The Cascabel project in northern Ecuador is gaining worldwide recognition as one of the world’s most promising copper and gold discoveries in the past ten years. Although the discovery is still in the exploration stage, it has attracted attention – and funding – from BHB Billiton and Newcrest Mining, two of the world’s largest gold miners.
Newfoundland-based Cornerstone Capital Resources — co-founded by mining and business executive Glen McKay – owns 23% of the Cascabel project – 15% of Cascabel plus another 8% of funding partner SolGold which holds the other 85%. Newcomers BHP Billiton and Newcrest Mining own 11% and 14% respectively of SolGold, thereby having an indirect interest in Cascabel.
Newfoundland’s Glen McKay began his career providing explosives manufacturing, drilling and blasting services for the mining and heavy construction industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, founding Newfoundland Hard-Rok Inc. in 1985.
Founded in 1997, Cornerstone Capital was initially focused on mining projects in Newfoundland and Labrador, but McKay and his team began looking at potential opportunities further afield, entering South America in 2005. They found what they were searching for in Ecuador in 2011 when they acquired Cascabel.
“Acquiring projects in Ecuador and Chile was considered a somewhat risky move at the time, especially during the years of the Mining Moratorium in Ecuador,” McKay wrote in arecent blog. “Many years later, it seems our decisions to stick with Ecuador, and the Cascabel project in particular, were correct.”
Glen McKay subsequently stepped down as CEO of Cornerstone, but increased his already significant shareholdings of the company in 2016 when Cornerstone was dealing with short-term cash flow issues. Ever since, he has watched his Cornerstone investment with keen interest.
“As a Cornerstone Capital shareholder, I’m confident that company executives are thinking about ways to build and extract value,” Glen McKay said in aninterview. “If that means selling the Cascabel discovery to a larger player in the mining industry, then I would support that decision. The mining industry is expensive and requires large amounts of cash to bring any major discovery to the production phase.”
“So far, drill testing results at Cascabel look promising and that’s a good sign, no matter who ends up owning and operating the mine,” McKay added. “But gold prices have been range-bound for the past couple of years and it may require a sharp uptick in bullion prices to build a fire under the gold mining industry.”
Positive Drilling Results
The latestdrilling results from Cascabel were released in November, with Cornerstone Capital Resources’ president and CEO Brooke Macdonald saying they are a “further indication of the size and grade potential of the large mineralized system at Cascabel. With the in-fill drilling it is expected that a sizable portion of the inferred resources will be re-classified into the indicated category. Significantly, the limits of the deposit are yet to be established.”
An updated mineral resource estimate (MRE) focused on Cascabel’s Alpala deposit is scheduled for release in December.
Jason Ward, the general manager of SolGold in Ecuador, says he’s not sure exactly when the mine will become a copper and gold producer, but it will take some time.
“It depends on the size of the mine,” he said in an interview. “A smaller higher grade mine may take three years. Realistically, we are looking at a large operation and it would take five years or more but it would be world class and tier one.”