Interview With Patricio Varas, Chairman of Boreal Metals Corp. (3/3)
Welcome to the final part of this three-part dialogue between Peter Bell and Patricio Varas, Chairman of Boreal Metals Corp., where we learn about Boreal’s new projects, early difficulties, and future plans.
Boreal Metals (TSXV:BMX | FWB:03E) is a mineral exploration company focused on the discovery of Zinc, Copper, Silver, Gold, Cobalt and Nickel deposits in exceptional, historical mining project areas spanning Sweden and Norway. The Company aims to discover new economic mineral deposits in known mining districts that have seen little or no modern exploration techniques. The Company is led by an experienced management and technical teams, with successful track records in mineral discovery, mining development and financing.
Peter Bell: Patricio, thanks very much the conversations so far. One last thing I have to ask about – how about these new cobalt projects in the company?
Patricio Varas: Well, everybody seems to be very excited about the cobalt for good reason. We’re compiling a good set of diverse cobalt projects in the areas where we’re working. Cobalt is often a byproduct of nickel-copper mining, as you may know. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of information about the geology of these projects and what type of deposits these may be yet. We know that they’ve been worked at before in the past, but we’re going to need to learn quite a bit about them before we start exploring them.
There seems to be a huge interest and demand for cobalt projects right now everywhere, not just in Scandinavia, because of the demand in the battery business. We’re pretty excited about those acquisitions and I think we’re hoping to pick up a couple more projects.
Peter Bell: It’s amazing to hear about the geology of the Cobalt belt in the DRC as a globally-significant area for cobalt and then to see that there is a cobalt-arsenic mineral called Skutterudite that is actually named after a mine in Sweden! I imagine there is good potential for some really interesting geology there.
Patricio Varas: Absolutely. I agree, Peter. Let’s not forget that some of these were also nickel mines. I believe one of these mines is where actually they first came up with the name “Skutterudite”, as one of the mines is called the “Skutterud Mine,” in fact.
Peter Bell: Really?
Patricio Varas: I need to do some research to get it all straight, but it’s an extremely interesting area. We know that there is nickel, cobalt and gold, which typically occur together. Lots of good opportunity for exploration there.
Peter Bell: It’s a good sign to get the properties from the EMX group, as well. They do a good job prepping the data and everything.
Patricio Varas: Yes, they are good project developers.
Peter Bell: Boreal has worked with them quite extensively – that’s a great relationship there.
Patricio Varas: Yes, I think we have established a pretty nice relationship. They own just under 20% of the stock of Boreal and really are our partner. It would benefit them for us to have success. Of course, their model is really to be a royalty company. We’re willing to take on the exploration risk, but that royalty will only be valuable if we have success with exploration . It makes for a nice partnership, a strategic alliance if you will.
Peter Bell: Has EMX been involved since Boreal first went public?
Patricio Varas: Yes. That’s how we acquired our first projects.
Peter Bell: And was Boreal a new public company?
Patricio Varas: The company was listed originally in the CSE, but it didn’t list for long. It was called European Ferro Metals, and was involved in the acquisition of iron projects. This was back around 2014; around the time iron prices collapsed. I wasn’t involved in the company at that time, but that kind of did them in. Karl Antonius, the President of the company, basically revamped the company and asked me to join and help refinance that company to basically get it trading again. We put some projects into it, some money, and here we are today. We only went public in November, 2017.
Peter Bell: Really? Well, you’re moving quickly.
Patricio Varas: Yes, I think we’ve done well. We were able to do an IPO at 30 cents and raised $4.5 million, which basically keeps us busy for a little while. Now we are doing more acquisitions and drilling to see if we can cobble up some reserves.
Peter Bell: Great to see the precedent that EMX has with seeding juniors with projects. As in your deck, that was done before with Standard Uranium and Reservoir Minerals, which is a great list.
Patricio Varas: Yes, they have a good history with picking areas and divesting them to create opportunities for their shareholders.
Peter Bell: There may be people wondering about the deal terms for the properties. It seems clear to me that EMX have the long-term in mind with the deals, they’re not trying to include anything that will sink your ability to negotiate with majors.
