Uber mining investor Rob McEwen Monday rode to the rescue of financially strapped junior miner Minera Andes, (TSX: MAI) Monday despite a Hochschild Mining offer to also get control of its joint venture partner in the San Jose Project.
Goldcorp founder McEwen--who originally invested in Minera Andes at the same time he was heavily promoting the future of U.S. Gold on the Battle Mountain-Eureka Trend in Nevada-appears to be getting serious about Minera's San Jose silver and gold joint venture with Hochschild Mining, which is the 51% owner and operator of the Argentina mine.
Minera Andes announced Monday that the company had entered into a letter of agreement with McEwen, who has agreed to make a Cdn$40 million private placement in the Spokane, Washington-based junior miner/explorer. McEwen's offer will give Minera the US$11.3 million it needs immediately to cover a cash call imposed by Hochschild in respect of Minera's 49% interest in the San Jose project.
Another US$17.5 million will be applied to repay Minera Andes' debt to Macquarie Bank Limited. The remainder of McEwen's investment will be used for general corporate purposes and exploration, Minera said.
McEwen, who now owns 24.3% of Minera Andes, would exercise control of 53.7% of the junior miner under the agreement.
However, Hochschild had already made its own bid on 6th February to acquire Minera Andes 49% ownership interest in San Jose for a cash consideration of up to US$70 million or Cdn45-cents per MAI share - and made a public announcement to this effect late Monday. Hochschild also made an offer to acquire all of Minera Andes for 0.22 shares of Hochschild for each share of MAI held, implying a value of US$0.50 for each MAI share.
In addition, Hochschild offered to give Minera Andes an extra 10 days to repay its cash call to Hochschild, which is due on February 17th, as well as offering short-term bridge financing to Minera Santa Cruz, another Hochschild/Minera joint venture.
Minera Andes has applied to the Toronto Stock Exchange for an exemption from security holder approval requirements. The members of the Special Committee of the Corporation's Board of Directors, Allan Marter, Donald Quick and Victor Lazarovici have concluded that the corporation is in serious financial difficulty as a result of the cash call of the San Jose Project and the outstanding indebtedness, the private placement is intended to improve the corporation's financial situation, and the private placement is reasonable for the corporation under the circumstances.
The TSX has advised the company that it is subject to a de-listing review as a result of relying on the hardship exemption. The corporation believes that, upon completion of the private placement, it will be in compliance with all of the TSX listing requirements, Minera said.
In addition to its San Jose JV, Minera announced last week that a preliminary assessment of the Los Azules copper project, also in the San Juan Province of Argentina, could produce 170,000 tonnes annually of copper concentrate for 23.6 years. Annual by-product production is estimated to average 38,000 ounces of gold and 1.26 million ounces of silver.
The project is in a remote location near Argentina's border with Chile.