Business

The man with the Midas touch

Thomas Hopkins February 19 1979
Business

The man with the Midas touch

Thomas Hopkins February 19 1979

The man with the Midas touch

When an indiscreet Ken Sanders, president of the tiny Vancouverbased Consolidated Cinola Mines Ltd., blabbed predictions of a $2-billion cornucopia of gold in a remote drill site near Juskatla on the Queen Charlotte Islands recently, Vancouver emitted an almost audible rustle of madness. The fuss was furthered by a two-inch GOLD RUSH headline in the Vancouver Express and aggressive promoting by penny mining stockbrokers. The flurry of activity led the Vancouver Stock Exchange (VSE), already nervous about its volatile junior mining issues in the Curb Exchange, to halt trading in Ci-

nola shares and hold an unprecedented news conference. Before 30 jostling reporters, VSE President Bob Scott tuttutted the overblown rhetoric and counselled investor caution, saying that the

extent of the find was not proven.

Scott was hollering down an empty mine shaft; stock buyers were not listening. Cinola, which hit a low of 54 cents in 1978, resumed trading last Monday at $5 and hovered in the $4 to $4.75 range all week. Other mining companies are not taking any chances either and more than 115,000 acres of new claims have been staked out around the Cinola site, most since core results became public in December. It’s the sort of rough-and-tumble theatre that would send the Toronto Stock Exchange, which rousted the penny stocks 20 years ago, or the Montreal exchange, which cleaned house in the early 1970s, into apoplexy. But in Vancouver, the Curb Exchange of 245 companies, formed in 1974, is viewed as a rowdy kindergarten for young outfits before graduation to the Resources Development Board. It is also embarrassingly healthy, accounting for almost 25 per cent of the 1978 VSE dollar value.

Cinola’s Sanders acknowledges the VSE “is uptight with me,” but is unapologetic about his $2-billion claim. However, in an age when mining is more helicopters and geophysics than picks and packsacks, Sanders knows the $150million start-up costs needed will come from someone else. “We’re gamblers,” he says, “and we’re looking which way to jump.” So far the prime beneficiaries of Vancouver’s odd flutter of gold fever are Curb Exchange brokers and Efrem Specogna, of Nanaimo, B.C., a 52-yearold tree feller (who often prospects with his wife, children and wolfhound Fido), who stumbled onto the Cinola property in 1970. For his sleuthing troubles, Cinola paid him a tidy $450,000. Does he now own a whack of Cinola’s highflying stock? “Well, no,” he says, “but my wife, Lucia, she does—and it’s all in the family.” Thomas Hopkins