TSX Diggers Down Under: Gladiator Metals sees Whitehorse as its golden goose
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With global copper supplies increasingly waning to future demand for electric vehicles, batteries and all things energy, there are huge upsides for explorers such as Gladiator Metals (GLAD.TSX-V) to prove up the vital resource.
The company, led by CEO Jason Bontempo – and backed by a number of experienced Australian miners – are not-so-quietly excited about their recent acquisition of the historical Whitehorse copper project in Canada’s Yukon province.
He’s leading a team of experts that are no strangers to the inner workings of Canadian mining ventures.
We interviewed Bontempo regarding Gladiator’s flagship project and received cogent insights into the reasons behind their foray into Whitehorse, the advantages and pitfalls of listing on the TSX, and what’s next for the future.
“Well, the advantages of the TSX is that it’s a much deeper market. You’ve got many potential investors in close proximity to the project,” Bontempo said.
“Companies here largely benefit from being a stone’s-throw from the US, as we have access to major capital markets; from retail investment all the way up to institutional and sophisticated investors, as well as large numbers of interested market and resources publications.
“However, it can be a double edged sword. When the market turns on, there’s a lot of money floating around and a lot of interest from a huge number of retail and institutional investments.
“But, when the market turns off, the loss of interest and investment can be equally just as drastic.
“In North America, there seems to be a huge focus on marketing and presentation and things need to be a bit more ‘Hollywood’ to get eyeballs on companies through various mediums at the beginning.
“Contrastly, in Australia, while presentation is obviously part of how companies attract attention, often it is the project that speaks for itself before the name of the company does.
“Australia has a smaller pool of investors, so when working within the constructs of the ASX, capital interest – by percentage – tends to be more discerning and understanding of the mining sector; therefore the swing of investment and interest in public companies is a lot less volatile.”
Bontempo first came across the Whitehorse copper project when drilling for gold in China with previous owners Kluane Drilling, who told him about their interest in developing the mine 15 years ago.
They had actually worked together to IPO on the ASX in 2008 to kick-start the project, but unfortunately didn’t get there quick enough as the global financial crisis had stripped away investment interest across the board.
It was not until 2022 that Bontempo re-acquainted himself with Kluane and Whitehorse as the newly-formed Gladiator was on the hunt for projects.
Whitehorse had largely remained dormant during that whole period, however Kluane had in the meantime conducted 10,000m of exploration drilling, of which Gladiator has now inherited to study.
Not only that, previous owners Hudbay Minerals (1967-1982) had explored the region around its producing mine before it was shuttered, with Gladiator finding at least four historical targets worth further investigation.
The southern area of the copper belt is about 20-25km from Whitehorse city, and partnering with Kluane on the project provides Gladiator with local knowledge, access to drilling infrastructure and other resources in close proximity to the project area.
Currently, Gladiator is working on a three-part exploration and assessment of Whitehorse.
Part 1 is to work through the 10,000m of exploration drilling results completed by Kluane.
Part 2 is digitising and compiling a significant number of historical assays completed by Hudbay in the 1980s.
Part 3 is Gladiator’s own 3,000m maiden drilling campaign which got underway back in April.
The initial focus is on the Cowley Park prospect located in the southern part of Whitehorse.
Cowley Park was historically a producing copper mine operated by Hudbay that shut down in 1982, due to the copper price completely crashing around that time, making it uneconomic to continue mining.
Historic drilling indicates multiple, sub-parallel mineralised zones up to 30m thick over more than 1.2km.
Significant intercepts from the data include 23.04m @ 1.59% Cu, 0.15g/t Au and 10.28g/t Ag from 74.98m, as well as 40.54m @ 2.36% Cu, 0.1g/t Au and 4.75g/t Ag, including
13.72m at 5.41% Cu, 0.17g/t Au and 19.22g/t Ag from 109.42m.
“Gladiator’s copper project is an exciting opportunity to be involved in as we see a number of near-term resources in a number of areas across the project area,” Bontempo said.
“What Whitehorse is now, is a 35km-long copper belt that is highly prospective for high-grade mineralised copper.
“What they’ve essentially done 40 years ago is explored four or five regions within the project area for us to look at.
“For want of a better analogy, they’ve drilled the iceberg for us but haven’t drilled down to see what lies beneath.
“Hudbay had just drilled the outcropping surface area and what we’re finding is that it continues and grows larger along strike, down dip, all around.
“That’s where the significant opportunity is to unlock the potential of the project.
“At Cowley Park – the most advanced of these priority prospect areas that we have, we’re seeing potential for much more significant copper resources.
“We’re in a different era now where copper grades have declined on average, and our project is looking at extracting 1.5-2%.”
“We’ll be implementing a systematic exploration plan to test the geological continuity that previous owners never got around to,” Bontempo explained.
“We’re very focused on two components of moving the project forward.
“Firstly, we want to technically evaluate the size of the endowments of our underexplored project areas based off historical data from previous owners and establish a high confidence in a near-term resource potential at Whitehorse.
“We’ll have a significant amount of drilling and assay results to present over the next 12-24 months and are excited to push forward as efficiently as possible during the Canadian summer season.”
In addition to assaying 10,000m worth of historic drill cores, Gladiator’s own 5,000m diamond drilling program is still in progress.
The company is also assaying for molybdenum, gold, silver, and other elements which were not historically systematically assayed for, along with incorporating potentially lower grade mineralised material within or adjacent to significant mineralised widths that was often not sampled in the past, to allow for future assessment of modern bulk mining potential.
It’s rare to find a copper project of this potential. With a plethora of historical drilling to assess and known high grades of copper mineralisation within the project area, these Aussies might just be sitting on a golden goose.