By: Stephan Bogner
Without a doubt, the Athabasca Basin is on the way to becoming the point of call for future uranium supply. Already today, it is home to both the world's largest and richest uranium mines: McArthur River and Cigar Lake. While the worldwide average mining grade is between 0.10% to 0.15% U3O8, Athabasca's mines operate with grades of around 20%. This geological distinctiveness, coupled with the stable mining jurisdiction of Canada, is the fundament of the Athabasca Basin's special position in the world making it the place to be for both investors and mining companies.
Uranium has been searched for in the Athabasca Basin since more than 60 years, however it was during the last decade only that the distinct geology and genesis of these types of uranium deposits were better understood. At the same time, the classic exploration techniques were fine-tuned so strongly with innovative high-tech that downright quantum leaps were made. The initial new discoveries happening around the Athabasca Basin since 2000 prove that case.
The most recent sensations about the exploration successes of Fission Uranium Corp. and NexGen Energy Ltd. would have not been made without the improved exploration methods that are in action since a few years only. A festival for its shareholders: After their spectacular discovery, Fission jumped to a market valuation of more than $400 million - virtually over night. NexGen, which is at an earlier stage of exploration, already enjoys a market cap of $60 million. Behind Lakeland Resources Inc. are the same people that were originally involved with the discovery of Fisson's Patterson Lake South Deposit. Lakeland owns 14 properties in the Athabasca Basin, whereas one has been optioned to a joint venture partner. On this property, one of the largest drill programs in the entire Athabasca Basin will start in a few weeks.
Learn with this first-hand from an expert who knows the reasons, and calls a spade a spade, why the Athabasca Basin hosts some more major uranium deposits that are just waiting to be discovered: Project Geologist Neil McCallum from Dahrouge Geological Consulting Ltd. explains imposingly in an on what investors should pay attention to when looking at potentially prospective properties. With such information you may put any uranium explorer under the microscope yourself and come to the same conclusion as we do.
As laid out, the Canadian Athabasca Basin is the place to be for future uranium supply. That is the reason why foreign mining companies like Rio Tinto have been forcefully trying to put a foot in that door during the last few years. The Athabasca Basin is home to the largest and highest grade uranium mines in the world, however most importantly, it is still largely underexplored and hosts many deposits yet to be discovered.
As the last uranium price boom cycle showed, it is the junior/exploration companies that appreciate the most as it was the case with JNR Resources Inc. and senior Cameco Corp. for instance:
JNR was taken over by Denison Mines Corp. in November 2012. In May 2012, JNR started drilling its Black Lake Project located along the north rim of the Athabasca Basin (approx. 20 km southeast of Stony Rapids). Richard Kusmirski, former President & CEO of JNR, was involved with JNR since 1999 and was previously the exploration manager for Cameco Corp.'s uranium projects in the Athabasca Basin for 15 years managing all their exploration activities. He directed the exploration program that led to the discovery of the Maverick Zone on the Moore Lake joint venture with Kennecott.
Today, Rick Kusmirski sits in the Advisory Board of Lakeland Resources Inc., a new entrant in the Athabasca Uranium Basin that we follow closely and which company we consider as a prime example in the Athabasca Basin's exploration space of today, or as Rick himself once emphasized that he calls it - what is necessary to be successful in the Basin - the 3 P's:
Below we will look into each of these 3 aspects more closely, yet we would like to add one more point at this stage, namely : Without the right structure of a company and its shareholders, an explorer may have all 3 P's in place in an outstanding manner - yet when it does not have the right structure, it will likely be taken out by seniors for peanuts, and thus not creating shareholder value to the max.
We are convinced that Lakeland has been structured diligently to create maximum shareholder value, and the company has all 3 P's into place in an unparalleled fashion. We will look first into the aspect of a prospective property which includes an , Project Geologist with Edmonton-based Dahrouge Geological Consulting Ltd.
Richard Kusmirski once said:
Lakeland's Gibbons Creek Property in the northern part of the Athabasca Basin has all the hallmarks of discovery just waiting to happen. Most explorers solely have ground but few quality targets, yet Gibbons Creek is one of the best chances of success we are aware of in the basin. Gibbons has favorable geologic structures, geochemistry, high grade boulder trains that appear to end at structure, resistivity lows where we anticipate discovery, shallow targets, easy access, among the highest RadonEx readings in the entire basin; just to name a few.
Recently, we spoke with Neil McCallum, Project Geologist at Dahrouge Geological Consulting Ltd.
