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When choosing among the miners of gold and silver, accurately pinpointing the industry's strongest looming production increases has yielded some of the sector's most memorable gains. Fools who took notice when I prepared them for Endeavour Silver's (NYSE: EXK ) monster growth spurt back in August 2010 could be sitting on a cozy 250% gain today. Fortuna Silver Mines (NYSE: FSM ) is well-positioned for a meaningful growth trajectory of its own, and I recently visited the miner's new San Jose mine in Oaxaca, Mexico, to bring my readers a first-hand look.
But not even those rapidly expanding producers will match the epic production growth that Aurcana (OTC: AUNFF) is targeting over the next 12-18 months, after the company's Shafter mine in Texas enters commercial production later this year. Of course, mining is a challenging and unpredictable business that can thwart even the best-laid plans. But if Aurcana executes a smooth rollout of its second mine, the company will launch its way straight into the realm of mid-tier producers, with output of about 6 million ounces in 2013! From 2011 production of 1.74 million ounces from its rapidly expanding operation at La Negra, such a leap would undoubtedly clinch Aurcana's position as the fastest-growing silver producer over the period. Accordingly, I have designated Aurcana as a top pick within my Motley Fool CAPS portfolio.
When placing hard-earned capital on the table to invest in such a sensational growth story, a Fool must have confidence in the people leading the way. After sitting down for a lengthy chat with Aurcana CEO Lenic Rodriguez in Vancouver last week during the Cambridge House World Resource Investment Conference, I emerged with a profound degree of confidence that this company is in immensely capable hands. The experts at Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) would seem to agree, as the company holds some 10 million shares (see below). The silver professionals at Silver Wheaton have never steered me wrong, and their identification of meaningful exploration upside within Alexco Resource's (AMEX: AXU ) Keno Hill district in the Yukon has certainly been right on the money.
I wish every Fool could have been there beside me to meet Mr. Rodriguez, but I am hopeful that his warm and affable nature, his unmistakable intellect, and his infectious excitement for his company's future shine through the following excerpts from the interview. I want to start here in Part 1 of this discussion with Mr. Rodriguez's story and how he came into the CEO position. I believe investors will find it an interesting tale. In Part 2, we'll delve into the specific means by which Aurcana expects to launch straight into mid-tier production status on its way to becoming a major silver producer within an accelerated timeframe.
Christopher Barker: I wanted to congratulate you on a powerful growth story in the making. I recently selected Aurcana as my No. 5 pick among my Top 10 Silver Stocks for 2012 ...
Lenic Rodriguez: Well, you're only off by four [laughs].
Barker: How did you become involved with Aurcana?
Rodriguez: I became involved with Aurcana because the company approached me to find for them some substantial opportunities in Mexico. They had been operating for 10 years. The stock was trading at $0.04 to $0.05, and the market cap was $4 to $5 million. Within 45 days, I found two projects for Aurcana. One was a copper project that they wanted to own, but they could never make a deal. Now, I own that one personally. The other one was La Negra. I raised the money for 60% of it and became the largest individual shareholder and a director. But I was not really involved in management. I was living in New York. But the stock went in six months from $0.14 to $2.00, and then there was a very long, painful slide of 18 months. We went all the way from $2 back down to $0.13 and then under $0.10, and we stayed like that for over a year. I didn't think the company was going to live for another 90 days. At that time, I was appointed as President and CEO of the company, and during my due diligence I discovered there was no clear direction of where to go and no sense of urgency. But I had a very substantial amount of money invested in this company. So I very reluctantly became involved, and within 60 to 90 days we started to make money, and finally we negotiated to buy back our silver stream with Silver Wheaton.
Barker: Is Silver Wheaton still a shareholder?
Rodriguez: Ten million shares, because I asked them to participate in the private placement, and they are very pleased to be a shareholder. We have a very good relationship with all our shareholders. And now we are viable; we are vibrant... and we are on our way.
Barker: And what was your professional background before getting involved?
Rodriguez: I was born, raised, and educated in Mexico. I received my business degree with honors from the Jesuit University in Mexico, and my master's degree in systems engineering as well. I was one of the 100 top executives in the country by the time I was 30. I had a joint venture that I formed with the second largest construction company in the world -- Philipp Holzmann -- so I've always been very entrepreneurial. After moving to Canada, I got involved in finance with an investment bank out of the U.S.
Then I was conducting financings for companies in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and that's how I got involved with Aurcana. Last year, I raised for the company about $100 million. You have to remember the market cap about a year ago was $30 million. Today, it's $320 million. So the dilution we have had has been accretive dilution. We went from $0.08 or $0.09 to $0.70 (so about nine times). And the dilution has been triple, so that is accretive dilution.
Barker: What sets Aurcana apart?
Rodriguez: Basically, we have the highest growth profile of all our peers. We are weeks away from surpassing all of them: Alexco, Fortuna, Endeavour. Our stock price is $0.70. Those companies are trading at $600 million to $1 billion or more. We are at $320 million. So if someone can do the math, see where we're going, and look into the future, I haven't seen anything that can get me as excited as I am about Aurcana.
Please click here for Part 2 of this discussion with Aurcana CEO Lenic Rodriguez.
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