Saturday, January 9, 2016

Barkerville drills up out of a hole

Just one year ago, the hole that Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. (TSX-V:BGM) had dug in the Cariboo mining district was starting to look less like a mine and more like a grave.
The company was deep in debt, its shares were in a downward spiral and its credibility was in tatters, following a year long cease-trade order imposed by the BC Securities Commission in 2013 over a dubious resource estimate made by company founder and former CEO Frank Callaghan.

What a difference a year can make.

The company is now debt-free, has raised $39 million in new investment, has been running three mill operations around the clock, and plans to restart its Bonanza Ledge mine in 2016.

“We were mired in debt and we had a $19 million debt obligation,” said Barkerville’s new CEO, Tom Obradovich, who was brought on board in January 2015 following Callaghan’s resignation. “We subsequently cleaned up the mining that was being done from a losing venture to a cash-positive venture.”

Thanks to a lifeline, in the form of a $15 million loan, thrown by legendary Canadian investor and gold bug Eric Sprott, the company was able to stay afloat long enough to get its finances in order.

In January, Obradovich, a key player in Aurelian Resources Inc., which was acquired by Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K), was brought on board, and other mining executives with proven track records are also being brought in.

One of the first things Obradovich did was shut down Barkerville’s small underground mining operation at Bonanza Ledge and sell off all the gold that had been mined there – about $22 million worth.

The company converted the Sprott debt to equity, giving Sprott a 41% stake. In June, the company was able to attract another key investor – Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd. (TSX:OR).

Osisko did a $6.9 million financing in June for a 7% stake, followed more recently by agreement for another $10.2 million to bring its position to 19.9%. Osisko also recently signed a $25 million royalty agreement for 1.5% of Barkerville’s future gold production. The company also recently announced another $3.5 million in a private placement with Sprott.