Maurice: Joining us for a conversation is Greg Johnson, the CEO of Metallic Minerals Corp. (MMG:TSX.V; MMNGF:OTCMKTS).
It's a great time to be speaking with you as Metallic Minerals has some exciting news for shareholders.
"Eric Sprott is our largest individual shareholder. [We're] really happy to have him in as an investor. He is very bullish long-term on silver."
Before we begin, Mr. Johnson, please introduce us to Metallic Minerals and the opportunity the company presents to shareholders.
Greg Johnson: Metallic Minerals is a silver-focused, exploration development stage company. The flagship asset is in the Keno silver district, one of the world's highest-grade producing silver districts. A second asset in the high-grade silver-gold La Plata district, and our last asset, which is our Klondike alluvial gold project. We are headed up by a group of experienced explorer developers with a track record of successful discovery and project advancement.
Maurice: Mr. Johnson, Metallic Minerals has some great news to provide shareholders on three fronts. First on the flagship Keno silver project, as well as updates from the La Plata and the Klondike alluvial projects. Beginning in the Yukon, sir, take us onsite to the high-grade Keno silver project, which has just announced the completion of what was the most expansive exploration program to date. First off, congratulations, sir.
Greg Johnson: The Keno silver project is our flagship. We're a couple of years into the acquisitions and initial development of the targets, and this was one of our biggest programs to date in 2021.
Maurice: Mr. Johnson, the Keno silver project has three main areas within the west, central, and eastern parts of the high-grade silver producing district. Beginning at the central Keno, Mr. Johnson, walk us through the 2021 exploration program, which is a multiphase program of RC and diamond core drilling. What is Metallic Minerals looking for and what are you seeing?
Greg Johnson: Allow me to me set the stage here. The district itself is about 35 kilometers wide, and we break it into three sectors or target areas, as you said, the west, central, and eastern parts. And each one of them is about 10 to 12 kilometers long. It's a really big area, and we see the continuity of similar styles of mineralization from one side of the district to the other. Most of the production historically has been on that western half of the district where we've seen over 300 million ounces of past production plus current resources. And it's one of the world's highest grade 43-101 resources.
Greg Johnson: Starting in the central part of the district this year, we kicked off a program looking at our advanced target areas. This is specifically in the Caribou and Homestake areas where we targeted stepping out along the already defined structures there, where we've hit ore grades over mineable widths. We're stepping out, we're building tonnage. The drilling indicates that we've had some really good successful hits there, some big step by outs that we're waiting to see results come back from the assay lab, but we're quite pleased with the ability to be able to extend those advanced stage targets in the central part district.
Maurice: Moving on to the west Keno, what can you share with us?
Greg Johnson: The west Keno is focused in that area of significant historic production. This is nearby Alexco, who's going back, has just recently gone back into production, and where they've got several major discoveries. So our targets there, west Keno, are right on these known very high-production areas. The Formo, Silver Queen are the two main targets here. Core drilling, to again step out along areas of known mineralization that have already been intercepted and being able to continue to build on those towards a first mineral resource, both central and the western parts of the district for Metallic Minerals.
Maurice: Let's move on to the emerging heavyweight, which is the east Keno, where it appears to have both the Keno style mineralization of ultra high-grade veins and bulk tonnage silver mineralization, which is now new in the district. To set the stage on this unique value proposition, in 2020 Metallic Minerals previously released significant bulk tonnage style intercepts on the east Keno. Do you mind sharing those numbers with us and how it fits in with your neighbor, Alexco, which has recently gone into full production?
Greg Johnson: Yeah, this is pretty exciting. Metallic Minerals came into the district recognizing that you've got all this production on the western half of the district. The geology doesn't stop at the claim boundary. It continues onto our ground, the same geologic setting. We started to collect samples, geophysics, and soils, and rocks, and mapping and started putting this together. Last year we'd identified 12 separate multi-kilometer-scale targets. These are big targets, both soil anomalies, and geophysical anomalies. And we put the first reconnaissance holes in 2020. We hit in 26 out of 30 holes. That's an amazing track record for a first-phase reconnaissance drill program. A big part of this year's program was coming back in and starting to step off from those hits last year, moving laterally, moving down dip, and we're starting to put together an understanding of the scale of mineralization in this area.
