Friday 21st October 2016

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘kazakhstan’

Opportunities in adversity

June 9th, 2016

John Kaiser talks Trump, turmoil, gold, scandium and the juniors

by Greg Klein

It’s said to be an ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Much about our own epoch obviously interests and probably fascinates John Kaiser. But he might be accused of ambivalence for the silver linings he sees among the gathering clouds. The analyst and creator of Kaiser Research Online spoke with on a range of subjects, but with mineral exploration always in mind.

On gold’s rally

This one has a stronger foundation than previous upswings, Kaiser believes. Chinese aggression, Russian expansionism, Middle East volatility, Brazilian instability, the possible Brexit and the chances of a Donald Trump U.S. presidency all mean “we’re looking at an extremely turbulent world,” he says. “There’s good reason to expect gold to go higher as capital starts to hedge against all these gloomy scenarios.”

John Kaiser talks Trump, turmoil, gold, scandium and the juniors

That could push prices between $1,600 and $2,000 in the next year, he maintains. “And if that’s happening in the absence of any inflation, that really leverages those ounces in the ground that the juniors have and makes operating mines more profitable. Even for exploration companies it lowers the bar for what counts as a new discovery.”

On the juniors’ rally

Kaiser attributes this year’s rebound partly to gold, but also to renewed interest in discovery exploration.

“I’m very pleased that the rally that started the third week of January did not succumb to the PDAC curse and slow down,” he says. “By May everything’s usually in the garbage can before the summer doldrums. We’re not seeing these substantial gains continue that we saw from February to April, but we haven’t seen the markets give up the gains either.

“We’re probably not going to see a roaring global economy driving up demand and catching supply off guard like we did during China’s supercycle. However, as this world gets more belligerent, we could see massive disruptions of supply.”

John Kaiser talks Trump, turmoil, gold, scandium and the juniors

John Kaiser: “I’m very pleased that the rally
that started the third week of January did not
succumb to the PDAC curse and slow down.”

That would bring greater concern about jurisdictional risk for vital commodities. “An opportunity for the juniors would be to seek out existing deposits of these metals. They might not be worth developing now, but they could be treated by the market as leveraged bets on these big-picture geopolitical outcomes.”

On the Donald

A Vancouver native who’s spent 26 years in the U.S., Kaiser’s firmly among those who consider that country’s anti-establishment presidential contender an outrage.

“He’s basically touching on all the latent prejudices and biases of the country,” says Kaiser. “But another reason people will vote for him is he is not an anti-Keynesian. He and Hillary Clinton both understand that to get America cranking again we need fiscal stimulus in the form of infrastructure renewal. The Republicans have blocked anything along those lines….Trump could prove to be a giant wrecking ball for the stalemate that characterizes Washington. That could put him into power.”

But Kaiser wonders if Trump has a hidden motive to his campaign strategy.

“This guy is an extremely smart person and it’s possible that everything he says is just BS designed to manipulate the public. It’s like he’s satirizing everything. And if he ever did get into power, well first he’d have to deal with the limitations that congress imposes, but once he’s in power he might change his tune and discover all these reasons why it’s not practical to do all the stupid things he said he would do.

“The frightening thing is, what if this sub-narrative is wrong, that the man is indeed insane or worse. Or that he ends up being co-opted by the truly insane in the background, who make him the lever on all the insane stuff that he said, because he is just a human being and he has no true power structure. It would be a reverse takeover of Trump.”

Kaiser downplays the possibility of a Trump presidency meeting an extraordinary end—for example assassination, an establishment putsch or a distinctively American court order annulling the election.

But “whether it’s Hillary or Trump, tensions with China and Russia are on an increasing trajectory,” he says. “That would be good for gold and good for the juniors.”

On the scandium Field of Dreams

“The problem with scandium—and it makes me want to tear out my hair that the market doesn’t get it—is that the uses for scandium have been understood for 30 or 40 years.”

By being able to demonstrate that these deposits have long-term supply, they can produce as much scandium as you want if you’re willing to pay $1,500 or $2,000 a kilo. That will coax demand off the sidelines.

Used for aluminum-scandium alloys and solid oxide fuel cells, the rare earth element also finds its way into ceramics, electronics, lasers, lighting and radioactive isotopes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The stuff is widely abundant, but rarely in concentration. As a result it’s mined as a byproduct in China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, producing just 10 to 15 tons a year, the USGS states.

But if supply could grow, so would demand, Kaiser says. The aerospace and automotive industries would be prime customers. “The highest-grade deposits have been around 70 or 100 ppm, as in the Zhovti Vody mine in Ukraine, where the Soviets got scandium to build their airforce fleet. But nobody else has been able to produce a very meaningful supply that is scalable.”

That’s changing as two advanced Australian projects lead the way, Scandium International Mining’s (TSX:SCY) 80%-owned Nyngan project and Robert Friedland-backed, ASX-listed CleanTeQ Metals’ Syerston project.

“The difference these discoveries made is their 400-ppm grades are well above the 200 or 250 ppm you need to produce the stuff at $2,000 a kilo,” Kaiser explains. “At $2,000 a kilo it starts making sense to use a scandium-aluminum alloy. By being able to demonstrate that these deposits have long-term supply, they can produce as much scandium as you want if you’re willing to pay $1,500 or $2,000 a kilo. That will coax demand off the sidelines.

“The next few years will be interesting because those companies are going to try producing 35 to 40 tonnes a year. If they can succeed in demonstrating that they’ve got the recoveries figured out, they’ve got the costs figured out, they can scale these things each to about 150 to 200 tonnes of output, that will set the stage for all kinds of plans to utilize it. It’s really a Field of Dreams where if you build it, they will come.

