31 December 2020
It may not have been the glitziest of wrap parties, but 2020’s finale was surely the most eagerly anticipated. After an unexpected and difficult year, most of us gleefully popped on the ‘out of office’ over the festive period and hunkered down for ‘eating and drinking lots, forgetting what day it was and playing scrabble’ – at least, that was the report from most of the Blytheweigh team.
Having recovered from the lethargy of constant chocolate grazing and watching shmaltzy festive films, we’re ready to tackle the new year and crossing our fingers we’ll be back in the office in the next few months. As a team, we’re all looking forward to brainstorming face to face, catching up with our clients without interruptions from inept WIFI connection, and influencing each other to pay over the odds for a falafel wrap from our favourite takeaway.
If there’s anything we share in the big picture that you’d like to hear more about, discuss or feedback on, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us on twitter - @blytheweigh.
Inevitably the world of retail dominated the headlines over the course of December. For a month which usually acts as a final boost in a financially stable year or acts as a much-needed prop up for businesses that struggled, this festive period was always going to have a tough time salvaging the difficulties inflicted by the pandemic. There were reports of record job losses (475,000 jobs were lost between June – September), the crumbling of retail dynasties and failure to meet sales targets, making the sector, which usually employs more than three million workers, one of the most affected by the persisting lockdown measures.
December began with the news that Arcadia, owner of much-loved high street brands Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge and employer of 13,000 people, had gone into administration as a result of the decline in trading its physical stores had faced during the pandemic. There have since been reports speculating that online retailers ASOS and boohoo are considering a bid for the most successful brands, Topshop and Topman, but only in an online capacity and therefore not rescuing the vast majority of jobs that exist in their physical stores. Brands such as Next and Mike Ashley’s Fraser Group have also been connected to the brands.
However, it wasn’t all negative news for the retail and consumer industry as headlines depicted that some businesses were witnessing a boom as a result of a change in consumer spending habits. As people began spending more on athleisure-wear, on enhancing their homes and ordering takeaways, businesses such as Lululemon, Bang & Olufsen, and Deliveroo released plans of expansion and sales surges.
Blytheweigh zooms in… on making New Year's resolutions
Love them or hate them, it’s a reasonably safe bet that you’ve seen social media posts/been forced to listen to someone’s ‘new year, new me’ checklist since we clinked glasses at midnight on 1st January. Some view the first day of the first month in a new year as a clean sheet to reinvent themselves, learn to make pasta or drink more water (humble, but admirable), whereas others are quite happy with the same them or don’t see why January 1st should stand higher up in the pecking order to any other date as a time to set oneself goals.
Life is busy, and certain goals naturally take a back seat when necessities claim shotgun, but a new year hands us an opportunity to explore new ventures and hit refresh. But where did this penchant for setting future ‘us’ tasks past ‘us’ never dreamed of doing?
The first record of something akin to what we would define as New Year’s resolutions, was 4,000 years ago when the ancient Babylonians would make promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any borrowed items when they entered a new year (which would occur when new crops were planted in mid-March, rather than January). They believed that if they stayed strong and saw their promises through, the gods would bestow good fortune upon them.
The practice also has roots in Ancient Roman times. Julius Caesar took it upon himself to rejig the calendar a little and, inspired by the two-faced god Janus, established 1st January as the start of a new year. People at the time believed the month had particular significance as Janus would be observing the way they had conducted themselves in the previous year and keeping tabs on their behaviour in the coming one.
In 1740, John Wesley, an English clergyman, created a date known as the Covenant Renewal Service which was observed on New Year’s Eve and acted as an opportunity for members of the clergy to reflect on the previous year and resolve to do better in the year ahead.
Although our ancestors were pretty hot on sticking to the resolutions they made at the dawn of a new year, us modern folk are most likely to throw in the towel on the 12th January (known as quitters day) according to research conducted by Strava. The Blytheweigh team are adamant not to fall victim to quitting early-doors: Maddy has committed to reduce her plastic consumption, Anysia is going to take refresher driving lessons and Said has the sky-high ambition of holding back the tears when Manchester United fall out of the title race.
A focus on... Caledonia Mining enters into two new option agreements
This month saw some further news on a transformative project for Caledonia Mining as it announced it had fully equipped its new central shaft located at its Blanket Mine, Zimbabwe. The company announced the penultimate stage of the project, prior to the final equipping stage which is planned for the first quarter of 2021, had been completed within its set timeframe and considerably below budget.
The project has been a huge undertaking for the company, which has been developing the new shaft for the past five years, as well as investing $60 million from internal cash flow. It is predicted, by the company, that the central shaft will increase the production of Blanket by 45%, to 80,000 ounces, across the next two years, as well as decreasing Caledonia’s all-in sustaining costs to $700-800 per ounce. Once the Central Shaft is in action, Caledonia will be able to progress its deep level exploration, meaning the possibility of extending the life of mine which currently stands at 2034.
Caledonia’s CEO, Steve Curtis, expressed his gratitude to the employees for their hard work and commitment to safety through the process of shaft sinking, which is widely recognised as one mining’s most dangerous activities. He stated that during the development of Central Shaft the crew had achieved 1,850 fatality free shifts, as well as one million LTI free working hours. You can read the full announcement here.
