Private funding is very difficult to access for exploration, and the best source of private capital for exploration is probably from high-net-worth career mining explorers or from mining operators that are looking to outsource exploration. Mexico is fortunate in that it has five or six private individuals who are themselves eager participants in the Mexican exploration industry. This is something even the Mexican industry does not understand about itself. The fact that national investors are eager to fund these projects gives foreign investors like ourselves some confidence.
I personally think that the industry is pretty well-positioned. I would say that in 2011, when metals prices were at their peak, the industry got rather lazy. But then as prices for silver and gold declined over the ensuing years, the industry was forced to address some of those areas where it was a little bloated. Costs were reduced, marginal mines were either shut down or sold and balance sheets were really improved. In 2011, companies were pursuing growth at all costs without financial discipline in terms of capital allocation and ROI. But now I think the industry has a much sharper focus on true profitability and returns to shareholders. I feel the industry now is in a much better position. Silver and gold prices have stabilized and strengthened. US$1,350/oz is a very attractive price for the industry and underpinning this is exchange rate volatility, debt levels, geopolitics and supply set to further decline.
Fresnillo’s La Herradura mine was the most productive gold asset in the country with 520,400 ounces of output in 2016, helping to make Fresnillo the largest gold producer in Mexico last year. Gold has always held an important position in our portfolio and we have bullish views about this commodity’s future. When we listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2008, our growth plan was to double silver production to 65 million ounces and double gold production to 250,000 ounces of gold by 2018. We are now aiming to produce 1 million ounces of gold in 2018 – 300 percent more than we had initially targeted – so that reflects the vital role that this commodity has to play for the company.