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SITE VISIT: New Pacific advances Bolivian silver project towards late 2022 PEA

Visitors at New Pacific Metals’ Silver Sand project in Bolivia. Credit: Sergio Bastini

Looking down into the deep ravine in the centre of New Pacific Metals’ (TSX: NUAG) Silver Sand project in central Bolivia, one does not have to be a geologist to spot its potential. Up and down its steep sides, the landscape is pockmarked by adits and tunnels dug by miners almost five hundred years ago.

The miners may have left after the discovery in 1545 of Cerro Rico, Bolivia’s legendary mountain of silver, just 35 km away, suggests New Pacific’s VP exploration Alex Zhang. That’s been to New Pacific’s gain. After acquiring the project six years ago, the company has undertaken the first modern exploration of the site, identifying silver mineralization that could soon support the country’s next major silver mine.

An initial resource published in early 2020 pegged measured and indicated resources at almost 156 million oz of silver in 35.4 million tonnes at an average grade of more than 137 grams silver per tonne.  Since then, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the company has continued to explore, expanding Silver Sand, located about 180 km southwest of the city of Oruro, and adding new projects to its portfolio.

A first mover into Bolivia, New Pacific Metals is building on its early success. And backed by major shareholders Silvercorp Metals (TSX: SVM) and Pan American Silver (TSX: PAAM), which together own almost 40% of the company, New Pacific could now be on the cusp of realizing the gains of its early bet on Bolivia’s potential.

Despite a proud mining heritage, investors had largely avoided landlocked Bolivia following a spate of nationalizations under leftist strongman Evo Morales who ruled the country until 2019.

But with natural gas reserves dwindling — threatening its main revenue source — a new government realizes it needs foreign capital and knowhow to revitalize the mining sector. President Luis Arce’s economic plan calls for five new mines to be brought into production by the time he faces elections in 2025. That will be a tall order, but Silver Sand is well-positioned to be in the first rank.