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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

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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 ResourceClips.com 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.

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 ResourceClips.com, 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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East dominated M&A in 2013, expect overall uptick this year—PwC report

February 26th, 2014

by Ana Komnenic | February 26, 2014 | Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

East dominated M&A in 2013, expect overall uptick this year—PwC report

 

The bad news first: 2013 was the worst year for mergers and acquisitions in recent history, with the volume of deals dropping 33% to the lowest level since 2005.

Now for the good news: According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ latest Global Mining Deals report, the mining industry can expect an uptick in M&A throughout 2014.

Though these deals will be “smarter, more conservative,” 2014 will be characterized by joint ventures, mid-tier buyers and more mergers or sales from juniors, PwC predicts. The gold price drop will also make buying gold assets more appealing—especially in Canada.

“You aren’t going to see the big dollars in riskier jurisdictions,” PwC wrote, quoting Brett Mattison of Gold Fields NYE:GFI.

As evidence of a strong start to the year, PwC points to Goldcorp’s TSX:G hostile takeover bid for Osisko TSX:OSK—though Osisko has called the offer “opportunistic” and some say Goldcorp is trying to take advantage of a weak gold market.

“The turnaround won’t mirror the surge in movement we saw back in 2011, but expect deal making to resurface in most parts of the world this year as both an opportunity and in some cases a necessity for companies across the sector,” PwC global mining leader John Gravelle said in a statement.

“Companies have been cleaning up their balance sheets and putting off decisions, waiting for the right time to act—that timing is near.”

Overall, PwC expects deal activity to increase this year—reaping “long-term gain” from “short-term pain.”

While it’s well known that M&A dropped off in a big way last year, PwC revealed something new in its latest report: The Eastern world dominated M&A activity last year. In fact, “the East accounted for nearly half of the deals by value in 2013, or about 45%, while the West represented about 36%,” PwC wrote.

East dominated M&A in 2013, expect overall uptick this year—PwC report

“Looking ahead, many Western-based majors are still going to wait for commodity prices to stabilize, concentrating on cash costs, rationalizing their assets and trying to divest assets as a way to pay down debt and fund existing operations,” Gravelle said.

The rich and powerful from Russia and Kazakhstan in particular bought up assets while major mining companies such as Rio Tinto NYE:RIO and Barrick TSX:ABX were selling.

The biggest deal of 2013 was in Russia, where Gavril Yushvaev and Zelimkhan Mutsoev purchased nearly half of Polyus Gold from billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

Reprinted by permission of MINING.com

Potash in perspective

February 21st, 2014

The long-term outlook and an advanced-stage project bring Asian interest to Western Potash

by Greg Klein

The long-term outlook and an advanced-stage project bring Asian interest to Western Potash

As the world’s population grows, arable land shrinks, causing greater demand for fertilizer.

 

It’s an opportunity best characterized as “a marathon, not a sprint.” That’s how Western Potash TSX:WPX VP of corporate development John Costigan refers to his company’s Milestone project. The high-grade potash solution mine proposed for southern Saskatchewan achieved full feasibility in December 2012 and final environmental approval last April. Then came tumultuous times, with what Costigan calls the “Russian-Belarusian debacle” that took down the commodity’s price. Now, with solid Asian investment and indications of a market revival, the advanced-stage project might be seen as an early-stage opportunity emerging anew.

Understandably, enthusiasm for potash plunged with the price following Uralkali’s breakup with cartel partner Belaruskali last summer. Late last year, however, JP Morgan pronounced a more optimistic outlook for 2014. By January analysts were saying prices might have bottomed in the Chinese contracts signed by Uralkali and Canpotex, the marketing arm of PotashCorp TSX:POT, Agrium TSX:AGU and Mosaic NYE:MOS.

More recent news suggests funding’s picking up. On February 18 Verde Potash TSX:NPK reported significant progress in its application for US$105 million in loans, grants and investment from the Brazilian government for the company’s Cerrado Verde project. Six days earlier came news that fertilizer giant ICL was buying a $25-million stake in Allana Potash TSX:AAA, with potential up to $84 million, along with an offtake agreement for the company’s Danakhil project in Ethiopia. Last June Western got a $31.98-million cash injection from a Chinese joint venture.

