by Greg Klein
Thirty-six years in key positions give Mark Lackey a well-rounded perspective on the uranium sector. Added to that is an investor’s outlook gained by experience in the brokerage industry. A prolific media commentator—with over 300 TV appearances—he’s frequently asked to discuss commodities, often focusing on uranium trends and uranium companies. Lackey spoke with ResourceClips.com on October 26, the day he joined ALX Uranium TSXV:AL as president/CEO/director.
Lackey has served as Bank of Canada economist responsible for U.S. economic forecasting and senior commodities manager at the Bank of Montreal. Stints with Gulf Canada, a uranium producer like many other oil companies of the time, and Ontario Hydro, a major uranium consumer, enhanced his supply/demand insight.
That uranium career includes his 16 years in the brokerage industry, serving with Brawley Cathers, Blackmont Capital, Hampton Securities and Pope & Company. More recently he’s been executive VP at CHF Investor Relations and technical adviser at Presmont Group.
To those who watch uranium, its underachieving price hasn’t just been an ongoing disappointment. It’s a source of frustration to those who’ve made bullish forecasts. Lackey has been less surprised than others, however.
“I spoke at a conference last year and might have been the only one who thought uranium was actually going to go down this year,” he recalls. “It did go down, but way more than I thought, which was about $29 or $28. I thought everybody else was too optimistic about Japan restarting all the units and we’ve seen excess supply coming out of places like Kazakhstan. So the weakness this year didn’t surprise me.”
History gives him a sense of perspective, not to mention optimism. “I’ve seen this from $8 in the late ’90s to $136 in 2007. It fell during the 2008 recession, then came back nicely to $72 in 2011, the day Fukushima was hit. So we’ve had some big moves both ways over the years but now we’re down to a price that’s not sustainable. How many new mines would you get at these prices? I can’t think of too many unless you find something huge in the Basin, because high-volume, low-grade projects in many other places have people looking for $50 to $60—not $21.”
He sees a number of price catalysts over the next few years: increased buying from utilities, a possible reduction in Kazakhstan supply, Japanese restarts and nuclear expansion elsewhere.
Kazakhstan provided 39% of world supply last year (compared with Canada’s 22%). But Lackey wonders whether low prices will force the global leader to cut output. Kazakhstan has been disregarding a 2011 self-imposed production cap of 20,000 tonnes per year, the World Nuclear Association states. WNA data attributes last year’s output to 23,800 tonnes.
As for Japan, it “will have to do something ultimately,” Lackey maintains. “There are 51 of the 54 reactors idled, that’s six or seven billion dollars a plant, roughly three or four hundred billion dollars of infrastructure. Thirty of the units have been tested positively. There are political concerns and the closer you are to Fukushima the more difficult it would be to restart them, but southern Japan doesn’t seem to have the same anti-nuclear view. Japan’s burning a lot of coal, they’re burning LNG and I hear from my sources that there are brownouts and blackouts. You can’t have that in an industrial country.”
Japan’s restarts would have a symbolic effect. But it is, after all, just one country. “There are about 60 plants under construction around the world right now, and more and more of them are coming into play,” Lackey points out.
“It’s cleaner than most baseload sources and relatively cheap. The planet has 1.2 billion people with no power and another two billion with just intermittent power.”
As someone who’s been watching uranium companies for 36 years, I’ve seen it’s the team you have, the projects you have and the jurisdiction you’re in.—Mark Lackey,
president/CEO of ALX Uranium
Although near-term price scenarios can certainly influence investors, there are other priorities in assessing junior explorers. “As someone who’s been watching uranium companies for 36 years, I’ve seen it’s the team you have, the projects you have and the jurisdiction you’re in. My favourite jurisdiction’s been the Athabasca Basin. It’s got the highest grades and Saskatchewan’s a great province to work in.
“I follow the companies in this space and I can see that ALX has a very strong board, management and technical staff,” he adds. “I’m extremely bullish about uranium and extremely excited about working with such an impressive team. It’s a great opportunity and I’m glad to be part of it.”