Patricio Varas: Indeed, Peter. If they were here only for a stock trade, then that wouldn’t do anything for their royalty interests. In some respects, their business model helps align their interests with ours. They want to see these projects go into production so that the royalty can becomes valuable.
Peter Bell: Yes, they really do chain themselves to that long-term commitment with the way they structure their deals.
Patricio Varas: They have many projects but only a few of them need to work out for them to do quite well. It all works well for us, too, since we are diversified. We started with four projects: two in Sweden, two in Norway. Now we have basically seven projects including three more cobalt projects.
We’re going to be doing a lot of drilling and it’s easier to raise money when you have nine innings to play in. We have a lot of chances for exploration success, whereas a company with only one project faces a lot of risk if they don’t have success or if the success is moderate. It can become much harder to raise money.
Peter Bell: Is that the strategy for Boreal going forward – for you to raise and spend yourselves, or should we be looking for any partnerships between you and others?
Patricio Varas: Who knows? In a way it’s what nature provides you with – there’s always an opportunity for other companies to come in and perhaps do joint ventures but we will be working hard ourselves as long as we’re getting good results. I don’t think we’re averse to other types of arrangements or joint ventures or acquisitions. I think we want to create value for shareholders by drilling solid exploration ideas.
As I described before, I like the idea of exploring for high-grade. I think we have a fantastic jurisdiction for that. You’re not going to see a change of government all of a sudden that disrupts your mining laws here. I think the rules are fairly clear from permitting to environmental approvals and everything else. There are lots of good infrastructure, as well. And there is cheap power – Sweden has some of the cheapest power in Europe.
All of these things are a bonus that reduce our risk to the uncertainty about what is in the ground. It allows us to focus on doing sound exploration with a good team of people. And I think we have a fantastic team of people working with us, which includes some of the EMX people.
Peter Bell: Right. Great to see Eric Jensen and Dave Maher involved in Boreal.
Patricio Varas: Exactly. These people bring great technical ability. We have a very strong technical team all around including Dan MacNeil, our VP Exploration. Dan has fantastic experience working VMS projects and other base metal experience around the world. Some of our technical advisors from Sweden also have significant local VMS experience. As long as we’re doing competent geological work based on good exploration ideas, we are increasing our chances for success.
Peter Bell: And it helps to have Karl Antonius giving you a presence in Sweden, as well. We’ve seen you expand into Norway, but we won’t expect you to be down in Latin America or anywhere else?
Patricio Varas: No, not at all. I think the company wants to concentrate in northern Europe. We’re continuously looking and reviewing other projects, but we want to focus on that part of the world and make it our expertise. The more we learn, the easier it becomes to recognize properties that are going to generate a lot interest and excitement. We are being shown more and more projects all the time.
Peter Bell: And would you take projects from other people, other than the EMX group?
Patricio Varas: Yes, absolutely! There’s no exclusivity from who the projects that we’re going to look at. Eventually, as we learn more about the geology we’ll look at acquiring some of our own generated projects. In fact, we have already extended our claims south of the Gumbsberg project as we became more familiar with the area.
Whenever you do exploration, any kind of exploration, the more you learn about an area the better. You learn more about the geology and opportunities become more apparent as you meet more people. The people are particularly important. The more local people see that you’re working and spending money there, the more opportunities come your way.
Peter Bell: Sounds familiar, Patricio! And it must be fun to get out in the field there – some of the field photos from Burfjord have some great outcrop.
Patricio Varas: Oh, absolutely. Some of that mineralization is pretty gaudy – all we have to do is find enough of it, Peter!
Peter Bell: And that example of Storliden – I wonder how much they had on the books when they first started mining there and how much they left after closing down. With what you’re saying about the importance of a good reputation in the local community, it makes me think that you have to leave something on the table.
Patricio Varas: I don’t know how much was left at Storliden. There’s must have been some material left behind there. For comparison, I don’t think there was very much mining done at Burfjord. When the old-timers were mining there, they were probably using mules to carry the ore out to whenever it was going to be processed so they were only picking out anything that was extremely high-grade.
There hasn’t been extensive mining or exploration at our project there. I think that’s another big part of the opportunity that gets us excited: the idea that some of these things have never been drilled.
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