When Courtney Chamberlain watched the first gold pour at his company’s Corihuarmi mine, high in the central Andes of Peru, it marked a major milestone in his strategy to build a mid-tier mining company. By coincidence, the start of production in March 2008 came in the same week that the gold price broke through the $1,000 per ounce barrier for the first time ever.

By the usual standards of the executive chairman of London and Lima listed Minera Irl (LON:MIRL) , Corihuarmi is a modest project. Yet for the past three years it has bankrolled the company through a market downturn that left a number of its peers ragged or broke. It also funded a relentless exploration and development programme that looks set to generate a second and third generation of mines in Latin America and put Minera IRL on a 200,000 ounce per year footing by 2014. From a low last June of 56p, the Minera IRL share price on AIM currently lies at around 84p, having spent the second half of 2010 gaining ground, which values the company at £101m (US$162m).

In the pipeline are major projects at Ollachea in Peru and Don Nicholas in the Patagonia region of Argentina, the latter of which was snapped up in the company’s acquisition of struggling neighbour Hidefield Gold in December 2009. Beyond that, another longer-term project could potentially see production start from the company’s latest discovery at its Escondido project in Patagonia, which adjoins the Calandria Sur discovery made by its AIM-listed compatriot, Mariana Resources (LON:MARL) . Elsewhere in the region, and among the company’s larger peers, industry giant Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX) runs the Pierina and Lagunas Norte gold mines in Peru and the Veladero gold mine in Argentina while Hochschild Mining (LON:HOC) operates three underground epithermal vein mines in southern Peru.

In an interview with Stockopedia, Chamberlain discussed Minera IRL’s strategy in South America and the reasons why investors should be taking a closer at the company.

Courtney, tell me about your background and what led to the creation of Minera IRL?

I grew up in a mining family, got a degree in metallurgy and went on to work first of all for Newmont Mining Corp (NYSE: NEM) and then…

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