30 November 2020
We promise not to always lean on whichever monthly festivity greets us as the theme for the Big Picture, but this one is a biggy. December is the month we’d traditionally be making sizeable demands of our wallets and livers, and although they may well still take a hit, the 2020 edition may look a little different. Decorations, for example, are getting extended airtime this year with reports (from the Blytheweigh team) of homely festive makeovers in the last week of November. The familiar backdrop of our living rooms, which now work overtime fulfilling a multifaceted stage for office-restaurant-gym activities, are getting a bit samey so adding fairy lights and tinsel really couldn’t hurt.
Along with excitement for the festive period, Blytheweigh has also had other reasons to celebrate. We welcomed two new members of the team: Alice McLaren, who joins us as an Account Manager, and Anysia Verdi, as a Senior Account Executive. To seamlessly tie the two themes together, we asked them some vital Christmas-related questions to give a little insight into how they will be celebrating throughout December. Our journalistic endeavours revealed that Alice’s festive tipple of choice is a rather risky sounding mulled wine with a shot of brandy over a viewing of a comparatively less hardcore Love, Actually, whilst Anysia will be sipping a glass of ‘Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus’ over an annual viewing of Die Hard.
As is commonplace at the moment, there were some great opportunities to learn about the mining industry from the experts over webinars. Alongside Wardell Armstrong, Blytheweigh hosted another edition of our Mining Matters webinar series, this time focussed on one of the battery metals of the moment: nickel. We were joined by specialists across the sector: Mike Oxley, Brazilian Nickel; John Meyer, SP Angel; Nic Barcza, Oriel Resources; and Geraint Harris, Alta Zinc. Each presenter touched on the prominence of Nickel in the developing renewable energy sector and spoke about how their respective business operations are involved. You can catch a recording of the webinar here.
Earlier this month, Megan Ray, partner at Blytheweigh, also took part in a webinar series organised by Crowe that looked at Cyber security. This particular instalment looked at how an organisation should both protect itself from a cyber security breach and respond to an incidence if one occurs. Megan delved into the way a company should handle something as potentially disastrous as a cyber security attack, particularly in terms of reputational risk. She stressed how vital preparation was in ensuring companies have a stringent communication strategy prepared should they be the target of a cyber-attack and the key steps this plan should cover. If you would like to watch Megan’s episode, along with the other webinars in the series, you can access them here.
If there’s anything we share that you’d like to hear more about, discuss or feedback on, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or reach out to us on twitter - @blytheweigh.
This month was a turning point for the cannabis industry, as the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that CBD is ‘not a narcotic’ due to it not having any psychotropic effects or any harmful effects on human health. This proved a welcome boost for the industry as the EU’s highest state ruled that EU states may not prohibit the public marketing of CBD products where the CBD has been lawfully manufactured in other countries. The ruling was also a mitigating step in the process of labelling CBD products as ‘novel foods’.
The pharmaceuticals industry was also at the centre of media attention over the course of the month as we were met with reports of Covid-19 vaccine developments. The race to develop an effective vaccine has been under immense public scrutiny over the past year until news broke in early November that Pfizer and BioNTech had developed a vaccine that was 90% effective. The industry is now brimming with developments, as 202 companies are reportedly developing inoculations with 47 products in clinical trials, with daily headlines of ever-increasing efficacies.
Not only is this a huge milestone in the world’s fight against the pandemic, it is also a gigantic commercial success for many pharmaceutical companies who stand to make substantial profits. Although some companies have vowed not to make profits as a result of the pandemic, such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and BioNTech stand to make an estimated $3.5 billion in combined revenue.
Blytheweigh zooms in… on protecting our small independent retailers this Christmas
It will have been impossible for anyone to have missed the constant stream of news on the UK’s retail industry for months now, however, in November, it reached fever-pitch. Despite this time of year traditionally being a fanfare of over-the-top adverts, enticing deals and glittery marketing ploys, it has instead delivered headlines featuring a woeful combination of words: ‘store closures’, ‘job losses’, ‘demise of the Highstreet’ and so on.
