Group Ten Metals, a Canadian mining firm, has agreed to buy 282 mining claims west of the Stillwater Mining complex in Montana with the hope of expanding mining in the Beartooth Mountain range.
Group Ten Metals, a junior explorer, will be looking for platinum, palladium or gold deposits but it must first do additional soil testing, mapping and other geological work, president and chief executive officer Michael Rowley told The Billings Gazette.
“There’s no question there is mineralization there. It’s a question of how much, and is it minable?... The market has turned. Money has come back in, and there’s a lot of attention on commodities again,” he said.
The company’s claims cover about nine square miles in two groups in Custer National Forest on the East Boulder plateau. It’s along the Johns-Manville, or J-M reef, which boasts some of the world’s richest deposits of platinum and palladium.
Group Ten signed the deal with a Red Lodge firm, Picket Pin Resources, which had started developing the claims in 2011, according to Justin Modroo, Picket Pin’s owner.
Modroo, a Billings native, will work with Group Ten to develop the claims.
The performance of palladium is the primary driver for Group Ten, he said. The price of palladium has nearly doubled since early 2016.
Group Ten’s interest in the area was renewed with the news of the $2.2 billion takeover of Stillwater by a South African miner, Sibanye Gold Ltd. That deal was announced in November and completed in May.
The Sibanye purchase helped make the Picket Pin claims more attractive to buyers, Modroo said.
“With the upswing, people are looking to acquire good projects,” he said in an interview.
A Sibanye spokeswoman said the company declines to comment on a deal involving two outside parties.
To complete the deal, Group Ten must issue 3.6 million shares of the company, pay $40,000 cash and additional royalty payments to Picket Pin and a $50,000 annual management contract for Modroo.
Picket Pin would also hold a 2 percent royalty on sales of material mined from the claims.
Group Ten sold $2 million worth of shares to finance the deal, Rowley said.
With the completion of the deal, Group Ten will become the second-largest claim holder in the area, behind Sibanye Gold.
Rowley founded Group Ten in 2006. He said the company struggled to hold on during the commodity collapse but emerged in a good position on the other end.
“The demand is coming back quickly. It’s a good time to invest,” he said.