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Live Long and Prosper, Taseko

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Spock met his untimely demise in Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan ... or so we thought.

While we don't yet know if Taseko Mines (AMEX: TGB  ) will succeed in resuscitating the company's recently flat-lined gold project in British Columbia, I have reason to believe that this intrepid copper miner will live long and prosper.

Although enterprising investors may bemoan the apparent death of Taseko's Prosperity copper and gold development project following a devastating regulatory impasse, the miner's flagship Gibraltar mine remains as solid as its namesake rock. Even after monetizing a 25% stake in the operation to fund Prosperity's now-stalled construction, Gibraltar is the sort of stepping stone to growth that small-scale miners pine for.

Now that the market has had a chance to discount the impact of the Canadian government's decision, we find the shares hovering just about where I placed fair value for Taseko's 75% stake in Gibraltar (around $4.50 per share). Incredibly, even with that monster 37% correction from October's peak share price, Taseko shares are still running ahead of larger competitors Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX  ) and Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO  ) on a two-year chart.

The miner's third quarter earnings, released this week into that remaining maelstrom of shareholder disappointment, highlights the operational improvements at Gibraltar that make Taseko an attractive investment at this juncture. Gibraltar produced 25.7 million pounds of copper during the third quarter, an 84% improvement over the prior-year mark. Molybdenum production surged by 125% to 252,000 pounds.

These achievements were facilitated in part by a 19% increase in mill throughput over the prior-year period, plus much-improved copper recovery rates that reached 90% during the quarter. Total cash costs remained very competitive at $1.40 per pound, providing a bountiful operating margin at a realized sales price of $3.76 per pound of copper.

Net earnings failed to impress at just one Canadian cent per share, which may explain why the company omitted the measure from its earnings-related press release. The principle culprit for the shortfall was a bottleneck at Vancouver's port facilities that left 16.3 million pounds of copper in inventory (63% of production) at quarter-end. Fools may recall that Teck Resources (NYSE: TCK  ) cited similar capacity shortfalls at western Canadian port facilities when it announced a 10-year haulage agreement with railroad Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP  ) last month.

As I pointed out in the case of silver stream specialist Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW  ) , delayed revenue bookings can prove fortuitous for miners in a rising price environment, so Taseko-watching Fools (click here to watch Taseko yourself) will want to track fourth quarter copper prices to gauge the impact of that sizeable sales lag. Meanwhile, I believe long-term investors will find Spock-like logic even in a revised investment thesis for Taseko Mines.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker is the commodore of copper and the Colonel Klink of zinc. He canbe found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Silver Wheaton, and Taseko Mines.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.The Motley Fool has a pointy-eared disclosure policy that will never die.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (31)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2010, at 3:05 PM, Gaugamela wrote:

    Prosperity isn't dead yet, as the government only said that the proposal was rejected in its current form. Even without Prosperity, TGB has a lot of potential for the future with over $1 per share in cash, and efficiency upgrades to the Gibraltar.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2010, at 7:50 PM, DarthMaul09 wrote:

    With Gibraltar TGB is given the advantage of time. If metal prices continue to rise as would be expected with US quantitative easing, TGB will continue to build its cash reserve and maintain its ability to finance a Prosperity project in the future. In the mean time, Canada will have to decide if it can afford to curtail the development of its domestic resources at the expense of its economic health and employment. Although I believe that its decision to block the sale of POT to a foreign company was in Canada's best interest, the prevention of its domestic companies from providing long-term employment and revenue to the country is probably not as wise. Fortunately for Canada, a delay in the Prosperity project will probably just result in higher US dollar profits for the both TGB and the country as it is likely that metal prices will likely continue to rise in the years to come. Unfortunately, the buying power of those US dollars will likely fall, which will cancel some of the benefits of delaying this project.

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2010, at 7:45 PM, chohan wrote:

    Teck Resources should take over Timminco because that one is also mining company and it's stock is at very low value,it will be very benificial for Teck.I think in the future solar power will be produced because it will be cheaper .

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