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Peter Bell: Hello, I'm Peter Bell and I'm here with Mr. Tom MacNeill, President and CEO of OMINECA MINING. Hello Tom!
Tom MacNeill: Hi there. Nice to be talking to you.
Peter Bell: It's the first time I've had a chance to do an interview with you. Thank you. We're here at the Metals Investor Forum in Toronto and it's the first time that the company has exhibited at a conference in years. Good for you.
Tom MacNeill: Actually, not ever! This is our maiden voyage as far as telling the story publicly. Even though we took the assets that we have and move them into OMINECA MINING AND METALS in 2013, given the state of the gold market we've been painfully quiet during that period. Now is the time to start telling this story.
Peter Bell: And what a story it is, Tom! Digging into some of the history in Saskatchewan around the SEABEE mine recently myself, I've been surprised to pull on some of those threads and see all the different things that come out. It has been fascinating to see your name pop up in a few places. And all the other people that are tied in with the story of this company and all the other companies associated with it.
Tom MacNeill: That's one of the more interesting features about what we're doing in the BARKERVILLE area east of QUESNEL. There is a great deal of geological expertise behind the scenes on this project. It's a historical project that's always struggled because of a lack of application of proper mining techniques. We've overcome that. We did, in fact, in 2012 as you can see if you go through the data about what we did. We're really excited now to bring it forward in the current gold market. This climate is the right time and we've got a lot of people behind the scenes that don't show up in all OMINECA MINING AND METALS that really have a lot to do with how this is moving forward.
Peter Bell: What we do see in the company news flow recently in the last year has been pretty surprising. There's an unusual paleo-placer project that you were able to sell part of, in exchange for a carried interest. That's a great ride that allows the public company to now focus on hardrock exploration.
Tom MacNeill: Exactly. That was always what we're going to get to from when we bulk sampled this in 2012, which was an unusual thing to do. It's a paleo-placer 50 meters beneath LIGHTNING CREEK. There had been a historical resource calculation done on it in 1986. We looked at all that data, did some confirmatory drilling to get comfortable ourselves, and figured the best way to find out what this really looks like is to get down the decline and bulk sample it. We did and we were very surprised with what we got. We exceeded our expectations by a factor of two when we pulled that bulk sample. Again, I've got to remind you that gold market fell right out of bed after we did that. Today, we've developed a relationship with HCC MINING AND DEMOLITION out of Saskatoon, which is a group of people that we've got a long history with. Going back decades with some of their mining operations people. The long and short of the deal is that they come and develop it, bulk sample it, then presumably mine it for us, and they get to keep half the gold. They also get to bill us for our half at $850/oz CAD. In this current price environment, that's just a thrilling prospect because we have no upfront capital to expend. We can focus our attention on what we think is the very nearby hardrock exploration potential.
Peter Bell: And one of my favorite features you have this upside in price on those deliverable ounces in that bulk sample, but the number of ounces is not capped either. If they go ahead and surprise production numbers, then it's all to the benefit of OMINECA.
Tom MacNeill: Exactly. More importantly, we'll start getting out ahead and drilling-off further resources. Right now, the historical resource was calculated over 1.5 kilometers. We've got over 15 kilometers of potential paleo-channel. We know it's very rich. When we developed that bulk sample crosscut, in a 2.4 metre by 2.4 metre wide crosscut, we went 23.5 meters. On average, every meter we advance produced seven ounces of gold. It's incredibly rich. Our geologist at the time, Steve Kocsis, who has a world of exploration in the CARIBOO and elsewhere in British Columbia noted that we recovered some of, if not the absolute, highest grades in paleo-placer ever recorded in BC history. That's an extraordinary statement and that's why we're so excited, and why our partners were willing to come work with us to start liberating gold from the bulk sample and just move on down the project as we go.
Peter Bell: What's old is new again! Talking about over $2,000 an ounce Canadian gold price versus the $850 delivery price here for OMINECA -- amazing. Will there be any guidance around production numbers on a forward-looking basis from OMINECA?
Tom MacNeill: Because we did not develop a current 43-101 compliant resource, no. This is something we at the private company stage on purpose. We've been operating internally off the historical information, in which we had all the faith in the world. As I said at the beginning, our extended working group of mining professionals were involved in bringing many, many, many mines to the production stage before the advent of 43-101 reporting requirements. We've, internally, been very comfortable without them. That's why our partners we're just going to do this. We can't call it mining, but we call it bulk sampling at this stage. The results that you will see will be in hindsight, rather than foresight. And it's our intention that when we start developing the bulk sample, we will give weekly progress updates. And, presumably, that'll carry on for the life of the project, which, for all we know, could be decades. We'll see.
