Cambodia holds 14 million people and is a former French colony and neighbor of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Hiring rates run $300 a month for entry level laborers. A chef costs $400 monthly. Security forces, sometimes rented from the army or local police forces, are in the same salary range. The country is just now starting to get interest from the mining community after decades of civil war left the country littered with land mines. It is now growing at an average of 6% per year and the government is looking for outside investment. Foreign direct investment at a yearly pace here is $5 billion or about double what it was 12 to 18 months ago. Internet, mobile and telecom—largely unregulated—are well above Third World standards. Roads are good to excellent and, in places, on-par with Vietnam.
Under the direction of vice president of exploration Dr. Adrian Mann, Canada-based Angkor Gold Corp. (ANK:TSX.V), pulled 100-meter samples from the ground at Hole 29 while I was there. The samples showed what looked like potassic alteration and secondary feldspar—stockwork ore. Mann and fellow geologist/director Guillermo Salazar, who worked on Copper Fox Metals Inc.'s (CUU:TSX.V) Schaft Creek copper-molybdenum-gold deposit in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, hope to see sheeted B quartz veins. These are suture veins that can carry, figuratively, rivers of gold and copper.
Later, at Hole 31 of the meticulously plotted drill program, the team brought up what looked like copper pyrites and traces of molybdenite and molybdenum, necessary alloys for stainless steel products with more stockworked formations. "Clearly, that suggests a move toward economic grades of both gold and copper," Mann said. "Although we've yet to get assays on the cores." Investors likely will see months of data bursts from the growing company, data that will reveal how much ore is contained across 2,600 square kilometers of polymetallic targets and prospects.
Drill rigs are operating around the clock at concessions in Okalla, located 45 minutes from Banlung headquarters, and in Oyadao, which is one kilometer from the Vietnam border, 45 minutes the opposite direction from Okalla. At Dokyong, yet another prospect near the Oyadao area, Mann has two local geologists identifying targets with the aid of rock-chip geochem, auguring, termite hill examinations and other methodologies. Most promising in my view are scores of Ashanti-type artisanal holes at Phum Syarung, a moonscape of termite hills and abandoned lean-tos at the southern end of the border prospects. Mann says his electromagnetic (EM) surveyors will be there within days. The EM team—Grant Roberts and Francis Thompson of Subsurface Imaging of New Zealand and Austhai Geophysical—is on the ground at Border North at Oyadao as I write this. No airborne magnetics are permitted to cross a no-fly zone that buffers Cambodia and Vietnam. Geochemical and airborne magnetic surveys in the interior of the country will follow.
Photo by Thom Calandra
Angkor has at least four licenses and three memoranda of understanding in Cambodia right now. Mining law here comes straight from the Ministry of Mines and Energy and is modeled along the strictures of Australia's New South Wales. The paths to title and to licensed prospecting and drilling seem to me as plain as the grins on Khmer kids' shining high school faces.
Like some metals equities investors who visit properties, I take notice when geochemists, geologists, geophysicists and others pull fresh cores that indicate grade-worthy mineralization. But the right stuff must emerge across concessions that stretch for miles and miles.
Angkor Gold has no bank debt and about $2 million (M) of funding. I expect the company to seek a few million more Canadian dollars at current stock prices in a friends and family effort. The company now has five working camps by my count and 90-plus local geologists, contractors, logistics personnel and support staff in country. Staff includes Australians, Khmer natives, Canadians and Laotians.
Angkor CEO Mike Weeks and Cambodia Association of Mining and Exploration Companies President Richard Stanger have been active in the area for years as majority owners of the private company Liberty Mining International Pty Ltd.
Other mining companies active in the country include Australia-based OZ Minerals Ltd. (OZL:ASX), which has been exploring there since 2006. In February, it announced that it would be selling its Cambodian properties to Australia-based Renaissance Minerals Ltd. (RNS:ASX) for $40M. This will give investors a metric of $18 to $20 an ounce for compliant Khmer (Cambodian) gold in the ground. That sounds lukewarm, but the OZ transaction will set a template for Angkor Gold both to option some of its own vast property portfolio and to develop the rest all the way to cheaply-funded production.
Risks are legion. Angkor Gold is a highly speculative company in a mostly untested mining jurisdiction. Cambodia and the rivers that course through it still display the scars, and physical landmines, of Pol Pot's gruesome genocide. If the company fails to manage its large property portfolio quickly and ruthlessly and chuck its lesser properties to partners, the shares will lose most of their value. Still, I have no intention of selling my stake before the test results are in. In fact, I plan to return for the Investment Focus Cambodia event in late April to check in on the opportunities here.
Thom Calandra's work has appeared in newspapers, newsletters, magazines and across the Web. He is a founder of CBS MarketWatch, now Dow Jones MarketWatch. He also founded Ticker Trax for Stockhouse of Canada. His work can be seen at babybulls.com, which is a Torrey Hills Capital property. Calandra also writes for Cambridge House Café, the publishing arm of Joe Martin's Cambridge House conference presenter. Calandra supports the Gold Antitrust Action Committee at www.gata.org.
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1) From time to time, Streetwise Reports LLC and its directors, officers, employees or members of their families, as well as persons interviewed for articles on the site, may have a long or short position in securities mentioned and may make purchases and/or sales of those securities in the open market or otherwise. This article is the opinion of the author.
2)The following company mentioned in this article is a sponsor of The Gold Report: Angkor Gold Corp. Streetwise Reports does not accept stock in exchange for services.
3) Thom Calandra owns 312,000 shares of Angkor Gold purchased in the open market. His average is approximately CA$0.43/share. Calandra received nothing in the way of payment or shares from Angkor Gold. Calandra received nothing from Cambodia operating company and predecessor Prairie Pacific Mining Corp., the private company that already has $8 million in the Cambodia dirt. He was not paid by Streetwise Reports for this story.