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Policy or geology?

February 28th, 2020

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2020

If you think that’s bad news, be glad the poll ended when it did. The Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2019 imposed a November 8 deadline on respondents. Shut Down Canada didn’t really gain momentum until a bit later.

Even so, for the first time in a decade no Canadian jurisdiction made the top 10 for the survey’s main list, the Investment Attractiveness Index (IAI). Media coverage played up the role of provincial and territorial governments in jeopardizing what was—until recently and at least by Canadians—generally considered the world’s pre-eminent mining country. In doing so, reporters followed the institute’s commentary which, in keeping with its advocacy purpose, emphasized politicians’ ability to help or hinder the industry. But a closer look suggests miners and explorers gave other concerns higher priority.

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

(Image: Fraser Institute)

The survey bases the IAI on two other indices, Policy Perception and Mineral Potential. The first is determined by company responses to government actions or in-actions affecting the industry. The second (assuming an un-interfering nirvana of “best practices” by those governments) considers companies’ appraisals of geology. The survey provides separate ratings for policy and geology, but also weighs them 40% and 60% respectively to compile the IAI. The 40/60 split reflects institute intel about how companies make investment decisions.

Despite Canada’s disappearance from the IAI top 10, three provinces rated highly for Policy Perception. Alberta, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan rated sixth, eighth and ninth in the world respectively. Five Canadian jurisdictions showed Policy Perception improvements over the previous year. Moreover, the most dramatic declines from 2018 appeared in the Mineral Potential index.

“We know there’s not a lot that policy-makers can do about the geology in particular areas,” says Fraser Institute senior policy analyst Ashley Stedman. “But when we see declines on the policy index, that’s something policy-makers should be paying attention to.

“In particular we saw significant declines in Saskatchewan, which dropped from third the previous year to 11th, and that was largely the result of concerns about policy factors including taxation, regulatory duplication and inconsistencies, and trade barriers. And in Quebec we saw a decline from fourth to 18th, with uncertainties about environmental regulations and about the administration or enforcement of existing regulations. We can see from both these jurisdictions and a number of other Canadian jurisdictions that regulatory issues are escalating and this should be a serious concern for policy-makers.”

What’s behind Canada’s plunging reputation among miners?

But while Saskatchewan’s Policy Perception rating fell from first place to ninth, the province’s Mineral Potential rank fell farther, from seventh to 21st. Quebec dropped from 10th to 21st in Policy Perception but plummeted from sixth to 25th in Mineral Potential.

Other dramatic Mineral Potential declines included Manitoba (from 11th to 26th), New Brunswick (49th to 72nd), Newfoundland (18th to 50th), the NWT (fourth to 29th), Nunavut (fifth to 16th) and Yukon (10th to 22nd).

Four provinces—Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario—did show improvements. Still, the question remains: What the hell happened to Canadian geology?

Some causes might be resource depletion, recalcitrant commodity prices or (talk to enough CEOs and this seems very possible indeed) confusion about how to answer survey questions.

Stedman suggests another likelihood. Discoveries in some jurisdictions might dampen enthusiasm for others. “We do have to keep in mind that this is a relative ranking, so if other places are seen as more attractive, that can have an impact on other jurisdictions as well.”

Although policy factors affect just 40% of a jurisdiction’s IAI ranking, “our write-up focuses on the policy rankings as an area that policy-makers can pay attention to,” Stedman explains. In some cases governments do respond to the survey’s findings. “Reporters will often ask policy-makers to comment on the rankings.”

As for other countries, “we do get quite a bit of interest globally for this survey and we’ve seen a lot of countries and jurisdictions ask us questions about the rankings. There’s quite a lot of interest in this publication in particular.”

Confidentiality, however, prevents her from divulging how many respondents are based in Canada.

The survey provides “a policy report card for governments on areas that require improvement and areas where certain jurisdictions are performing well,” she adds.

In general we see that investment dollars will flow to jurisdictions with attractive polices, and governments need to focus on adopting competitive policies to attract valuable investment dollars that will ultimately create jobs.—Ashley Stedman,
senior policy analyst
for the Fraser Institute

With geology beyond the reach of government power, policy improvement would be Canada’s only means of re-entering the IAI’s global top 10. “In general we see that investment dollars will flow to jurisdictions with attractive polices, and governments need to focus on adopting competitive policies to attract valuable investment dollars that will ultimately create jobs.”