The month began with news from Beowulf [AIM: BEM] as it revealed details about a geophysical anomaly discovered following surveys conducted by Vardar Minerals over the Wolf Mountain lead-zinc prospect. The ‘exceptionally high grade’ discovery is another step towards Vardar refining the drill programme which is due to get underway this year (view release).
There was further good news from the Beowulf camp as it reported that it had concluded a capital raise via the placing of new ordinary shares, raising approximately £7.4 million. The Company plans to use the capital to progress its growth options across its asset portfolio, in Sweden, Finland and Kosovo (view release).
Asiamet Resources [AIM: ARS] announced the signing of a conditional binding Share Purchase Agreement with PT Wasesa Indo Nusa to acquire Asiamet's wholly-owned subsidiary Indokal Limited (view release).
Meanwhile this month, Arkle Resources [AIM: ARK] provided an operation update that it had begun trenching at its Donegal gold project in order to locate new gold veins. It also announced more detailed analysis from its Mine River gold project which had increased the grade to an average of 6.39 gramme per tonne gold on 30 grammes and 50 grammes representative crushed samples (view release).
December also brought good news for Bluejay Mining [AIM: JAY] as it reported that it had signed a Master Distribution Agreement with a large, long established Asian Conglomerate for the sale of up to 340,000 tonnes per annum of ilmenite from the Company's flagship Dundas Project. The agreement is currently commercially sensitive so the name of the counterparty was not mentioned, although the company stated that more details would be released in due course (view release).
Also this month, Bluejay was awarded the exploitation Licence for the Dundas Ilmenite Project and signed by the Government of Greenland in a virtual ceremony on 14th December. The licence allows Dundas to progress towards procurement, construction and ilmenite production (view release).
At the end of the month, the Company received an R&D cash rebate, a total of £264,775, from the UK government for scientific research carried out on the Dundas Titanium project (view release).
The discovery of a new kimberlite "blow" was found by Botswana Diamonds [AIM: BOD] at its Thorny River project in South Africa. It is of particular significance as due to its location nearby two other extremely profitable diamond-producing operations (view release).
Condor Gold updated the market with news that a 4,000 metre close-spaced infill diamond drilling programme had commenced at its La India Project, Nicaragua, progressing the project closer to production (view release).
Condor also released a statement that it had commenced initial site preparation at the location of the processing plant facility at Mina La India, Nicaragua, demonstrating Condor's commitment to developing a clear path to production (view release).
Also this month, Direct Bullion also released a statement on how, in its expert opinion as precious metal dealers, gold mining stocks were significantly undervalued especially when their record breaking profits were taken into consideration (view release).
Hummingbird Resources [AIM: HUM] released an exploration and drilling update from its programme at Yanfolila, upgrading its confidence levels in known mineral resources in the area: results from the programme included 16 metres at 9.64 grammes per tonne from 47 metres depth (view release).
It also provided an operational update this month, following a senior management visit to Yanfolila. During the visit, the 2021 budget was reviewed, as were the current and future mine plans, as well as a run through of the mine operations, plant, facilities and overall processes in place (view release).
Ironveld Holdings [AIM: IRON] shared its end of year results, including highlights of the completion of a Placing and Broker option which raised £1,150,000 as well as the appointment of Martin Eales as CEO in December 2019, with Peter Cox being appointed Technical Director (view release).
Meanwhile, Mkango Resources [AIM: MKA] announced it had concluded an extensive hand-auger drilling and soil sampling programme to identify rutile prospects within its 869 square kilometre Mchinji licence, Malawi, held by Mkango's 100% owned subsidiary MKA Exploration Ltd (view release).
There were further exploration updates, this time from Oriole Resources [AIM: ORR] who announced Thani Stratex Djibouti Limited Company, of whom Oriole hold a 11.80% interest, had completed its Phase 1 drilling programme at the Hesdaba epithermal gold project in Djibouti (view release).
There was also good news from Oriole’s Bibemi project. The Company announced that recent mapping and selective rock-chip sampling to the south west of the main Bakassi area had identified two new prospects, Lawa West and Lawa East, which had returned results of up to 11.68 grammes per tonne gold and 22.38 g/t Au respectively (view release).
Phoenix Copper [AIM: PXC] closed the year with news that it had uploaded an updated Mineral Resource Estimate for the Empire Mine Project Custer County, Idaho USA onto its also recently updated website. The document shows a 19% increase in Measured and Indicated resource and a US$122 million increase in contained metal at a $3.00/lb ($6,612/tonne) copper price following a 32-hole drilling programme earlier this year (view release).
The Company also appointed New York-based EAS Advisors LLC as its US corporate adviser to assist it in the financing strategy for its Empire Open Pit Mine (view release).
Pantheon Resources [AIM: PANR] released a statement saying that it had received an extension for the reporting of its end of year results due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. It reported some preliminary financial results which included the company having US$4.8 million cash at hand as well as highlighting the completion of an equity placement, subsequent to period end in November 2020, which raised gross US$30.2 million. The company also took the opportunity to provide an update on the Talitha #A well, announcing that it had secured all necessary permits and authorisations to commence the construction of the ice road to the drill site, and that the ice road construction had commenced. (view release).