Shares of Northern Dynasty Minerals (NYSEMKT:NAK), a mineral exploration and development company, climbed more than 14% last month after the company released an announcement that stoked investors' confidence. Furthermore, a positive analyst's rating on the stock suggested that the company was making progress in its plan to bring the Pebble Project to fruition.
Northern Dynasty's success predominantly relies on its ability to develop the Pebble Project, which the company touts on its website as "the world's largest undeveloped copper and gold resource." Northern Dynasty maintains 100% ownership of the project, having ended a partnership with AngloGold Ashanti, which had spent about $573 million on the project's development -- in 2013.
Consisting of two deposits discovered nearly 30 years ago, the Pebble Project is currently stalled in the permitting phase -- something which management hopes to overcome by the end of 2017. The company estimates that once the permitting phase is complete and construction of the mine commences, gold production can begin five years after that. The problem is that acquiring the necessary permits is far from a certainty, given the overwhelming concerns voiced by numerous stakeholders.
In early October, though, the company announced that it had reimagined the Pebble Project. Interpreting the announcement as an auspicious sign, investors sent Northern Dynasty's shares as much as 10% higher the following day. Specifically, management announced a plan for the mine which would "reduce the project's footprint and significantly enhance environmental safeguards." The new plan, for example, features an updated means of water management, and a new transportation corridor which reduces the impact to wetlands.
During the month, investors also celebrated news that the company was gaining increased attention from the Street. The investment bank H.C. Wainwright initiated coverage on Northern Dynasty, assigning it a buy rating with a price target of $2.50; that bullish perspective follows a less emphatic rating of "market perform" from BMO Capital over the summer.
The company's October announcement may have inspired the market to drive shares higher, but it provides no concrete evidence that the Pebble Project is making serious headway. The bullish take on the stock from the H.C. Wainwright analyst must be taken in stride, like the critical letter and report earlier this year from Kerrisdale Capital, which urged investors to sell and announced the firm's short position in the stock.
Now, as always, a position in Northern Dynasty Minerals is highly speculative. The stock should only be on the radars of the most risk-tolerant investors.