Golden Eggs in an Eagle's Nest

If I had to be a bird, I'd be an eagle, since few things are as important to me as being able to see the world clearly. And if I had to pick just one mining stock -- which would be tough, because I prefer a varied nest of mining stocks to spread my risk around -- I'd still go with the eagle. Agnico-Eagle (NYSE: AEM  ) , to be exact.

Having pursued an aggressive construction schedule, the Canadian gold miner posted more than $500 million in capital expenditures last year and projects more of the same for 2008. All five of the company's new mining projects are set to hatch in rapid succession between now and January 2010, a growth rate that accounts for the company's projection of a 500% increase in gold production from 2007 levels by 2010.

Let's peer into the nest:

Project Name

Proven and Probable Reserves

Estimated Life of Mine Cost per Ounce

Status / Target Production Date

LaRonde

5.0 million oz.

$150

Producing Since 1988

Goldex

1.6 million oz.

$230

Began May 2008

Kittila

3.0 million oz.

$300

Targeting September 2008

Lapa

1.1 million oz.

$300

Targeting mid-2009

Pinos Altos

2.5 million oz.

$210

Targeting mid-2009

Meadowbank

3.5 million oz.

$300

Targeting January 2010

All 16.7 million ounces of gold in our table are located in politically stable areas and sport estimated production costs well below the $396 per ounce that major producers Goldcorp (NYSE: GG  ) and Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM  ) recently reported. As I suggested back in March, these are two of the primary criteria by which Fools might begin their searches for quality miners.

In addition to the flurry of activity under way to bring new mines into production, Agnico has budgeted more than $65 million for exploration in 2008. Although organic growth is the focus right now, Agnico's corporate strategy also involves seeking low-cost acquisitions. Since the projects in the table are fully funded, and considering that the company has no debt and $294 million in cash on hand, Agnico appears well positioned to consider such a move.

I also find fellow intermediate gold producers Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY  ) and Kinross Gold (NYSE: KGC  ) to be attractive options. If I had to choose just one, though, Agnico's timing just as gold appears set to soar makes this one my golden Eagle

The "Gold" tag within the Foolish universe of Motley Fool CAPS lists 84 companies. Join the CAPS community to separate the Fools' picks from fool's gold. It's free and fun!

Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can also be found acting foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines, Kinross Gold, and Yamana Gold. The Motley Fool has a gilded disclosure policy.


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