Many of the truly legendary racehorses, including Secretariat, tended to reserve their greatest potential for one final sprint to the finish. Here in the world of gold mining, one impressive thoroughbred named Dolores may finally be breaking away from the pack.
Since I first highlighted Minefinders (AMEX: MFN ) for Fooldom back in 2008, the company's sole mining operation (Dolores) has carried the stock to a cozy appreciation of 350%. Believe it or not, however, until the stock's very recent breakout move began, that performance was essentially in line with that of fellow gold miners like Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) and Gammon Gold (NYSE: GRS ) . It may be too late to catch up to sprinting industry outperformers like New Gold (AMEX: NGD ) -- which has logged a remarkable 13-bagger performance over the same period -- but that doesn't mean Minefinders' run won't suffice to inspire considerable awe.
Minefinders reported production and sales results for the first quarter of 2011 this week, revealing solid, silver-heavy production of 37,700 gold-equivalent ounces (GEOs). Capturing the robust price environment with an average realized sales price of $1,387 per gold-equivalent ounce, Minefinders took in a healthy $52.3 million in sales revenue. With operating costs trending favorably below $500 per GEO, my Foolish scorecard shows a speedy expansion in bottom-line results in the works that looks to have some legs.
Dolores suffered a significant injury last year when a tear in the mine's primary leach pad affected operations, until the company could commission a "phase 2" leach pad by September 2010. Remediation work on the damaged leach pad continues, and is set for completion before the end of 2011. Meanwhile, Minefinders anticipates a healthy sprint for a 175% increase in silver production from Dolores (from the phase 2 leach pad alone) to at least 3.3 million ounces. This will be accompanied by 16,500 ounces of gold production for 2011, and Fools can expect the production sprint to continue well into 2012. Silver's expanding strength in price relative to gold also benefits silver-heavy producers like Minefinders and Gammon, and I perceive strong potential for silver to continue leading this precious-metal charge.
Unlike the four-legged variety of thoroughbred, Minefinders' flagship Dolores property is available to investors at bargain prices. With proven and probable reserves of 2.44 million ounces of gold, and a giant silver kicker of 126.6 million ounces, Minefinders sits atop a treasure with a present market value of $8.76 billion. Carrying an enterprise value of just $1.08 billion even after the stock's recent surge, the market values Minefinders more like an elderly horse that's put out to pasture than a colt approaching the prime of its racing career. Following the discovery last year of an exciting new gold deposit (very near the main Dolores deposit) called North Dome, and given the aggressive 50,000-meter exploration program under way for 2011, I believe Minefinders' legs are only growing stronger.
Along with compelling turnaround stories Brigus Gold (AMEX: BRD ) and Northgate Minerals (AMEX: NXG ) , I encourage Fools to make careful note of the Minefinders stable, and its flagship thoroughbred Dolores. Like the great Secretariat, this one was simply born to run. Click here to place this racehorse in your own stable, and select additional golden thoroughbreds from the list below.