The attraction was the full-feas, fully permitted Milestone. The operation calls for solution mining, in which water is pumped into underground caverns and then retrieved as potash-rich brine. A relatively simple but highly effective technique, solution mining would allow Western to build the greenfield operation in about 40 months.

The long-term outlook and an advanced-stage project bring Asian interest to Western Potash

Just 60 kilometres away the same approach is being taken by the giant K+S Group. Now under construction, the Legacy project is scheduled to begin potash solution mining in 2016.

Milestone benefits from Saskatchewan’s mining-friendly policies and rich infrastructure. Two continental railways pass through the 35,400-hectare property, as do roads, power and gas lines. An agreement with the city of Regina, 30 kilometres away, provides a supply of treated waste water to extract the potash—enough water, in fact, to flush out 2.8 million tonnes per year for the mine’s projected 40-year life.

Those benefits have already attracted a $31.98-million investment from CBC (Canada) Holding Corp, a JV comprised of fertilizer producer China BlueChemical and Benewood Holdings, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong investment firm Guoxin International Investment Corp. The deal comes with a 20-year offtake agreement for the lesser of 30% of Milestone’s production or a million tonnes a year.

With a 19.9% stake in Western, CBCHC plays an active role in the strategic alliance. One China BlueChemical appointee serves on Western’s board and another acts as an observer. The alliance has struck two six-person committees, one to study Milestone’s technical, construction and procurement details and another to recommend financing strategies, meet potential financiers and evaluate proposals.

The alliance brings technical synergies. It also offers potential financial flexibility that could help the junior put together the $2.91-billion capex—a considerable sum but substantially less than K+S is spending 60 kilometres away. One possible Milestone scenario could involve Chinese investment banks which, Costigan points out, can structure finance agreements with a 3:1 debt-to-equity ratio. With one or more additional partners, Western could make the transition to a potash producer.

The company already has mining expertise, most notably with project director Richard Lock. In fact his career has been based on projects much more challenging than a southern Saskatchewan solution mine. While with Rio Tinto NYE:RIO, Lock took the Northwest Territories’ Diavik diamond mine from exploration to production. Among other accomplishments, he also acted as project director for Arizona’s Resolution project, now in pre-feasibility and potentially North America’s largest copper mine.

As for potential partners, discussions have picked up, Costigan says. “There’s renewed interest now. People think the market has settled. If we see prices rise, there’ll be even greater interest.”

The commodity’s long-term fundamentals remain strong, he says. Nothing’s stopping population growth. Meanwhile the global decline of arable land calls for ever-higher crop yields.

“Look at the growth in Chinese potash consumption—it’s definitely why our partners came in,” Costigan says. “They recognize they’re going to see big increases in their consumption. China’s ramping up their domestic supplies, they’re in Thailand, Africa, Kazakhstan. But when you look at the projects out there, there’s nothing that compares with Milestone for volume, quality, cost, location, infrastructure and political stability. There’s nothing that compares globally.”

Athabasca Basin and beyond

February 10th, 2014

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for February 1 to 7, 2014

by Greg Klein

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Fission Uranium releases final summer 2013 assays from Patterson Lake South

Having spent months doling out only occasional assays from last summer’s drilling at Patterson Lake South, on February 5 Fission Uranium TSXV:FCU suddenly dumped results for 20 holes—half of which showed no significant mineralization. They did, however, improve the company’s “understanding of the geological setting and controls of mineralization at PLS.”

The best results came from R780E, the fifth of seven zones along a 1.78-kilometre potential strike. R780E now boasts a 75-metre strike, with a lateral width up to about 60 metres. A few highlights show:

Hole PLS13-105

  • 3.93% uranium oxide (U3O8) over 3 metres, starting at 128 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 10.85% over 1 metre)

  • 1.12% over 3.5 metres, starting at 189 metres
Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for February 1 to 7, 2014

Hole PLS13-107

  • 1.94% over 3 metres, starting at 171.5 metres

  • 0.57% over 6.5 metres, starting at 192.5 metres
  • (including 1.58% over 1 metre)