“But you have to understand that there are all these applications for scandium that can’t be commercialized unless there’s a reliable, scalable supply.”

John Kaiser addresses the Vancouver Commodity Forum on June 14. Click here for free registration.

U.S. doubles Kazakhstan uranium imports as domestic purchases plummet

October 6th, 2015

by Greg Klein | October 6, 2015

U.S. doubles Kazakhstan uranium imports as domestic purchases plummet

(Chart: U.S. Energy Information Administration)


The world’s largest producer of nuclear energy relied increasingly on Kazakhstan for uranium last year, as purchases from domestic suppliers plunged 65%. According to figures supplied by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on October 5, Kazakhstan sold the U.S. about 12 million pounds U3O8 last year, 23% of the 53.3 million pounds purchased. Imports from Kazakhstan nearly doubled over 2013.

American supply fell to 3.3 million pounds from the 2013 total of 9.5 million pounds. While domestic purchases languished at 6% of the total, imports from Australia and Canada followed Kazakhstan closely with 19.7% and 18.3% respectively.

U.S. doubles Kazakhstan uranium imports as domestic purchases plummet

Kazakhstan’s government-owned Kazatomprom
is the world’s largest uranium supplier.

Purchases don’t necessarily reflect production, however. American mine output increased to 4.23 million pounds uranium in 2014 from 3.95 million the previous year, according to the World Nuclear Association.

“Average Kazakh uranium prices have been lower than other major supplying countries’ prices for the past two years,” the EIA noted. “Uranium from Kazakhstan was $44.47 per pound in 2014, compared with the overall weighted-average price of $46.65 per pound for the 41.3 million pounds of uranium purchased from producers outside Kazakhstan in 2014.”

That country overtook Canada as the world’s leading uranium producer in 2009. Since 2007 its uranium production has more than tripled, while Canadian production has been relatively constant and Australian output dropped 42%, the EIA stated.

Australia’s 19.7% of the U.S. total represented a slight drop to 10.5 million pounds U3O8 from the previous year’s 10.7 million pounds. Australia’s 2014 weighted-average price came to $48.03.

Running a close third, Canada’s 18.3% marked an increase to 9.8 million pounds from 7.8 million pounds in 2013. Canada’s 2014 weighted-average price was $45.87.

World Nuclear Association data from 2013 credits Kazakhstan with 41% of world production, followed by Canada with 16% and Australia with 9%.

The U.S. holds top place for global nuclear energy, producing about 30% of the world total, according to the WNA. In 2014, 100 reactors generated over 19% of the country’s electricity. The U.S. now has 99 reactors in operation and another five under construction.

Uranium One, Canadian miners, Clintons and Russia: The New York Times looks at the “untold story”

April 22nd, 2015

by Greg Klein | April 22, 2015

An April 23 New York Times exposé sparks renewed controversy over the $1.3-billion takeover of former TSX listing Uranium One by Russia’s state-owned Rosatom. The article examines aspects of the strategically strange deal, in which Russia gained control of a Vancouver-headquartered company with uranium assets in Kazakhstan “among the most lucrative in the world,” as well as “one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States.”

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totalling $2.35 million.—The New York Times

While the deal was winning American government approvals, the NYT states, Canadian mining heavyweights donated heavily to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s family charity. “Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife,” the story reports.

“As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totalling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

“And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.”

The NYT concedes that “whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown.” The paper also quotes a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign who said that no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.”

The Canadian government as well as several U.S. agencies approved the deal, he added.

Read the New York Times article.

Athabasca Basin and beyond

April 17th, 2015

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere to April 17, 2015

by Greg Klein

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India’s fast-emerging market becomes a Cameco customer

What was confirmed on April 15 had been anticipated all along—otherwise, why would Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall just happen to join the Ottawa announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi? Athabasca Basin heavyweight Cameco Corp TSX:CCO clinched a five-year deal to supply India with 7.1 million pounds of uranium.

The contract, valued by the feds at $350 million, completely overshadowed the day’s other 15 bilateral announcements. Yet it’s not all that big to a company that sold 33.9 million pounds U3O8 last year. Most importantly, the deal “opens the door to a dynamic and expanding uranium market,” said Cameco president/CEO Tim Gitzel. “Much of the long-term growth we see coming in our industry will happen in India and this emerging market is key to our strategy.”

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere to April 17, 2015

An emerging economy that’s a quickly-growing uranium market,
India marked a new stage in its Canadian relations by signing
a contract with Cameco. Photo: O’SHI/

Indeed Cameco described its new customer as the second-fastest-growing uranium market in the world. India’s 21 reactors now produce 6,000 megawatts, only 3% of the country’s consumption. Six new reactors should add another 4,300 MW by 2017, Cameco noted. By 2032 India’s projected to have about 45,000 MW of nuclear capacity.

As for the impact on prices, Dundee Capital Markets analyst David Talbot told the Financial Post that the deal could cause a chain reaction for future contracts.

But the deal also aggravated an old wound. A group of anti-nuke activists meeting in Quebec—a province now considering an outright ban on uranium mining—denounced the sale to “a country that maintains an arsenal of nuclear weapons and has never signed the United Nations’ Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Attendees of the World Uranium Symposium reminded Canadians that “India has already broken its promise to Canada in the past by using a Canadian reactor given as a gift in 1956 to produce the plutonium for its first atomic bomb, detonated in 1974.”

Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility added, “Despite rules specifying no military use of Canadian materials, some uranium from Canada could well end up in Indian bombs. At the very least, Canadian uranium will free up more Indian uranium for weapons production purposes.”

Yet India plans to double its coal consumption by 2020, “overtaking the U.S. as the world’s second-largest coal consumer after China,” the Financial Post reported.

And as a supplier to India, Canada will hardly be alone.

Citing figures from India’s Department of Atomic Energy, the World Nuclear Association stated the country had imported 4,458 tonnes of uranium since 2008, when India appeared to regain some of its pre-1974 credibility by signing the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group agreement. Russia supplied 2,058 tonnes, Kazakhstan 2,100 tonnes and France 300 tonnes, according to the WNA. Several other countries, most recently Australia, have signed so-far unconsummated and not necessarily binding supply agreements with India.

Fission finishes winter work at Patterson Lake South

With another season of drilling wrapped up, Fission Uranium TSX:FCU reported results from multiple fronts at Patterson Lake South. The last few dispatches outlined progress at the R780E zone, as well as R00E and two areas of exploration drilling. R780E, mainstay of the Triple R resource, has been extended laterally, vertically and along strike. But four holes from R00E, scene of the PLS discovery, fell short of spectacular. Four exploration holes from Patterson Lake found no significant radioactivity while 20 others at Forest Lake presented a mixed bag of insignificant to anomalous radioactivity.

Released April 16, some step-out highlights from the eastern part of R780E showed:

Hole PLS15-330

  • 0.66% U3O8 over 33 metres, starting at 142 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 1.87% over 2.5 metres)
  • (and including 8.78% over 1 metre)


  • 0.42% over 40.5 metres, starting at 61.55 metres
  • (including 2.87% over 1 metre)


  • 5.4% over 4 metres, starting at 162.5 metres
  • (including 14.07% over 1.5 metres)

  • 0.23% over 7 metres, starting at 182.5 metres


  • 1.6% over 10.5 metres, starting at 144 metres
  • (including 3.71% over 4 metres)

  • 0.37% over 12.5 metres, starting at 172.5 metres

True widths weren’t available.

Four holes at R00E, 225 metres west of R780E, fell short of the project’s high standards, with the best result showing 0.19% over 2 metres, starting at 67.5 metres.

About seven kilometres southeast of Triple R, four holes at Forest Lake intersected anomalous radioactivity on three basement EM conductors, Fission stated. Sixteen other holes didn’t. Nevertheless, Forest Lake remains a priority.

Four other regional holes at Patterson Lake northeast of Triple R also came up empty.

Scintillometer results announced April 8 extended Triple R’s high-grade area and increased the extent of known mineralization. The hand-held device measures radiation from drill core in counts per second. Its results are no substitute for the still-pending assays.

The standout was hole PLS15-379 which found, within a 105-metre section, a total composite of 8.01 metres above 10,000 cps, peaking up to 61,100 cps. Another five showed mineralization in areas that had little previous drilling. Of 11 holes in the April 8 batch, all found mineralization and eight hit intervals above 10,000 cps, the level once considered “offscale” due to the limitations of older scintillometers.

An April 6 batch of assays increased R780E laterally, vertically and along strike, with all 16 step-outs finding mineralization. The more outstanding assays showed:


  • 1.91% over 33.5 metres, starting at 60.5 metres
  • (including 14.09% over 3.5 metres)


  • 1.41% over 22.5 metres, starting at 147.5 metres
  • (including 12.03% over 2 metres)


  • 3.13% over 13.5 metres, starting at 56.5 metres
  • (including 8.14% over 5 metres)


  • 0.92% over 5.5 metres, starting at 83.5 metres
  • (including 2.29% over 2 metres)


  • 0.53% over 27 metres, starting at 149.5 metres
  • (including 4.31% over 1 metre)
  • (and including 2.42% over 2.5 metres)


  • 1.3% over 6.5 metres, starting at 160.5 metres
  • (including 7.74% over 1 metre)

  • 0.55% over 15.5 metres, starting at 183.5 metres
  • (including 3.99% over 1.5 metres)


  • 8.14% over 6 metres, starting at 215 metres
  • (including 21.18% over 2 metres)

Again, true widths weren’t available.

Fission ended the winter with 88 holes totalling 28,296 metres and lots more assays to come. While R780E’s pre-eminence was confirmed by 50 mineralized holes out of a seasonal total of 51 on that zone, earlier results also brought renewed interest to the project’s R600W zone.

Read about the Triple R resource estimate.

See an historical timeline of the PLS discovery.

Purepoint finds semi-massive pitchblende in the Hook Lake JV’s last winter hole

A 40-metre step-out, the last hole of the season, added encouragement to Purepoint Uranium’s (TSXV:PTU) Hook Lake joint venture in the southwestern Basin. Announced April 15, hole HK15-33 gave up an 8.6-metre intercept starting at a downhole depth of 344 metres, averaging 8,900 counts per second with semi-massive pitchblende peaking at 32,600 cps. Another interval in the same hole averaged 1,500 cps for 4.4 metres starting at 304.5 metres in depth. True thicknesses were estimated at 75% to 85%.

The hole was collared 35 metres west of HK15-27, which last month revealed 2.23% U3O8 over 2.8 metres. Purepoint said another hole, HK15-31, backed up 35 metres from HK15-27 and found two intervals of 3.4 metres and 4.1 metres just under 0.05% eU3O8 between 387 and 396 metres in depth. The Spitfire zone remains open in most directions, the company added.

