Sisson mine owners see share price climb 56% in weeks before Maliseet deal

Northcliff Resources Ltd., the Vancouver-based firm behind the proposed tungsten-molybdenum open pit mine and processing facility outside Stanley saw its stock price jump 56 per cent between Dec. 15 and Feb. 9 according to Toronto Stock Exchange trading archives.

New Brunswick government says deal was announced as soon as possible after being confirmed by First Nations

The lifespan of the Sisson mine project would be 27 years. This graphic from a video by Northcliff Resources shows what the project would look like at year 20. (Northcliff Resources Ltd.)

Northcliff Resources Ltd., the Vancouver-based firm behind the proposed tungsten–molybdenum open pit mine and processing facility outside Stanley saw its stock price jump 56 per cent between Dec. 15 and Feb. 9, according to Toronto Stock Exchange trading archives.

The price escalation began roughly at the same time the province and Maliseet First Nation communities came to a deal about the mine.

 "It was in December, mid–December — around early to mid–December," said Chief Patricia Bernard of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation about when she and five other chiefs agreed not to oppose the mine in exchange for a deal with the province on tax sharing on gasoline and tobacco sales.

Bernard said documents formalizing the December agreements were then signed on Jan. 31.

Share price bid up

News of the Sisson deal was not disclosed to the public until Feb. 10.

But by then, unknown investors had spent almost eight weeks buying Northcliff stock and bidding its price up from nine cents per share on Dec. 15 to a new 52–week high of 14 cents per share on Feb. 9.

After Friday's announcement the stock jumped further to 15 cents, the highest its been in 18 months.

Over two million shares in Northcliff Resources changed hands during the 37 trading days between mid–December and Friday's announcement, six times more than during the identical 37 trading days one year earlier.

It is not known who was behind the heavy trading or whether the unannounced deal between the province and chiefs played any role in the robust market activity, but it would be a potentially serious matter if it did.

It is not legal in Canada for anyone who has confidential information about a company that is not known to the public or other shareholders to act on that knowledge.

'Timing is interesting'

Progressive Conservative finance critic Bruce Fitch is a stock broker and says it is impossible to know what caused the stock price of Northcliff Resources to increase. (CBC)
Progressive Conservative finance critic Bruce Fitch, a former stock broker, said it's impossible to know what was behind the rise in Northcliff's stock price.

"The timing is interesting and the volume is interesting but I don't want to make an accusation that would be improper,"said Fitch who cautioned it is up to securities regulators to look at trading anomalies.

Anything that affects a publicly traded stock has to get out as soon as possible.- Bruce Fitch , PC finance critic

However, Fitch does say the province needs to release any information it has that can affect the stock price of any publicly traded company as quickly as it can to be fair to all investors.

"Anything that affects a publicly traded stock has to get out as soon as possible," said Fitch.

Deal not signed til late January

Tanya Greer, a spokeswoman with the provincial Department of Energy and Resource Development, said in an email the province could not announce the agreement earlier than Feb. 10 for logistical reasons.

"The agreements could not be signed until the six First Nations had taken the agreements to their councils and received their approval, which did not occur until late January," wrote Greer in an email to CBC News.

"The signing happened days later, and the announcement was scheduled as soon as the premier, MLA and MP could be available."

The province did not respond to a question asking whether it was aware Northcliff`s share prices were escalating during the period before the announcement was finally made.

Northcliff Resources president, Christopher Zahovskis, did not respond to a call asking about last week's announcement.

Before its recent rally, Northcliff Resources stock had been struggling for a number of years, at one point losing 87 per cent of its value since peaking at 65 cents per share in 2012.

Sagging international tungsten and molybdenum prices over the last two years have been hovering well below levels the company envisioned in its 2013 feasibility study for the development, although the Gallant government's faith in the project has never publicly wavered.

About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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