Joanne Freeze: Warm response to mining in Peruvian district

Published: 30/04/2013

12-18 May 2008

By Emily Roberts, HighGrade

AN EMPHASIS on social and environmental responsibility is paying dividends for Peru-focused explorer, Candente Resource Corp. Spearheaded by dynamo chief executive, Joanne Freeze, the company is enjoying the fruits of successful financing, strong drilling results and a supportive local community.

Freeze graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts (Geography) and from the University of British Colombia in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science (Geology), so she knows a lot about earth and rocks. She has worked for both junior and large companies, including Queenstake Resources, Arequipa Resources, BHP Billiton and Placer Dome.

She lived in Peru from 1994 to 1997 and then moved to Canada to start Candente with Peruvian geologist Fredy Huanqui. Huanqui, who is based in Peru where Candente’s mainstay Cañariaco Norte copper deposit is located, is well known for his part in the discovery of a huge gold deposit, Pierina, in Peru that was sold to Barrick Gold in 1996 for $C1 billion. In 2002, Candente, through its Peruvian subsidiary Exploraciones Milenio SA, won an auction for the Cañariaco property and acquired 100% ownership with no royalty or net smelter return liabilities, for just $US75,000.

Candente listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture Exchange in 2000, the Toronto Exchange in 2004 and then the Lima Stock Exchange in 2007.

With most of its work conducted in Peru (Candente also has a project in Mexico), improving the lives of the Peruvian people is a key Freeze theme. She said shareholders were just as concerned that community programs supporting the local people formed a strong part of the company’s agenda. The company contributes to “the social, economic and institutional development, particularly of the San Juan de Cañaris community” by improving schools, medical posts, agri-business projects and infrastructure. Last year, it started a program to help local students with their higher education.

Of its more than 1000 employees (employed on a rotational basis of about 175 a day), 90% are Peruvian. In January this year, the local community of Cañaris voted 85% in favour of Cañariaco continuing exploration and feasibility studies.

“The biggest difference over the years with investors is they previously would’¿t want you to spend money on community programs, but now they are insisting on it,” Freeze said. “It’s great. I would say there is a whole awakening in the world for social responsibility.

“We are providing some of the only jobs for people [in the community near Cañariaco] right now. I like to think they will eventually have other things they can do as well because there is certainly a lot of potential for agriculture as well. They just need help getting the land more irrigated etc, and there are a lot of things people can be doing once they have roads and power, so they will be a lot more independent.”

“Mining is really important to Peru – more so now because the wealth is being shared much better and there are procedures in place to protect the environment. It’s a much more symbiotic relationship.”

Cañariaco has a 643-million-tonne measured and indicated resource grading 0.45% copper, as well as an additional 177Mt grading 0.45% copper inferred, based on 82 holes, as of December 2006. It is located 700km north-west of Lima. A resource update is due out by June 2008 with a feasibility study expected in early 2009. It is being slated for production in 2011.

Freeze is keeping all her options open, in terms of going into production alone or with a partner, and she knows Candente is a strong takeover target. Attracting more investors is not expected to be a problem, with the company bringing in $US3.7 million of local buying when it listed on the Lima Stock Exchange in February last year.

Freeze said the move towards production was “exciting, but there are a lot of new things to learn”. She has also increased her travel to Peru from once every two months to now once a month for 7-10 days a time. Time is also spent travelling to Europe and the US to present to investors, providing an extra benefit to Freeze as it gives her time to see her 15-year-old daughter who is currently spending a year studying in a Spanish school. Freeze also has an 18-year-old son who has begun his first university year studying science in Canada.

A high achiever, Freeze is surprised more women have not followed a similar leadership path to her and believes the reasons vary. “I would say lifestyle would be number one and, number two, that fewer women get into the business end of things,” she said. “One angle might be that it takes a certain type of husband to put up with a lot more co-parenting. It’s a lot easier on people to have one person as the main career person and the other one may work but be not as busy.”

“My husband has been very flexible with his time and travel. When I had children I went part time. I certainly didn’t get back to working full time till my children were in some sort of schooling, and I always had an office at home. The first two years of Candente I worked at home, and then even after that I would pick my son and daughter up from school and then work from home. You work long hours but you work it out.”

Freeze said there had not been “a huge change” in the number of women in management roles since she graduated. “I haven’t seen too many direct obstacles [to climbing the corporate ladder],” she said. “Once people know what you are doing and you are qualified then they are quite willing to work with you, as long as they know what they are doing too. The doors are certainly open [for a career in mining], and it’s a great industry. The key for everybody is to find what they like to do. If you like any angle of our business it’s a very dynamic and rewarding business.”

Where does Freeze see herself and Candente in five years time? “Having cash flow, and if not cash flow an awful lot of money in the bank if we have to get bought out. Then we have other projects to explore and hopefully find more deposits. Right now we have one and hopefully in the future we will have more.” Candente has a current market capitalisation of $C125-130 million.

Article reproduced from HighGrade