Purepoint gleaned its results from a hand-held scintillometer that measures drill core for radiation in counts per second, and two downhole probes that measure uranium oxide-equivalent. Applicable is the usual disclaimer that scintillometer results are no substitute for the still-pending assays.

Purepoint holds a 21% interest in the 28,683-hectare JV, with Cameco and AREVA Resources Canada each holding 39.5%.

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Putting Fukushima behind

November 13th, 2014

As commodity and share prices surge, where does uranium go from here?

by Greg Klein

A sharp climb in the commodity price accompanied by a dramatic rally in stock prices—is this the renaissance uranium-watchers have been waiting for? The metal’s spot price indicator started picking up last summer, but with no real effect on share prices. Then suddenly last week uranium climbed steeply, coinciding with sharp gains for both miners and explorers. Significantly, the commodity’s elevation preceded the November 7 news about Japanese nuclear reactor restarts.

The events provided opportune timing for the November 14 (Down Under time) Paladin Energy TSX:PDN quarterly conference call, with its usual forecasts from managing director/CEO John Borshoff.

As commodity and share prices surge, where does uranium go from here?

Hardly a voice crying in the wilderness, Borshoff has been one of many predicting a steep price hike for uranium. Back in August 2013, for example, he argued that to meet demand prices need to rise two or three years ahead of an anticipated 2016 uranium shortfall. “Price hikes will be severe,” he stressed. “Why this is not worrying the hell out of the utilities completely astounds me.”

Now, he says, “The door to the pre-Fukushima period is at long last starting to open. And those supply shortages that I have for so long been talking about will now start becoming the real issue and the fundamental catalyst driving price increases.”

Uranium began recuperating from its $28 low in early August. In late October, Cameco Corp TSX:CCO president/CEO Tim Gitzel noted the spot price indicator’s increase of about 25%. “We believe the move was largely due to trading activity and market speculation around unforeseen events like the potential impact of Russian sanctions, possible disruption in the U.S. Department of Energy inventory disposition and the labour disruption at our own McArthur River and Key Lake operations,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see if the increase is sustainable but it has remained relatively stable thus far.”

Borshoff agrees about the trading activity. But he points out that the Cameco strike settled quickly and the potential UN sanctions against Russia never happened. Even so, prices continued to rise. In fact uranium’s trajectory entered a second, steeper phase, quickly rising from about $37 to $42 a pound. That indicates ever-increased trading that’s exposing weak supply, he says.

Nor does he agree with observers who “say that because the term market price has not similarly responded, there is a shallowness in this price recovery.” Borshoff concedes that spot volumes have already tripled those of 2013 with little effect on longer-term contracts. But he predicts additional term contracting over the next six to 12 months will start “testing those shortages we see from our own studies occurring in the post-2016 period.”

The irony is even these price rises will be totally insufficient to incentivize new uranium start-ups to accommodate the extraordinary growth that is needed in supply…. With each year that the building of new mines is delayed, the greater will be the price reaction. This is inevitable.—John Borshoff, managing director/CEO of Paladin Energy

As a result, Borshoff expects term prices to react later this year or during 2015. “The irony is even these price rises will be totally insufficient to incentivize new uranium start-ups to accommodate the extraordinary growth that is needed in supply….” he maintains. “With each year that the building of new mines is delayed, the greater will be the price reaction. This is inevitable.”

Reduced output has already started to take its toll on spot and term prices, Borshoff adds. Paladin’s Kayelekera mine in Malawi and Uranium One’s Honeymoon mine in South Australia have gone on care and maintenance. Production cuts hit Rio Tinto’s (NYE:RIO) majority-held Rossing mine in Namibia as well as American in-situ recovery operations. Kazakhstan’s growth in output, meanwhile, will fall below 2% this year. Paladin sees 2014 global production dropping from 154 million pounds in 2013 to 148 million pounds or less this year.

Additionally, another four million pounds has moved from the spot to term market, Borshoff says. As for this year’s spot market volume of 45 to 50 million pounds, “in our estimate, much of this volume is churn and it is probably only about 25 to 30 million pounds of primary production feeding this important market.” That would indicate a reduction of 40% to 50% in the uranium available to the spot market, Borshoff says.

David Talbot was among others who emphasized that uranium’s sharp increase preceded the latest announcement from Japan. “It is the utilities that are starting to enter the market, suggesting that this rally could have some sustainability,” the Dundee Capital Markets analyst stated in a November 7 note to investors.

Like Borshoff, he added, “We have always said, just like in 2006-2007, when contracting begins and the price moves, it will move fast.”

Talbot went further, however, predicting a “likely rally” in equities. Events so far have proven him right. The same day, several uranium miners and explorers saw their shares take off by at least 20%, some even surpassing 50%, before settling back a bit on November 12 or 13.

Athabasca Basin and beyond

October 4th, 2014

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 27 to October 3, 2014

by Greg Klein

Next Page 1 | 2

Fission continues PLS main zone’s perfect score, gets conditional approval for TSX listing

In a week that saw Fission Uranium TSXV:FCU win conditional approval to move up to the TSX big board, the company maintained this season’s 100% hit rate at Patterson Lake South’s R780E zone. All seven holes released September 29 returned wide mineralization. The main zone now boasts 61 successes out of 61 summer holes.

The results come from a hand-held device used to measure drill core for radiation. They’re no substitute for assays, which are pending.

Among the most recent batch’s highlights, hole PLS14-290 revealed intervals totalling a composite 97.5 metres of mineralization, the shallowest beginning at 113.5 metres in downhole depth. PLS14-298 showed a composite 84 metres, with the shallowest intercept starting at 146.5 metres. PLS14-296 came up with a 94.5-metre composite, with one interval starting at 96 metres. True widths weren’t available.

