten price continued to increase and the Molybdenum price has tracked sideways.

However the recent strengthening of the Australian dollar has had a negative impact.

“The fundamental drivers of the project are sound and that prices will in time recover to economic levels leading to the development of Molyhil,” Thor said. 

Furthermore Thor emphasised that it has enhanced the project while it is on hold, as it has identified operating and capital cost reductions.

On a corporate level the company raised A$1.143 million with the issue of 93,336,149 new shares. It also raised a further A$912,000 in the current period.

ImmuPharma's N6L compound valued at 2.5x market cap by Edison Investment Research

Edison Investment Research put the net present value (NPV) of ImmuPharma’s (LON:IMM) IPP-204106 compound at up to £190 million compared to its market cap of £75 million.
In today’s research report, Edison responded to last week’s update from the company, which is planning to file a new cancer compound (IPP-204106, N6L) as a US Investigational New Drug (IND) in the next few months and start a Phase IIb trial in the first half of 2011.
In a statement published last week, the company said it has now dosed six cancer patients, suffering from either breast cancer, lung cancer or bladder cancer, and no serious drug-related adverse events have been reported.
Two patients were rated as having the disease stabilised.
Edison said the update showed steady phase IIa development progress with six enrolled patients and a move to the second dose level as the 1 miligram (mg)/kilogram (kg) dose has passed and the 2mg/kg dose is being tested.
The report noted that nanoparticles formed from N6L and glycosaminoglycan are potentially tenfold more effective in killing cancer cells, which Edison said was an “interesting, very valuable observation”.
ImmuPharma is running a standard Phase IIa study with advanced-cancer patients with various tumour types to find the maximum tolerated dose, which could be up to 20 mg/kg.
The study is designed to show safety and tolerability and assess the maximum tolerated dose.
The next stage of trials, phase IIb, in four cancers could start as soon as next year.
Pancreatic, brain, melanoma (skin) and castration-resistant prostate cancer targeted by the study are all considered to be hard to treat cancers with no current robust treatment options.
In preclinical work, IPP-204106 showed a dual mode of action: anti-angiogenic and arrest of cancer cell growth with possible apoptosis.
This dose can then be used in specific tumour-type Phase IIb studies to give an initial indication of efficacy.
A US IND (investigational new drug application) might be filed in 2011 to start US clinical work.
The research house gave N6L a risk adjusted of £190 million, or 230 pence per share, compared to an enterprise value of about £50 million.
Edison will revaluate IPP-204106 once the Phase IIa data is released.
The report noted that ImmuPharma remains sensitive to exchange rates as about 75% of its cash is held in US dollars.

GGG Resources’ Bullabulling gold project has significant exploration upside - Collins Stewart

Collins Stewart called GGG Resources’ (LON:GGG) key Bullabulling gold project in Australia a very interesting asset with a significant exploration upside.
Following today’s appointment as GGG’s new corporate broker, Collins Stewart gave a summary of the company’s projects.
The broker gives GGG’s flagship asset a valuation that eclipses its current market cap.
Collins Stewart said that GGG’s 50% owned Bullabulling has a net present value (NPV) of US$178 million, with US$89 million, or £57 million, attributable to GGG, compared to its market cap of £31 million. GGG's joint venture partner is Auzex Resources (ASX:AZX)
Within 3 months of acquisition, the JORC compliant resource increased from 432,000 oz to just under 2 million ounces (Moz) of gold at 1.5 grammes per tonne (g/t).
According to Collins Stewart, the exploration upside is significant with the overall mineralized structure over 14 kilometres in length, while the infrastructure is “excellent” with the deposit being located just 5 kilometres (km) from the town of Coolgardie, meaning availability of cheap power.
This as well as substantial ‘sweet spots’ of mineralisation close to the surface, with grades of over 2 g/t and simple ore metallurgy typical for shallow deposits in gold fields in the area with 90% recoveries makes Bullabulling an “interesting project,” according to Collins Stewart.
The feasibility study at Bullabulling is commencing with a view to move the project into production in Q1 2013, which the broker said was “realistic and achievable”, citing the example of the Edna May gold project, which has been successfully commissioned this year by Catalpa Resources (ASX:CAH).
The broker used similar projects in Western Australia were used as a benchmark, stating that the “technically simple nature” of Bullabulling inspired greater confidence in valuation than its peers.
The key input assumptions were capital costs of US$157 million, a 15 year life of mine, an annual steady state production of 130,000 ounces (oz), cash costs of just under US$600/oz and a long term gold price of US$1,100/oz, which is significantly below the current US$1,340/oz.
“At $41/resource ounce, GGG Resources is one of the outstanding value propositions in the sector.
"As Bullabulling gets closer to production, we expect the gap between the project NPV and the company valuation to narrow significantly," concluded Collins Stewart.
GGG today said that Westhouse Securities will continue as its nominated adviser.

