Copper prices have been on a downtrend for much of 2023. The red metal hit a year-to-date high of US$9,450.11 per metric ton on January 25, but has since retreated, coming in at US$8,051.50 as of October 25.
Supply chain issues helped elevate copper at the beginning of the year when demand was soaring. For example, protests made it difficult for top copper-producing country Peru to get the commmodity to market.
However, the third quarter brought challenges in the other direction, with demand falling as China’s real estate sector was at near collapse. China is the largest consumer of copper, and two of the largest real estate companies, China Evergrande Group (HKEX:3333) and Country Garden (OTC Pink:CTRYF,HKEX:2007), were close to defaulting.
Copper looks set to be stable through the end of the year and into 2024. While real estate may be struggling, copper is also essential for the energy transition, meaning prices are likely to go up as demand starts to outpace supply in the next 10 years — a trend exploration and mining companies that can identify and mine new deposits could benefit from.
The top junior copper stocks list below was generated on October 20, 2023, using TradingView’s stock screener, and it shows the TSXV-listed copper companies with the biggest share price gains year-to-date. Only companies with market capitalizations greater than C$10 million at the time data was gathered are included. Read on to find what’s been driving these stocks.
1. Minsud Resources (TSXV:MSR)
Year-to-date gain: 284.62 percent; market cap: C$163.89 million; current share price: C$1.00
Minsud Resources is an exploration company focused on operations in Argentina. Its primary project, Chita Valley, is located in San Juan and covers 19,883 hectares. It hosts widespread porphyry copper-molybdenum-silver-gold mineralization and includes three core properties: Chita Valley, Brechas Vacas and the Minas de Pinto mineral concessions.
Shares of Minsud saw small gains through the first quarter of the year after the company announced that South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SOUHY) had given notice, as part of a 2019 earn-in agreement, of its intent to spend C$9.1 million on a fourth year of exploration to advance the Chita Valley project.
On March 21, Minsud announced that assay results from Phase 4 drilling at Chita Valley’s Chinchillones target had revealed greater mineralization at the site than previously anticipated. They confirmed the presence of a second tonalitic porphyry, with a highlight assay of 0.94 percent copper, 0.38 grams per metric ton (g/t) gold and 5.56 g/t silver over 86 meters.
The company saw further gains through the second and third quarters as it announced similar positive results from its drilling program at Chita Valley. On May 8, Minsud reported high-grade yields, including the best drill hole intercept to date, which included an interval of 1.35 percent copper over 166.3 meters. The Phase 4 drilling revealed more extensive mineralization, allowing Minsud to expand its target zone to 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers.
The most recent drilling at Chita Valley as reported on August 1 further supports the extension of the Chinchillones target zone identified on May 8, and according to the company represents significant discovery. Minsud notes in the report, “The results of this drill hole are very significant, having intersected a continuous 670-metre interval of dacites and high-grade polymetallic (Cu-Ag-Au-Pb-Mo) hydrothermal breccia bodies.” At the time of release, Minsud had completed 40 drill holes over 28,674 meters as part of Phase 4 of the drilling program at Chita Valley.
2. NGEx Minerals (TSXV:NGEX)
Year-to-date gain: 98.06 percent; market cap: C$1.12 billion; current share price: C$6.12
NGEx Minerals, which is part of the Lundin Group, is a copper and gold exploration company focused on developing its projects in Argentina and Chile. NGEx’s primary focuses are the Los Helados and Lunahuasi (formerly Potro Cliffs) projects, both located within the Vicuña copper-gold district on the border of Argentina and Chile. The district is controlled by companies within the Lundin Group.
Strong assay results in April from within the Vicuña district were highlights of the first half of the year for NGEx, causing the company’s share price to surge from C$4.40 to C$6.83 that month.
The first of these results came on April 4, when NGEx reported the discovery of a new zone of high-grade copper, gold and silver mineralization at what was then called Potro Cliffs. Drilling at the zone yielded intersects that were the highest yet at the site: 7.52 percent copper equivalent over 60 meters, including 18 percent over 10 meters. The zone marks the fourth major deposit in Lundin’s Vicuña district.
NGEx followed with results on April 13 from drilling at the Fenix and Alicanto zones at Los Helados; one hole from Fenix had an interval of 343.8 meters grading 0.9 percent copper equivalent, including 63 meters grading 1.25 percent. The quality of the results has helped to expand the size of the Fenix zone and shows that both zones have opportunities for future expansion.