Greg Johnson: We also drilled the first core holes in this area this year. Deeper holes targeted at both geophysics and offsetting the reverse circulation drilling. So we're pretty excited about what's coming together here. The significance of what we're seeing in the east is that not only are we seeing classic high-grade Keno style veins, which is what Alexco and most of the historic production has been based on, but we're seeing zones up to 100 meters or more of continuous disseminated silver mineralization. And this holds out the potential for bulk tonnage for something that could be much larger than anything that's been seen in the district before.
Maurice: Now along with the drilling, Metallic Minerals also completed an extensive induced polarization survey, and I noticed in the latest press release that Metallic Minerals made the following reference about six times: "Regional thrust vaults and associated epithermal style mineralization." Now, as a shareholder, I'm keen to find out more. Any nuggets that you can share with us regarding the IP survey?
Greg Johnson: Yeah, so this is an example of our effort to try to take a known productive district to extrapolate into the areas that have been less explored, and then to bring in new exploration targets, target types, models, and new modern exploration techniques. This is the first time we've ever applied what's called induced polarization geophysics. This is where you put a charge in the ground, these were multi-kilometer-long lines, they allow you to sense as deep as 800 or a 1,000 meters from the surface, and this allows us to be able to start to map the subsurface even before we start drilling.
And what's exciting about this, is that that work over the east Keno targets was demonstrating that we're getting conductors in the subsurface rocks that are correlating spatially with these big soil and magnetic features. The significant reason is if we're hitting silver mineralization in the shallow drilling, and we've got a geophysical target that continues to 800 meters or more, and we've got multiple targets in the kilometric scale, it's starting to suggest we've got a very strong plumbing system and that this could be a target that could really have the scale to it and potentially build this out to something significant.
Maurice: Now that the exploration is complete this year at the Keno silver project, when can we expect to see results, and what determines success?
Greg Johnson: We started in the central part of the district, that'll be the first area that we'll start to see numbers. Then on the Eastern side of the district with both RC and Diamon Core. And then last we wrapped up with the western part of the district with core drilling. We're right now finalizing our interpretation on the IPE geophysics, so that'll be integrated, and I could see us seeing numbers starting here really any time and continuing early into the new year. It's going to be an exciting period. We're starting to see a turnaround in the market and the interest over in gold, again, after more than a year of corrupt consolidation and correction. So this will be a great time in terms of catalyst from the news coming from the Keno silver project.
Maurice: Let's move south to Colorado, to the La Plata silver gold-copper project, where the season is just about wrapped up, and this is an emerging asset for Metallic Minerals. It has all the merits and hallmarks of a flagship project in its own right. Now Metallic Minerals just completed its first drilling in decades on the La Plata to bring up the La Plata up to NI 43-101 standards. It's a project that was recognized and worked on by some of the majors in the past. Please tell us a bit about the project and the 2021 program and when we might expect to see results.
Greg Johnson: I'm excited about the La Plata Project. This was an opportunity that came in through our network. It's a project area that, very similar to Keno Hill, had a history of high-grade silver and gold production from these high-grade veins, much like Keno. Located in the Southwestern part of the US, in Southwestern Colorado. That mining on the high-grade veins occurred from the 1800s to the 1940s. Then after World War II, we didn't see the small miners come back, but we saw first Rio Tinto's exploration group come into the district, recognizing that not only was there this high-grade production and occurrences, but that there was potential for bulk tonnage silver, gold, and copper. And they drilled several holes that really started to define that there was a porphyry system that sent in the center of this epithermal vein district.
Following on that work, we had Phelps Dodge, which is now Freeport McMoRan coming to the district, and they continued to drill through the early 70s. And then Phelps Dodge sat on the project until 2002. The low in the last commodity price cycle, the group that we opted it from has held it for over 20 years. We're the first to have an opportunity to take a look at this exciting project. We're taking a very holistic approach. We're going to be focused on both the bulk tonnage part of the system that's related to these porphyries, as well as the high-grade silver and gold component. We're bringing all the layers of modern geology and techniques for exploration to the table.