Beowulf shares rise as the drilling begins on Kallak South

Beowulf Mining (AIM: BEM) announced today that drilling has begun on its Kallak South iron ore deposit in northern Sweden with assay results expected by the end of the year.

The programme will consist of 32 holes over a total length of 3,500 metres and will be carried out by local firm Ludvika Borrteknik, which is using two light moveable rigs. 

It will allow the company to compile a JORC-compliant resource.
In order to assess the quality of ore relative to that of the neighbouring Kallak North deposit, the company is planning to commence bench scale metallurgical tests.

The tests will be conducted by the Minpro research laboratory in Stråssa, central Sweden, on selected large samples of ore grade drill core sections of the deposit.

And they will be directed towards the production of a high grade magnetite pellet feed product for use by potential clients, the company said.

Chairman Clive Sinclair-Poulton added: "We are delighted to confirm that drilling has now commenced on the Kallak South deposit where we believe that there is considerable potential.

“The drilling programme is designed to confirm the quantity and quality of the iron ore in the licence area to then enable a JORC compliant resource estimate to be obtained.

“The initial assay results from the Kallak North drilling programme were very positive and the Kallak South deposit has the potential to be a significantly larger resource. We look forward to receiving the results."

Separately, the Beowulf has signed a letter of intent with Ludvika Borrteknik to begin a 4,000 metre drill programme on its Ruoutevare project area, also in northern Sweden.

Sinclair-Poulton believes Beowulf is destined to be a “major player in the European iron ore sector”.

The market seems to agree. The shares jumped 2.25p, or 14 per to 18p cent in early trade and have advanced 160 per cent in the past month.

Again today the stock inched a little higher – it is up 10 per cent after an upbeat appraisal of its Kallak iron ore project.

Today’s news confirmed “extended mineralisation” at Kallak North, which has an estimated resource of 150 million tonnes, with grades above 30 per cent.

However more interesting was the company’s preliminary assessment of Kallak South. 3D modelling revealed it is a “substantially larger” iron body than the northern deposit.

The company said the “Kallaks” may form a combined potential resource of several hundreds of million tonnes of iron ore.

Put together with the 140 million tonnes at Ruoutevare, which is 60-odd kilometres up the road, and one can understand why the chairman and the market are getting quite exited.

Earlier this month the group raised £400,000 via a placing of shares at 5.75p each to continue its aggressive drilling programme.

As well as Kallak and Ruoutevare, the company has a half share of the Balleck copper-gold project in northern Sweden as well having uranium, gold and molybdenum assets.