An innovation to the summer program has been angled drilling from barges over the lake. Now Fission’s emphasizing three “scissor” holes, each sunk north to south at an opposite azimuth to a south-to-north hole. The purpose is to “provide geometry control and confirmation on the mineralization.” PLS14-290, for example, “intersected well-developed mineralization … in an area that had previously only seen moderate results.”

By far the biggest of four zones along a 2.24-kilometre potential strike, R780E shows a continuous strike of 930 metres and, at one point, a lateral width of 164 metres. The project’s mineralization sits within a metasedimentary lithologic corridor bounded to the south by the PL-3B basement electromagnetic conductor.

Still to come are assays to replace the summer’s radiometric results, as well as assays for the final dozen of last winter’s 92 holes. December’s still the target for a maiden resource.

Fission greeted October 3 by announcing conditional approval for a TSX listing. The company anticipates big board trading on or about October 8, retaining its FCU ticker.

In an interview posted by Stockhouse October 3, Fission chairperson/CEO Dev Randhawa contrasted Saskatchewan’s stability with that of other uranium-rich jurisdictions like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Niger. Verifying his intention to sell the project, Randhawa told journalist Gaalen Engen, “We have about six or seven Asian and North American companies in the midst of due diligence who are interested in doing private placement and/or taking over the company.”

The previous week Fission closed a $14.4-million private placement and released regional PLS drill results.

Field work and drilling approach for Lakeland Resources’ Star/Gibbon’s Creek flagship

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 27 to October 3, 2014

Scintillometer in hand, a geologist prospects
for radiometric anomalies over the Star uplift.

Announced September 29, the termination of an option with Declan Resources TSXV:LAN gives Lakeland Resources TSXV:LK full control of its 12,771-hectare Gibbon’s Creek project, which features boulder samples up to 4.28% U3O8 and some of the Athabasca Basin’s highest-ever radon readings. Three days later Lakeland released rock and soil sample results from its adjacent Star property, showing gold, platinum and palladium, as well as some rare earths and low-grade uranium. Especially when considered for their proximity to a structural lineament that runs through both properties, the results show similarities to major Basin discoveries of high-grade uranium, the company states. With the two properties on the Basin’s north-central margin united as one project, Lakeland has additional field work planned for autumn. That leads up to a drill program slated to begin this winter, if not sooner.

Jody Dahrouge, president of Dahrouge Geological Consulting, told of geophysical data showing “a major regional structural lineament that’s about 30 or 40 kilometres in length, and it’s been reactivated many times over 100 million years or more. This is a key ingredient to every uranium deposit in the Athabasca Basin…. Having it reactivated time and time again allows multiple generations of fluid to flow along that structure and deposition of perhaps multiple ore bodies.”

He identified three mineralizing systems within five to 10 kilometres of the structure. The Star uplift, a basement outcrop about 700 metres by 350 metres, was the location of many of the samples showing gold and platinum group elements, along with some rare earths and low-grade uranium.

A massive alteration zone about a kilometre south had historic drill results up to 1,500 parts per million uranium. A few kilometres farther sits the boulder field that graded up to 4.28% U3O8. “Clearly something’s going on and clearly it’s related to the structure,” Dahrouge said.

With drill permits in place, road access from a nearby community, shallow depths, high ground that can be worked year-round and a healthy treasury, Lakeland now plans the next stage of an extensive exploration program for its flagship.

Read more about Lakeland’s Star/Gibbon’s Creek project.

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Athabasca Basin and beyond

August 23rd, 2014

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for August 9 to 22, 2014

by Greg Klein

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Fission widens main zone, plans more step-outs, arranges $12.5-million bought deal

Although infill drilling has been the priority for Fission Uranium’s (TSXV:FCU) summer program, two step-outs have widened Patterson Lake South’s R780E zone, inspiring a 10-hole addition to the campaign. Radiometric results for nine holes released August 18 include one that extended the zone about 30 metres north and another 15 metres south. All nine holes returned wide mineralization, the company stated.

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for August 9 to 22, 2014

R780E is the middle and largest of five zones along a 2.24-kilometre potential strike that’s open to the east and west.

These results, which are no substitute for assays, come from a handheld scintillometer that measures drill core for radiation in counts per second. Last month Fission replaced its old model, which maxed out at 9,999 cps, with a new-fangled gadget capable of measuring up to 65,535 cps. But the company still refers to anything above four nines to be “off-scale.”

By that standard several intervals were well off-scale, with a few reaching past 60,000 cps.

Another innovation introduced last month is barge-based angled drilling, allowing a better understanding of the geometry of mineralization beneath the lake. Encouraged by the widening of R780E, Fission plans another 10 step-outs. That adds 4,700 metres to a summer agenda now expected to total 25,000 metres in 73 holes.

There seems to be little worry about paying for all that. On August 18 Fission announced a $12.52-million bought deal that’s expected to close around September 23. Roughly three months later comes the maiden resource’s due date.

Winter assays reported August 13 further boosted confidence in R780E, while a summer exploration hole released two days earlier showed interesting radiometric results 17 kilometres away. Read more.

NexGen steps out to widen Rook 1’s Arrow zone

If any company can compete with Fission’s top spot as the Athabasca Basin’s number one newsmaker, it might be next-door neighbour NexGen Energy TSXV:NXE. Four “aggressive” step-out holes have extended the company’s Rook 1 Arrow zone from 180 metres to 215 metres in width for a zone that’s 515 metres in strike and open in all directions. The northwest-southeast fence of drilling announced August 20 has also revealed “multiple sub-vertical stacked mineralized shear zones” increasing the company’s hopes of finding additional high-grade areas.

