BMO: Miners may revisit dormant mega-projects – by Matthew Keevil (Northern Miner – Matthew Keevil)

Northern Miner

VANCOUVER — The last five years have seen large-cap miners shelve — and often write-down — ambitious, greenfield development projects that carry significant development price tags and heightened risk.

The majors instead focused on stronger operating margins and lighter balance sheets, which were typically characterized by improved free cash flow generation and lower debt.

The last 18 months have marked a shift in sentiment for metal producers, however, as metal prices have strengthened and risk capital markets entered the nascent stages of recovery.

Furthermore, analysts are now speculating that precious metals companies could soon revisit these sidelined mega-projects in order to achieve long-term production stability in the face of falling discovery rates.

On Oct. 12, BMO Capital Markets released research on large-scale development opportunities defined by criteria that include: greater than US$1 billion in initial capital; in excess of a 15-year mine life based on current reserves; plant throughput greater than 30,000 tonnes per year; and gold equivalent production greater than 400,000 oz. annually.

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