Peter Bell: The extent of it is quite impressive and you seem to be adding more placer claims all the time. The recent news release up-creek at LIGHTNING CREEK and WINGDAM. Then, there's the Fraser Canyon one as well.
Tom MacNeill: One of the things we know is that the whole creek is rich. The two richest creeks in BC history were WILLIAMS CREEK and LIGHTNING CREEK. It's not a coincidence that OSISKO GOLD ROYALTIES has a very large, 2,000 square kilometer land package surrounding the WILLIAMS CREEK area, where the lode gold has produced over 1.2 million ounces. They've drilled off another 4 million high-grade ounces and they're not stopping. They've got big and fast because they've always obviously liked what they saw. That ties into why we've got more placer claims. We realized in our bulk sample that the paleo-placer gold was likely charged from more than one lode gold deposit. We firmly believe that we can move up the creek and continue recovering the type of gold that we've seen, but also that we should be coming across other charged areas that are at different levels in that paleo-channel from other deposits. We can only go so far east for the lode gold because we bump into OSISKO -- we're contiguous with them. But we've got 400 square kilometers of land for hard rock exploration. It's really as simple as the way they did it back in the 1800s -- follow the gold nuggets to where the lode sources is. We're doing nothing different here in 2020.
Peter Bell: Amazing. Thank you for mentioning up-creek again. I've looked on Google Earth that the topography and always wondered if it was more down-creek that you'd be focused on or up-creek.
Tom MacNeill: It's both, really. Both.
Peter Bell: Wonderful to hear that. And down-creek, it seems like the cover increases? It's a little bit harder maybe to make out where the valley was, but when you go up it seems like there's a little bit more clear definition of where the erosion happened. And thinking about the geology, the lines of weakness, and whatever faulting there might have been -- did that erosion follow the geology?
Tom MacNeill: It's interesting, for sure. Going down-creek, it does change a little bit. A couple of points of that. Where we're working at LIGHTNING CREEK is the most technically challenging to liberate gold, because it's in a steep valley area with a water-charged river valley above it. 50 meters above the deposit is LIGHTNING CREEK as it stands today. But 3D seismic is key -- and this is why technology has caught up with this deposit. 3D seismic can tell us exactly where the canyon walls are in the bedrock for the creek. We know where the gold is and where it isn't. We can really follow the channel without drilling. Do 3d seismic and then poke a couple holes to say, "Is there still gold there?" You don't rely on it for grade, you rely on it to say if it is still there. Grade will be variable. In the historic placer days, they used to gauge the quality of a placer mining river by how many millions of dollars per mile did it produce? We know from the historical that there were quite a few miles up between us and BARKERVILLE, in the same paleo-channel, there was reported recoveries of up to US$9 million per mile at $20.67 gold. You can do comparable calculations now with what we've already shown in our bulk sample. If you do a bit of rough math and take the time, it's interesting as heck. That's one of the reasons why we're going at this -- why we're getting big and following that trail to the source. We think there are multiple sources of lode gold between us and the headwaters of LIGHTNING CREEK up past Stanley.
Peter Bell: Fascinating. So much to talk about -- the geology, the mining, the engineering -- glad to hear you mention the seismic. Ground freezing? There are so many layers to this story, it's potentially a credit to Canadian mining.
Tom MacNeill: It really is and it's a testament to all of the people involved on all ends of this -- mining, engineering, geological consultancy. As I said, there's a very deep knowledge base being focused on this to solve what was once considered to be a challenging mining problem. It's not. It's actually turned out to be a fun one with all of the tools we've cut in our toolkit now in 2020.
Peter Bell: OMINECA as a public company has been around for a while. The balance sheet -- there is a convertible loan on there. Please can I ask about that?