Whether the pre-PDAC week timing will cast a pall on the Canadian industry’s biggest annual bash remains to be seen. COVID-19 has cast a bigger pall on travel while, at time of writing, there seems nothing to stop Shut Down Canada from turning its attention to airports, hotels and convention centres.

The following charts show the global IAI top 10, Canada’s IAI top 10, Canada’s top 10 for Policy Perception and Mineral Potential, and—consoling for its lack of Canadian content—the global bottom 10.

With fewer responses this time, the 2019 survey covers 76 jurisdictions compared with 83 the previous year. Here are the global IAI rankings for 2019, with 2018 spots in parentheses.

  • 1 Western Australia (5)

  • 2 Finland (17)

  • 3 Nevada (1)

  • 4 Alaska (5)

  • 5 Portugal (46)

  • 6 South Australia (8)

  • 7 Irish Republic (19)

  • 8 Idaho (16)

  • 9 Arizona (8)

  • 10 Sweden (21)

All Canadian jurisdictions except Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia fell in the IAI. Here’s the list for Canada, with global numbers provided for 2019 and 2018:

  • 11 Saskatchewan (3)

  • 16 Ontario (20)

  • 18 Quebec (4)

  • 19 British Columbia (18)

  • 23 Yukon (9)

  • 26 Nunavut (15)

  • 28 Newfoundland and Labrador (11)

  • 30 Alberta (51)

  • 34 Manitoba (12)

  • 35 Northwest Territories (10)

  • 52 Nova Scotia (57)

  • 60 New Brunswick (30)

Here’s Canada’s Policy Perception ratings. Alberta, Newfoundland, Ontario, B.C. and Nunavut improved their standings.

  • 6 Alberta (14)

  • 8 Newfoundland and Labrador (18)

  • 9 Saskatchewan (11)

  • 13 New Brunswick (9)

  • 18 Nova Scotia (11)

  • 21 Quebec (10)

  • 24 Ontario (30)

  • 32 Yukon (24)

  • 36 British Columbia (44)

  • 44 Nunavut (45)

  • 50 Northwest Territories (42)

  • 53 Manitoba (33)

Mineral Potential showed Canada’s most dramatic downfalls, although Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario managed to move upwards.

  • 10 British Columbia (13)

  • 16 Nunavut (5)

  • 18 Ontario (20)

  • 21 Saskatchewan (7)

  • 22 Yukon (10)

  • 25 Quebec (6)

  • 26 Manitoba (11)

  • 29 Northwest Territories (4)

  • 50 Newfoundland and Labrador (18)

  • 54 Alberta (74)

  • 61 Nova Scotia (79)

  • 72 New Brunswick (49)

And finally the global IAI bottom 10:

  • 67 Nicaragua (81)

  • 68 Mali (50)

  • 69 Democratic Republic of Congo (67)

  • 70 Venezuela (83)

  • 71 Zambia (45)

  • 72 Dominican Republic (76)

  • 73 Guatemala (80)

  • 74 La Rioja province, Argentina (75)

  • 75 Chubut province, Argentina (69)

  • 76 Tanzania (66)

Download the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2019.

Read about last year’s survey.

Athabasca Basin and beyond

December 14th, 2013

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for December 7 to 13, 2013

by Greg Klein

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Spincos Fission 3.0 and Alpha Exploration debut on TSXV, Fission Uranium plans most aggressive campaign ever

Never mind Fission 3.0’s FUU ticker. When Fission Uranium TSXV:FCU was created out of Fission Energy earlier this year, only a last-minute change prevented that spinco from becoming FUC. And now that Alpha Minerals has delisted to create its spinco, Alpha Exploration TSXV:AEX, two new companies join the Venture while Patterson Lake South comes under the sole ownership of Fission Uranium, a particularly tempting takeover target.

Uranium news from Saskatchewan and elsewhere for December 7 to 13, 2013

Now with sole control over Patterson Lake South, Fission Uranium seems
likely to use winter drilling as a theatrical build-up to a maiden resource.

Fission 3.0 debuted December 10 at $0.12 and quickly shot up to $0.30 before plunging to a $0.135 close. The stock finished December 13 at $0.16. With 152.96 million shares outstanding, Mach III had a $24.47-million market cap.

