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Posts tagged ‘Avalon Advanced Materials Inc (AVL)’

Caution steadies the hand for Canada’s top miners: PwC

March 1st, 2018

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2018

Last year saw “few eye-popping deals and only limited financing activity” as TSX-listed mining companies responded cautiously to improved markets, according to a new PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Like many of their peers internationally, the big board’s top 25 miners focused on “paying down debt, improving balance sheets and judiciously investing in capital projects as commodity prices largely stabilized.”

The findings come from Preparing for Growth: Capitalizing on a Period of Progress and Stability, released March 1.

Gold, the raison d’être for most of the miners, fell 3% during the year ending September 30. During that period the 225 TSX-listed miners (down from 230 the previous year) lost 4% of their aggregate value, compared with a 10% combined improvement for other sectors. Miners slipped to a 9% share of the entire TSX market, compared with 11% the previous year, holding ninth place among industries on the exchange. (Financial services came in first.)

Barrick Gold TSX:ABX, still the world’s top gold producer despite Newmont Mining’s (NYSE:NEM) challenge, held top place among TSX mining market caps as of September 30. The top stock was Kirkland Lake Gold TSX:KL, with a 175% price increase over the full year, following its billion-dollar takeout of Newmarket Gold. The acquisition represented part of a trend of “mid-market, intermediate gold companies looking to build scale and gain efficiencies through consolidation,” said John Matheson of PwC Canada.

Two since-merged companies, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan and Agrium, followed Barrick with second and third place among TSX mining valuations. Currently at about $41 billion, the potash combination Nutrien Ltd TSX:NTR has far surpassed Barrick’s $16.8-billion market cap.

Nearly half of the 225 companies had valuations of $150 million or less. But the category between $150 million and $1 billion boasted 74 companies, compared with 59 the previous year.

Nineteen of the top 25 had exposure to gold, 10 to copper, seven to zinc, six to silver and four to nickel, PwC stated. The report noted increasingly bullish sentiment for copper, zinc, cobalt and lithium. The latter mineral did especially well for five companies, with an approximately 39% total increase in valuations over nine months to September 30 for Orocobre TSX:ORL, Lithium Americas TSX:LAC, Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX, Avalon Advanced Materials TSX:AVL and Globex Mining Enterprises TSX:GMX.

But overall, TSX miners “raised only half the equity capital in 2017 that they did the previous year. And for the second consecutive year, there were no mining initial public offerings on the TSX.”

That contrasts with a more buoyant, although still cautious mood among Venture-listed junior miners reported in November by PwC, which found a substantial increase in market caps, financings, M&A and IPOs for TSXV explorers.

Download Preparing for Growth: Capitalizing on a Period of Progress and Stability.

“It’s a new NWT”

October 7th, 2014

Miners welcome the Northwest Territories’ plans to encourage investment

by Greg Klein

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His tone sounded taunting, if only slightly so. While attending a meeting of resource politicos in Sudbury last August, Northwest Territories minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment David Ramsay told the Globe and Mail that the NWT’s “Ring of Ice” has resources to rival Ontario’s Ring of Fire. The huge difference, of course, is that the Ring of Fire remains all but inaccessible while the NWT’s riches have already been opened up. Now the territory has taken specific measures to emphasize it’s open for business.

That came through in the first annual implementation plan of the NWT’s Mineral Development Strategy. And the plan drew praise in an October 6 announcement from the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. The organization sees last April’s devolution of federal responsibilities for land, water and resources to the territory as a turning point for the industry. “The legislature has said mining development has big consequences for our government now,” chamber executive director Tom Hoefer tells “So it’s saying we’re going to be more nimble on our feet, we’re going to encourage economic development.”

Miners welcome the Northwest Territories’ plans to encourage investment

The NWT has done so by setting ambitious goals, some with established budgets and target dates, on a number of fronts including energy, transportation and a “new leading edge Mineral Resources Act.” That marks a major departure from past practice, according to Hoefer.

“We’ve suffered a loss of reputation over probably the last seven years. If you look at our exploration figures during that period you can see our investment just flatlined. We saw Yukon, Nunavut and the rest of the world getting huge investment. We languished.”

Indeed, last year’s Fraser Institute Policy Perception Index placed the NWT nearly halfway down a list of 112 jurisdictions globally and sixth on a list of 12 Canadian jurisdictions.

“A big piece of this was the regulatory front,” Hoefer explains. “It was getting very complex, in part because we had a number of different land claim groups and that created a number of different regulatory boards. So the federal government launched a northern regulatory improvement initiative in 2009 and that culminated in amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.” That was completed shortly before last April’s devolution milestone.

The NWT considers those amendments a starting point for a new regulatory environment. But the government’s not promising rapid reform. Calling this a “time of transition and learning,” the territory has come up with the slogan “devolve then evolve.” Still, it’s stated intentions to provide clear, concise documentation and to guide companies through regulatory processes and aboriginal engagement.

The territory already leads Canada in at least one respect, Hoefer maintains. “I’d say we’re probably a leader in the country for settling land claims. That helps provide more certainty.”