Lackey replaces Jon Armes, who steps down to pursue other opportunities but stays on as a consultant. During his six years of leadership at ALX and its predecessor Lakeland Resources, Armes helped build one of the Athabasca Basin’s largest and most prospective uranium exploration portfolios. Most recently he negotiated the Hook-Carter transaction that benefits ALX with the budget and experience of Denison Mines TSX:DML.
by Greg Klein | October 26, 2016
It’s neither the land of cotton nor of traditional jazz, but of zinc with additional metals. And that’s why Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST has a November drill program planned for three of its western Ontario Dixie properties. Totalling about 1,900 hectares, Dixies 17, 18 and 19 host lenses of volcanogenic massive sulphides with zinc, copper, silver and minor gold in the Confederation Lake greenstone belt southeast of Red Lake.
All three have historic zinc-copper assays.
A review of previous geophysics will help determine drill targets for the three zones. Additionally, Pistol Bay proposes confirmation holes for Dixie 17 and 18.
Also on October 25, the company announced a private placement of up to $820,000. Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 placement in August.
Earlier this month the company announced a letter of intent to acquire regional properties from AurCrest Gold TSXV:AGO, which would make Pistol Bay the greenstone belt’s largest claimholder. The 5,136-hectare package includes a zinc-copper-silver resource and an historic, non-43-101 estimate.
In Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, the company has a joint venture with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property. Having earned 75% of its option so far, Rio intends to acquire the full 100%.
See an infographic: Eleven things every metal investor should know about zinc.
This story has been expanded and moved here.
by Greg Klein | October 19, 2016
A new acquisition would make Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST the biggest claimholder in Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt. The 5,136-hectare package comprises all the regional claims held by AurCrest Gold TSXV:AGO and includes a zinc-copper-silver resource as well as an historic, non-43-101 estimate. Along with Pistol Bay’s optioned Dixie and Dixie 3 properties, the letter of intent announced October 19 would increase the company’s holdings to 7,050 hectares on the volcanogenic massive sulphide-rich belt.
With three cutoff grades, the package’s Arrow zone has resources showing:
3% zinc-equivalent cutoff
5% zinc-equivalent cutoff
10% zinc-equivalent cutoff
Additionally, the Copperlode A or Fredart zone has an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 425,000 tonnes averaging 1.56% copper. Exploration in the 1970s produced samples up to 1.46% molybdenum.
The 100% option would cost $25,000 and one million shares on closing and $25,000 90 days later, as well as $50,000 and one million shares on each of the four anniversaries following closing. In addition to regulatory approvals, the transaction needs the consent of Glencore plc, whose rights to the Confederation Lake property include a 2% NSR.
The companies expect to close within a week.
“Pistol Bay proposes an ambitious exploration program that will not only pursue existing targets and known VMS deposits, but will use the latest airborne geophysical survey technologies to explore the whole area to a greater depth than was possible in the past,” said president Charles Desjardins.
Earlier this month the company announced MPH Consulting will review historic geophysical data on Pistol Bay’s Confederation Lake-region Dixie properties, where field work began in September. Historic drilling has found zinc, copper and silver, while the recently optioned Dixie 3 project comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 82,500 tonnes averaging 1% copper and 10% zinc.
The company has a joint venture with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Having already earned 75% of its option, Rio has stated its intention to acquire the full 100%.
Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 private placement last August.
by Greg Klein | October 13, 2016
ALX Uranium TSXV:AL gets 7.5 million shares of Denison Mines TSX:DML, retains a 20% stake in the Hook-Carter project and has its portion of $12 million in spending covered as Denison moves into the southwestern Athabasca Basin. Under a deal announced October 13, Denison becomes project operator, bringing its expertise to the 16,805-hectare property in the Patterson Lake South region.
“This is elephant country—a large property that has seen very little drilling on a geological trend with a precedent for large and high-grade uranium deposits,” commented Denison VP of exploration Dale Verran.
“The Hook-Carter property is uniquely situated on the Patterson Lake corridor, offering potential for both basement-hosted deposits, similar to Triple R and Arrow, and unconformity-hosted deposits which remain the largest and highest grade in the Athabasca Basin, namely McArthur River and Cigar Lake which are both operating mines. With Athabasca sandstone thicknesses similar to the Wheeler River project, the property plays to our team’s strengths and we are very excited to get started with exploration in 2017.”