"Three key features are found at or near almost every deposit in the Athabasca Basin. Graphite, alteration and trace-element geochemical anomalies. The first feature, graphite, is very important so a lot of effort has gone into mapping graphite accumulations in the basement rocks below the unconformity. The technology used is an electromagnetic (EM) survey, either done by air or on the ground. These surveys have existed since the early days of exploration in the Athabasca Basin, but the technology used in the last decade can detect these conductive graphite horizons at greater depth and with more precision. The second and third features, alteration and geochemical anomalies, are important because the clays and metals associated with a hydrothermal system surrounding a uranium deposit are much larger than the deposit itself. They can be used as a vector to tell you that you might be near something big. And of course I won't forget to mention the classic "boots on the ground" approach of prospecting for boulders or uranium accumulations at surface."
"It is very important to understand the typical size and geometry of the uranium deposits in the Athabasca Basin. What sets these deposits apart from many other types of mineral deposits is the long and narrow nature of them and pod-like nature of them. They are typically between 10- 100 metres wide, and about 1-2 km long. Thus, thoughtful and systematic drilling is required to find these types of deposits. Below is my compilation of the "footprints" of many uranium deposits in the Athabasca Basin. The alteration or geochemical features enlarge the exploration target."
"Radon gas detection has been used historically to explore for uranium in the Athabasca Basin and elsewhere. It has been used as a tool that is most effective in combination with other exploration datasets. Many of the good explorers realized that it can be a very useful tool, but knowing the local geology is key to understanding the significance of the results. The radon surveying technique was not very popular during the 2005-2008 exploration boom, but it gained significant attention in the wake of the drill-hole discovery at Patterson Lake South (PLS) in 2012. The discovery was made by a combination of radon-in-lake surveying and geophysics.
One other thing to note is that not all radon surveys are the same. Some explorers are using the RadonEx Electret Ion Chamber (EIC) technology, others are using the Alpha-Track Uranium Services radon cups, whereas others are using what's called Pylon Radiation Monitor. All of these methods detect the presence of radon by recording the decay of radon in slightly different ways.
The depth to the target and the underlying geology are important factors that make comparisons from one survey to the next very difficult. Bedrock porosity and permeability, soil type and moisture contents will also affect the radon mobility. Lakeland uses RadonEx because these have a proven track record at PLS, and the technology in use seems to have reproducible and consistent results.
"Radioactive boulder tracing has led to the discovery of probably about half of the uranium deposits in the Athabasca Basin. Notable deposits include the Cluff Lake D Zone Uranium Mine, the Rabbit Lake Mine, the Collins Bay A, B and D Mines, the Midwest Lake Deposit, the Maurice Bay Deposit, the Raven-Horseshoe Deposits, the Eagle Point Mine, the Key Lake Gaertner-Deilmann Uranium Mines, and of course the Patterson Lake South (PLS) zones.
It is a simple and effective tool that was widely used in the eastern Athabasca Basin in the 1960-1980 era. This is when exploration focussed at the edges of the basin.Many of the recent discoveries such as the Cigar Lake Mine, the Millenium Deposit, the Centennial Deposit, the Phoenix Zone and the Roughrider Deposit are in areas with significant Athabasca sandstone cover.The advent of modern geophysics has allowed explorers to target depth of 400 metres and deeper. Hence, boulder prospecting has not received much attention in the recent few decades.
The PLS Deposit has really reminded explorers that there are areas of the basin where traditional exploration methods, such as boulder prospecting, work. It was largely assumed that all of the areas with shallow sandstone cover (where boulder prospecting is effective) were prospected in the early years of exploration.
The PLS radioactive boulder field is located less than 2 km from the highway that leads to the historic Cluff Lake Mines. So you can't assume that somebody has already prospected an area just because it's easy to get access to."
"With the exception of Cluff Lake and the Beaverlodge region, all of the mining in the Athabasca Basin has been along the eastern trend. The recently defined Shea Creek, Centennial and Patterson Lake South Deposits demonstrate that the rest of the Athabasca Basin has the same potential for high grades and significant tonnages. The northern end of the Athabasca Basin contains a few smaller and lower grade deposits that have been known for a while, but no major discoveries have been made. Yet.
1) Shallow depth to sub-Athabasca unconformity
The deposits in the basin are very narrow, albeit high grade. Thus, a lot of pounds can fit into a very small area. It is not uncommon for deposits to be less than 50 metres wide. Consequently, you better know when to tighten your drill spacing when you recognize the important pathfinder alteration and indicator minerals. And you also need to recognize when to move to another area and save your exploration budget. Point being, when you are drilling 600-800 metre holes in the centre of the basin your budget does not last long. At Gibbons Creek, we expect drill holes to be less than 250 metres.
2) Positive indications from historic exploration
The historic mineralized drill hole intervals at Gibbons Creek did not get entered into the mineral showings database, so this property went largely unnoticed in recent decades. Two of the recent discoveries in the Athabasca Basin (Roughrider and Patterson Lake South) can be attributed to understanding the significance of the historic exploration data.
