Barry FitzGerald: Will Inés Scotland’s caretaking strategy mean money in (the) Metal Bank?
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Here’s a trivia question for you, one trying not be sexist in the asking: Name the Aussie mining industry female who has created more value for shareholders than any other female?
If you answered Gina Rinehart, there is no coloured piece of the pie for you. Rinehart’s iron ore fortune is privately held.
The answer is Inés Scotland, the former Rio Tinto operative who injected a trailblazing copper project called Jabal Sayid in Saudi Arabia into a sleepy explorer on the ASX called Citadel Resources in 2007.
Four years later, the once penny dreadful Citadel was taken over by Equinox (since acquired by Barrick) for a cool $1.3 billion.
That kind of work deserves a sabbatical. Scotland did just that, spending six years in the UK studying international relations, among other things, including becoming executive chair of the Queensland gold and base metals junior Metal Bank (ASX:MBK).
Since returning to Australia earlier this year, Scotland has turned her attention to building Metal Bank into something bigger.
That won’t be hard given Metal Bank’s last sale price of 0.8c for a market cap of less than $10 million. Talk about upside potential.
Just as there were challenges for Citadel in securing the first mining licence in Saudi Arabia, Metal Bank has had its own challenges of late.
Nine months ago its geologist smashed his femur in a very bad accident on his Ducati and was bedridden for months.
But rather than let his geology talents rest with him in bed, Scotland got him to compile a database of interesting Australian exploration projects that are owned by overseas companies.
Why the overseas-owned focus? Because of COVID. The pandemic has seen lots of projects parked up because their overseas owners can’t get to them to oversee exploration programs.
Metal Bank’s approach has been to approach the overseas companies with option/earn-in deals under which it picks up the running at the project. It has got a dozen or so in the works, not all of which will come to fruition.
But its first successful approach to an absentee landlord is now a happening thing.
It is a deal with Canadian junior Global Energy Metals Corp on the advanced Millennium copper-cobalt project in the Mount Isa region of northwest Queensland.
Under the deal, Metal Bank has a low-cost six-month option to decide if its wants to take up a right to earn-up to an 80% interest in the project, one that comes with a 5.9 million tonne resource grading 1.08% copper equivalent.
The first couple of drill holes completed by Metal Bank have, visually at least, confirmed the potential for extensions to the south, at depth and along strike. Assays are not far off now, and drilling is underway to confirm a northern extension to the known Millennium mineralisation.
The company would want to see the potential for 10 million tonnes of mineralisation before proceeding to the earn-in phase. That sort of scale would deliver a meaningful development opportunity for a company with a sub-$10m market cap.
Metal Bank also owns a couple of potentially large scale gold projects in Queensland which more of less cover its current market cap. So what comes from Millennium – and the other absentee landlords deals it brings forward – will add to its value proposition.
There is no Jabil Sayid-scale opportunities in the Metal Bank portfolio just yet.
But Scotland did make mention in the recently released June quarterly that the “company has also continued work on securing an advanced copper exploration project in the MENA region.’’
“The MENA” is international affairs speak for the “Middle East, North Africa”. Does Scotland have the makings of Mark 11 Citadel project in the works?
We will have to wait and see.