So far Hook-Carter has undergone just eight historic holes, five of them on the property’s 15 kilometres of the Patterson Lake conductive corridor, which hosts Fission Uranium’s (TSX:FCU) Patterson Lake South, NexGen Energy’s (TSX:NXE) Rook 1 and Hook Lake, a joint venture of Purepoint Uranium TSXV:PTU, Cameco Corp TSX:CCO and AREVA Resources Canada. Hook-Carter also features additional potential along significant sections of the Derkson and Carter corridors.
Subject to approvals, Denison’s work requirement calls for $3 million over the first three years. Should the company fail to meet the commitment, ALX’s stake in the property increases from 20% to 25%. Additionally, Denison funds ALX’s portion of the first $12 million in spending. The companies plan a JV three years after closing the agreement.
“Denison has made a number of world class uranium discoveries within the Athabasca Basin and, given their experience, we believe that they will advance the project diligently and methodically,” said ALX president/CEO Jon Armes. “Knowing that Hook-Carter will see considerable exploration efforts over the next 36 months, the company will focus on exploration at its other high-quality exploration projects in and around the shallow margins of the Athabasca Basin, which include Gorilla Lake, Newnham Lake, Gibbon’s Creek and Lazy Edward Bay.”
by Greg Klein | October 6, 2016
A company with experience spanning 40 years and 70 countries will apply its expertise to Pistol Bay Mining’s (TSXV:PST) Dixie projects. MPH Consulting has been contracted to review historic geophysical data from the zinc-copper-silver options about 35 kilometres southeast of Red Lake in Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt, Pistol Bay announced October 5.
“Because of the complexity of the historic data, the company has requested a critical review of all the past geophysical surveys that will lead to prioritizing targets for future exploratory drilling,” Pistol Bay stated.
Historic work found a geophysical anomaly below the Dixie 19 zone. Two holes from 2002 ended before the anomaly, intersecting:
Historic drilling on other zones found:
Noranda calculated an historic, non-43-101 estimate for Dixie 18 of 136,000 tonnes averaging 14% zinc.
Recent field work has located historic drill hole collars on Dixie 18, 19 and 20, Pistol Bay added. Additional field work will focus on Dixie 17. Precise positioning using differential GPS will help model the mineralized zones.
Should all go to plan, a fall drill program will follow the MPH review.
Early last month Pistol Bay announced an option to acquire the 640-hectare Dixie 3 property, about eight kilometres south of the other Dixies. Dixie 3 comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 82,500 tonnes averaging 1% copper and 10% zinc.
In Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, Pistol Bay JVs with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property. Rio has so far earned 75% of its option and has stated its intention to acquire the full 100%.
In August Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 private placement.
by Greg Klein | September 14, 2016
Nature has inflicted many challenges on Cigar Lake, but most of them have been geological. Now local wildlife has turned against the project.
In what’s reported as strange behaviour for the species, wolves are stalking and even attacking the uranium mine’s employees. On September 14 the National Post reported one such canine wrapped its jaws around the neck of a kitchen worker. A security guard’s vehicle scared the attacker away. Considered unusual, the wolf “had apparently lain in wait for the young mining camp worker,” the NP stated.
Cigar Lake staff have cited several instances of being watched or followed by wolves, the paper added. “They are absolutely huge … they have no fear of man and come into the job sites often at night,” a former employee informed the NP.
Cameco Corp’s (TSX:CCO) majority-held operation lies roughly halfway between two 2005 wolf attacks, one of them fatal. As a result, the company fenced off Cigar Lake, cautioned employees and implemented deterrence devices such as “scare cannons,” according to the NP. Nevertheless, wolves and also bears continue to breach the barricades, Cameco acknowledges.
The newspaper characterizes the canine actions as a startling new phenomenon. But Jack London portrayed much more disturbing events in his 1906 novel White Fang.
It’s 50 below as two Yukon prospectors and their dog team find themselves tracked by an increasingly aggressive wolf pack. With gleaming eyes, the predators circle the men’s camps night after night, encroaching closer and closer and closer.
At times like that, “it’s a blame misfortune to be out of ammunition,” one guy observes.
Simply food for the predators, the dog team dwindles one by one. The two men dwindle to one.
The surviving prospector realizes his “living flesh was no more than so much meat, a quest of ravenous animals, to be torn and slashed by their hungry fangs, to be sustenance to them as the moose and the rabbit had often been sustenance to him.”
Evidently the quest for metals has always called for fortitude. And the world’s highest-grade uranium mine continues to face challenges.