Greg Johnson: This year's program was focused on continuing to collect geophysics and soils and a very first confirmatory drilling and sampling that's been done on the project in decades. We are just wrapping up that program now. I would expect to see results starting to come out fairly soon to move this quite rapidly to take the historic resource on the project and advance it with sufficient work to a modern 43-101. Again, this is going to be a project that's going to have a series of news events in the relatively near future that are quite significant in advancing that into 2022.
Maurice: Finally, let's discuss the big year that Metallic Minerals has had on the Klondike alluvial gold royalty portfolio.
Greg Johnson: This is an interesting one. It's not the main focus of the company, but we had an opportunity a couple of years ago to pick up a portfolio of unmined Klondike alluvial ground. This is upstream from some of the biggest open-pit operations in the Klondike, in the Yukon, that produce over 50% of the Yukon's gold from those mines each year. We've invited experienced operators on the ground. We've got three license areas currently that are fully permitted for production [and] two operators that have done significant work drilling, bulk sample testing. They are rapidly advancing this towards first production, and Metallic Minerals would take a production royalty. Anywhere from a 10% to a 15% royalty, depending on the stage of those license areas. We're excited to see this advancement over this year's work, and we're anticipating very high potential that we'll see these move into first production in 2022 for next season, and that'll move to cash flow for Metallic Minerals on those properties.
Maurice: Leaving the property bank, let's look at some numbers. Sir, please provide the capital structure for Metallic Minerals.
Greg Johnson: Metallic Minerals has about 136 million shares out, roughly a $65 million market cap. So we're now out of that micro-cap area where we're starting to get attention from some of the big investors. We're well funded well into 2022 with the current treasury. We have no debt, so we're in great shape to have been able to have an aggressive program on all three projects this year and moving into next year to continue our business model, which is one to define resources, grow resources, and advance those and de-risk them, creating value along the way. Very similar to what the team did with Novagold in the last metal price cycle.
Maurice: Speaking of big investors, you have a great shareholder list. Could you comment on that, and the recent ownership by Eric Sprott?
Greg Johnson: Yeah, we're in this period now where the company is moving from a very early stage, exploration stage, to resource stage. And with that, we're seeing interest from some of the bigger investors. We've got US Global, we've got Crescat, we've got OTP Funds. These are all specialist funds that understand this part of the business for mining exploration and have taken significant stakes. In addition, Eric Sprott is our largest individual shareholder. He's one of the largest holders in Novagold as well, so we're really happy to have him in as an investor. And he just increased his ownership by exercising all of his warrants in the company, bringing in over CAD $1.5 million dollars. We're pleased with that continued support from Eric. He is very bullish long-term on silver, and his investment in the company was focused on our exposure to silver in the Keno silver district, and a potential upside from our other assets.
Maurice: Now I'm no Eric Sprott, but I am proud to share that I did exercise my warrants as well.
Greg Johnson: I believe all those that participated in the financing exercised their warrants as well. Metallic Minerals is pleased to see that continued support from shareholders, and I'm pleased to see the market starting to come back alive for silver and gold. It's been a bit of a painful 14-month-plus period here with the market last peaking back in August of 2020. But I think we've turned the corner, and I'm quite bullish that we've put this consolidation behind us. It's a great time for investors to be looking at high-quality names and silver in particular. And I think we've got real promise with a strong fundamental backing for Metallic Minerals in terms of the work we're going to be undertaking to create value, and I think with our leverage to silver, gold, and potentially to copper as well here shortly.
Maurice: I was going to ask you if you have any comments for shareholders, but I think that may just suffice. How about this, sir, any question that I forgot to ask you today, sir?
Greg Johnson: No, I think we covered the gamut here, Maurice. It was great to be able to speak with you. I think that it's an exciting time for investors and for those who are new to Metallic Minerals, we would invite people to contact us through our website.
Maurice: Please share that website for Metallic Minerals.
Greg Johnson: The website is MMGsilver.com.
Maurice: Mr. Johnson, it's been a pleasure speaking with you. Wishing you and Metallic Minerals the absolute best, sir.
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