Uranium Men: At the Centre of Canada’s Uranium Exploration Boom

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High-tech, innovative and contrarian – a look at the team behind Fission Uranium’s major new discovery

The Fission Drill Team at Patterson Lake South Property in the Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan.

The Fission Drill Team at Patterson Lake South Property in the Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan.

“This project has become a focal point of the entire sector, its high grades and considerable upside potential, foreshadowing that it might ultimately prove to be one of the most important uranium discoveries in Canada’s Athabasca Basin.” (David Talbot, Dundee Capital Markets)

It started with a single drill hole made by a team of explorers just outside the Western edge of Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, home to the richest uranium deposits in the world. The fact that the team was there at all broke with conventional wisdom. Other companies believed you had to be within the boundaries of the Basin and on the east side. The west side was therefore under-explored. It was also believed there were no more near-surface discoveries to be made.

Using innovative science, that single drill hole struck a major intersection of high-grade uranium and in just a few months the explorers had a new discovery on their hands that caught the attention of industry analysts and the international investment community alike with its incredibly high grades and shallow depth. The company, its management and its technical team have been nominated for a string of industry awards.

The new discovery is known as Patterson Lake South (PLS) and the team that made it is Fission Uranium Corp. We caught up with CEO, Dev Randhawa, and President, COO and Chief Geologist, Ross McElroy at their Vancouver office to discuss the spectacular discovery, the innovations that led to it and what it means for the company, the Athabasca Basin and the industry itself.

“A discovery like this is major news,” Randhawa explains. “What a lot of people don’t realize is the world is headed for a uranium shortage. Nuclear power supplies nearly 20% of the world’s energy needs and there are over 230 reactors under construction or in the planning process and another 316 in the proposal stage. On top of this the Japanese have already initiated the formal application process to begin restarting a number of idled reactors.”

Randhawa continues, “The HEU agreement ends this year and because of the current uranium price, a number of mines have shut down and new construction halted. That’s 24 million lbs. for the HEU and, according to uranium analyst, David Talbot, another 60 million lbs. because of stalled uranium projects and mines. Oh and that’s per year. Either the world starts finding and producing more uranium or at some point the lights will start going out.”

With approximately 80% coming from actual mining, uranium supply has been heavily reliant on secondary sources for many years. The largest of these sources is the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) agreement which involved the sale of down-blended uranium from Russian warheads to the US for use as reactor fuel. The agreement expires in 2013 so the pressure is on to find large, economic deposits.

“This discovery is as good as anything I’ve been involved with,” explains Ross McElroy. With more than 30 years as a professional geologist, McElroy worked for uranium majors such as Cameco, Areva and BHP before joining the junior mining sector. He got his first break in the uranium sector as part of the small geological team that made the McArthur River discovery (the world’s largest high-grade uranium discovery) and went on to be instrumental in four of the last nine major discoveries in the Athabasca Basin. This includes the two discoveries made while leading the Fission team – the J-Zone at Waterbury Lake and Patterson Lake South (PLS).

“Some of the intersections we’ve hit are incredible. It’s one of those discoveries that went from concept to discovery extremely quickly, mostly as a result of some innovations on our part.”

McElroy, who confesses to being a bit of a contrarian by nature, had been interested in the West side of the Basin for some time, as had joint venture partner, Alpha Minerals. Fission flew an airborne survey and that’s when McElroy admits to another unique Fission asset – a uranium boulder-detecting survey technology developed by the Fission team and survey company, Special Projects Inc. The invention, currently patent-pending, is able to survey large areas at ultra-high resolution and it discovered a uranium boulder field with exceptionally high grades.

McElroy comments, “Fission’s survey analysis showed some anomalies. The Joint Venture (Fission/Alpha Minerals) sent in a ground geo team, which included Garret Ainsworth from Alpha Minerals, to examine the boulders Fission had located. The technology allowed us to pinpoint the exact location. That’s when things became really interesting.”

Fission’s skill with survey technology and analysis turned out to be the crucial part in moving PLS forward so quickly. In turn, exploration success has been rewarded by the markets.

Fission’s share price and market cap doubled and Fission is one of the most traded stocks on the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture (TSX:V). Less than one year after the first discovery hole, Patterson Lake South now boasts a strike length, on-trend, of over 1.7 kilometres and just this month discovered a sixth mineralized zone was discovered. With mineralization starting at just 55m it is one of the most attractive discoveries in the world.

The rapid growth of the Patterson Lake South discovery is not the only recent news involving Fission. The company has announced an agreement to take over its JV (Joint Venture) partner, Alpha Minerals. At the start of the property staking process the two companies formed a partnership – with each owning a 50% stake and each taking a two year stint as the Operator at PLS. In August of this year a group of Alpha’s largest shareholders approached Fission and suggested that Fission take over Alpha.

Randhawa’s track record on the corporate side of the industry is considerable. He has been the founding chairman and CEO of three successful uranium juniors, including Fission Energy, which was named a top 50 TSX-V company in 2011 and sold to Denison Mines in 2013. His experience gives him strong insight into the current circumstances.

“Joint Ventures are a superb vehicle for early-stage exploration,” Randhawa explains. “However, if you hit, and in our case we really hit in a big way, then at some point a JV becomes a barrier to shareholder value. Alpha and Fission have been trading at a discount for some time and, as we look towards building a 43-101 resource in 2014, the management teams of both companies realized it made sense to merge.”

“Fission has a large, highly experienced technical team with a track record in uranium exploration that is arguably the best in the industry,” adds McElroy. “We’ve been the Operator, that is to say the company with sole responsibility for handling the exploration work, at Patterson Lake South for around 22 months. In that time we developed the model to track the high-grade boulder field back to its underground source and implemented two drills programs that have seen almost unprecedented success. In fact, our ongoing drill program has seen an incredible 96% hit rate for mineralization.”

Randhawa concludes, “Our job is to create the greatest possible value for our shareholders. We are fortunate enough to have this amazing discovery, along with the skills and experience to develop it. We will keep drilling at Patterson Lake South to maximize shareholder wealth until the time comes when our shareholders want us to monetize that asset.”

Fission Uranium is listed on the TSX-V under the symbol FCU and on the OTCQX under the symbol FCUUF. Further information on the company can be found at http://www.fissionuranium.com.

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