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Although a recession seems to be in the cards now as expected by many experts, the Fed rate hike forecasts (25-50 base points) still imply a soft landing, as certain figures didn’t disappoint. The Fed looked at the signs of disinflation at housing and labor, and there has been a serious case of socalled fiscal contraction, contributing to the slow pace of demand growth. This disinflation seems to be a typical case of demand destruction through high prices. Lower rate hikes mean a less stronger US Dollar and higher commodity prices, and a soft landing means a recession the markets can deal with more easily, which are both positive for Aztec Minerals (AZT: TSX-V, OTCQB: AZZTF).
They recently completed their Phase III 11 hole drill program at its now fully owned (transaction for 35% interest from Kootenay Silver for just C$2.5M in shares and a 0.5% NSR royalty closed on August 23, 2022) flagship Cervantes gold project in Sonora, Mexico returned very decent results, further expanding the heap leachable oxides, and also tested one target at depth with core drilling. This article will dive into the results, and further plans. Last but not least there was of course the unexpected passing of founder and Chairman Bradford Cooke at the young age of 67, announced on August 18, 2022. I got to know him over the years as a very friendly, helpful and giving human being besides an accomplished geologist and entrepreneur, who will be missed by many.
Founder and Chairman Bradford Cooke at Cervantes
All presented tables are my own material, unless stated otherwise.
All pictures are company material, unless stated otherwise.
All currencies are in US Dollars, unless stated otherwise.
Please note: the views, opinions, estimates, forecasts or predictions regarding Aztec’s resource potential are those of the author alone and do not represent views, opinions, estimates, forecasts or predictions of Aztec or Aztec’s management. Aztec has not in any way endorsed the views, opinions, estimates, forecasts or predictions provided by the author.
On October 25, 2022 Aztec Minerals announced the completion of its Phase III diamond drill program at Cervantes. The primary focus of the Phase 3 Core drilling program at Cervantes, which had a focus on further expanding the California target, California North and Jasper targets including copper-gold porphyry potential at depth, to enhance geologic understanding of the targets, and to collect samples for metallurgical testing. Eleven holes were drilled during this program, and by November 15, 2022, results for 8 of the 11 holes have been reported. The drill results were in line with expectations, with the following highlights for California and California North:
• California North: CAL22-022 - 9.0 m @ 1.72 g/t Au and 16.5 m @ 0.34 g/t Au
• California: CAL22-023 – 26.7 m @ 0.54 g/t Au, 7.5 m @ 0.43 g/t Au
• California: CAL22-024 – 46.5 m @ 0.44 g/t Au, 5.65 m @ 0.25 g/t Au
• CAL22-027 – 120.0 m @ 0.68 g/t Au
• CAL22-029 – 57.0 m @ 0.77 g/t Au
The assays for a deep hole at California, another step-out hole at California and a hole at Jasper are expected back from the labs over the coming weeks. The initial gold assay results can be seen in the following table:
The highlights of Phase 3 drilling to date involved holes 023, 024 and 029 that were positive, as they meant further expansion of Cervantes oxide mineralization to the north, as can be seen on the following map. Hole 0.27 was a metallurgical test infill hole right next to hole 18CER010 (160m @ 0.77g/t Au) so this wasn’t a surprise. Hole 025 returned very modest shallow gold mineralization, and the company is awaiting multi element results noting that this was a deeper porphyry target to test an IP chargeability target at depth below the oxide cap.
Personally, I am not convinced yet of the mineralized potential between the ridges of California and California North, as holes 021 (4.5m @ 0.41g/t Au from 100.3m) and hole 022 (9.0m @ 1.72 g/t Au and 16.5m @ 0.341 g/t Au from 97.5m and 150m) seem to indicate that economic mineralization seems to be concentrated at the ridges itself, although hole 021 didn’t reach its target depth. Hole 026, also located at a lower elevation, which was an ambitious 450m step-out to the southeast from hole 025 (just outside this map) didn’t return any mineralization as well unfortunately. If mineralization indeed seems to be confined to the ridges, then the potential deposit could have an L-shape, connecting California North to California from the northeast tip of California. The company intends to carefully define the exact limits of mineralization by 50-60m step-outs. Let’s wait and see what future drilling will bring us.