Baobab secures £5m for drilling at Tete iron-vanadium-titanium project

Baobab Resources (LON:BAO) has secured a three year equity line facility (ELF) of up to £5 million, allowing it to accelerate the current drilling programme at its Tete iron-vanadium-titanium project that has produced “encouraging results”.
The ELF with Dutchess Opportunity Cayman Fund offers Baobab ongoing access to capital as it enables the Company to obtain funding from Dutchess at any time during the next three years via share subscriptions.
The subscriptions will be priced at a discount of just 6% to the market price and will take place at timings and intervals and in sizes determined by Baobab.
Under the terms of the ELF, Baobab will be able to specify a minimum acceptable price for each tranche to prevent shares being sold in the market at an “unacceptable discount”, allowing it to protect the stock price.
Baobab called the facility a “cost effective solution for some future financings with management being in control of the timing on accessing capital”.
The company’s main asset is the Tete iron-vanadium-titanium project in Mozambique, which currently has an inferred mineral resource of 47.7 million tonnes (Mt).
The company is currently working on bringing a second rig to the South Zone of Tete to accelerate its drilling campaign, having completed 3,000 metres of reverse circulation (RC) drilling at the South Zone as of last week.
Broker Astaire Securities called the progress achieved by Baobab at Tete “encouraging” as they have successfully identified priority areas at Chimbala for the 2011 drilling campaign.
“At a time when the company is consolidating its position in Tete the facility will assist in the acceleration of drilling programmes where warranted and better enable the company to participate in opportunities that may arise,” said chairman of Baobab Resources Jeremy Dowler.
In consideration for the ELF, Baobab agreed to pay First Columbus LLP a commitment fee through the issue of 0.66 million shares, while issuing Dutchess and First Columbus LLP 0.44 million warrants with an exercise price of 16.88 pence, which is a 50% premium to Baobab’s closing price on 20 October 2010.
In response to today’s news, Astaire said that the equity drawdown provides some security for the company as it progresses Tete and the flexibility to expedite the drilling programme, should it choose to do so.
Astaire also noted the “modest” 6% discount and the threshold price floor, preventing the arrangement from being “unduly dilutive”.
The news was met with a positive reaction in the market as shares climbed 2.5%.

Westminster Group secures £1 mln new funds from high net worth investor at a premium

Security equipment and services specialist Westminster Group (LON:WSG) has secured a £1 million investment from a high net worth individual at a premium to the current share price.
The company has issued 4 million new shares, or 16.49 percent of the enlarged capital, at 25 pence per share.  The stock started today’s session at 21p, and rose more than 7 percent in early deals to 22.5p.
Chief executive Peter Fowler said: “This investment in Westminster by a high net worth investor, at a premium to the current share price, is a significant endorsement of our business.  The international profile of the group and the successful project installations of the last few years have firmly established Westminster as a respected force in the bespoke global security and defence solutions markets.
We are focused on delivering significant growth and this investment will assist us in furthering our growth plans accordingly, whilst at the same time giving us the option, if needed, to reduce the group's borrowings significantly."
The group also updated investors on progress regarding its announcement alongside interim results, when it informed the market that one of the loan note holders of the convertible loan notes issued in June 2009 had requested early redemption.
The loan notes were repayable by Westminster or convertible into shares in 2014. The group announced today that it has agreed to use its best endeavours to redeem these loan notes early.
Westminster's principal activity is the design, supply and ongoing support of advanced technology security solutions, risk assessments and close protection services worldwide.
These can range from product only assignments, such as the supply of specialised scanners, to the design and implementation of an integrated system solution such as a border detection and surveillance system. The majority of its customer base, by value, comprises governments and government agencies, non-governmental organisations and blue chip commercial organisations.

Goldplat's positive drilling results confirm Nyieme project's potential

Goldplat (LON:GDP)shares were boosted this morning with positive drilling results confirming the potential of the Nyieme gold project in Burkina Faso.

The company released results from an 11-hole infill program, which will form part of a maiden JORC resource for Nyieme. Five holes returned grades over 4 grams per tonne (g/t) gold, with the highest reaching 19.1g/t.

"These excellent results reinforce the prospectivity of the Nyieme project, with drilling intersecting high grade quartz veins and confirming the potential of the target structure,” chief executive Demetri Manolis said.
Shares climbed over 6% in early trade to reach 13.25 pence. Exploration is a relatively new business area for Goldplat but it is providing a boon for its traditional metal recovery business. The development of Nyieme and the Kilimapesa gold project in Kenya is being supported by Goldplat’s cash generative gold and platinum processing plants in South Africa and Ghana.

At Nyieme, Goldplat is compiling the results, along with results from previous owners Sanu Resources, in order to produce an initial JORC-compliant resource.

Importantly the results successfully tested the projects ‘payshoot’ model.

Goldplat said the predicted payshoots on the quartz vein were verified and their depth extensions were confirmed.

Also Goldplat is now planning to extend its exploration programme following the positive results, to test other target areas on the licence.