Businesses large and small have felt the strain of extended lockdown measures (with high street heavyweights Next and Mark & Spencer reporting gloomy sales figures), but it has been a particularly testing, and in many cases impossible, time for shops which rely solely on visitors to their bricks and mortar stores. Whilst online retail giants such as Amazon profit from consumers’ inevitable diversion towards digital perusing, and supermarkets report increased sales as shoppers flock to buy little extras – books, cosmetics, clothing – on top of the essentials, small independent stores are buckling under the strain of forced closures, particularly in the lead up to Christmas.
In comparison to the large retailers, smaller businesses do not have the capacity to grow their e-commerce capabilities and therefore miss out on a slice of the ‘online shopping’ pie. Not only is the ‘back-end’ technological side of things an expensive output, the success of online retailers also depends on sizeable marketing and advertising campaigns, influencer outreach and the ability to deliver the goods to people’s homes from large warehouses, all of which require substantial funds.
Although this ‘new world’, where shoppers have no option but to fill their virtual baskets with 2D pictures of items, means that those that can operate in this way stand the best chance of surviving, should the ‘successful’ business models of the web’s retail goliaths be something all businesses strive towards?
Some of the reasons indie shops are so treasured are also the reasons they struggle in this climate: they’re often brimming with one-offs making them unsuitable for online shopping; they’re family owned and don’t have the budget for professional photography, making their online shops look less professional in comparison to the larger retailers; they often come very low down on google search results, again owing to budget constraints, making their products tricky to find; and their handmade/one-off items are not featured repeatedly on the Instagram pages of the annual love island alumni and their thousands of followers.
Part of their charm is the ‘experience’ one has when shopping in their stores, not just the transaction element the online world revels in. It’s getting to know the stories of how the item was crafted by a knowledgeable and passionate retail assistant, it’s the personal service you get when you walk through the door or the recognition you receive owing to the fact you’ve visited every Saturday in November on the hunt for the perfect gift, it’s the smell of the old books or the candles on sale, and so on.
We’re all hoping that in the coming months things will start to resemble something akin to normality, but there’s a very really possibility that as we start getting use out of shoes once more and venturing into the outside world, we might well be met with a very different high street. The quaint, unique little stores that used to be the perfect place to shop for Christmas presents may no longer break up the lines of familiar businesses that have become household names.
There have been plenty of articles released this month with guides on how we can prevent this being the fate of independent stores. They are all underpinned by the message that these small decisions made on the consumer’s behalf will not only protect the jobs of millions, but it will also protect our economy: according to research, for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business, 63p stayed in the local economy compared to 40p with a larger business. Here are some tips we have picked up:
When looking online, shop for the shop you know as opposed to the product you’re looking for
Check out Etsy (home of independent retailers and craftspeople) for unique, thoughtful gift ideas
Check out Bookshop.org which is hosting online shopfronts for more than 250 of the UK's independent booksellers
Hunt down some of the virtual forums that may be on offer in place of your local Christmas market. These have been set up to offer the chance to buy direct from people who would have been running stalls this year
Follow and engage with the social media pages of independent retailers you know and love
If you are not displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, simply pay your local independent shops a visit
Buy gift cards for family/friends for Christmas so that they can visit the smaller shops when things are back open
Leave positive reviews on the websites of your favourite retailers
A focus on... Caledonia Mining equipping its new Central Shaft
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.
November kicked off with news from Anglo Asian Mining [AIM: AAZ] announcing updated Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves, estimated in accordance with the JORC (2012) code, for its Gedabek open pit and Gadir underground mine located in Western Azerbaijan (view release). The company also announced revised FY 2020 production guidance at its Gedabek project, of between 68,000 to 72,000 gold equivalent ounces, later in the month (view release).
Alien Metals [AIM: UFO] shared that it had conditionally raised £2,500,000, before expenses, in a Placing of new ordinary shares. The company stated that the capital would be used to extend and accelerate a range of exploration activities across the Company's portfolio, with immediate programmes to be expanded in both Mexico and Western Australia (view release).
Arkle Resources [AIM: ARK] had an update this month for its Mine River and Inishowen gold projects in Ireland. It announced positive results from the extended soil sampling programme at the Inishowen gold project in County Donegal, which has provided insight for a trenching and drilling programme. It also revealed that trenching has commenced at the Mine River Gold Project (view release).