  • 0.23% over 13.5 metres, starting at 251.5 metres

Hole PLS13-108

  • 0.99% over 19.5 metres, starting at 152.5 metres
  • (including 3.46% over 2 metres)
  • (and including 3.92% over 1.25 metres)

  • 0.67% over 6.5 metres, starting at 174.5 metres
  • (including 1.64% over 2.5 metres)

  • 1.33% over 11 metres, starting at 184.5 metres
  • (including 6.52% over 1.5 metres)

  • 3.48% over 4.5 metres, starting at 228 metres

Hole PLS13-109

  • 4.22% over 8 metres, starting at 108 metres
  • (including 11.1% over 3 metres)
  • (which includes 24.6% over 0.5 metres)

  • 0.55% over 17.5 metres, starting at 141 metres

  • 5.89% over 6 metres, starting at 205.5 metres
  • (including 14.57% over 1.5 metres)

Off the lake and onto dry land, zone R600W shows a 30-metre strike and a lateral width up to 20 metres. Some of the better results include:

Hole PLS13-118

  • 0.34% over 6.5 metres, starting at 192 metres

Hole PLS13-121

  • 0.2% over 11.8 metres, starting at 98.7 metres

Hole PLS13-124

  • 0.29% over 6 metres, starting at 97.5 metres

The company also released assays from one hole on the R585E zone, 150 metres west of R780E. R585E now shows a 30-metre strike and a lateral width up to 10 metres. Some highlights from PLS13-106 include:

  • 0.19% over 5.5 metres, starting at 158.5 metres

  • 0.11% over 17 metres, starting at 166.5 metres

  • 0.39% over 12.5 metres, starting at 202 metres

True widths weren’t provided. Holes were vertical or close to it. One R600W hole and nine stepouts east of the zone drew blanks. These results constitute the final batch of summer assays. The current $12-million campaign, including ground geophysics as well as 90 holes totalling 30,000 metres, will primarily try to fill in the gaps separating the high-grade zones.

Rio drills Purepoint’s Red Willow

Rio Tinto NYE:RIO has begun winter drilling at Red Willow, Purepoint Uranium TSXV:PTU announced February 5. About 2,500 metres will test four target areas identified by geophysics, geochemistry and historic assays, the company stated. Rio is nearly halfway into its $5-million option to earn 51% of the 25,612-hectare property by December 31, 2015. The major may spend a total of $22.5 million by the end of 2021 to earn 80% of the eastern Athabasca Basin project.

In another project with some big name buddies, Purepoint began a $2.5-million, 5,000-metre program at its Hook Lake project in January. Cameco Corp TSX:CCO and AREVA Resources Canada each hold a 39.5% interest in the PLS-vicinity property, leaving the junior with 21%.

Continental Precious Minerals updates PEA for Swedish polymetallic project

An updated resource and preliminary economic assessment takes a new approach to Continental Precious Minerals TSX:CZQ Viken uranium-polymetallic project in central Sweden. Using a 6.5% discount rate, the study calculates an after-tax net present value of US$943 million and a 12.9% internal rate of return. Pre-production capital comes to $1.23 billion with payback in 6.9 years from an operation with two open pits and a 34-year lifespan, according to the February 6 announcement.

Viken’s original 2010 PEA considered uranium-vanadium-molybdenum production using fine grinding, tank leaching and roasting. Now Continental plans bio-heap leaching for nickel, zinc and copper sulphides as well as uranium. “This has substantially lowered operating and capital costs, and has led to more robust project economics,” stated CEO/chairperson Rana Vig.

More details will be available on sedar.com within 45 days.

Eagle Plains options out eastside Basin project

Eagle Plains Resources TSXV:EPL announced a definitive option agreement on February 4 for its Tarku property in the eastern Basin. The non-arms-length deal would give Clear Creek Resources a 60% interest for $500,000 cash, $5 million in exploration and 1.2 million shares over five years. Clear Creek may increase its interest to 75% by paying Eagle Plains another $1 million and completing feasibility. Previous work, including historic airborne surveys that found northeast-trending conductors, make the property prospective for both gold and uranium, Eagle Plains stated.