“We have identified additional targets on the project and we are now designing the next stage of exploration,” Manolis added.

This exploration programme will get underway in January 2011.

The new exploration targets include an area of artisanal mining activity, as well as a continuation of the geophysical anomaly that defines the current prospect area.

These targets are generally focused on a 5 kilometre long north-south trend.

Gulfsands' Khurbet East-18 reveals Syrian field extends further north than first thought

Gulfsands Petroleum  (LON:GPX) said drilling on the Khurbet East-18 well uncovered the second-thickest oil bearing reservoir in the area.

It also confirmed the Syrian field extends further north than previously thought.

Gulfsands hit the reservoir 12 metres higher than anticipated as it drilled to 1,926 metres, which equates to a vertical depth of 1,535 metres.
Analysis of the wire-line logs revealed that oil column was 45.8 metres gross, or 35.6 metres net. Porosity was 20.2 per cent, while the average oil saturation was 86.9 per cent.

The logs also indicated the presence of significant secondary or "vuggy" porosity that is associated with a “karst-type reservoir“, which exhibit excellent flow properties elsewhere in the Khurbet East field.

The reservoir was flow tested and produced at a stable rate of 2,385 barrels per day of oil, which was 26 degree API.

Gulfsands produced “minor volumes of water” during the flow test. However this is thought to be lost drilling fluids and not production of reservoir formation water, it added.

The impact of the KHE-18 result on field oil-in-place and recoverable oil volumes will be calculated as part of the annual year-end reserves estimate. This will be available during the first quarter of 2011.

Gulfsands chief executive Ric Malcolm said: "The extension of the crest of the Khurbet East field to the northwest with high quality karst reservoir is very encouraging. 

“The well will now be tied back to the early production facility and become the tenth producer in the field. 

“With two rigs now operational, we have a very active exploration programme that includes three wells to be drilled before year end".

The Crosco 401 rig being used on the KHE-18 well will now move to seven kilometres to drill the neighbouring Twaiba-1 exploration well.

The location was selected based on interpretation of 3D seismic data acquired during 2009.

“The key exploration risk on this prospect relates to the presence of adequate reservoir quality; however this is mitigated somewhat by the presence of an anomalous seismic amplitude observed at the target location,” Gulfsands revealed in an update to investors

“The interpretation of this anomaly is supported by Acoustic Inversion processing of seismic data, which suggests the presence of an effective reservoir at the Twaiba location.”

Meanwhile, on the Syria-Turkey  border  the Zahraa-1 exploration well spudded on October 21.

Two days earlier the Yousefieh South well was acidified and flow tested under nitrogen lift conditions.

However, only minor non-commercial volumes of 16 degree API oil and water were recovered to surface.

The well will be plugged and abandoned.

Gulfsands also said that the 2010 3D seismic programme on the Greater Khurbet East area is now 75 per cent complete and will be finished by the year-end.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Nighthawk shares rise after it secures £25 million funding package