Tom MacNeill: Sure. That's to 49 North because at the private companies stage, our working group were the ones who funded all of this work -- what was considered unique exploration at the time of the bulk sample. That's a very friendly relationship. We expect to recover that out of cash flow from the operations. I don't have the balance of it on hand, but that's something that we're indifferent to because we're very friendly partners. In fact, the largest equity holder of OMINECA is 49 North and that's because we funded all of the activities. The creation of OMINECA traces back to a shell created from the spin-out of the purchase of Copper Canyon in 2011, I think. That should give you a bit of the idea of the depth of the geological expertise behind this. At the time, RON NETOLITZKY was the Chairman of Copper Canyon. TIM TERMUENDE and his group were the operators of that project. They did such a wonderful job of developing assets up at GALORE CREEK that ultimately were purchased by NovaGold. We've got some really deep expertise behind this and everybody's looking at, "How do we make this work?" because everybody's invested. They've put their capital toward this project.
Peter Bell: Wonderful. I know some people get scared looking at that convertible and the high insider ownership, thinking they're gonna tip it over or something. Hold on -- do your homework.
Tom MacNeill: Absolutely not. That's because we funded it at the private company stage. What makes us tick is finding resources in the ground and proving that they can be economically exploited on a profitable basis for all stakeholders. You can just look at our track record of development in Canada and elsewhere, especially in Saskatchewan, and the things that we've done. It's not a coincidence that my father developed the longest-running gold mine in Saskatchewan history that SSR Mining runs so well today. I think they're doing over 120,000 ounces a year over the SEABEE mining complex. That thing's got to be pushing toward 1.7 million ounces. It's the best gold mining project in Saskatchewan history. It's also not a coincidence that my brother, Ken, has worked with his group to develop what is the largest diamond exploration project in the world. Actually, I just watched a really neat video that Rio Tinto just put out about diamond mining in Saskatchewan. You should have a look at that -- it's a neat deal.
Peter Bell: I was at the PDAC just this morning and someone walked by wearing a SEABEE shirt. I said hello to them and it was one of the geologists who was with CLAUDE RESOURCES and has stayed on. Talking to them about the history of the project and everything was encouraging. A lot of really good work going on there. Impressive. I'd love to learn more about 49 North sometime, too. I dug into the balance sheet a little bit and saw some interesting things there. For now, I'd ask about what's coming up next for OMINECA with this lode gold exploration program. You are a junior, not BGM or OSISKO next door. You've got a large land package -- how do you tackle it?
Tom MacNeill: We've always up, until now, funded by passing the hat to the existing shareholder group. We're going to wait for the bulk sample. Obviously, if the bulk sample works out as we plan then that will produce cash flow. The bulk sample alone will be robustly cashflow positive. I can't give you numbers on that, but you can rely on the data to do your own calculations. We have left enough breadcrumbs for people to figure out what we're up to. But we're not going to wait around for that. We just became aware, about a month ago, of one of the largest and most exciting geophysical signatures that we could have imagined -- right where it should be. It could be the source of producing the gold that we have recovered some of in the paleo-channel. That's a truly exciting exploration project. We want to get on that as soon as the snows off the hillsides. We're a company with a "virtually nill" treasury at all times, so we'll likely pass the hat again. We'll probably be doing a financing here, take advantage of Canadian flow-through and raise maybe up to $1M dollars to go out and drill 15-20 holes into the initial target area. We want to get doing exploration. In fact, we're gonna have geophysics done -- some more geophysics done. And some geochem done -- tree sampling. And various other things that we can do right now. Immediately. We're all over getting this done as quickly as possible.
Peter Bell: Grateful to hear you mention the biogeochemical. People say markets don't care about prospecting work, but markets care about people hitting on drill holes! And if you want to hit on drill holes, then you gotta do the prep work first.
Tom MacNeill: In my family's history, anything that we've developed has been the product of really good prospecting. Unfortunately, a lot of the best prospectors in North America are dead and gone. It's a lost art form. I wish people would sort of start focusing on that. It takes a lifetime of commitment -- a subjective ideology -- getting out there, and cracking the rocks. You can't do it from a desk in a textbook. We rely on every piece of information that we can garner both in the historical record and what people can go out get quickly, effectively, and cheaply.
Peter Bell: Crew-wise for OMINECA, then? Contracting that kind of work, or would you look to start building up some of your own field crew?