At Roughrider, the Hathor team was brought to the area because they recognized the significance of basement and sandstone alteration in drill core recovered in the 1977-1981 era. When they were drilled, the significance of alteration was not fully understood. We now know that these historic holes missed the deposit by probably only a few metres.
The Patterson Lake South (PLS) area was covered by a radon survey completed in 1977 by Canadian Occidental. Back then, a 1.2 km by 1.6 km radon anomaly was at the edge of the survey, and was largely ignored as it was thought to be too far outside the Athabasca Basin. The Alpha Minerals team recognized the significance of the historical radon survey, and in June 2011 they decided to check it out on the ground. What they found was the high-grade uranium boulder field which lead to the drill hole discovery of the PLS zones.
3) Modern airborne geophysical surveys
These EM surveys outline areas where conductive material exists in the basement rocks. The commonly recognized conductive feature is graphite within meta-sedimentary rocks. Although graphite does not always have uranium mineralization, the known uranium deposits in the Athabasca Basin almost always have graphite associated with them.
Thus, having modern surveys which can effectively map out these graphite horizons in the basement are an excellent way to make sure you are on the right track."
"The project benefits from all of the above criteria being fulfilled. The sub-Athabasca unconformity is about 150 metres below surface at the south end, and the basement rocks come to surface at the north end. The property was covered by airborne EM surveys and airborne gravity surveys in 2006.
The property benefits from a very good set of historic data. During the 1976-1981 exploration boom, Eldorado Nuclear Ltd. completed soil sampling, prospecting, ground EM surveys, gravity surveys, resistivity surveys and drilling of about 35 holes in the area.
Drill hole GC-15, collared in 1979, encountered 0.18% U3O8 over 0.13 metres immediately below the unconformity.Although this interval is very narrow and the grade is not economic, it is significant in context to the associated alteration in this hole and others in the area. For instance, GC-26 located about 500 metres away encountered strong alteration in the entire 80 metres of basement rocks. The whereabouts of this historic drill core is not known, but the written descriptions of alteration appear to be similar to other uranium deposits in the Athabasca Basin.
Historic exploration of the area also uncovered sandstone boulders grading up to 4.9% U3O8. They were unable to find the source of these boulders, yet the records show that they did not make a serious effort to find it.Lakeland's 2013 exploration programs began by confirming these historic boulder occurrences. They covered much of the target area and found the boulders to be concentrated in one area. Now, following boulders to the source can be a tricky task especially with the glacial history of the area is not very well understood. More study has to be made into the glacial history of the area in order to trace these to source.
That being said, there are many other positive exploration results providing immediate drill targets. The direct current (DC) resistivity survey that Lakeland completed last fall outlines a very interesting east-west trend. This resistivity survey defined the location of the alteration which was noted in the historic drilling. It is along-trend to the aforementioned drill holes (GC-15 and GC-26) which encountered anomalous uranium and alteration. The east-west resistivity trend hits an interpreted fault zone at the edge of the radioactive boulder field. This is a possible source for the boulders.
Another piece of exploration information collected by Lakeland last fall, which has received a lot of attention, is the Radon Survey. This was completed by RadonEx of St-Lazare, Quebec, who use the Electret Ion Chamber (EIC) technology to monitor the radon released from the surface. The RadonEx crews also helped to outline targets for the Patterson Lake South (PLS) uranium zones. Many have noted that the values from the Gibbons Creek Project are many orders of magnitude greater than those of the PLS area.
The absolute strength of the radon anomaly may not necessarily be as significant as its context to the hydrogeology of the area. At PLS, there is about 100 metres of glacial overburden, and the Athabasca sandstones have been completely removed by erosion. At Gibbons Creek, the basement rocks are about 80 metres below surface, and much of the Athabasca sandstone remains. Knowing that radon gas is very mobile, especially in fractured rock, is very important.
Knowing the geology of the PLS area, it is possible that the radon survey is a better direct-detection of uranium mineralization, where the radon can migrate vertically upwards through the relatively porous overburden from its source. At Gibbons Creek, because it has Athabasca sandstone cover, the radon anomalies may only come to surface where fractures enable the gas to travel more easily. The Gibbons Creek Property also has subtle topographic variations which may influence the groundwater flow, and hence the horizontal mobility of radon gas beneath the surface. The results of the survey indicate elevated radon levels near bogs.
It is possible that the bogs are areas of groundwater discharge and radon has been transported there from a nearby accumulation of uranium. Another possibility is that the nearby soil or boulders are elevated in uranium, which will give elevated levels of radon. In the PLS area, the radon survey has been a key part of the targeting under the lake.
I am not convinced that the radon will provide Lakeland a direct "drill here" anomaly. However, radon gas associated with uranium mineralization has a half-life of 3.8 days (about 80% decays within 12 days, and 100% within 30 days). That tells me that they can't be very far away. Whatever the case, the scale results from the 2013 survey tell me that they are in the right vicinity, and the integration with other datasets will tell them where to drill."
