“There’s excitement in the air,” said Cambridge House International founder Joe Martin. That’s the mood he senses as junior explorers emerge from the downturn. And certainly optimism was evident on June 14 as more than 450 people converged on the Vancouver Commodity Forum for an afternoon of expert talks amid a showcase of two dozen companies. Keynote speakers included Martin, Chris Berry of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal, Jon Hykawy of Stormcrow Capital, John Kaiser of Kaiser Research Online and Stephan Bogner of Rockstone Research.
Lithium, not surprisingly, stood out as a commodity of interest. While cautioning against over-enthusiasm for the exploration rush, Berry and Hykawy each affirmed the need for juniors to find new sources of the metal. Cobalt and scandium featured prominently too, as did other commodities including what Kaiser called “the weird metals”—lesser known stuff that’s vital to our lives but threatened with security of supply.
Kaiser also noted he was addressing a crowd larger than his last PDAC audience, another indication that “we’ve turned the corner.”
Attendees also met and mingled with company reps. Potential investors learned about a wide gamut of projects aspiring to meet a growing demand for necessities, conveniences and luxuries.
Presented by Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC, the forum’s success will make it an annual event, said company president Dave Hodge. Berry emceed the conference, holding the unenviable task of “making sure Dave stays well-behaved.”
Read interviews with keynote speakers:
Meet the companies
Most companies were core holdings of Zimtu, a prospect generator that connects explorers with properties and also shares management, technical and financing expertise. Zimtu offers investors participation in a range of commodities and companies, including some at the pre-IPO stage.
After sampling high-grade lithium on its Hidden Lake project in the Northwest Territories earlier this month, 92 Resources TSXV:NTY plans to return in mid-July for a program of mapping, exposing spodumene-bearing pegmatite dykes, and channel sampling. The company closed the final tranche of a private placement totalling $318,836 in April. Hidden Lake’s located near Highway 4, about 40 kilometres from Yellowknife and within the Yellowknife Pegmatite Belt.
With one of the Athabasca Basin’s largest and most prospective exploration portfolios, ALX Uranium TSXV:AL has a number of projects competing for flagship status. Among them is Hook-Carter, which covers extensions of three known conductive trends, one of them hosting the sensational discoveries of Fission Uranium TSX:FCU and NexGen Energy TSXV:NXE. ALX’s strategic partnership with Holystone Energy allows that company to invest up to $750,000 in ALX and retain the right to maintain its ownership level for three years. ALX closed a private placement first tranche of $255,000 last month, amid this year’s busy news flow from a number of the company’s active projects.
Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD boasts one of northern Canada’s largest 100%-held diamond exploration portfolios. Among the properties are the drill-ready Stein project in Nunavut and others in the Lac de Gras region that’s the world’s third-largest diamond producer by value.North Arrow Minerals TSXV:NAR holds an option to earn up to 55% of Arctic Star’s Redemption property.
Aurvista Gold TSXV:AVA considers its Douay property one of Quebec’s largest and last undeveloped gold projects. The Abitibi property has resources totalling 238,400 ounces of gold indicated and 2.75 million ounces inferred. Now, with $1.1 million raised last month, the company hopes to increase those numbers through a summer program including 4,000 metres of drilling. Douay’s 2014 PEA used a 5% discount rate to forecast a post-tax NPV of $16.6 million and a post-tax IRR of 40%.
Looking for lithium in Nevada, Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA now has a geophysics crew en route to its Kibby Basin property, which the company believes could potentially host lithium-bearing brines in a similar geological setting to the Clayton Valley, about 65 kilometres south. Results from the gravity survey will help identify targets for direct push drilling and sampling.
A mineral perhaps overlooked in the effort to supply green technologies, zeolite has several environmental applications. Canadian Zeolite TSXV:CNZ holds two deposits in southern British Columbia, Sun Group and Bromley Creek. The former comes with an historic, non-43-101 resource while Bromley Creek has a 43-101 resource and an active quarrying operation.
With a high-grade, near-surface rare earths deposit hosted in minerals that have proven processing,Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE takes its Ashram project in Quebec towards pre-feasibility. The relatively straightforward mineralogy contributes to steady progress in metallurgical studies.Commerce also holds southeastern B.C.’s Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
Permitted for construction following a 2014 PEA, Copper North Mining’s (TSXV:COL) Carmacks copper-gold-silver project now undergoes revised PEA studies. The agenda calls for improved economics by creating a new leach and development plan for the south-central Yukon property. In central B.C. the company holds the Thor exploration property, 20 kilometres south of the historic Kemess mine.
Copper in California is Crown Mining’s (TSXV:CWM) goal. Three deposits on its Lights Creek project show resources totalling 1.044 billion pounds indicated and 1.043 billion pounds inferred. The resource includes gold and silver, while historic, non-43-101 estimates suggest another billion pounds of copper. With nearly $458,000 raised since April, the company plans to analyse the project’s economics under different production, grade and price scenarios.