Next month Clear Creek expects to complete a three-way amalgamation with Ituna Capital TSXV:TUN.P and its subsidiary. Eagle Plains holds interests in over 35 properties.

Alpha airborne over Noka’s Carpenter Lake; Noka boosts private placement

Project operator Alpha Exploration TSXV:AEX has begun flying a VTEM and magnetic survey over Carpenter Lake on the Basin’s south-central edge. The 1,892-line-kilometre survey will test the 19-kilometre strike of the Cable Bay Shear Zone, a “major regional shear zone with known uranium enrichment,” Alpha stated on February 3. The work initiates the company’s 60% earn-in on Noka Resources’ TSXV:NX 20,637-hectare property.

About 10 to 14 days have been allotted to this portion of the winter campaign, which will also include radon sampling. Spring and summer should see airborne radiometrics, ground prospecting and geochemical sampling.

With interests in several properties, the Alpha Minerals spinco announced other exploration plans in December and January.

Noka, a member of the four-company Western Athabasca Syndicate, stated on February 6 it would increase a “heavily oversubscribed” private placement from $500,000 to $1.1 million, subject to exchange approval.

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Athabasca Basin and beyond

November 17th, 2013

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for November 9 to 15, 2013

by Greg Klein

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New Argentinian discovery might hold district-wide potential, says U3O8 Corp

Roughly 40 kilometres northeast of its Laguna Salada deposit in Argentina, U3O8 Corp TSX:UWE said it’s discovered a new area with the district’s “highest uranium-vanadium grades found to date.” La Rosada shows district-scale potential for Laguna Salada-style mineralization in near-surface, soft gravels, the company stated on November 12. But in addition, chip samples from adjacent basement rock show grades ranging from 0.01% to over 0.79% uranium oxide (U3O8). That might indicate a source of the gravel’s mineralization.

The extremely shallow, fine-sand mineralization potentially offers low-cost extraction through continuous surface mining, the company maintained. Screening tests at Laguna Salada, moreover, concentrated over 90% of the uranium in about 10% of the gravel’s original mass.

Vertical channel samples starting less than a metre from surface show a weighted average of 0.15% U3O8 and 0.08% vanadium pentoxide (V2O5). Some highlights show:

  • 0.12% U3O8 and 0.06% V2O5 over 0.7 metres

  • 0.13% U3O8 and 0.05% V2O5 over 0.5 metres

  • 0.25% U3O8 and 0.09% V2O5 over 0.9 metres

  • 1.18% U3O8 and 0.52% V2O5 over 0.4 metres

  • 0.24% U3O8 and 0.08% V2O5 over 1.5 metres

Highlights from horizontal channel sampling of the basement rock show:

  • 0.09% U3O8 and 0.04% V2O5 over 0.6 metres

  • 0.09% U3O8 and 0.04% V2O5 over 0.9 metres

  • 0.16% U3O8 and 0.07% V2O5 over 0.2 metres

  • 0.79% U3O8 and 0.26% V2O5 over 0.1 metre

  • 0.17% U3O8 and 0.06% V2O5 over 0.4 metres

The company didn’t provide the depth to basement.

Further near-surface exploration is planned south of the discovery while the basement calls for systematic trenching to determine its “potential as a target in its own right,” U3O8 stated. Planned for year-end completion is Laguna Salada’s preliminary economic assessment and a hoped-for joint venture with a state-owned company holding adjacent claims.

Laguna Salada has a 2011 resource estimate showing:

  • an indicated category of 47.3 million tonnes averaging 0.006% U3O8 and 0.055% V2O5 for 6.3 million pounds U3O8 and 57.1 million pounds V2O5

  • an inferred category of 20.8 million tonnes averaging 0.0085% U3O8 and 0.059% V2O5 for 3.8 million pounds U3O8 and 26.9 million pounds V2O5

Elsewhere U3O8 has completed a PEA for its Berlin uranium-polymetallic project in Colombia and holds two earlier-stage projects in Argentina and Guyana.

