For Taseko, All the World's a Stage

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Like the butterflies that flutter through performers' guts before they go out on stage, one small-cap copper miner is brimming with anticipation for the performance of a lifetime.

The audience clamors from beyond a closed curtain, chanting: "We want Prosperity!" But Taseko Mines (AMEX: TGB  ) aims to quiet the crowd with a 38% increase in copper production from the company's flagship (now 75%-owned) Gibraltar mine. Net earnings nearly quadrupled to CAD$45.4 million for the second quarter, on the strength of an $8.9 million non-cash gain on derivatives and a CAD$15.7 million net tax recovery.

Because of a steep surge in both production costs and total cash costs at Gibraltar, operating profit grew only 4.2% to CAD$17.4 million, despite the higher production volume and a 50% increase in realized copper prices. Production costs rose 71% to USD$1.64 per pound for the quarter.

The jump reflected an array of factors, including a higher stripping ratio (working through more waste rock to access ore), a stronger Canadian dollar, and rising fuel costs. As a reference point, larger miner Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO  ) continues to dazzle copper investors with a second-quarter production cost of only $0.064 per pound after by-product credits.

Thanks to some very attractive copper hedges that I reported to you earlier in the year, Taseko will remain comfortably profitable, even with this near-term surge in costs. Meanwhile, a broader perspective reveals that Taseko is placing the finishing touches upon some meaningful upgrades at Gibraltar. A new in-pit crusher and conveyor system, a new Bucyrus (Nasdaq: BUCY  ) shovel soon to enter operation, four 320-ton haul trucks, and a SAG mill direct feed system (targeted for completion in the fourth quarter) are just some of the latest developments in a multiyear campaign to enhance operations at Gibraltar. Collectively, I expect these improvements to reverse the recent surge in costs and promote a healthy cash flow stream for advancing Prosperity through construction.

Speaking of Prosperity -- the star of this show, leaving investors giddy with anticipation -- Taseko still expects that all-important mine permit to be approved in either September or October. The company has already awarded some preliminary contracts with the expectation of a positive finding. Prospective mine developers throughout the Canadian provinces -- from NovaGold Resources (AMEX: NG  ) with its long-awaited Galore Creek project, to Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM  ) with its desired advance into more frigid climes -- will likewise wait with bated breath for this impending word from the Canadian Federal Cabinet.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure: Taseko has never stood on a bigger world stage.

More than 1,680 Motley Fool CAPS members have lined up behind Taseko with high expectations for Prosperity. As a longtime shareholder, I stand right there with them. Join the free community today to share your views.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker is the commodore of copper and the Colonel Klink of zinc. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly in the CAPS community under the user name TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Agnico-Eagle Mines, NovaGold Resources, and Taseko Mines. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy likes to form a 'V' with its fingers and say: "Live Long and Prosper."

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (15)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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 August 16, 2010, at 7:43 PM, Thordog03 wrote:

    It has shined for me the last two years and I think it's time to add more to my position.

  • Report this Comment On August 21, 2010, at 12:08 PM, denaliguide wrote:

    Much as I like and JUST reco'd TGB, it will have its up's and downs. Last year it ran nicely. This year I hope to get ONE point or better off it in a PATTERN Trade. Time will tell. I am still concerned about Prosperity, but have no way to scope out whats happening there.

    You may want to try something different. How different?

    Views you can use NOW, all stuff, no puff.

    Stop by

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