NGEx continued to drill into July, and announced on July 4 that high-grade results had confirmed the newly discovered zone announced on April 4, which it named Lunahuasi. The company believes the samples indicate that the outer halo of a core deposit that has yet to be discovered. In addition to the high-grade copper, the drilling revealed bonanza-grade gold and silver values as high as 43.9 g/t gold and 1,165 g/t silver.
NGEx reported on August 11 it had closed a non-brokered private placement of C$85.7 million; the company plans to use the money to further fund its exploration programs in Chile and Argentina. It began its inaugural drill program at Lunahuasi on October 17.
3. DLP Resources (TSXV:DLP)
Year-to-date gain: 93.48 percent; market cap: C$43.91 million; current share price: C$0.445
DLP Resources is a base metals exploration company with interests in Peru and Southern BC. Its primary site is Aurora, a porphyry copper-molybdenum project north of Cuzco, Peru. The site’s previous exploration in 2001 and 2005 revealed significant mineralization, and DLP acquired the property via an earn-in agreement with a private Peruvian group in May 2021.
The company began the year with an upsized private placement of C$1.41 million, with funding to be used for the continued exploration of its projects in Peru. Drilling of the fourth hole at the Aurora site began in February and results were released on May 5, with one interval grading 0.98 percent copper equivalent over 198.9 meters.
Drilling at Aurora continued through the second and third quarters, with positive results in June that showed mineralization in drill holes five and six. Hole five was a step out of 317 meters from the third hole, and the sixth hole, located 448 meters from hole three, extended mineralization further. Hole six showed copper equivalent results including 1.01 percent over 208 meters.
Shares of DLP reached a year-to-date high of C$0.71 on July 9 after starting the year around the C$0.285 mark.
In its most recent news, released on October 11, DLP confirmed that the mineralized trend has reached at least 980 meters based on encouraging results from the first 11 drill holes at the site; it also said that results from drill hole 12 are expected in early November.
4. Intrepid Metals (TSXV:INTR)
Year-to-date gain: 92.31 percent; market cap: C$12.45 million; current share price: C$0.25
Focused on the exploration of high-grade copper, silver, lead and zinc projects, Intrepid Metals introduced the Corral copper project in February as a new, district-scale exploration project with over 50,000 meters of historic drilling that hosts significant shallow copper intercepts, including 1.24 percent over 126.2 meters.
Shares of Intrepid saw their greatest gains at the end of the third quarter, moving from a near year-to-date low of C$0.125 on August 28 to a year-to-date high of C$0.30 on October 3.
These gains came along with the company’s September 12 consolidation of an established 3 kilometer copper and gold trend within the Corral copper project, following Intrepid’s acquisition of the MAN property from Mining and Mineral Opportunity. This acquisition brings its total land package to over 9,500 acres.
According to the company, despite strong results from historic drilling along the trend, the fragmented nature of the claims in the region prevented meaningful investment and development of resources.
Intrepid reported the approval of the deal from the TSXV on October 4 subject to equity financing, which must occur by December 10, and shared an update on its planning for Corral the following week.
5. Doubleview Gold (TSXV:DBG)
Year-to-date gain: 50.65 percent; market cap: C$110.29 million; current share price: C$0.58
Doubleview Gold is focused on critical metals projects. Its portfolio includes the Hat polymetallic porphyry deposit, which holds significant copper, cobalt and scandium mineralization, and the Red Spring copper-silver-gold property.
Shares of the company reached a year-to-date high of C$0.70 on February 28 following news issued by Doubleview on February 6 that it had achieved 56 percent scandium recoveries in its initial testing of flotation tailings from Hat. It believes this discovery has the potential to provide the first major source of scandium in North America. The discovery was further validated when the company announced a total recovery rate of greater than 90 percent on September 26.
Exploration results from the Hat site as reported on May 8 and June 1 show greater potential for the site to be a significant source of critical metals, with a highlighted intercept of 0.15 percent copper, 87.4 g/t cobalt and 29.5 g/t scandium over 459 meters.
Testing on the site through the third quarter has allowed Doubleview to extend the project’s main Lisle zone by 120 meters, the company reported on October 24. Testing for the season has exceeded 9,000 meters and the limits for the deposit have not been identified.
Securities Disclosure: I, Dean Belder, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.