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Continental Gold

Mining in Colombia – Clawing its way back

Colombia's mining sector is one to watch and the country has attracted a plethora of exploration companies developing gold and base metal projects

map of colombia
Colombia’s top mining sectors are gold and coal, but there has been a spike in interest for potential copper projects in the last years

The investment case for mining in Colombia has been considerably jaded due to regular news headlines on drug trafficking, armed conflicts between right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas, policy uncertainty and infrastructure challenges.

Less eloquent, however, is the significance of Colombia’s mining riches, its increasing foreign capital investment inflows and the importance of the mining sector to the country’s economy.

Colombia has a large footprint on the global natural resources industry. It is South America’s largest coal producer and the third-largest oil producer after Venezuela and Brazil. The country also has large gold, nickel and copper deposits. Colombia is also the world’s largest emerald producer. Colombia’s top mining sectors are gold and coal, but there has been a spike in interest for potential copper projects in the last years. 

Gold is at the forefront

From a mining investments perspective, however, it is Colombian gold projects that appear to be the centre of attention of mining investments. Before Brazil and Peru took over, Colombia was the largest gold producer in South America and has produced close to 100 million ounces of gold. Mining giants such as AngloGoldAshanti (JSE:ANG), Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) and B2Gold (TSE:BTO) have been in operation in Colombia for decades. 

In addition, Colombia has attracted a plethora of exploration companies developing gold and base metal projects.

 

The true potential of gold mining in Colombia, however, is still muted as much of the gold mining is still dominated by illegal miners. Attempts are currently underway by the Colombian government to control these activities and get reputed companies to undertake mining projects which bodes well for the mining sector.

The economy chugs along

Despite frequent internal conflicts, infrastructure challenges and bad press, the Colombian economy has been growing steadily, largely due to foreign capital inflows. A substantial part of foreign investment has been to the mining sector. Not surprisingly, many of the mining investments have been on gold and Colombia now has an unprecedented number of prospecting and development companies developing gold projects.

 

 

2015

2016

2017

Foreign direct investment (FDI) Inward Flow (USD million)

11736

13849

14518

FDI Stock (USD million)

149163

164511

180235

Number of Greenfield Investments

97

101

109

FDI Inwards (USD million)

51.2

58.2

n/a

Source: Santander, Economist

 

The natural resources sector remains a vital part of the Colombian economy. Between 2000 and 2018, natural resources (fuels and the output from mines and quarries) contributed between 6% to 8% of the GDP annually. The mining sector by itself accounts for approximately 2.4% of the GDP and generates close to US$2 billion in taxes and royalties. 


A friendly fiscal regime helps

Colombia has one of the friendliest mining jurisdictions and that has been a major factor in attracting foreign mining companies. The fiscal regime that surrounds the Colombian mining sector consists of a combination of corporate income tax (CIT) and royalty-based taxation.

Below is a thumbnail sketch of the aspects that apply to the mining sector.

Income tax rate

Corporate is 34% for 2017 and 33% for 2018 onward. CIT surtax is 6% for 2017 and 4% for 2018.

Royalties – Iron and Copper

5%

Royalties – Gold and Silver

4%

Investment incentives

Tax credit of 25% of investments in the environment

Research and development: Special deduction for donations and investments in research, technological development and innovation and/or tax credit of 25% of investments made in research, technological development or innovation

Other

Other incentives such as VAT credit on heavy machinery, CIT deductions on all VAT paid on the purchase and import of capital goods

Source: Ernst & Young

 

While the structure of the fiscal regime resembles that of many other countries in South America, the recent tax reforms by the Colombian government secure a competitive edge. 

In December 2018, the government introduced a new bill, known as the financing law. It proposes a gradual reduction in taxes on businesses from the current 35% to 30% by 2022, as well as a new sales tax refund of 19 percent for capital goods such as machinery. The financing law also repeals the 4% surcharge imposed on corporate income, making the total tax rate 33% for 2019, as opposed to 37%. These tax reforms bode well for mining companies, both to those in production and those in rapid development phase with heavy investments leading to production.

Gold companies – Frenzy of activities 

With mineral potential and an increasingly friendly business environment, it is hardly surprising that Colombia has successfully attracted a multitude of mining companies; most with focus on gold. 

We’ve highlighted a few mining companies with assets in Colombia to watch: 

AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AUASX:AGG, JSE:ANG) has commenced its exploration activities in Colombia in 2002, and was instrumental in two significant discoveries, namely, La Colosa and Gramalote Both projects are currently at the stage of advanced economic evaluationGramalote, a joint venture between AngloGold Ashanti Limited (51%) and B2Gold, and is expected to be AU’s first operating gold mine in Colombia. La Colosa meanwhile is the largest greenfield discovery made by AU.