November also saw news from Amur Minerals [AIM: AMC] wh provided an update on the completion of its TEO feasibility study necessary for the Kun-Manie project. The company advised the report is likely to be finalised in Q1 2021 (view release).
Also this month, Beowulf [AIM: BEM] announced results from its Induced Polarisation and resistivity survey completed across the Majdan Peak gold target at Vardar Mineral's Mitrovica licence in Northern Kosovo. Highly anomalous IP chargeability targets were revealed, which presented excellent drill targets (view release). Towards the end of the month, more survey results were reported, this time from the Metal Creek prospect, which forms part of the Viti Project. These surveys also defined high chargeability anomalies which sit in close proximity to gold and copper mineralisation that were intersected by stratigraphic drilling in 2019 (view release).
It was a big month for Bluejay Mining [AIM: JAY], who begun the positive reel of updates with news that it had commenced a Fieldwork and drilling Programme at its 100% owned Hammaslahti copper-zinc-gold-silver project (view release). It then announced that it had joined the European Raw Materials Alliance (view release).
The company also announced it had signed a deal with the world’s second largest mining company, Rio Tinto, to advance its Enonkoski nickel project in Finland. The deal could see the blue-chip miner acquire up to a 75% interest in Enonkoski by completing US$20.0 million worth of expenditure (view release).
It was a positive month for Botswana Diamonds [AIM: BOD] who shared that conditions had been met for its acquisition of Sekaka Diamonds’ licence, which holds the KX36 high-grade kimberlite pipe (view release).
Further good news from the company was the announcement that drilling had commenced on its Thorny River and Marsfontein project areas in South Africa. The multi-hole drilling programme began on four target areas identified as high interest in the recent detailed ground geophysics survey, one of which was the potential kimberlite "blow" (view release).
Caledonia Mining [AIM: CMCL] released its Q3 results this month, reporting higher production in comparison to Q3 2019 of 15,155 ounces. Gross profits were also up at $12.5 million, a 47 per cent increase on the $8.5 million in Q3 2019. The company also reported that COVID-19 had no effect on production in the Quarter which was above target (view release).
European Metals [AIM: EMH] announced it was pursuing a listing on the US-based OTCQX, in order to facilitate investment from an increasingly interested US market whose attentions have turned on the company’s Cinovec lithium deposit. The Company has already commenced trading on the OTC Pink Market under the code PKC: EMHLF (view release).
An additional update on an exploration programme was shared by Mkango Resources [AIM:MKA] where extensive hand-auger drilling and soil sampling programme had begun at its Mchinji prospect in Malawi. The objective of the programme is to identify rutile prospects within its 869 square kilometre licence (view release).
Meanwhile, National Milk Records [AQA: NMR] released its Q1 trading update to the market, announcing that it was on track with the trajectory of its recovery following the first Covid-19 lockdown (view release).
Also this month, Oriole Resources [AIM: ORR] shared a progress update on the mobilisation of the drill equipment to its Bibemi project, stating that drill rig had been dispatched and is expected to arrive in Cameroon in early December 2020 (view release).
It was an eventful month for Patheon Resources [AIM: PANR] which had several updates, starting with the news that the company's application to form the Talitha Area Unit had been formally approved by the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, representing an important milestone in the company and its plans to drill the Talitha #A appraisal well in Q1 2021 (view release). The company also announced that State of Alaska had formally awarded the Unit Agreement over its 100% owned Alkaid project (view release).
Pantheon later announced the results of its Fundraise and Retail Offer, where the company hoped to raise $18.1 million to allow it to drill the high impact Talitha well in Q1 2021. The fundraise was significantly oversubscribed, with aggregate gross proceeds reaching approximately $30.2 million (view release).
Rounding off the busy month, Pantheon shared it had executed a rig contract with Nordic Calista Services (a wholly owned subsidiary of Calista Corporation), to drill the Talitha #A well, with operations expected to commence in January 2021 (view release).
There was an update from Phoenix Copper, as it announced the publication of an independent report on the Red Star silver project, which confirmed the potential of further high-grade silver and lead at Red Star (view release).