Barry FitzGerald: Why Tietto could be in the sights of the growth-hungry gold producers
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There was lots of talk at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town last week about the approach of peak gold production, the notion that the world’s annual gold output is on the skids.
It is a hugely debatable subject given gold price movements can change the near-term production outlook in a hurry, just as is the case now with historically high US dollar prices for the yellow metal, even more so in the currencies of producer countries like Australia.
Then there is a rising number of copper-gold porphyry projects which can deliver huge amounts of gold at zero or less cost after copper credits are taken into account.
Whatever the case – peak gold gets trotted out by the industry in the hope it drives more investment in the sector – the bigger issue at Indaba was the role Africa had to play in meeting the gold supply challenge.
Among all of the risks, there is an undeniable certainty that continues to pull in investment into the continent’s gold sector – its prospectivity.
And in the modern era, that means the Birimian greenstone belts of West Africa where big gold deposits are being found on a regular basis in countries like Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire.
The discovery rate leaves the Australian scene in the shade, notwithstanding the security and tenure risks that are part and parcel of exploring and producing gold in West Africa.
The ability to create value with the drill bit in West Africa was on full display at Indaba, with a particular interest in Côte d’Ivoire explorers.
Shunned during the coups and civil war off 1999-2007, Côte d’Ivoire’s extensive Birimian belts have become something of a hotspot in recent years because they are comparatively underexplored, and because the government seems supportive.
Perth-based Tietto Minerals (ASX:TIE) is one of our intrepid explorers to make a go of it in Côte d’Ivoire, so much so it won Indaba’s so-called “Investment Battlefield” challenge, one where junior explorers pitched their story to a panel of investment experts inside a boxing ring in the main exhibition area.
Apart from the kudos of winning the challenge, Tietto gets to collect a whole bunch of freebies for next year’s conference.
It was one of the strong favourites to win the challenge given its share price soared some 225 per cent last (calendar) year in response to the fast-growing resource base at its flagship Abujar gold project in Côte d’Ivoire.
Highlighting West Africa’s gold prospectivity, Tietto has been able to grow Abujar from an open-pit resource of 1.7 million ounces (moz) in April last year to 2.15moz more recently.
The rapid growth is considered to be very much the start of the story, with the market expecting that Abujar could well stand at 3moz by year-end.
To that end, Tietto was able to pull in $17m from a placement at 26c a share in November last year to fund more resource growth through an aggressive drilling program at Abujar. The stock closed on Friday at 29.5c for a market cap of $98m (or about $45 a resource ounce).
Assuming the 50,000m drilling program employing five drilling rigs does lead to the continued rapid expansion of the resource base, Tietto will be in line for a re-rating, particularly as the 3moz mark is reached.
At that level, and in the current hot gold market, the company’s Abujar project would come to the attention of any number of growth-hungry gold producers, particularly in the North American market, looking for “bolt-on’’ acquisitions.
Tietto said it expects to update the resource in the third quarter of this year. Then it will be onto a preliminary mining study.
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