Devolution also brings the territory 50% of the royalties that once went solely to the feds. Aboriginal groups that signed onto the devolution agreement get 25% of the territory’s share, Hoefer says.

With grants announced just last week, a new mining incentive program has awarded a total of $396,000 to two prospectors and six exploration companies.

“A new and easier-to-use web portal for discovery and dissemination of geoscience information” will get $1.3 million over two years.

But that’s small change compared to price tags for infrastructure. Although money hasn’t been allocated yet, the NWT’s talking about a three-year, $31-million energy program and a 10-year, $200-million transportation plan.

None of the territory’s four existing mines connect to the grid. Only North American Tungsten’s (TSXV:NTC) CanTung operation has year-round road access—and that links to the Yukon.

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Territorial ambitions

July 31st, 2013

Four Northwest Territories projects reach regulatory milestones

by Greg Klein

It might be called a blip, a surge, a spike or a spurt but it more likely resulted from long periods of painstaking work. Just recently four Northwest Territories projects moved closer to development thanks to regulatory advancements. Fortune Minerals TSX:FT, De Beers Canada/Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPV, Avalon Rare Metals TSX:AVL and Canadian Zinc Corp TSX:CZN all reported significant progress over a three-week period.

On July 19 Fortune announced its proposed NICO gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper mine and mill received federal, territorial and native approval. By accepting the positive environmental assessment released by the Mackenzie Valley Review Board in January, three levels of government have allowed NICO to move towards water licensing, as well as land use and construction permitting. Given further approvals, not to mention financing, Fortune hopes to start construction next year on an open pit/underground operation 160 kilometres north of Yellowknife that could last nearly 20 years.

Four Northwest Territories projects reach regulatory milestones

Although surrounded by a wildlife reserve, Canadian Zinc’s development
has progressed through the NWT’s regulatory regimen.

Also recommended for approval by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board was Gahcho Kué, described by its proponents as “the world’s largest and richest new diamond mine development.” Located 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, it’s a 51%/49% joint venture of De Beers Canada and Mountain Province. The board’s recommendation, however, comes with conditions to prevent potentially adverse environmental effects. The federal minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development makes the final decision. In a statement accompanying the JV’s July 22 news release, De Beers COO Glen Koropchuk said his company’s reviewing the measures and follow-up programs recommended by the board. “We look forward to proceeding to the next stages in the regulatory approval process,” he added.

One week later Avalon announced it too received the MVEIRB’s recommendation, again subject to certain conditions “to mitigate the predicted impacts so that they are no longer significant.” In April the company’s Nechalacho rare earth elements project, about 100 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife, achieved the “first feasibility-level study to be completed on a major heavy rare earth project outside of China,” the company stated. Avalon maintained its resources might support 90 years of production “if the mining rate is unchanged and mineral resources are converted to mineral reserves at the same conversion rate experienced” in the feasibility. Applications for a water licence and land use permits continue, as do “efforts to finalize its aboriginal agreements, secure product off-take agreements, identify strategic partners and secure project financing.”

On July 8 Canadian Zinc announced the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board had recommended approval of a Type A water licence, “the key regulatory permit needed for the construction, development and operation” of its Prairie Creek zinc-lead-silver mine. Located about 500 kilometres west of Yellowknife, the project has been surrounded by the Nahanni National Park Reserve since the park’s six-fold expansion in 2009. Prairie Creek received environmental approval in June 2012. Already in place are a 1,000-tonne-per-day mill, five kilometres of underground workings, a surface fleet and an airstrip.

The four announcements were welcomed by the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines. In a July 27 statement chamber president and De Beers director of external and corporate affairs Cathie Bolstad said, “While the minerals industry is currently facing significant financial and commodity price challenges globally, the continued advancement of these and other significant northern projects helps invite investment to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This will help sustain and grow our industry, which is a significant provider of economic opportunities and benefits to northern residents and Canada.”

Effective April 2014, responsibility for NWT onshore resource development will shift from the federal to the territorial government. Public land ownership will also be transferred, while resource royalties will be shared. At last count the territory’s population stood at 43,407.

A Pleasant Surprise

March 26th, 2012

Zenyatta Finds Graphite while Exploring Ontario for Nickel-Copper

By Greg Klein

On completing its December 2010 IPO of $9.9 million, Zenyatta Ventures TSXV:ZEN began 2011 with big ambitions. The company set out to explore its Albany Project in northern Ontario, which may sit on a structure related to the Mid-Continent Rift, home of a number of significant deposits around Lake Superior. Zenyatta hoped for a nickel-copper-polymetallic deposit comparable to the Norilsk Nickel mine in Siberia, Vale‘s Voisey’s Bay operation in Labrador or Rio Tinto‘s Eagle deposit in Michigan. So far, that goal has proved elusive. But what the Albany Project (aka Arc of Fire) drill results do show, says President/CEO Aubrey Eveleigh, might be equally compelling—the possibility of an exceptionally large deposit containing the exceptionally unusual occurrence of vein-type graphite.