Nighthawk Energy (AIM: HAWK and OTCQX: NHEGY) shares advanced 8 per cent this morning after the company announced it had secured a £25 million funding package and set a deadline for farm-in bids for its oil project in Colorado.
Nighthawk has agreed an equity drawdown facility (EEF) that allows it to “negotiate from a position of strength” with potential partners carrying out due diligence on the Jolly Ranch shale-oil exploration area.
Consultant Macquarie-Tristone is charge of the marketing process, which began over the summer. And while a number of firms have been given access to the company’s data room, nobody has yet tabled a formal offer.
Nighthawk will call time on negotiations at the end of the year if it can’t broker a deal. And it will begin a new drilling programme on the site.
Chief executive Tim Heeley told Proactive Investors: “We don’t have to be a forced seller of anything.
“We can use the money as a backstop. It immediately removes that question about whether you have funding, because we do have the funding now.
“It removes the element of doubt and gives us flexibility and optionality.
“(The equity drawdown facility) means we can talk from a position of strength, which is not something we’ve necessarily been able to do before.
“We’re encouraged by the facility and provided we use it correctly we can kick on from here.”
The funding package is being provided by Darwin Strategic, part of the Evolution Group.
And it gives the firm the financial wherewithal to carry out the work needed to “deliver a commercial project” with the added bonus of some near-term production.
“There is a lot of work we can undertake that will add value,” Heeley explained.
“And it is interesting that a number of institutions we speak to in regard to Jolly Ranch think it is too early to (look for a farm-in partner).
“They ask: ‘Why would you want to do this at such a low level when you can do the development yourself?’ I think it has been encouraging over the last few weeks to hear this.
“Let’s not place too much attention on the (negotiations with partners). That wasn’t the intention in the first place.
“What we want to do is make sure we can add value.
“Clearly at this stage if we were to receive some sort of offer it might not be at the right value to our shareholders. So let’s get on with it ourselves.”
Nighthawk has appointed Gaffney Cline & Associates to undertake a reserves and resource assessment of Jolly Ranch.
It is expected to be completed by late this year or early 2011 and will build on the reservoir simulation model of Schlumberger.
Nighthawk can use the equity drawdown facility any time in the next three years, though it is under no obligation to do so.
The subscription price will be at a five per cent discount to an agreed reference price determined during five, 10 or 15 trading days following delivery of a subscription notice.
Nighthawk has also granted 3 million warrants to Darwin that can be exercised any time in the next three years at a price of 20p (current price 17p).  Darwin will get 1.5 million warrants exercisable at 10p if the price paid for shares is less than £5 million, or certain circumstances where the equity drawdown is terminated.
“These are the only open fees Darwin gets,” Heeley said.
“There are no other upfront fees. Over the course of the next three years of the facility they can subscribe to 3 million shares in lieu of compensation for their efforts.
“They are making this capital available to us.
“They are very supportive. Darwin is backed by Evolution and it is the third (equity drawdown) they have done. They need it to succeed as much as we do.
“We are hugely encouraged by it, they are excited. What we have to do now is use that money wisely.”
At 11.15am, the shares were trading at 17p, up 1.25p or 8 per cent on the day.
Followers of the company are heartened by the latest developments at Nighthawk.
David Hart, oil and gas analyst at City research firm Westhouse, told his clients: “The announcement removes a great deal of uncertainty regarding Nighthawk’s ability to pursue development activity at its core Jolly Ranch project.
“In addition, it does so while giving the group great flexibility in the timing and amount of funds required, which has the potential to be less dilutive and better priced than attempting to raise the funds in a single placing.
“We are also encouraged that completions and recompletions will be pursued first, as these offer the most immediate avenue to increased production levels, while also learning more about the optimal completion technique for the play.”