Fission/Alpha release results from two PLS zones, lengthen strike by 15 metres

Releasing both scintillometer readings and assays the same week, Alpha Minerals TSXV:AMW and Fission Uranium TSXV:FCU provided a prompt update from their current Patterson Lake South drilling as well as results from last summer’s campaign. On November 12 the 50/50 joint venture partners said they’ve confirmed the sixth zone announced last week, extending it 15 metres east and 10 metres north. Two days later they reported five more holes bearing high grades from R390E, the third most-easterly zone along what’s now a 1.8-kilometre trend.

Starting with the newly discovered R600W zone, the partners reported readings from a handheld device that measures gamma ray particles from core in counts per second, maxing out at an off-scale reading above 9,999 cps. Scintillometer results are no substitute for assays, which are pending.

Both holes were sunk at -89 degrees, making downhole depths close to vertical. Hole PLS13-121 reached a total depth of 248 metres, encountering just a bit of sandstone at 98.7 metres before hitting the basement unconformity at 99 metres. Some of the better results show:

  • <300 cps to >9,999 cps over 11.3 metres, starting at 98.7 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 cps to 600 cps over 3.5 metres, starting at 141 metres

Hole PLS13-122 totalled 332 metres in depth, reaching the basement unconformity at 100 metres without finding sandstone. Some highlights show:

  • <300 cps to 800 cps over 2 metres, starting at 101.5 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 cps to 510 cps over 4 metres, starting at 106 metres

  • 430 cps to 1,900 cps over 1 metre, starting at 158.5 metres

True widths weren’t provided.

Turning to zone R390E and real lab assays, some highlights show:

Hole PLS13-078

  • 0.66% U3O8 over 30 metres, starting at 85 metres in downhole depth

  • (including 7.62% over 1.5 metres)

  • 0.12% over 7.5 metres, starting at 128 metres

Hole PLS13-081

  • 0.19% over 18.5 metres, starting at 106 metres

  • Hole PLS13-085

  • 0.93% over 22 metres, starting at 82.5 metres

  • (including 4.07% over 4 metres)

Hole PLS13-086

  • 1.93% over 43 metres, starting at 81.5 metres

  • (including 9.91% over 5 metres)

Hole PLS13-087A

  • 0.28% over 4 metres, starting at 45.5 metres

  • 0.4% over 8.5 metres, starting at 63.5 metres

  • 0.12% over 16.5 metres, starting at 92.5 metres

True widths weren’t available. Dips strayed no more than six degrees from vertical.

With $2.25 million funding an 11-hole, 3,700-metre extension to the summer/fall campaign, land-based work now focuses on the R600W area while waiting for the lake to freeze. Meanwhile more assays are expected from the previous barge-based drilling to the east.

Alpha acquisition vote looms; Fission and Dahrouge square off in legal battle

November 28’s the day when Fission and Alpha shareholders vote on the latter’s acquisition by the former. Mentioned in the companies’ joint November 15 update was a barely publicized legal dispute between Fission and Dahrouge Geological Consulting, its principals and a related company.

Seeking unspecified damages, Fission filed a notice of civil claim on July 29 alleging “breach of fiduciary duties and knowing assistance in breach of the same.” On November 8 the defendants filed a counter-claim with “allegations of breaches of British Columbia securities laws, slander, wrongful interference, improper assignment and improper variation of obligations. The relief being sought in the counter-claim includes unspecified losses and damages, declarations of ownership in relation to certain mineral permits and claims, declarations concerning the enforceability of certain assignments, injunctions preventing the defendants by way of counter-claim from disparaging certain mineral permits and claims, interest and costs.”

The account of the defendants’ counter-claim comes from a draft version reported in Fission and Alpha circulars dated October 30. Neither claim has been tested in court.

International Enexco/Cameco/AREVA plan winter drilling at Mann Lake

A three-way JV intends to start the new year with a $2.9-million drill program for the eastside Athabasca Basin Mann Lake project. Up to 18 holes will evaluate three types of targets—the area footwall to the western axis of the C trend, remaining targets along the main C trend and conductive features near the western margin of the Wollaston sedimentary corridor, International Enexco TSXV:IEC stated on November 13. The company holds a 30% interest in the 3,407-hectare property, along with AREVA Resources Canada (17.5%) and Cameco Corp TSX:CCO (52.5%).