One of the five holes failed to find significant mineralization.

Like Fission’s August 18 news, the results come from scintillometer readings that don’t substitute for assays, which are pending.

So far 25 of 27 Arrow holes totalling 15,318 metres have shown mineralization. Another three holes at Area A, however, failed to find anomalous radioactivity. They tested an electromagnetic conductor that NexGen interprets to be PL-3B, which hosts the PLS discovery.

Lakeland Resources updates three projects, appoints uranium veteran to board

As a busy summer progresses, Lakeland Resources TSXV:LK reported a new addition to its board and further work on one of the largest portfolios in and around the Basin. On August 20 the company announced the appointment of director Steven Khan, a veteran of Canadian investment and corporate governance with specific experience in raising funds and forging joint ventures for uranium companies. The next day Lakeland released a progress update for three of its projects.

The projects are Star, Lazy Edward Bay and Fond du Lac on the northern, southern and eastern margins of the Basin respectively. “That’s the shallowest depth—the depth to the unconformity becomes more shallow as you get closer to the Basin’s margin,” explains president/CEO Jonathan Armes. “At Gibbon’s Creek our target depths are between about 80 and 120 metres below surface. We hope the others will fall into that kind of range so we’ll be drilling 150- to 200-metre holes.”

At the Star property, crews from Dahrouge Geological Consulting have just wrapped up six days of sampling and mapping. They picked up some 73 rock samples and 124 soil samples around a basement outcrop that’s shown anomalous concentrations of gold, platinum group elements and rare earth elements, as well as highly anomalous uranium. The combination suggests a strong hydrothermal system.

“Those are typical pathfinders for uranium in the Basin,” says Armes. “At Patterson Lake South they had gold grades running two or three grams. So with the first pass on our exploration program in late 2013 we had gold grades of four or five grams.”

Lakeland holds a 100% earn-in option on Star, which has year-round road access from the town of Stony Rapids a few kilometres away.

Now that permits have arrived, mobilization to Lazy Edward Bay should begin ASAP, he adds. Under initial scrutiny will be the BAY trend, actually two parallel conductive trends, which will undergo a RadonEx survey. Field crews will also search out boulders or other signs of unconformity-style mineralization.

“We have Lazy Edward drill targets already but a lot of them were defined by yesterday’s technology,” Armes explains. “We’ll use RadonEx and other work to re-interpret the historic data to better define targets.” In all, the property has six known trends.

Lakeland adviser Rick Kusmirski knows the property from his time as president/CEO of JNR Resources. “He dug up some historic data which is very helpful to identify areas to focus on. There’s some historic areas we want to re-visit.”

Also in line for RadonEx is Fond du Lac, initially targeting a coincident geochemical and conductive target. Geologist and Lakeland director Neil McCallum thinks historic work “missed it by a couple of hundred metres,” Armes says.

But while the summer activity continues, he also looks further ahead “from a treasury standpoint as well as our projects. We’re convinced that 2015 is going to see a significant move in uranium prices. If we ever re-visit 2006 and 2007 levels, when there were 50, 60, 70 juniors active, we hope to be ready and get as many drill programs going as possible through the joint venture and prospect generator model, along with any programs we focus on 100% ourselves.”

[Khan’s JV work with Sumitomo and Kepco] was certainly a great experience in negotiating and concluding contracts, and working with them on the joint management committees. That built long-term relationships but also gave me insight into the Asian psyche and some of the issues they have to deal with.—Steven Khan, director
of Lakeland Resources

Just one day before the exploration update, Lakeland announced Steven Khan’s appointment as director. His background includes key positions with uranium companies Energy Fuels TSX:EFR, Strathmore Minerals and Fission Uranium’s predecessor, Fission Energy. He helped found the latter company, holding the role of executive VP. Khan served as president/chairperson of Strathmore Minerals until last year’s takeover by Energy Fuels, where he stayed on as a director until recently.

Khan played an instrumental part in the negotiating team that brought Japan’s Sumitomo Corp into a JV on Strathmore’s Roca Honda project in New Mexico. He also helped bring the Korea Electric Power Corp into two other JVs, with Strathmore on the Gas Hills project in Wyoming and with Fission, leading to the Waterbury Lake discovery.

Khan has nearly 20 years of experience in all aspects of the Canadian investment industry, including fundraising for early-stage private and public companies.

A confluence of factors convinced him to join Lakeland, he says. “I’ve had a long-term relationship with some of the company’s principals and I’ve always been interested in returning to the Athabasca Basin arena after I left Fission Energy in 2010. Strathmore was more focused on the U.S., where I spent the last number of years. That combination of moving back to the Basin, working with a group of people I respect and seeing a number of properties that have potential presented an opportunity for me.”

He says his work with Sumitomo and Kepco “was certainly a great experience in negotiating and concluding contracts, and working with them on the joint management committees. That built long-term relationships but also gave me insight into the Asian psyche and some of the issues they have to deal with.”

Khan thinks Asian companies might revive their previous interest in early-stage explorers. “Before Fukushima they were attracted to earlier-stage projects like Fission had at the time, as well as more advanced projects like those of Strathmore in the U.S. When uranium prices come back I think they’ll be forced to return to earlier-stage projects because most of the advanced projects will have been tied up.”

As for uranium’s current price, “its resurgence has been muted and is taking longer than expected. But I think that in the medium to longer term, demand will certainly outstrip supply.”