Newmont Mining Corp (NYSE:NEM),has operations in Colombia through various acquisitions. The company acquired 19.9% stake in Continental Gold, Inc. (TSE:CNL) and its Buriticá project in Colombia through a private placement. The investment was to develop the Buriticá project into commercial production. This was followed by an option agreement with Miranda Gold (TSE:MAD) that allows NEM to earn an interest in Miranda's Lyra Project in Colombia. Upon successful completion of the Initial Earn-In, NEM and Miranda shall form a joint venture mining company in which NEM will have an initial 51% interest.

Gran Colombia Gold Corp (TSE:GCM) is the largest underground gold and silver producer in Colombia with several underground mines and two processing plants in operation at its Segovia and Marmato Operations. GCM is currently in the midst of an expansion and modernization project at its high grade, production stage Segovia Operations. The company has successfully implemented a number of cost savings initiatives, bringing its All-In Sustaining Cost to US918 per ounce in 2017 and expected to be below US950 in 2018. The company produced a total of 55,260 ounces of gold in the fourth quarter of 2018 (up 7% YOY) thus bringing the total gold production for 2018 to 218,001 Oz (up 25% YOY).

Continental Gold Corp (TSE:CNL) is development-stage gold company and is developing the Buriticá project in JV with NEM. The Buriticá project is a high-grade and multi-million-ounce precious metal project boasting mineral with reserves of 3.7 million ounces at 8.4 g/t gold (13.7 million tonnes). Buriticá is expected to be in production in 2020. Prospects of Buriticá is not in doubt as indicated by NEM which paid US$109 million at a 46% premium to the market for its 19.9% interest in the Company.

B2Gold Corp (TSE:BTG)is developing the Gramalote project in joint venture with AngloGoldWith its 51% interest AngloGold is the manager of the project. BTG and AngloGold is advancing the project to the completion of a pre-feasibility study.

Atico Mining Corporation (CVE:ATY)owns and operates the El Roble underground Copper-Gold mine in Colombia, which has processed approximately 1.8 million tonnes of copper-gold ore over the past 22+ years. Recent evaluations by ATY have identified high-grade mineralization below the lowest production levels at El Roble with defined Proven and Probable reserves of 1.47 million tonnes grading 3.40% copper and 1.88 g/t gold. During Q4 2018 El Roble produced 5.81 million lbs of copper (up 9% YOY) and 2,913 ounces of gold (up 2% YOY). Full year production was 21.87 million lbs of copper (up 6% YOY) with 11,344 ounces of gold in concentrates (up 4% YOY).

Miranda Gold (TSE:MAD) is has a portfolio of promising gold exploration projects in Colombia. The company has placed itself as a leading prospects generator and acquirer of properties that have the potential for the discovery of world-class gold deposits. MAD seeks to form partnerships with larget producing gold companies and worked with Agnico Eagle under a strategic alliance whereby Miranda was acting as Agnico Eagle's "boots on the ground" from 2013 to 2016. In March 2017, MAD and IAMGOLD announced the signing of an option agreement that allows IAMGOLD Corporation to earn an interest in Miranda's Antares Project. This was followed by another options agreement with Newmont in August 2018 that allows NEM to earn an interest in Miranda's Lyra Project in Colombia.

Royal Road Minerals (CVE:RYR)RYR is the largest license application holder in Nariño Province with in excess of some 350,000 hectares in the application to Concession Contract process. Nariño hosts numerous gold occurrences and one of the largest alluvial goldfields in South America. It also hosts a largely unexplored porphyry copper and gold belt. Nariño is widely considered to be one of the last remaining, highly prospective and underexplored regions of the Andes. RYR has executed a landmark deal, the first of its kind, with ECOMUN, a body established under presidential decree to assist with the reintegration of ex-FARC combatants.   

Libero Copper Corporation (CVE:LBC)LBC is acquiring high-quality copper deposits with significant resources but without any fatal flaws or significant holding costs and exceptional copper exploration properties in the Americas. The portfolio currently includes the Big Red exploration project in Canada, the Tomichi deposit in the United States and the Mocoa deposit in Colombia which both contain large inferred mineral resources. In total, the properties contain 7.9 billion pounds of copper and 1.1 billion pounds of molybdenumLBC acquired the Mocoa project from B2Gold.  

Newrange Gold Corp (CVE:NRG): NRG has two projects in Colombia, namely Yarumalito and El DovioThe Yarumalito project is a large gold dominant porphyry complex and is 11 air km north of the famed Marmato District, along what is commonly termed the “Mid Cauca Belt”a segment of the Andean Porphyry Belt that stretches from Chile, through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. The El Dovio project is to be developed in JV option agreement with Andean Mining Pty Ltd of Australia whereby Andean Mining can earn an undivided 65% in the El Dovio Project for cash and shares payments plus exploration work commitments. 

 

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