This year’s drilling totalled 21 holes for 15,721 metres, focusing on the C conductor, which Enexco describes as a six-kilometre-long section of a regional trend extending from Cameco’s McArthur River mine to Denison Mines’ TSX:DML Wheeler River deposit.

The previous week Enexco reported three holes from the southeastern Basin’s Bachman Lake, a 20/80 JV with Denison, which holds a 7.4% interest in Enexco. The latter also keeps busy with pre-feasibility work at its 100%-held Contact copper project in Nevada.

Aldrin reports radon results from Triple M

With its Triple M property’s surface radon survey complete, Aldrin Resource TSXV:ALN announced some results from 527 sample sites on November 14. The findings show elevated values over more than one kilometre of a VTEM bedrock conductor, which the company interprets as a steeply south-dipping fault zone. “The most intense portion of this radon anomaly reaches a high value of 1.68 pCi/m²/s [picocuries per square metre per second] and extends for more than 200 metres, comprising a priority drill target,” Aldrin stated.

The company added that the fault zone parallels the conductor hosting the PLS discovery on the Alpha/Fission project adjacent to and northeast of Triple M. North of the fault zone, and parallel to it, sits a second VTEM basement conductor with radon values up to 1.18 pCi/m²/s.

The previous week Aldrin reported closing a $972,500 first tranche of a private placement that had been increased to $1.5 million. The company has also previously announced an agreement to buy the 49,275-hectare Virgin property around the Basin’s south-central edge.

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Athabasca Basin and beyond

September 29th, 2013

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 21 to 27, 2013

by Greg Klein

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Alpha/Fission extend one PLS zone, disagree about certainty of a “fifth zone”

The news from Patterson Lake South continues to impress—even when the joint venture partners don’t interpret it quite the same way. Fission Uranium TSXV:FCU says a 150-metre step-out found a “fifth high-grade zone.” Alpha Minerals TSXV:AMW prefers to call it a “potential” fifth high-grade zone. Either way, the September 23 news was one of three announcements last week that included an extension to an existing zone’s strike length.

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 21 to 27, 2013

Patterson Lake South now has a fifth zone—or a
potential fifth zone, depending on whom you listen to.

The new or potential new zone sits about halfway between the R390E and R780E zones, which are either the second and third of four zones, or the second and fourth of five zones, along a 1.02-kilometre southwest-northeast trend. With luck future drill results will bring Alpha into agreement with Fission, thereby simplifying sentence structure.

Hole PLS13-085 was collared 150 metres grid east of R390E, reached a depth of 317 metres and struck the basement unconformity at 62.4 metres without encountering sandstone. Preliminary results come from a hand-held scintillometer, which measures radiation up to an off-scale level of more than 9,999 counts per second. Scintillometer readings are no substitute for assays, which are pending. Some highlights showed:

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 33.5 metres, starting at 67 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 to 2,200 cps over 9.5 metres, starting at 111 metres

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 16.5 metres, starting at 123 metres

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 9.5 metres, starting at 160.5 metres

True widths weren’t available. With a -89 degree dip, downhole depths were close to vertical depths.

Two days later, and with greater unanimity, the 50/50 partners released assays for holes that had previously reported scintillometer readings. Ranking as one of the best PLS holes so far, PLS13-072 reached a total depth of 209 metres. It found no sandstone and struck the basement unconformity at 55.7 metres. Some highlights include:

  • 8.15% uranium oxide (U3O8) over 34.5 metres, starting at 61 metres in downhole depth

  • (including 19.28% over 7.5 metres)

  • (and including 21.53% over 4 metres)

  • 0.58% over 11 metres, starting at 98.5 metres

  • 0.57% over 8.5 metres, starting at 125 metres

  • (including 1.61% over 2.5 metres)

  • 2.22% over 6.5 metres, starting at 137 metres

  • (including 10.65% over 1 metre)

With an -89 degree dip, the depths were close to vertical.

PLS13-073 struck sandstone at 50 metres and the basement unconformity at 53 metres, before stopping at 248 metres. Some highlights include:

  • 0.25% over 19.5 metres, starting at 102 metres in vertical depth

  • (including 0.92% over 3 metres)

  • 0.59% over 10 metres, starting at 132.5 metres

  • (including 4.81% over 1 metre)

True thicknesses are still to come.

