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SolGold reshuffles C-suite as it ramps up Cascabel

The Cascabel copper-gold project is one of the most ambitious mining developments in Ecuador. (Image: Alpala camp. Screenshot from SolGold corporate video 2017.)

Ecuador-focused miner SolGold (LON, TSX: SOLG) has announced a round of management changes, with newly appointed chief financial officer Ayten Saridas stepping down after only six weeks in the job.

Saridas has been replaced by former Kasbah Resources’ CFO, Keith Pollocks, as Interim CFO. SolGold also said that Keith Marshall, independent non-executive director who was leading the development of the company’s Cascabel copper-gold project in northwest Ecuador, has resigned from the board.

Marshall served as interim CEO when co-founder Nick Mather “retired” in January 2021 following an investors’ revolt led by Cornerstone Capital Resources (TSX-V: CGP). The rebellion saw almost half of the shareholders voting against Mather’s reappointment as CEO.

Marshall, who assumed the role of interim CEO last year, led SolGold through to the appointment of Darryl Cuzzubbo as permanent CEO on December 1.

He will remain as an adviser to the company’s technical committee to help oversee the Cascabel project and ensure a smooth transition to the committee’s new vice president Bernie Loyer.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the Alpala deposit in the Cascabel project will make a tier one mine,” Marshall said on his departure. “The challenge, as with all similar projects, is turning an exploration dream into a mining reality,” he said.

The head of exploration and former executive director Jason Ward is also on the way out. Ward has been with SolGold since it was founded in 2005. He is stepping down for personal reasons, according to the statement, as he lives in Australia, and a continuation of his role would require relocation to Ecuador.

The departures come only two weeks after the company unsuccessfully tested the market for an equity raise.

“We’ll need funding for the definitive feasibility study (DFS). We’ve still got $26 million in the bank, so we’ve got some runway there,” Cuzzubbo said on the sidelines of Diggers & Dealers conference in Australia last week.

“We did see if we could get it in the in the short term, but we’ve got some time,” he told reporters.

Sixth-largest copper mine

The Cascabel project, located in the Imbabura province of northwest Ecuador, is one of the most ambitious mining projects in a country that is keen to develop mineral resources to spur its sluggish economy. 

According to the pre-feasibility study published in April, annual production will average 132,000 tonnes of copper, 358,000 ounces of gold and 1 million ounces of silver during Cascabel’s 55-year life-of-mine.

This means the asset has the potential to become one of the 20 largest copper-gold mines in South America.

Alpala, the largest deposit found at Cascabel so far, has measured and indicated resources of 2.7 billion tonnes grading 0.53% copper-equivalent (0.37% copper, 0.25 grams gold per tonne, and 1.08 parts per million silver) for 9.9 million tonnes of contained copper, 21.7 million oz. gold and 92.2 million oz. of silver. 

Ecuador’s Energy Ministry said in 2019 that it “could become the largest underground silver mine, third-largest gold and sixth-largest copper in the world.” 

Source: SoldGold’s presentation Nov. 2021.

During the first 25 years of mining, Cascabel is expected to have an average annual production of 207,000 tonnes of copper, 438,000 ounces of gold and 1.4 million ounces of silver. 

Over the last two years, Ecuador has attracted a flurry of interest from big miners looking to increase their exposure to copper. The highly conductive metal is in demand for use in renewable energy and electric vehicles, but big, new deposits are rare. 

It’s estimated that the global copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to build mines able to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.