Tom MacNeill: Ultimately the company will have to, but we've got a long-running relationship with the guys at Eagle Plains and TerraLogic. They are some of the best explorationists in the world, clearly. In fact, my daughter works with TerraLogic right now. They hired her because she's obviously as deeply committed to the business as I am. They do great work. If they have the time -- I haven't had that discussion with those guys yet. We're trying to we're trying to organize programming here and if we can get them off of other projects, or if they have some free time then we'll certainly get them there. Failing that, we will start with people who are available. We like them young because people have got to learn and because there are hills to climb, rocks to crack, and trees to snip stuff off. It's actually physically quite demanding work at this stage. We're gonna get going on it one way or the other.
Peter Bell: Amazing to hear mention of TerraLogic -- that was one connection that I hadn't even imagined yet. I hope that happens. If the any of the Eagle Plains guys are listening, I'm sure they'll pick up the call. They're very responsive. Great group. Maybe I'd mention that I was digging around in a government research report and saw mention of some of the broader geology concepts at play in terms of the genesis of the BARKERVILLE camp -- to see the thrust faults on either side and read about the stuff at WINGDAM as being related to BARKERVILLE. Very impressive.
Tom MacNeill: Sure, it is. There's a nice graphic in our materials that you might be referencing. We have essentially the mirror image, structurally, of what they have going on at BARKERVILLE. Again, it's not a coincidence that WILLIAMS CREEK was the richest placer creek tied with LIGHTNING CREEK on the other side. The water flow ran two different ways at the headwaters of LIGHTNING CREEK -- it ran east toward Barkerville and west toward us. Cutting through lode gold in those systems is what charged those creeks with so much gold. When you look at the geological structure, we've got the same bedrock -- it's what used to be offshore phyllite. It has been up-thrusted and then cut through when, in the Tertiary period, we had a lot of water activity in the area. When you look at the structural setting, they've got the Pleasant Valley thrust fault coming from the east and we've got the Eureka thrust fault coming from the West. They created the same accordion-like folding structures that opened up areas for hot fluids to flush through and produce quartz-hosted lode gold at the same time as the same fluids caused replacement-style mineralization. It really is a mirror image and that's one of the wonderful things about all the work done by OSISKO and Barkerville before them. They did such a great deal of work that we get to rely on. Remember the history of OSISKO -- these guys are great mine finders and they do great geological exploration work. We have relied on a lot of work because it's all public domain in their technical reports. They've spent a great deal of money, which they can because they've got deep pockets, developing information that is directly relatable to our setting. You hit the nail on the head there, Peter. Doing research can be a real benefit to these projects if it is truly analogous to what the other project has going on.
Peter Bell: There's a report that was done in 2017 -- another report that I dug that out and tagged Dean Nawata on Twitter, sending him that link. It's about Atlin and some geology that I don't quite understand -- some placer concepts that may transfer over. Learning about all this geology is just fascinating for me. The confluence of all the business and the science coming together around this historic project is very impressive. To think that a few short years ago, nobody was really interested in it! I remember digging it up myself in 2017-2018 and thinking "There's opportunity here." People told me, "No, you're crazy. Placer doesn't work in a pubco." I figured I'd just wait and see -- glad I did. We'll move along here shortly, but I'll just mention David Morgan. Thanks very much to him for bringing you to Metals Investor Forum.
Tom MacNeill: Yes, this is our maiden voyage talking about Omineca and we're thrilled to have David sponsor us here. He has done one or maybe even two short write-ups about us already. He gets the story. He's always said grade is king. He likes high-grade stories and we have some of the highest grade paleo-placer gold ever recovered in British Columbia. We think we're on to the very immediate lode source of part of it and the potential for multiple sources beyond that. He gets what we're doing, even though it's a little bit out of his bailiwick. It's a really interesting story and I think, like you, he got onto it pretty early here. When you start looking into the detail, we're very conservative about what we're doing. We're just doing quietly and we like to talk about what we've done rather than what we're gonna do. I think if people watch what we're developing here over the coming year or two, then they'll see exactly what we think is there.
Peter Bell: And a shout-out to Chris Temple, as well. Another voice in the wilderness there.
Tom MacNeill: He was the first person to talk about us in print. And that's because Chris, very much like you Peter, is early onto stories. He was up in Saskatchewan back in the 1980s when my father was originally developing the Seabee project in Saskatchewan. Like you, he gets there early because he's a deep thinker and he knows exactly where to look for wins. One of the things I think he understands is to bet on the jockey, not the horse.
Peter Bell: Wonderful. Tom MacNeill, Thank you very much.
Tom MacNeill: Thank you very much Peter.
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