Thursday, January 02, 2014

Tahoe Resources Goes Digging for Metals in Guatemala

Tahoe Resources (TAHO) is digging for silver and other metals in Guatemala.  Transparency International ranks that country 123rd out of 177 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index.  Uh-oh.  The Heritage Foundation ranks Guatemala 85th out of 177 countries on its Index of Economic Freedom.  Uh-oh.  I know that some mining companies make a difference in emerging economies by investing locally and employing local workers.  I must still pause when a country has sub-par rankings (compared to the US) using objective international criteria.

Tahoe's CEO is a mining engineer and a previous CEO of Goldcorp, a company I respect.  The rest of the team has done time at Hecla, Rio Tinto, and Kennecott, with some previous experience in Guatemala.  These are all good things that help make up for whatever macroeconomic and political deficiencies persist in Guatemala.  Good local relations can help build success even in a bad neighborhood.

Their Escobal project has photos of fully developed infrastructure and MII resources, although I would prefer to see 2P reserves in a company that's ready for production.  The assumptions they published for long-term metal prices ($1100/oz Au, $18/oz Ag) are higher than those metals' historical average prices, so they need to keep their all-in sustaining costs (AISC) significantly below those average prices over the projected 18-year life of this mine.  Look at Kitco's multi-year charts for the price of silver.  The long-term silver price used to range between four dollars and nine dollars per ounce for much of the past three decades.

Tahoe shipped its first silver concentrate in October 2013, so it looks like everything is a "go" for full-scale production this year.  Their Q3 2013 financial statement dated September 30, 2013 shows that their $39.2M in cash on hand is barely able to cover their $38.7M in accounts payable, so it's good that they have a $50M credit facility to keep operations going while they ramp up.  BTW, read that PR statement about the credit facility to see other risks tied to this project.  Like I said above, Guatemala has some persistent deficiencies.  I'd prefer to see Tahoe's operations at a mature stage before I consider this stock as an investment, but it's still nice to see a mining company doing some actual mining at a time when much of the sector has crashed.

Full disclosure:  No position in Tahoe Resources at this time.