Mariana Resources removes another layer of risk from Patagonia project

Mariana Resources (AIM: MARL) this morning removed another layer of risk from its promising Las Calandrias gold-silver project by acquiring the freehold surface rights to the licence area in Patagonia.
The purchase also gives the  company more  flexibility in  the future to fast-track  the exploration and development of the site.
The surface rights cover all of the known Mariana gold mineralised zones at Las Calandrias as well as those areas considered to be the highly prospective for new gold discoveries.
The agreement allows the former owner occupy and farm livestock on all vacant land at but prevents him interfering with any exploration and future mining operations.
Mariana has a project office on site as well as two new  core sheds and the recently purchased new camp  facility.
This will cater for 36 people and is fully operational now that a 10,000 metre drill programme is underway to define a maiden resource at Las Calandrias.
Mariana's  Chairman John Horsburgh  said: "The purchase  of the freehold surface rights  demonstrates our commitment to our flagship Las Calandrias project as we continue  to advance the project through the development cycle and up the value curve.  
“The purchase not  only secures our  access to the  project but gives us future   flexibility  to  optimise  further  exploration  work  and  development infrastructure.
"Mariana  is continually  engaging local  communities and  has maintained a very good  relationship with  the previous  owner which  we hope  to build upon as we develop  the  Las  Calandrias  project.  
“We  believe this purchase demonstrates Mariana's commitment to the project, local community and the Santa Cruz Province as  a  place  where  junior  explorers  can  add wealth for shareholders through discovery and development."
The company’s broker FinnCap said the freehold purchase is a positive step in the development of the Argentinean project.
Analyst Joe Lunn said: “It removes the risk of a third party delaying the project in the future by demanding a high level of compensation in return for relinquishment of these rights. We expect the assay results of the first holes at Las Calandrias shortly.”
The project is located in the Deseado Masif, the up-and-coming area in Argentina for gold and silver discoveries.
It is divided in two – Calandria Sur and Calandria Norte – and the licence is 100 per cent owned by Mariana.
Around a year ago Sutcliffe and his team drilled 1,350 metres of holes around Norte and came away with very little.
“We got a few metres with a few grams of gold,” managing director John Sutcliffe told Proactive Investors recently.
However he had better luck when he began a second round of drilling to 70 metres that struck bonanza grades of gold between 338 grams and 443 grams per tonne.
“It is pretty amazing. But both intersections are very narrow - in one case one metre and the other 80 centimetres,” Sutcliffe says.
The first programme, completed in October 2009, did find a very viable target at Sur, which the Mariana MD says is “stacking up to be bulk minable”.
The grades here range between 0.9 grams per tonne and 2.4 grams, but are spread over a much greater area.
However Sutcliffe reckons the drill programme is yet to uncover Sur’s full potential.
“Calandria Sur is a bowl with the gold like a soup at the bottom of the basin,” he explains.
“The gold is spread out over a large area. What we are looking for is where the gold came from, because it didn’t just appear in that rock. It didn’t form that way. It has got to have come from some sort of feeder zone.
“I think the feeder zone is something like Calandria Norte, which is a vein of a high-grade multi-ounce feeder zone.
“Perhaps what we haven’t found at Calandria Sur is what could actually be the future if the project.
“It is going to be hard to find (the feeder zone) and we may not find it in this round of drilling. If we don’t find it then this project is still going to have legs.”
While Mariana continues to look for the source of the gold at Sur, the drilling is also designed to help it compile a resource estimate, which it hopes to publish by the “first part of next year”.
However Mariana isn’t a one project play.
Drilling at Sierra Blanca, in Argentia, will begin by the end of the year with the potential for silver-gold discovery. Mariana owns 70 percent of Sierra Blanca, though it has an option to a buy the remaining 30 per cent from IAMGOLD.
“We have got on the surface some very exciting silver numbers,” says Sutcliffe.
One particular 11 metre intersection contained 386 grams of silver per tonne coupled with a not-to-be-sniffed at 3.4 grams of gold.
“The numbers are really interesting, but we’ve not been able to nail it in the drilling,” Sutcliffe explains.  "This is mainly the result of drilling problems – difficult ground and loss of water circulation.”
In Chile the group has joint ventured all its iron oxide copper gold (IOCG) projects there with Cliffs Natural Resources. The earn-in agreement could see the American group take a 70 per cent stake in Mariana’s Northern Chile properties.
But it will only do so if it invests US$3 million developing them. Cliffs has committed to a minimum spend of US$500,000.
FinnCap analyst Lunn reckons this is a very sensible approach.
“We view the decision ... as an excellent way of unlocking the potential value of this world class exploration ground while maintaining shareholder exposure in the event of a discovery,” he said.
And he points out that while there is the potential for a major copper discovery in Chile, he also notes that a “substantial amount of geophysics” needs to be carried out before drill targets can be determined.
Back in Argentina, and just two kilometres from Calandria Sur, is the El Nido prospect, which barely rates a mention in the Mariana literature and certainly isn’t included in the company’s current valuation.
FinnCap’s Lunn has taken a stab at valuing Las Calandrias and reckons it is worth 41p a share based on a resource of 600,000 ounces of gold. However his matrix gives an upside case of 91p.
“We think that the enlarged mineralised footprint at Calandria Sur, proved up by the recent drilling campaign, has the potential to contain up to 500,000 ounces of low grade, bulk tonnage mineralisation,” Lunn said in a note to clients shortly after the summer fundraiser.
“But our re-rating of the shares is primarily due to the bonanza gold grades encountered at Calandria Norte, located 700 metres away.
“Although only two ore grade holes have been drilled so far, we believe that Calandria Norte has the potential to become the standout discovery at Las Calandrias.”