Since my latest back-of-the-envelope estimate came in at 930-950koz Au, let’s have a look at the impact of the latest results. For this it is useful to look at the adjacent holes of 023, 024 and 029 which contain economic mineralization. These are holes 011, 012, 013, 016, 017 and 18CER017:
The location of these holes in relation to holes 023, 024 and 029 can be seen on this map:
Using a mineralized diameter of 50m for hypothetical Inferred mineralization, and assumed continuation between holes 023, 024, 029 and the 6 adjacent holes, I arrive at an estimated additional mineralized envelope of 350m x 100m. It is too bad that hole CAL22-013 had such a short intercept (although very close to excellent, high grade, long intercept CAL22-012), as it brings down the average towards hole 029. Taking everything into account, my assumption for the envelope would be 350m x 100m x 45m x 2.75t/m3 = 4.3Mt, and at an average estimated grade of 0.46g/t this would result in an additional, hypothetical 64koz Au. When combining this with my existing estimate for the total mineralized envelope, it seems Cervantes goes just past the 1Moz Au threshold for now. Aztec is expecting 3 more drill results in the coming weeks. As always, please note that the company has not established any compliant resource estimates yet and did not provide commentary beyond that which has been publicly detailed in press releases, so take my estimates with a grain of salt and always do your own estimates.
Keep in mind I calculated an estimated 75koz Au per annum production scenario in my last article based on the hypothetical 930-950koz envelope, generating an equally hypothetical NPV 5 of US$150M, so these estimated numbers improve slightly as well. Ideally the 100koz Au per annum threshold might be achieved for Cervantes, by reaching a 1.3-1.4Moz Au resource figure. Time will tell.
As the company has plans to re-map and surface sample a number of the Cervantes target areas including the Estrella ridge, west of California, with the goal of generating drill targets, I wondered what the status of this work is. CEO Dyakowski answered that the mapping and roadcut sampling program is expected to commence in the dry season of January-February when the rainy season vegetation has died off and crews will be able to obtain samples.
Finally, as I discussed an intended follow up core drilling program at Tombstone with CEO Dyakowski, I wondered what the status of the ongoing mapping and modelling programs is at the moment, and the actual drill program. He answered that follow up exploration plans at both projects are currently being designed and that the company expects to update the market on both project’s go-forward plans over the coming weeks and into January 2023. As I view Tombstone as a project with at least the same mineralized potential as Cervantes, I believe it has equally as exciting prospects as the flagship Cervantes Project.
After completing a phenomenal deal on Cervantes in August, Aztec holds all the upside with fully consolidated ownership. As Alamos Gold didn’t become a strategic investor for no reason, my suspicion is that this deal is part of a bigger plan. Recent drill results fueled my expectations for this, as according to my estimates Aztec could very well be sitting on 1Moz Au heap leachable gold at the moment, with further exploration upside. Although the first deep drill hole didn’t discover any significant gold mineralization Aztec isn’t done testing deep potential yet at other targets. On top of that there is still Tombstone, with equally exciting mineralized potential. I’m looking forward to the next round of exploration plans for Aztec’s projects, and somewhere in H2 2023 a maiden resource estimate, verifying my armwaving estimates and assumptions in a NI43-101 compliant report. Stay tuned!
I hope you will find this article interesting and useful, and will have further interest in my upcoming articles on mining. To never miss a thing, please subscribe to my free newsletter at www.criticalinvestor.eu, in order to get an email notice of my new articles soon after they are published.
The author is not a registered investment advisor, and currently has a position in this stock. Aztec Minerals is a sponsoring company. All facts are to be checked by the reader. For more information go to www.aztecminerals.com and read the company’s profile and official documents on www.sedar.com, also for important risk disclosures. This article is provided for information purposes only, and is not intended to be investment advice of any kind, and all readers are encouraged to do their own due diligence, and talk to their own licensed investment advisors prior to making any investment decisions.