Alpha Exploration began trading December 12 at $0.45 and reached a daily high of $0.63. But it fell all the way to a $0.30 close. The following day’s finish dropped a penny lower. AEX’s 13.96 million shares represented a market cap of $4.05 million.

Each spinco got $3 million in start-up money from Fission Uranium. Alpha Minerals nominees Warren Stanyer and Kurt Bordian joined Fission Uranium’s board, replacing Frank Estergaard and Jeremy Ross who moved to Fission 3.0 along with Dev Randhawa and Ross McElroy, who lead both Fissions. Alpha Exploration’s management and board remains “substantially the same” as that of Alpha Minerals.

Meanwhile the PLS role played by father/son team Ben and Garrett Ainsworth (ex-Alpha Minerals now Alpha Ex) have won them the 2013 Colin Spence Award for excellence in global mineral exploration, the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia announced on December 12.

Fission 3.0 keeps its predecessor’s uranium focus with six Athabasca Basin-area projects and another in the Macusani region of Peru. Alpha Exploration lists its initial key assets as two gold projects, Mikwam in Ontario and Donna in B.C., as well as Saskatchewan uranium properties.

The spin-outs have hardly diminished Fission Uranium’s attraction, a $12.87-million financing suggests. Announced December 11, the company’s 8.58 million $1.50 subscription receipts have been exchanged for one flow-through share each, a transaction that closed after the Alpha Minerals acquisition.

Evidently emboldened by all that dough, McElroy announced Fission Uranium’s “most aggressive drill program to date at PLS—approximately 30,000 metres in up to 100 drill holes,” the news release quoted him. “Our core focus will be growth, including the specific goal of eliminating the distance between the six identified zones. We will also be testing new targets, using radon sampling on other EM conductors and employing resistivity ground geophysics to help identify additional prospective corridors.”

With assays still pending for over 50 holes, Fission Uranium might be accused of teasing investors prior to a first resource.

Late December 13 the company announced it granted a consultant one million options at $1.10 for two years.

Lakeland Resources bolsters team with Canon Bryan and Sam Wong

Two more appointments add to a busy period of announcements from Lakeland Resources TSXV:LK. On December 9 mining financial professional Canon Bryan joined Lakeland’s advisory board. Two days later another mining specialist, Sam Wong, took the position of chief financial officer.

With Bryan’s appointment Lakeland not only gains additional expertise but renews a relationship that’s already proved successful. Bryan’s resume lists management positions for several public and private companies including Uranium Energy Corp NYSE MKT:UEC, which Bryan co-founded. He also founded Terrestrial Energy Inc, which is developing a commercial molten salt reactor, and operates a merger-and-acquisition consulting service for the uranium sector.

Now he’s working again with people who’ve benefited from his past accomplishments. Lakeland director Ryan Fletcher recalls the genesis for what’s now NioCorp Developments TSXV:NB. “Canon came to us [Zimtu Capital Corp TSXV:ZC] with the idea to go to Nebraska and acquire a niobium project,” Fletcher says. “It was a great project, although difficult because we had to acquire it from 40 farmers. It took quite a while and a bit of money but we were successful.”

I co-founded [Uranium Energy Corp] with three other folks and took it through the hoops. It’s now listed on the New York Stock Exchange and producing uranium in Texas.—Lakeland Resources
adviser Canon Bryan

Known as Elk Creek, NioCorp calls it “the only primary niobium deposit in the U.S., and… the highest-grade, large-tonnage undeveloped deposit in North America.”

Bryan says, “I found the project and Zimtu was able to facilitate funding, so it was a good collaboration and profitable for everyone.”

With Uranium Energy Corp, “I co-founded the company with three other folks and took it through the hoops,” Bryan adds. “It’s now listed on the New York Stock Exchange and producing uranium in Texas. Producing uranium in the U.S. is quite a rare thing. It’s something I’m personally quite proud of.”

He says working with Lakeland renews “a collaboration that’s never really gone away. We’re colleagues in the industry. We agreed it would be a good fit for everybody, very much an organic fit.”

He joins three other well-respected names on Lakeland’s advisory board, all with complementary fields of expertise—John Gingerich, Richard Kusmirski and Thomas Drolet.