When their scintillometer readings were reported earlier (here and here), the two holes extended R390E’s strike 15 metres grid west and 15 metres grid east respectively. But on September 27 the JV announced a further extension, bringing the zone’s strike to about 255 metres and suggesting the possibility “of extending the zone south along the entire length of the corridor as it becomes further delineated.” Here are some highlights from the eight holes reported:

Hole PLS13-087A reached a total depth of 227 metres, encountering sandstone at 50 metres and the basement unconformity at 50.9 metres.

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 14.5 metres, starting at 68.5 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 to 2,100 cps over 17 metres, starting at 98 metres

Hole PLS13-088 reached a total depth of 296 metres, encountering sandstone at 53 metres and the basement unconformity at 54.3 metres.

  • <300 to 9,800 cps over 23.5 metres, starting at 80 metres in downhole depth

  • 400 to 8,100 cps over 8 metres, starting at 135 metres

Hole PLS13-094 reached a total depth of 272.3 metres, encountering sandstone at 50.7 metres and the basement unconformity at 53.4 metres.

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 12 metres, starting at 130 metres in downhole depth

Hole PLS13-095 reached a total depth of 275 metres, encountering sandstone at 47.6 metres and the basement unconformity at 51.7 metres.

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 11.5 metres, starting at 68 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 7 metres, starting at 93.5 metres

  • <300 to 5,800 cps over 33 metres, starting at 116 metres

Hole PLS13-100 reached a total depth of 263 metres, encountering sandstone at 53 metres and the basement unconformity at 53.3 metres.

  • 790 to >9,999 cps over 6 metres, starting at 53 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 to 8,000 cps over 20 metres, starting at 99.5 metres

  • <300 to>9,999 cps over 8.5 metres, starting at 134 metres

Hole PLS13-102 reached a total depth of 275 metres, encountering sandstone at 58.3 metres and the basement unconformity at 58.8 metres.

  • <300 to 6,000 cps over 29 metres, starting at 103 metres in downhole depth

  • <300 to >9,999 cps over 10.5 metres, starting at 137.5 metres

Again, true thicknesses were unavailable. With dips ranging from -84 to -89 degrees, downhole depths were close to vertical. Assays are pending for these holes but this summer’s drilling has extended R390E more than four-fold from last winter’s 60-metre strike.

Fission acts as project operator on the current $6.95-million program. On September 18 the partners signed a definitive agreement for Fission’s acquisition of Alpha and sole control over PLS, with the companies’ other assets to be spun out into two separate companies.

Rockgate rejects Mega merger, mulls Denison deal and other possibilities

Just one day before their shareholders were to vote on a merger with Mega Uranium TSX:MGA, Rockgate Capital TSX:RGT directors scuttled the proposal. Although a “superior” offer from Denison Mines TSX:DML led to their September 24 announcement, Rockgate directors expressed reservations, said they needed more time for due diligence and expressed interest in receiving other offers.

Read more about Mega’s and Denison’s competing ambitions for Rockgate.

Read more about uranium merger-and-acquisition activity.

Rockgate delineates Falea project’s 880 zone in Mali

Meanwhile work continues on the object of those affections, Rockgate’s Falea flagship in southwestern Mali. On September 26 the company released assays from four holes on the 880 zone, which was discovered last fall. The results show:

  • 0.59% U3O8, 45.7 grams per tonne silver and 0.17% copper over 2.7 metres, starting at 301.4 metres in downhole depth

  • 0.06% U3O8, 118.3 g/t silver and 0.78% copper over 2 metres, starting at 303 metres

  • 0.12% U3O8, 86.3 g/t silver and 0.52% copper over 3 metres, starting at 320 metres

  • 0.17% U3O8, 17.1 g/t silver and 0.16% copper over 4 metres, starting at 304.5 metres

  • (including 1.13% U3O8, 96 g/t silver and 1.14% copper over 0.5 metres)

Intercepts are estimated at 96% to 100% of true widths. Mineralization remains open in several directions, the company stated.