“I’m quite excited about getting involved with the Lakeland team and I think the opportunity for the sector is attractive,” Khan emphasizes. “I think there’s going to be more Athabasca Basin discoveries and that bodes well for companies like Lakeland that are properly positioned and properly financed. So for me the timing is good and the interplay of several factors is favourable.”

Read more about Lakeland Resources.

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A tale of two miners

July 31st, 2014

Cameco and Paladin respond to market vagaries, put their faith in the future

by Greg Klein

A second quarter of relatively low cash costs and high realized prices might have added an understandably rosy tint to Tim Gitzel’s outlook. During a Q2 discussion on July 31 the Cameco Corp TSX:CCO president/CEO expressed optimism in Japan’s—and ultimately the world’s— nuclear industry.

Nine Japanese utilities have submitted applications to restart 19 reactors, he pointed out. Two plants, Sendai units 1 and 2, have entered a 30-day public comment period after passing safety evaluations.

Cameco and Paladin respond to market vagaries, put their faith in the future

Safely distant from the radioactive ore, a McArthur River miner operates
a scoop tram by remote control. Like Cigar Lake, the Cameco operation contains grades 100 times the world average.

“While the initial restarts will be positive, we expect it will take some time for a significant number of reactors to resume operations and begin to consume the inventory built up over the past several years,” Gitzel said.

“While the near to medium term remains uncertain, let me assure you that there are brighter days ahead for the nuclear industry,” he declared. “Today there are 70 reactors under construction around the world, representing billions of dollars of investment and significant growth in future uranium consumption. We expect a net increase of 91 new reactors over the next 10 years and continued growth in the decades to come. Nuclear energy continues to be an integral part of the world’s energy mix.”

The company’s sticking to its previous forecast of annual demand rising from 170 million pounds U3O8 today to about 240 million pounds within 10 years.

As for the present, Cameco’s “marketing strategy and strong portfolio of contracts continue to serve us well in an uncertain market and provide us with an average realized price that continues to outperform both the spot and long-term prices,” he maintained.

With mines in Saskatchewan, the U.S. and Kazakhstan, Cameco currently supplies about 15% of world uranium supply.

For the three months ending June 30, revenue reached $502 million, a 19% increase over the same period last year. Gross profit surged 37% to $136 million and adjusted net earnings rose 30% to $79 million, or $0.20 per share.

Evidently prospering despite market vagaries, Cameco continues to bring new supply onstream. Although a technical problem caused a short-term suspension of the newly opened, 50.025%-held Cigar Lake operation, the mine’s forecast to bring into the world 18 million pounds U3O8 by 2018. A Scotiabank analyst asked Gitzel, “In an environment of excess supply, why wouldn’t you keep those pounds in the ground until they’re needed?”

Replying that it’s “a great project” with favourable cash costs, Gitzel added, “We need the pounds. We’ve got sales commitments for those pounds.”

But not all the company’s projects withstand the storms so strongly. Earlier this week the company received conditional environmental approval for its 70%-held Kintyre mine proposal in Western Australia. A 2012 prefeasibility study, however, “indicated the project would require higher uranium prices or greater total production,” Cameco has stated.

Even so, its expansionary activities contrast with Paladin Energy TSX:PDN. Dismal uranium prices consigned its Kayelekera mine in Malawi to care and maintenance last May and forced the sale of a 25% interest in the Namibian Langer Heinrich mine to China National Nuclear Corp. The sale closed in July, helping Paladin refinance its flagship.

Production cutbacks notwithstanding, cost-cutting measures helped Paladin pull in revenue of US$69.28 million for three months ending June 30. Apart from developments in Japan, the company’s July 28 statement noted China’s expanding fleet. According to Paladin, China put two more reactors into commercial operation last May, bringing the total to 20, with another 29 under construction and 57 planned. “The country anticipates adding 8.6 gigawatts electrical of nuclear capacity during 2014, as compared to 3.2 GWe in 2013.”

Looking to the future, the company continues to develop other projects. In June Paladin announced a 25% increase in measured and indicated resources at its Michelin deposit in Labrador. “Future drilling will concentrate on expanding the mineral resources at both the Michelin deposit and the deposits and prospects occurring in the immediate surrounds,” Paladin stated.

Partnered and funded

March 20th, 2014

With JV partner Declan advancing their flagship, Lakeland Resources looks at its other Athabasca Basin uranium properties

by Greg Klein

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It must be encouraging to close an oversubscribed private placement just one day after announcing exploration plans. In fact Lakeland Resources TSXV:LK president/CEO Jonathan Armes says his company’s original $2-million offering met overwhelming response soon after its February 24 announcement. Then on March 19, the day after releasing imminent plans for its Gibbon’s Creek flagship, the company closed the placement at $2.83 million. Now, with a healthy treasury and an enthusiastic joint venture partner in Declan Resources TSXV:LAN, Lakeland has more opportunity than ever to pursue its 14 other uranium projects in the Athabasca Basin.

The flagship is Gibbon’s Creek, a 12,771-hectare project that in January showed some of the highest radon levels ever measured in the Basin, along with surface boulders grading up to 4.28% uranium oxide (U3O8). Lakeland’s other 14 projects cover stretches of the northern, southern and eastern Basin. Most of them are wholly owned. All are under-explored.

With JV partner Declan advancing their flagship, Lakeland Resources looks at its other Athabasca Basin uranium properties

Ground exploration at Gibbon’s Creek found radioactive boulders
right at surface, while radon measurements far exceed
those of Patterson Lake South.

