Understanding Risk: Investing in Junior Mining Companies

There are many lessons to be learned from investing in the mining sector. First, it’s inherently risky and many companies will disappear before mining a single ounce of base or precious metals. But it’s also an attractive sector for those willing to take chances and put in the work. Here are a few things I have learned over the years.

 

Do Your Research

 

Don’t go on a blind faith tip or even a rising stock price. Research the exploration project or mine you are interested in thoroughly and find out what others aren’t seeing before you put in a penny. There’s always something new to discover in a deep dive.

 

Find The Right Price

 

One of my last acts before leaving the position of president and CEO of Cornerstone Capital Resources in 2011 was to acquire the Cascabel project in Ecuador at a very early stage. At the time, it was believed to be a future source of gold and copper, but there was no proof. So the price was right. I got a bit lucky with Cascabel, as exploration has since revealed it as one of the largest gold-copper undeveloped mineral deposits in the world. But that was because I had done my research before making an offer.

 

Know When to Exit

 

Cornerstone was a small company and we needed help to get the Cascabel project up and running. I knew it would take years and hundreds of millions of dollars. So, making sure I left the company in solid financial shape, I turned it over to Brooke Macdonald, who remains CEO to this day.

 

The Truth About Cascabel

 

The Cascabel mine has gained the attention of BHP Billiton and Newcrest Mining, two of the largest mining companies in the world. They both have bought shares of SolGold, Cornerstone’s partner in the project. SolGold has the right to earn 85% of Cascabel by funding all exploration costs through to the completion of a bankable feasibility study. Cornerstone has the other 15% interest plus it owns about 10% of SolGold, effectively owning 23% of Cascabel. That’s one of the reasons I was happy to increase my already significant stake as a Cornerstone shareholder when the opportunity presented itself in 2016.

 

Although it was a risk to invest in a gold and copper early stage projects in Ecuador, the potential rewards were, and still are, tremendous. Even today, with all signs pointing to a positive outcome, Cascabel is still at the exploration stage. There’s a long way to go before the mine will see a profit. If you’re looking for quick and easy returns, the junior mining sector isn’t for you. But if you like doing research and have lots of patience, the risks can pay off in the long term.

 

Along the way, as a general rule, I sell enough shares to recover my original investment plus pay taxes on capital gains and then leave the balance of the investment until it hits my target price at which time I sell. Cornerstone has not yet hit my target price. However, I’m optimistic that it will within the next 12-24 months.

Transferring Your Skills From One Industry To The Next

Throughout an individual’s working career, they can have between 5 and 7 jobs. That means some professionals average a job change every few years.

Rather than leaving behind our experiences and starting fresh, we often take the skills we’ve developed into our new positions, which indeed proves an advantage for us and our next employer.

This doesn’t mean that every talent you have developed will be useful in your new job. But, more often than not, there are some basic skills that are transferable. These types of skills are often put into three categories: functional skills; personal traits/attitudes; and knowledge-based.

Functional skills are those that people use to accomplish tasks, such as writing. Personal attitudes or traits are those that make up your personality, such as independent, quick learner, etc. Knowledge-based skills are ones that you have developed with formal training, such as at business school or through accounting courses.

By having an idea – or better yet a list – of your strengths in each area, you will be able to see how you’ll fit into a new role.

Compare your talents and expertise to the new job requirements and see how you can fit into the role. This will help you sell yourself to the company or board by showing them you have skills that will be a boon to their business.

What are the must-have skills for today’s business leaders?

While most leaders come from various backgrounds, there are some basic talents they need to have developed to make them successful in any industry.

These include:

  1. Innovation: The ability to adapt and to think outside the box is crucial to many businesses. Oftentimes, we stick to what we know and continue to do things the way they have always been done. However, that is often not the best way to draw in new customers or to boost sales. By trying a fresh, original solution to a problem, leadership can advance the organization’s interest substantially.
  1. Technological acceptance: Needless to say, there have been major strides forward in the tech world over the past few decades and technology in many ways has substantially changed the landscape and environment we do business in. Moving forward into the 21st century, business leaders will need to implement – and be willing to implement – new technology to stay competitive.
  1. Human-ness: Despite an increase in automation of the workplace, managing people is still a major part of leadership in any industry. The executive who can demonstrate sensitivity, honesty and fairness will go a long way.

If the average person can expect to change their job every few years, it only makes sense to be prepared. By developing skills that can be useful in different industries and positions, leaders will be able to rise to new challenges no matter what industry they find themselves in.