This year’s 19-hole, 5,910-metre program included 14 holes totalling 4,563 metres on the 880 zone’s 500-metre strike length. Another five holes totalling 1,347 metres tested the project’s Central zone. The 880 zone has yet to be included in Falea’s resource estimate. Released last December, it shows:

  • a measured category of 1.39 million tonnes averaging 0.14% U3O8 for 4.29 million pounds U3O8, with 3.52 million ounces silver and 6.05 million pounds copper

  • an indicated category of 14.28 million tonnes averaging 0.08% U3O8 for 25.29 million pounds U3O8, with 24.43 million ounces silver and 68.17 million pounds copper

  • an inferred category of 15.35 million tonnes averaging 0.05% U3O8 for 15.69 million pounds U3O8, with 8.91 million ounces silver and 81.19 million pounds copper

Rockgate plans to incorporate the 880 zone into an updated resource, likely to coincide with a pre-feasibility study scheduled for completion early next year. The company says it’s been “entirely unaffected” by last year’s military coup and this year’s fighting between French troops and al-Qaida-linked rebels.

NexGen completes two-thirds of Rook 1 drilling, awaits Radio assays

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for September 21 to 27, 2013

Brecciated core from NexGen Energy’s Rook 1 drill program.

NexGen Energy TSXV:NXE updated its PLS-adjacent Rook 1 drill campaign September 25. With 3,000 metres planned, the company has sunk eight holes totalling 1,957 metres on an area about 700 metres along interpreted extensions of the PLS 3B conductor and a parallel conductor approximately 800 metres east.

“All holes intersected varying types of structural zones in basement lithologies, ranging from small fractures through to wide, heavily brecciated material,” the company stated. Scintillometer readings found intercepts of elevated levels in several holes, while all eight holes reached shallow basement rock at downhole depths ranging from 48.7 metres to 82.6 metres. Weather permitting, drilling will continue to October. Winter drilling is planned for the same area.

Assays are still pending from NexGen’s nine-hole, 3,473-metre campaign at Radio, where the company holds a 70% option two kilometres east of Rio Tinto’s NYE:RIO Roughrider deposits on the northeastern Basin. In late August NexGen closed $5 million in private placements.

Canadian International Minerals options two claim groups to Rio Grande;
Rio Grande offers $900,000 private placement, grants options

Canadian International Minerals TSXV:CIN announced on September 24 it optioned Rio Grande Mining TSXV:RGV a 75% interest in the Britts Lake East and Firebag East/Descharme claims about 35 kilometres southwest of PLS. Under the agreement Rio Grande would pay a total of $100,000 and issue Canadian International 500,000 shares. Rio Grande would also spend $250,000 by year one, $500,000 by year two and $1.5 million by year three. The companies didn’t specify whether those are aggregate or separate yearly figures.

Canadian International retains a 2% NSR, of which Rio Grande may buy half for $1 million. Canadian International will act as project operator on a planned winter campaign to include radon and helium surveys, as well as lake sediment sampling on the 18,041-hectare package.

Canadian International also holds a 50% interest in each of two other Saskatchewan uranium prospects, the 4,639-hectare Coflin Lake property and the 34,762-hectare Clearwater property.

On September 25 Rio Grande announced a private placement of up to $900,000, consisting of six million units at $0.10 and another 2.5 million units at $0.12. The company also granted 900,000 options to insiders at $0.12 for five years.

Western Athabasca Syndicate reports radon and radiometric anomalies at Preston Lake

A four-company strategic alliance focused on the PLS area’s Western Athabasca Syndicate project reported anomalous radon and scintillometer findings on September 26. Skyharbour Resources TSXV:SYH, Athabasca Nuclear TSXV:ASC, Noka Resources TSXV:NX and Lucky Strike Resources TSXV:LKY stated an initial radon-in-water survey found nine of 291 samples measuring over 23 picocuries per litre, with the highest reaching 98 pCi/L. The anomalies appear as both clusters and discrete point anomalies, the companies added. Fission and Alpha based their initial PLS drill targets on these measurements of radon gas.

Additionally, WASP’s 217-kilometre scintillometer survey found 25 areas radiating over 1,000 cps, more than twice the typical background level. More Phase II results are pending while Phase III field work continues with the intention of identifying drill targets.

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