An update on Colombia’s peace process and a gold explorer gaining critical mass
After 50 years of conflict, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) have signed a ceasefire agreement. It is a final step in peace negotiations that could end a long civil war and potentially reduce jurisdictional risk for mining companies in the country. The peace process is expected to be complete by July 20, after which the Colombian government will hold a referendum on the deal. CEO.CA reached out to Royal Road Minerals (TSX-V: RYR) CEO Tim Coughlin, an accomplished mine finder with a gold exploration project underway in Colombia, to better understand what is happening on the ground there. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
CEO.ca: Thanks for taking the time, Tim. What should we know about the ceasefire? Is this time different than past efforts to achieve peace?
Tim Coughlin: In terms of the peace process, a cease fire has been agreed but the next step is for FARC to disarm. The disarmament will be monitored by the United Nations and then an agreement on how to deal with those who have committed crimes over the past 50 years of civil war has to be reached. Then FARC will move into politics. This is followed by a referendum currently proposed for July 20.
What does it mean for Royal Road? In all honesty, not a lot. The problem is that many of the guerrilleros and other such players have made a lot of money from organized crime and drugs. A few of the FARC will elevate themselves into the political sphere, but in my view there will be many that will find it difficult to give up their lucrative “businesses”. They may keep the habits they have adapted in order to survive over the past half-century — extortion, drugs, that kind of thing. The ceasefire is basically part of a long peace, reconciliation and post conflict process but, for now at least, it does not change how we manage our operations in Colombia.
CEO.ca: What are the nuances of operating in difficult regions?
Tim Coughlin: Experience and community relationships are crucial. We have confidence in our team. Prior to Colombia, we worked in Turkey, Kosovo, Bosnia, Georgia and Armenia. The key to being successful in this environment is becoming a part of the community and asking the community for approval and support at the early stages of the exploration process. We work with local miners and the community to identify a specific problem and come up with a solution. For example, we have implemented an innovative cloud capture program where a specialised mesh captures the mists rising over the mountains from the Pacific Ocean to condense fresh clean water. One mesh can collect 600 litres of water in five days. Also, we took community leaders to Antioquia so they could witness a drilling program in action. We have not drilled a hole at La Golondrina yet, but we spend our time engaging with the community.
CEO.ca: You have explored for gold around the world. Why focus on Colombia’s La Llanada area now?
Tim Coughlin: Colombia is one of the most prospective countries in the world. Operational risk has significantly improved; the government is 100% focused on the peace process with FARC. We are aware of La Llanada district’s past security issues. However, La Llanada is one of the most prospective regions I have seen in my 25 years of mineral exploration and it is undoubtedly worth some focussed exploration attention. It’s an area well known for high-grade gold deposits called intrusion-related gold systems which are rare in the Andes. The Andes usually form porphyry epithermal deposits, which occur in the the upper 3 km of the crust. The system we are exploring for occurs in deep parts of the crust which make them hotter and higher grade.
What would success look like? Mineable, high grade gold in the horizontal veins and nice big open galleries where the horizontal veins intersect with the vertical granite contact. On the vertical contact, we have returned good grades of up to 60 grams of gold over a .7 metre channel sample. We are also processing the geophysics to identify what might be vertical breccia-type feeder bodies or gold mineralized pegmatites.
CEO.ca: What is the big picture? Where does RYR want to go?
Tim Coughlin: The big picture for us is really a small and focussed picture right now, at least in Colombia. We would rather have our efforts focused on the La Llanada area because we think until the peace process is over, spending exploration dollars and spreading risk across Colombia is not timely. We are very happy with the operational environment and the prospectivity of the gold camp we are in. We are interested in other Latin American districts as well. We try to always have our heads out of the trench to look for new deals and opportunities.
From a market perspective, we listed during the downturn back in April 2015. We are sitting with a small market cap and some good shareholders, but we’re waiting to see critical mass. We need to better illustrate the remarkable amount of potential in the La Llanada area.The company must grow but it must do so in a careful and well-considered manner.
We have about $1.6 million dollars in the bank and we are managing that very carefully. We have a drilling program coming up at La Golondrina that will cost about $400,000 and we are hoping for some great results that will excite the market and put our little company and our projects in the spotlight.
Market cap: ~$7 million
Disclosure: The above article is for informational purposes only and is neither a solicitation for the purchase of securities nor an offer of securities. Readers of the article are expressly cautioned to seek the advice of a registered investment advisor and other professional advisors, as applicable, regarding the appropriateness of investing in any securities or any investment strategies, including those discussed above. All facts are to be verified by the reader. Either the author, CEO.CA or its consultants may from time to time hold or transact in the securities mentioned. At the time of writing, the author has no business relationship with Royal Road Minerals but is a shareholder. Royal Road Minerals is a CEO.CAadvertiser. The above article may contain certain information that constitutes forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are frequently characterized by words such as “plan,” “expect,” “project,” “intend,” “believe,” “anticipate” and other similar words, or statements that certain events or conditions “may” or “will” occur and include statements regarding the Offering and the use of proceeds therefrom. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the statements are made, and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. These factors include the inherent risks involved in the hiring and retention of directors and officers, exploration and development of mineral properties, mine site planning and development, the uncertainties involved in interpreting drilling results and other geological data, fluctuating metal prices, permitting and licensing and other factors described above and in Royal Road Minerals’ most recent annual information form under the heading “Risk Factors”, which has been filed electronically by means of the Canadian Securities Administrators’ website located at www.sedar.com. The Company disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements if circumstances or management’s estimates or opinions should change. The reader is cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.