Backed by big money, Fission and NexGen compete for uranium prominence
by Greg Klein
NexGen Energy’s July 15 move to the TSX big board (TSX:NXE) marks another milestone of the almost phenomenal progress in and around Saskatchewan’s southwestern Athabasca Basin. In March the company’s Rook 1 project came from behind to surpass the deposit size of Fission Uranium’s (TSX:FCU) more advanced Patterson Lake South. Now both companies focus on regional exploration as well as resource expansion, leaving observers wondering just how much more uranium the region has to offer.
NexGen has seven rigs onsite for its largest season ever, at least 35,000 metres. Eight summer targets include the Arrow resource, due for stepouts as well as delineation, a massive pitchblende-bearing area 180 metres southwest, the Cannon discovery to the northeast and five other conductive areas running southwest to northeast across the property.
Fission’s summer calls for 52 holes and 15,200 metres, most of it outside the Triple R resource. The company hopes to fill in some of the gaps between the deposit and other zones along a trend now 2.58 kilometres long. Sixteen holes will test regional exploration targets.
Fission also plans further EM work and, with pre-feas in mind, a seismic survey, geotechnical borehole testing, hydrogeology wells and Phase II metallurgical studies.
Last spring’s resource estimate for NexGen’s Arrow zone used a 0.25% cutoff on four parallel shear structures to report an inferred total of 3.48 million tonnes averaging 2.63% for 201.9 million pounds U3O8. With the deposit open in most directions, the company hopes to release an expanded, upgraded resource this year.
Fission’s September 2015 estimate for the two-zone Triple R deposit used a 0.2% open pit cutoff and 0.25% underground cutoff for a resource totalling:
- indicated: 2.01 million tonnes averaging 1.83% for 81.11 million pounds U3O8
- inferred: 785,000 tonnes averaging 1.57% for 27.16 million pounds
The deposit remains open in multiple directions, Fission states. Triple R reached PEA last September.
Fission has the shallower deposit, about 55 to 200 metres below surface. NexGen’s resource extends to about 800 metres but it’s land-based while most of Fission’s resource and its other zones lie under a lake. Both deposits are basement-hosted, avoiding the leaking sandstone problems that plagued Cigar Lake.
Fission’s summer budget comes to $13.3 million, slightly less than NexGen’s $14 million. Fission’s well-funded following last January’s $82.2-million private placement that gave Hong Kong-based uranium trader CGN Mining a nearly 20% stake in the company. NexGen took a different approach, issuing US$60 million in convertible debentures to CEF Holdings, shared 50/50 by CK Hutchinson Holdings and CIBC. That leaves NexGen with about $100 million on hand and the possibility of paying off the debt.
Does that suggest the company contemplates production revenue in its future? CEO Leigh Curyer can give that impression. The former CFO of a Uranium One predecessor takes credit for managing South Australia’s Honeymoon project through feasibility. Late last month he announced three new staffers holding “combined experience with permitting, development and operating mines.”
By contrast Fission chairperson/CEO Dev Randhawa has openly courted suitors, as in the failed merger with Denison Mines TSX:DML that preceded the CGN deal. The question of who ends up owning how much uranium in the region inspires wide-ranging speculation. Meanwhile expansion and development of the two projects can only enhance their attractiveness.
The region’s northeasterly reach of mineralization hardly stops at Rook 1’s border, as Purepoint Uranium TSXV:PTU demonstrates at Hook Lake. Last winter’s drilling reaffirmed interest in the project’s Spitfire zone, a few kilometres beyond NexGen’s Bow discovery. The season’s last hole revealed Spitfire’s best assay yet—10.3% U3O8 over 10 metres, starting at 237.6 metres in downhole depth and including 53.5% over 1.3 metres.
Backed by money from JV partners Cameco Corp TSX:CCO and AREVA Resources Canada (39.5% each), operator Purepoint has another round of drilling in the planning stages.