In 2014, mining entrepreneur Bryan Slusarchuk stepped off a small airplane in the mountainous Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, welcomed by sweltering heat, the distrust of locals, and a lot of curiosity.
Slusarchuk had left a cold Canadian winter and an equally frigid environment for gold equities when he decided to bet big on a story about gold potential in a place not many had been. A former stockbroker who specialized in the sometimes wild west world of mining and commodities, Slusarchuk wasn’t a stranger to risk, but there was a sense on this trip that the opportunity was big enough to warrant a huge roll of the dice.
Recalling the early days of the situation, he noted, “I was introduced to this story of gold in the Highlands of PNG by a great friend and entrepreneur, Carson Seabolt. I was skeptical at first, but after a week or so of looking at information, I was intrigued enough to do a much closer assessment of the situation.”
He remarked that Barrick Gold owned the asset and that it had briefly operated as a mine in the past. But for several years, it had the operation on care and maintenance. According to Slusarchuk, “The operation never made any money, and it was essentially moth-balled. My sense at the time was that the local communities were understandably skeptical that the mine would restart, given the years of inaction. I knew getting the mine into a profitable state would be difficult, but geologists close to us believed that the biggest prize on the site had not yet been drilled.”
The guys who had built the mine and mill prior to Barrick had completely tripped over dollar bills to pick up pennies, mining an area that ultimately proved to be the least interesting area of the project by a long shot. So, after that look, we decided to make Barrick Gold an offer that we figured was a low-ball. We said we would put $2 million upfront and make some other payments down the road based on success. To our surprise, they called our bluff, and the next thing you know, we were scrambling around to put together the $2 million to buy what we thought could potentially become a world-class gold asset.”
The team named the company K92 Mining, a phonetic adaption of the local town the journey began in, Kainantu. Now, the company has traded to a market cap in excess of $2 billion based on some amazing exploration success via drilling growth in production that is fast transforming the startup into a significant gold mining company on a global basis.
The company now has more than 1600 employees and contractors at its mine site and is in the midst of huge expansion, which will see $300 million invested into the site over the next 18 months. Moreover, it has created massive wins for early shareholders who were in the stock at $0.35 and saw it rocket to more than $10.
When asked about the success and the $2 million bet turning into $2 billion, Slusarchuk quickly noted, “This has been an amazing win for early investors and speculators and it took a lot of guts for us to put the deal together but the real driving force behind this success in my opinion has been John Lewins, who is K92’s CEO.”
He continued, “John has done the hard work, and a lot of people love to take credit for the hard work, but he has truly done it here. From spending month after month onsite during the early days when it was tough, to negotiating the big financing deals such as the recent $100 million credit facility closing, he deserves much of the credit. It takes a whole team, though, and as John often notes, K92 has an amazing asset geologically, but the best asset of the company is its people.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Slusarchuk has decided to make one more big bet on Papua New Guinea. When asked about the bet, he said, “I haven’t been as excited since those early days of K92 as I am today, and that is because I’ve just been able to negotiate a huge new situation in PNG. We have tied up, through a variety of licenses and license applications, a 2166 sq km commanding land package within the country, including land contiguous with K92’s project.”
“Lots of historic drilling, lots of gold and copper, and as is similar to the early days on K92 – we bought this when nobody seemed to want gold. We think that is changing and we also believe that the fact the world’s largest gold miner, American-based Newmont, has just entered PNG over the past month and K92’s ongoing success will make PNG a more and more well-known jurisdiction. Geologically, it’s known as the Land of Giants for a reason.” further explained Slusarchuk.
Great Pacific Gold, which trades as GPAC on the TSX Venture in Canada and as FSXLF on the OTC in the United States, is the vehicle for the new projects. And, as the CEO of the company, Slusarchuk is highly optimistic, “With a strong cash position and team with a record of technical success in PNG, we are well positioned. We are also blessed to have John Lewins as a director and a lot of similar shareholders to the groups that funded K92 early on. Because of this, I expect a big 2024 for GPAC.”
Newmont, which just entered PNG in a big way in recent days, is a multi-billion dollar company, as is K92 Mining. On the other hand, Great Pacific Gold has a sub $100 million market cap, which will start to attract serious attention from any speculators who like high-grade gold. That’s why Slusarchuk prefers to see it not as a bet with real risk but as a bet with some serious upside.