Within weeks Gibbon’s Creek will undergo a ground electromagnetic survey to confirm historic work prior to an anticipated 2,500-metre drill program of up to 15 shallow holes. The earlier EM survey was part of previous work by other companies that totalled over $3 million and left a large legacy of data. Late last year Lakeland’s DC resistivity survey mapped a basement alteration found by historic drilling. Surface sampling confirmed historic results showing a high-grade uranium-bearing boulder field.

Another indication of uranium comes from last year’s radon survey. RadonEx Exploration Management found its highest-ever measurements, considerably above those found at Fission Uranium’s (TSXV:FCU) celebrated Patterson Lake South project.

Fission’s success has given Basin explorers standardized methodology. Now Armes wants to extend the practice to some of Lakeland’s other properties.

“Several of our projects are at that stage where we just need to do line-cutting, resistivity and RadonEx to identify drill targets,” he says. “But with all these projects, we know we can’t do them all. We’ll continue to develop other joint venture possibilities, while at the same time compiling data on the projects to identify those we want to focus on.”

The JV approach has been working well at Gibbon’s. In December Declan took on a four-year, 70% option with a first-year work commitment of $1.25 million that accelerates the project’s agenda. President/CEO David Miller, a Strathmore/Fission Energy veteran who joined Declan in late February, says he’s glad to be working on Saskatchewan projects again.

“There’s so much of the Basin that’s relatively unexplored, to me there’s no limit to where you’re going to find more deposits,” he says. “I would say 90% of the Basin is essentially unexplored. I think it would be foolish to say the largest deposit has been discovered.”

Boasting by far the world’s highest grades, Athabasca mines are surviving a uranium price slump that’s shutting down operations elsewhere. Jurisdictional risks, as experienced by AREVA in Niger for example, make Saskatchewan more attractive yet. Global supply could be further threatened should Russia take further advantage of its influence in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, currently the world’s biggest uranium producer. As a result, “I think the Athabasca Basin component in world production is going to get stronger and stronger,” Miller says.

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Standpoint on uranium

February 28th, 2014

Energy expert Thomas Drolet looks at nuclear power from a global point of view

by Greg Klein

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This is the second of a two-part interview. Read part one here.

Uranium stocks surged on the February 25 news that suggested Japan was reinforcing its long-term nuclear commitment. In part one of an interview with, energy expert Thomas Drolet discussed the Japanese situation and its effect on uranium prices. In part two of this interview, he covers several other aspects of nuclear energy from the perspective of a chemical engineer whose career with electrical utilities, including a term as president/CEO of Ontario Hydro International, gives him insight into the global energy picture.

Uranium prices in perspective

While miners understandably fret over uranium’s dismal price, the commodity itself means very little to the cost of nuclear power. Drolet says uranium contributes about 1% of the price of Candu energy, and about 2% to 3% of electricity produced by the average light water reactor, which requires enriched fuel.

Therefore utilities aren’t overly concerned about uranium’s price—“except do they want to keep all their cost inputs down? You’re darn right they do.”

Megatons to Megawatts has ended—or has it?

The Highly Enriched Uranium agreement ended in December, an event that was predicted to threaten supply. So far it hasn’t, Drolet maintains.

Energy expert Thomas Drolet looks at nuclear power from a global point of view

“One of the common opinions in the media is that that would mean an instantaneous falloff of 26 million pounds of U3O8 a year. That’s not true,” he says. “There were some amendments to the original contracts that allowed some continuing supply to the world, not just the U.S., to continue for about three to eight years. It’s not 26 million pounds that were lost to the world, mostly the U.S. It’s something like 14 or 15 million pounds.”

But he adds, “In several years that will be a major event.”

The source of that HEU supply has ambitious plans

“Russia’s into a very aggressive internal nuclear building program and exports to former East Bloc countries, south Asian countries and Turkey,” Drolet points out. “That will sop up a lot of supply from Kazakhstan and from Russia itself, and probably from Africa, where Chinese and Russian buyers get a lot of their sourcing. The very fact that Russia is building so much for itself and for export means that the world will have to get replacement uranium from somewhere else. And that’s why I think eventually all these shuttered mines will come back.”

Chinese nuclear expansion, he emphasizes, will be the primary reason for increased uranium demand. Russia holds second place, both for domestic use and export. The country’s state-owned Rosatom builds and operates reactors, enriches fuel and, through its subsidiary ARMZ, mines uranium in Russia and abroad.

“They have a marketing strategy that’s unique in the world, in that they’re supplying a turnkey service,” Drolet says. “Not only do they supply the reactors but they operate them or train local operators to work along with their staff. They supply the fuel and they’ll take back the spent fuel for disposal. It’s a very marketable package. Nobody else has adopted that, but I think some people will start to consider that model.”

Other countries ramp up nuclear

India ranks third for global uranium demand. “They have four or five reactors coming online this year and something like 13 under construction. Close behind them are the new commitments by South Korea in the UAE, for example, where they’ve sold four reactors. The first of those will be coming online in a couple of years. Saudi Arabia announced they’re going to construct 10, and they’re currently out with preliminary bid documents to the world suppliers. I can assure you that people like Toshiba, Westinghouse, General Electric, the Russians, the Chinese and the South Koreans are likely preparing to have a go with Saudi Arabia. Then there’s Jordan and Turkey, but we’re getting back to smaller numbers.”

What about the U.S.?

Ambivalence might characterize American policy. “The current administration has said it supports a balanced mixture of energy supply, including nuclear power,” Drolet says. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a very strong institution with a prescriptive set of policies and procedures. It’s a very onerous burden for reactor operators but good for the public.”

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