“Uranium M&A is my area of expertise,” Bryan says. “So naturally that’s something I would like to bring to the table.”

Wong, Lakeland’s new CFO, holds the same position at Lowell Copper TSXV:JDL and Chesapeake Gold TSXV:CKG. He’s also served as corporate controller at Luna Gold TSX:LGC, where he oversaw the finance division during Luna’s transition from development to commercial production. Wong articled as a chartered accountant at Deloitte & Touche LLP, where he specialized in assurance and advisory for mining companies.

In a statement accompanying the December 11 announcement, Lakeland president/CEO Jonathan Armes said Wong brings “strength in financial reporting, strategic planning, corporate governance, equity financings, due diligence for acquisitions and corporate development to our growing team. His attention to detail and in running a tight ship will be another strong asset for Lakeland as we advance as an up-and-coming leader in the Athabasca Basin.”

The appointments follow a flurry of recent news from the uranium explorer, which includes a joint venture with Declan Resources TSXV:LAN that expands Lakeland’s upcoming Gibbon’s Creek drill program, another JV with Star Minerals Group TSXV:SUV that increases Lakeland’s portfolio and the publication of a research report by Zimtu research and communications officer Derek Hamill.

Meanwhile results are pending from last season’s exploration on the Riou Lake/Gibbon’s Creek property in the north-central Basin.

Read more about Lakeland Resources here and here.

Forum completes ground gravity survey, plans ground EM at Clearwater

A December 11 announcement moves Forum Uranium TSXV:FDC closer to drilling its Clearwater project. With a ground gravity survey finished, around 11 drill targets have been chosen. The survey followed up on previously identified electromagnetic conductors and radon anomalies to find four gravity lows, three of which held several conductors. An early January ground EM survey will further refine targets for drilling that’s expected to start later that month.

In late November Forum released lake sediment samples from the southern area of the 9,910-hectare property. Clearwater lies adjacently southwest of, and on trend with, PLS.

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Good To Go

May 11th, 2012

Colt Finds Gold and Good Faith in Portugal

By Ted Niles

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When Colt Resources TSXV:GTP finalized the acquisition of its Montemor property in November 2011, it got much more than prospective land in Portugal. “If we had to start from scratch to get to this point,” Nikolas Perrault declares, “it would take us five to 10 years and well over $20 million to replicate the database.” Previous work on the property was extensive, including upwards of 1,100 drill holes and 510 trenches and an historical (non-NI 43-101-compliant) resource estimate of 610,000 gold ounces. “What is striking,” the President/CEO adds, “is the exceptional nature of the work. Our drilling so far and some of the holes we’ve twinned have been confirming the high quality of this database. It will allow us to incorporate a lot of the historical data into our resource estimate.”

Located 95 kilometres east of the city of Lisbon, Colt‘s Montemor concession consists of 732-square kilometres. Contained within that is the 47-square-kilometre Boa Fé Gold Project, for which Colt has an Experimental Mining License and which saw the bulk of the historical work. The company’s first order of business is to confirm the previous results and release a maiden resource in June.

Colt Finds Gold and Good Faith in Portugal

Colt: 'We actually have the ability to commence mining, if we so desire'

May 10 assays from the Chaminé, Casas Novas, Ligeiro and Braços deposits of the Boa Fé project include

  • 3.37 g/t gold over 7.5 metres (including 7.38 g/t over 2.1 metres)
  • 1.77 g/t over 12.1 metres
  • 8.4 g/t over 9.6 metres (including 31.7 g/t over 2.2 metres)
  • 1.36 g/t over 19.7 metres (including 4.48 g/t over 2.5 metres)

April 30 assays of the Chaminé and Ligeiro deposits include

  • 6.96 g/t gold over 14.5 metres (including 16.96 g/t over 5.6 metres)
  • 2.03 g/t over 4 metres
  • 5.42 g/t over 23.6 metres (including 11.6 g/t over 7.6 metres)

Perrault comments, “Most of the drilling done previously was done in one orientation, and so we’re doing a combination of vertical holes to compliment that and get a better handle on the structure. We’re getting at surface grades that you’d be happy to see underground. Initially, this will be a series of open pits, which we’re hoping to be able to connect into larger ones. After that, if our theory proves right, we believe we’re going to get a series of these deposits, one on top of the other.”

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