In Nunavut, two kimberlite dykes 12 kilometres apart have so far revealed an inferred resource totalling 3.22 million carats at a 1.18-mm cutoff, or 4.02 million carats at a 0.85-mm cutoff. Since then, Dunnedin Ventures TSXV:DVI has found additional commercial-sized diamonds in mini-bulk samples collected from the Kahuna project last year. The company has also kept busy processing till samples to guide further exploration.
Electra Stone’s (TSXV:ELT) ambition is to become a vertically integrated company producing, procuring and selling B.C. nephrite jade for Asia. The company has explored B.C. properties, bought and shipped jade cargoes to China and signed a letter of intent with a Kuala Lumpur company to market jade online. Electra also operates an alumina-silica quarry on Vancouver Island.
Spanish gold and Brazilian lithium comprise the main attractions for Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO. The company has conducted the first modern exploration of its Las Morras project in western Spain, the site of ancient workings, high-grade gold veins and nuggets as big as 271 grams. This week Emeritasigned a 100% option on the Falcon Litio MG project, adjacent to Brazil’s only operating lithium mine. The company closed a $954,000 private placement last month.
Having recently acquired a small-scale gold operation in Brazil, Equitas Resources TSXV:EQT hopes to substantially improve recovery while funding expansion through revenue. The company has two rigs busy on the Cajueiro project, which this month received private equity support in a $5-million revolving loan and a $1-million private placement. Equitas also holds a substantial portfolio of Brazilian prospects as well as the Garland nickel project in Labrador. The company raised $1.5 million in April.
Group Ten Metals’ (TSXV:PGE) three Yukon projects comprise the dominant land position in the Kluane Ultramafic Belt which the company considers underexplored for PGMs, nickel and copper. Adjacent to Wellgreen Platinum TSX:WG, Group Ten’s Catalyst project has Phase II exploration planned for this year. The company also pursues nickel-copper-PGEs in the Alaska Panhandle and gold in northwestern Ontario.
The quest for industrial minerals with near-term potential in stable jurisdictions keeps MGX Minerals CSE:XMG busy on a number of fronts. The company has a maiden resource in the works for its flagship Driftwood Creek magnesium project in southeastern B.C. In Alberta, MGX has another maiden resource underway for its lithium prospects spanning some 300,000 hectares.
Nevada Clean Magnesium TSXV:NVM plans to become a major American producer and distributor of the mineral with wide-ranging industrial applications. The company’s flagship Tami-Mosi project in Nevada shows an inferred resource of 111 billion pounds of primary magnesium and reached the PEA stage in 2011. The portfolio also includes molybdenum, gold, copper and PGM projects in B.C., as well as a Nevada silver property.
Encouraging results from a previous operator attracted Nickel One Resources TSXV:NNN to the Tyko project in northwestern Ontario. Assays from 14 recent holes confirmed and in some cases exceeded previous nickel-copper-PGE results. As further exploration continues, the company will determine the potential for Voisey’s Bay-style feeder dyke mineralization.
Located just south of North America’s largest flake graphite mine, the L.A.B. project hosts a past producer where NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ plans to conduct a resource estimate this year. Recent geophysics identified seven areas to follow up, most of them directly continuous with the graphitic horizons being mined at Lac des Iles. In Guyana, NRG’s Groete project has an inferred resource of 1.59 million gold-equivalent ounces.
With one of the world’s two advanced projects poised to bring this metal to greater prominence,Scandium International Mining TSX:SCY reached full feasibility on its 80%-owned Nyngan project in April. Construction of the New South Wales site is slated for next year, with production expected in 2018. The company also holds the Tordal scandium-REE exploration project in southern Norway.
Producing an entirely different commodity, True Leaf Medicine International CSE:MJcreates hemp-based pet chews and supplements. The company has its products selling across Canada, will soon expand its U.S. presence to 6,300 stores and plans a foray into Europe. True Leaf is also working through the regulatory process to produce medical marijuana.
With two newly acquired properties, Umbral Energy CSE:UMB focuses its energies on lithium. Recent exploration on the Tule Valley project in Utah suggests the property might host lithium-bearing groundwater. The Gerlach property in Nevada sits in an underexplored closed basin in an area structurally comparable to the Clayton Valley. Umbral also holds a 50% stake in a company that hopes to produce medical marijuana.
Potash in Thailand is the goal of Vatic Ventures NEX:VCV.H, which this month inked an assignment and purchase agreement for an 80% stake in two contiguous exploration licences. The deal bringsVatic’s board a new director in Gerry Wright, who has extensive experience with the region’s potash resources and potash industry. On completing the transaction and a private placement offered up to $1 million, the company expects to rejoin the TSXV.
Phase I work has just begun on Voltaic Minerals’ (TSXV:VLT) Green Energy lithium project in Utah’s Paradox Basin. The company plans to build a 3D model of its recent acquisition using historic estimates and info, including an oil well database of around 100 drill holes. A further program would involve re-entering old wells and drilling new wells for brine analysis. Last month Voltaic closed a private placement of $765,000.