Anglo American plc, Central Asia Metals Ltd & Wolf Minerals Limited Are Showing Their Mettle

These are tough times for mining companies both large and small but can these three very different companies show a touch of steel?

Anglo American dream

Stricken mining giant Anglo American (LSE: AAL) has mounted a truly heroic comeback after last year’s share price massacre. It hit a low of around 225p in late January but two months later it has leapt 144% to 549p. I have been bearish on commodity stocks for several years and felt vindicated by last year’s meltdown so I certainly didn’t predict this startling recovery.

Anglo American is still a long way below its 52-week high of 1,194p and it won’t pay any dividends until it has repaired its balance sheet. Management deserves some respite after slashing capex and costs, paying down its debt and repositioning the company for lower commodity prices. These are things Anglo American can control. What it can’t control is the fate of China, the global economy and commodity demand. All three remain uncertain, which is why I would be wary of buying on the back of the recent surge.

Can The Wolf Survive?

Last September, Wolf Minerals Limited (LSE: WLFE) opened the first new metal mine in the UK for 45 years, the Drakelands open pit tungsten mine in Devon. By the end of this year it’s on course to be one of the world’s largest non-Chinese producers of this strategic metal. The mine cost £123m and should produce 345,000 metric ton units (mtu) of tungsten oxide per year for 12 years, based on current reserves.

Mining and resource stocks specialists QuotedData has praised Wolf Minerals for its plentiful reserves and some of the lowest tungsten production costs in the world. It also warns that Wolf is a “single asset company” whose planning position expires in 2021, leaving it needing to negotiate a permit extension to fulfil its potential.

Wolf has been successful in raising investment in these tough times but the share price has slumped from 20p to 8p over the last year, largely due to last year’s 40% drop in tungsten prices. There are signs that prices are now picking up, but think carefully before crying Wolf!

Central Power

From homespun Devon to far-flung Kazakhstan, is where AIM-listed mining company Central Asia Metals (LSE: CAML) plies most of its trade, recovering copper from waste originating from the Kounrad open-pit copper mine. As QuotedData noted in recent research, Kounrad recorded a profit in 2012, its first year of operation, and has remained profitable ever since. Central Asia Metals has even paid a dividend each year from cash earnings, something you don’t normally expect from a junior mining company. It has also returned to shareholders the entire $60m it raised during its 2010 IPO.

Central Asia Metals recorded annual copper production of 12,071 tonnes last year and 2016 production guidance should be higher at 13,000 to 14,000 tonnes. Cost discipline positive cash flows make this a rare bright spot in the metals sector, rising 5% over the past year and 15% over the last month. Central Asia Metals is free of debt, has some of the lowest costs in the industry and ended last year with a $42m cash balance. It could merit further exploration.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.