Bullish Shorrocks betting against silver sceptics at Cerro Bayo

Ray Shorrocks and team have had some pretty high profile successes over the past few years, taking Bellevue Gold from a microcap to what is now a $2 billion gold producer and, more recently, Firefly Metals from a penny dreadful to a circa $200 million advanced copper play, but can they do it all over again? (reports MiningNews).

Silver Bull

And with unloved silver, of all metals? 

Speaking at the recent Resources Rising Stars conference in Queensland, just days after finalising the purchase of the Cerro Bayo project in Chile from its second unsuccessful owner in five years, Shorrocks is keen to spruik the deal's benefits.

He said Cerro Bayo was a low-cost purchase at just $4.5 million, despite coming with surface infrastructure worth around $150 million, existing resources of about 25 million ounces of silver equivalent, and a well-serviced location in a mining friendly jurisdictions.

Mitre paid the equivalent of 16c per ounce, a fraction of a similar transaction in nearby Peru valued at $1.60/oz.

Silver is now trading around $22/oz.

"This is a silver play … and I think silver is the place to be over the next few years," Shorrocks said.

Silver bulls have been speculating the metal will go for a run for decades, usually without success. 

There have been two main spikes in price over the past century: $140/oz in 1980 after the Hunt brothers attempted to corner the silver futures market, failed, faced conspiracy charges and were ultimately declared bankrupt; and in 2011, when it almost cracked $50/oz after post-GFC supply fears that turned out to be more illusion than fact.

But the fact is that silver has long been considered gold's poor cousin, worth a fraction of the value, with 80Moz of silver equivalent to 1Moz of the yellow metal.

"It has really broken away from gold, I believe, it is on the critical minerals list, and it is essential to modern living," Shorrocks said.

While gold has broken through the $2000/oz mark over the past two years, the silver price has typically traded between $20-25/oz and is very much disconnected from gold. 

Is it lagging gold, and undervalued?

The Mitre team - including ex-Bellevue pair Steve Parsons and Michael Naylor as advisors - think that is the case and believe that the combination of surface infrastructure and resources at Cerro Bayo means it is well placed to restart.

The 500,000tpa mill and its 10-megawatt power plant are well maintained and could be switched on tomorrow.

That's not the plan. As with Firefly's Green Bay project in Canada, the aim is to invest in getting the resource right before firing up the generators.

Step one is a 6000m drilling campaign around the existing Taitao pit and underground workings, where there are known high-grade (280gpt) intercepts that are open in multiple directions.

"Our aim isn't to produce immediately. Our aim is to see if this is a 100Moz AgEq orebody," he said.

"I think it is achievable, but there is a lot of hard work to get there."

That is the low hanging fruit, but there are multiple targets across the 300sq.km project that covers an historical silver-gold district that has produced almost 100Moz historically.

The Cerro Diablo and Los Dosmos permits contain a mix of silver, copper, gold and base metals targets defined by rock chips and some limited drilling that Mitre doesn't expect to get to for 6-12 months given its focus on Cerro Bayo.

The project comes with its own lab, meaning assays can be turned around in just days, not months, and exploration can be more precisely calibrated.

"You don't have to drill without knowing what you are doing for weeks you know precisely what you are drilling," Shorrocks said.

If it's so good, why was the opportunity able to be picked up for a song?

Shorrocks said seller, Equus Mining, didn't have the resources to do the job right.

He said many of Mitre's peers in the silver space have significantly higher market capitations and are trading at enterprise values 2-3 times higher, and they lack mills or infrastructure.

Mitre wants to deliver the first two resource updates this year within a month.

That will be the first test of whether investors will sit up and take notice.

TD Securities is tipping silver will trade around $24-26/oz over 2024, but the likes of JP Morgan and Citigroup are tipping $30/oz by 2025. 

The theory is that demand is growing, and supply remains constrained, with mine production down 2% last year.

Analysts note that silver often starts quietly in bull markets, only to catch up and eventually outpace the gold price.

An extreme outlier is Rich Dad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki, who predicts silver hitting $500/oz and gold at $5000/oz, which will require a global depression.

Mitre started February with around $8.5 million in cash, having completed a placement to raise $8.3 million at 20c in recent weeks.

Mitre shares were off 8% today at 22c, capitalising the explorer at $12 million.

The stock has traded between 20-34c over the past year. 

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