Vein (or lump) graphite is the rarest, hence most expensive, type of natural graphite. At the other end of the scale, amorphous graphite is the type most commonly found and is widely used for steelmaking, auto parts, sports equipment and other applications. Flake graphite is essential to the emerging markets that include solar panels, fuel cells, pebble-bed nuclear reactors and the lithium-ion batteries that are becoming standard for electronic devices and electric vehicles. But little is spoken of vein graphite—likely because there’s so little to speak of.

Zenyatta Finds Graphite while Exploring Ontario for Nickel-Copper

Currently the world’s supply depends on Sri Lanka, whose mines contain exceptionally pure graphite, often grading over 90%. The product transmits heat and electricity more efficiently than other graphite types and is easier to mould. As a result, it’s in high demand for specialized uses such as the electric brushes used in motors and generators and in powder metallurgy used to manufacture parts for industries that include the automotive, aerospace, energy and medical/dental sectors.

So how did Zenyatta’s aspirations turn from a Voisey’s Bay to a Sri Lankan-type target? “We flew our property with an airborne survey and got a very large conductor that measures 1,400 metres by 800 metres,” explains Eveleigh. “That’s a whopping conductor. We thought it was copper-and-nickel massive sulphides. It’s covered with swamp so we had to drill blindly. But we started to get this graphite-rich breccia zone. Basically, from top to bottom we were getting all this graphite. So it’s pretty large and pretty unique because it’s a hydrothermal graphite deposit unlike what anybody is promoting in North America right now. There is one in Sri Lanka that’s similar to it, and that’s a vein-type graphite.”

Results announced January 19 from one hole show eight separate breccia zones, the first starting at 79.8 metres and the last ending at 522 metres. The following assays were released.

  • 4.6% carbon over 9.9 metres
  • 4.2% over 67.5 metres
  • 3.3% over 7.9 metres
  • 2.5% over 48.2 metres
  • 3% over 26.4 metres
  • 4.2% over 5.5 metres
  • 2.1% over 7.5 metres
  • 3% over 16 metres

A mineralogical study at Lakehead University found graphite ranging from fine (-270 mesh) to coarse (+40 mesh). The next step is bench-scale testing to better determine the deposit’s purity, flake-size distribution and recoverability. Results from SGS Canada are expected within two to four months.

“This could be exceptional; it could be very valuable; and certainly the market is bullish on graphite right now,” says Eveleigh.

Meanwhile, drilling will resume presently. “We need to determine the size of it. If we judge by the airborne conductor, it looks pretty big, but you still have to prove that. So we’re stepping out quite a ways, like 200-metre step-outs. If it’s still there, we can extrapolate in between and say this looks like a pretty big deposit. If it’s as big as the conductor suggests, it will be one of the biggest graphite deposits in the world.”

If it’s as big as the conductor suggests, it will be one of the biggest graphite deposits in the world —Aubrey Eveleigh

About 4,000 metres of drilling is planned. And the company’s still looking for that big nickel-copper find in its 121,000-hectare Albany Project. “We have 28 different claim blocks,” Eveleigh points out. “We found the graphite on one block and we’re advancing that, but we’re also exploring the other 27 blocks.”

The graphite deposit has “good access and good infrastructure,” he adds. It sits four kilometres from an all-weather logging road, 30 from the Trans-Canada Highway and 70 from a rail line.

As a geologist, Eveleigh’s career began with Noranda and includes a seven-year stint as a partner in a consulting firm that worked for around 50 juniors and majors. He also held a highly successful position with Wolfden Resources and is currently president of Eveleigh Geological Consulting, which has provided expertise for companies including Rio Tinto, Goldcorp TSX:G, Agnico-Eagle TSX:AEM, Diavik Diamond Mines and BHP Billiton.

Zenyatta’s team includes Barry Allan, an exploration geologist turned Senior Mining Analyst for Mackie Research Capital, and Cliff Davis, who boasts over 40 years’ experience in open-pit and underground mining. Brian Davey, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation, has 28 years’ experience in issues mostly related to First Nations economic development. Some other management and advisory staff include Don Bubar, president of Avalon Rare Metals TSX:AVL and Roland Butler, co-founder of Altius Minerals TSX:ALS, which holds a 10% interest in a 3% Voisey’s Bay net smelter royalty.

The company has an 80% earn-in option with Cliffs Natural Resources CLF, which calls for $10 million of spending over four years. Zenyatta has already earned 25% by completing its airborne survey. Cliffs holds 11.8% of Zenyatta’s shares.

Cliffs also helps with technical support, so we’re moving this along together,” Eveleigh says. “They obviously like these projects, and they’re very supportive of us.”

Insiders hold 23.5% of Zenyatta shares while another 35% is institutional. At press time Zenyatta had 39.6 million shares trading at $0.15 for a market cap of $5.9 million.

Eveleigh will make a presentation at OnPage Media’s May 2 Graphite Express-Conference at Toronto’s Sheraton Hotel. Click here for free registration.

Disclaimer: Zenyatta Ventures Ltd is a client of OnPage Media, and the principals of OnPage media may hold shares in Zenyatta.