First Majestic's Neumeyer takes top prize as silver miners dominate Kitco's Mining CEO award
(Kitco News) - The voters for Kitco News’ Mining CEO of the Year survey have spoken: 2019 belongs to the year of the silver miners.
The top two CEOs in 2019 garnered nearly half of the votes; both were also silver producers, with Keith Neumeyer, CEO of First Majestic Silver taking the crown, followed closely by Eric Fier, CEO of SilverCrest Metals.
The race for the top spot was close this year, with Neumeyer narrowly beating the runner-up, Fier. In third place was Randy Smallwood, CEO of Wheaton Precious Metals.
In total, 3,177 ballots were cast, with the top three CEOs accumulating 23.1%, 20.9%, and 6.9% of votes, respectively.
This year, Rob McEwen of McEwen Mining was retired to legacy status as he had already won three times in a row in prior years.
The tallies came in as 2019 saw silver lag the gold bullion, a rarity in the history of the metals that have historically seen silver outperform its yellow metal counterpart during periods of bull rallies.
However, silver investors have shown more fervor in the wake of a price rally this year, even more than gold investors, said Brent Cook of Exploration Insights, who remains positive on silver prices.
"Silver attracts a very rabid crowd as opposed to gold, and silver bugs are much more passionate. We've seen silver start to move. Everything I see says that gold is set to do well," Cook told Kitco News on the sidelines of the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference. "This is going to be a good year."
David Morgan, editor of the Morgan Report, shared Cook's sentiment.
"Silver has got some attraction in a bull market that gold doesn't have," Morgan told Kitco News, adding that silver miners have been known to produce higher returns for investors during bull markets.
"At the top of the market, a good silver producer will trade at 50 times earnings. A good gold producer [will trade] at 30 or 35," he said.
Neumeyer led First Majestic Silver through a 94% return in share prices for the calendar year of 2019.
Driving this growth was a record 25.6 million ounces produced and two new acquisitions, the San Dimas and Santa Elena projects, coming into their portfolio.
First Majestic plans to refocus all production efforts in 2020 to producing just silver and gold after shutting down a few mines in the last two years, and likely shutting down their last concentrate producer this year, Neumeyer said.
Voters have shared the same sentiments on Neumeyer's performance as CEO.
"Only Neumeyer and Makuch have had significant stock growth. The choice should be a runoff between these two," one voter commented.
"The best is Keith Neumeyer," another had said.
SilverCrest Metals was another silver producer that saw significant stock price growth, with shares rising 82% in 2019.
CEO Eric Fier commented that "2019 was a great year for SilverCrest with the main focus on further de-risking of Las Chispas."
A few of the highlights from 2019 include three successful equity financings with aggregate gross proceeds of C$122 million, the move from the TSX Venture Exchange to the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the completion of a 180,000-metre core drill program.
This year, the company plans to initiate a feasibility study for its Las Chispas property and potentially start new construction in mid-2020.
Wheaton Precious Metals' stock rose 40% in 2019.
As one of the world's largest precious metals streaming companies, Wheaton owns operating and development assets throughout North America, South America, and Europe.
CEO Randy Smallwood has remained constructive on precious metals prices, despite lackluster interest from generalist investors.
In an interview with Kitco News in November, he said that "we haven't seen a retail push into precious metals yet. We've seen a bit, but not a lot. And when that happens, we will see a really big movement in the precious metals space."