On January 8, 2014, Lakeland published the results of a RadonEx study completed on Gibbons Creek. Jonathan Armes said:
Lakeland's land-based RadonEx values are with 9.9 pCi/m2/sec around 10 times higher as what Fission Uranium Corp. measured with their prolific Patterson Lake discovery. 9 samples were greater than 3.2 pCi/m2/sec with a background level of only 1.3. The maximum radon value is coincident with a historically defined uranium-in-soil anomaly. These results have both confirmed current drill targets based on historic results and defined new high-priority targets. We anticipate Lakeland's drill program, Q1 2014, to significantly put the company on the radar of major investors.
Also on January 8, Lakeland confirmed having found a whole field of boulders at Gibbons Creek along with assays of 8 boulders grading between 1% and 4.3% U3O8. The source of these many and high-grade boulders is now likely to be on Lakeland's property. Lakeland's samples taken from glacial till down ice show results as high as 5% uranium., Ryan Fletcher (Director of Lakeland) says.
Lakeland sampled boulders on its properties yielding extraordinarily high uranium grades - or as Fletcher put it:
Many investors dislike junior exploration companies because they are forced to dilute with equity financings. This is because such companies lack interested parties getting involved and thus not able to form partnerships, such as joint ventures.
On December 4, 2013, Lakeland allowed Declan Reources Inc. to option 70% of Gibbons by spending a total of $6.5 million for exploration over 4 years, paying $1.5 million in cash and issuing 11 million shares to Lakeland. Hence, Lakeland is now fully carried with the Gibbons Project, does not need to finance future exploration and will participate when Declan develops the property successfully as owning a large stake in Declan with the issuance of shares. Comprehensive drilling will commence within 4-8 weeks, which will rank among the largest exploration drill programs of the entire basin in 2014.
When comparing Lakeland with senior mining companies, Cameco and Denison, one can see clearly that Lakeland is outperforming the sector:
Lakeland has a uniquely tight shareholder structure with only 36 million shares issued and outstanding. Management and insiders, family and friends hold around 40%. This means that a hostile takeover is not possible, thus providing shareholders with the benefit of fully participating when discoveries are made and the properties are developed towards production.
Declan, with 139 millions shares in the market and Gibbons now being their flagship project, enjoys a market cap of $14 million already. Other comparable peers include Alpha Exploration Inc. ($15 million), Fission 3.0 Corp. ($25 million) and NexGen Energy Ltd. ($60 million).
Considering that in a few weeks Lakeland will see one of the largest drill programs in the entire Athabasca Basin in 2014, we are confident that if drill assays show similar grades as the sampled boulders on surface Lakeland will pick up to other comparable peers in due course. However, be aware of the risks associated with such an endeavor as Lakeland is a micro-cap with early-stage exploration projects. If the drill program turns out to be negative, it is probable that the stock will depreciate strongly, whereas a total loss is also possible. A safer bet would be to wait for the drilling to start and see how initial assays are turning out in order to asses if Lakeland is on the right track of discovering a new uranium deposit on its property.
Lakeland has been forming a company backed by an unprecedented team with considerable expertise and experience, or as Jonathan Armes (President & CEO) summarized:
Mr. Bryan once that the world would require 50,463 nuclear reactors by 2050 (up from 435 in 2008), if the world realizes that nuclear energy contributes around 50% of global energy by then. While becoming an Advisory Board member with Lakeland in December 2013, he commented:
DISCLAIMER: Neither Rockstone Research Ltd. nor the author was remunerated by Lakeland Resources Inc. to produce or publish this content. However, the author holds shares of Lakeland Resources Inc. and therefore would financially benefit from volume and price appreciation. The author may buy or sell securities of the featured company at any time, without notice to the market. Please read the full disclaimer in the PDF and on as none of this content is to be construed as an "investment advice".
-- Posted Thursday, February 27 2014 | Digg This Article |
Previous Articles by Guest Authors
UraniumSeek.com, Gold Seek LLC
The content on this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and is the property of UraniumSeek.com and/or the providers of the content under license. By "content" we mean any information, mode of expression, or other materials and services found on UraniumSeek.com. This includes editorials, news, our writings, graphics, and any and all other features found on the site. Please contact us for any further information.
The views contained here may not represent the views of UraniumSeek.com, its affiliates or advertisers. UraniumSeek.com makes no representation, warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy or completeness of the information (including news, editorials, prices, statistics, analyses and the like) provided through its service. Any copying, reproduction and/or redistribution of any of the documents, data, content or materials contained on or within this website, without the express written consent of UraniumSeek.com, is strictly prohibited. In no event shall UraniumSeek.com or its affiliates be liable to any person for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided herein.