London-listed junior miner Hummingbird Resources (>> Hummingbird Resources Ltd) is exploring for opportunities and investigating derivatives to manage gold price risk, as it brings online a Malian mine its much bigger previous owner Gold Fields (>> Gold Fields Limited) rejected.
Hummingbird's shares have risen by more than 80 percent this year, boosted by anticipation its Yanfolila project will produce the first gold on schedule in December.
When the sector was recovering from the commodity crash of 2015-16, Hummingbird raised debt and equity to cover the roughly $88 million (£66.40 million) capital expenditure needed for Yanfolila, which it began to build last year.
It acquired the project from Gold Fields in 2014 for $21 million in the form of Hummingbird shares.
"It was a small project for a major but a big project for a junior. For us it was an amazing opportunity," Hummingbird Chief Executive Dan Betts said in an interview.
"We're 14 months into a 17-month project and everything is in place for first gold."
Betts said he could be interested in other orphaned assets, as projects that don't fit into big miners' portfolios are known. The advantage for juniors is initial investment and work has taken place.
For now, Betts' focus is delivering gold from Yanfolila in December and exploring territory nearby for deposits to offset the depreciation of an asset set to produce 132,000 ounces in the first full year. After that, output is seen at 107,000 ounces annually over the mine's life, initially planned for eight years.
Betts is also investigating puts, or options to sell at a fixed price, to protect against market falls.
Gold <XAU=> this month has risen to the highest in around a year, above $1,350 an ounce, as geopolitical tension boosted its safe-haven appeal.
Miners became wary of hedging, which allows them to lock in the price of their output, after Barrick Gold (>> Barrick Gold Corp) and others racked up losses unwinding options that were denying them the upside of a 12-year rally to record highs in 2011 just below $2,000 per ounce.
Using derivatives instead provides insurance against downside and for a fee still allows access to price gains.
Acacia Mining (>> Acacia Mining PLC), which is reducing operations to cut losses as it seeks to resolve a dispute with the Tanzanian government, last week said it had spent $3.2 million on put options at $1,300 per ounce.
Gold Fields decided to dispose of non-core projects in 2013. It still has a just over 6 percent stake in Hummingbird.
"We're watching with interest. It looks fantastic with first gold before the end of the year," Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche said.
(Editing by Susan Thomas)
By Barbara Lewis