Aurora seeks transition to US-focused team

Aurora Energy Metals (ASX:1AE) is in discussions regarding the need to transition to a locally focused team, preferably based close to its namesake Aurora Energy Metals Project in southeast Oregon, US. 

The company today (12 March 2024) reports that as such, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Greg Cochran will be stepping down from his roles before the end of the current financial year to pursue another opportunity. 

Cochran is expected to continue at the $22.38 million market capitalisation company to see the delivery of a Scoping Study, which is scheduled for in the coming month. 

According to Aurora, its next phase of activities on the project will require close attention to local issues, including regulatory approvals, and other on-ground activities in the US, which is challenging to manage from Australia. 

Therefore, the board and management of Aurora have been in discussions about the need to transition to a locally focused team.

Cochran’s resignation provides the opportunity for Aurora to expedite this strategy, the company says. 

He has been with the company for over the past 2.5 years, including through the initial public offering (IPO) process in May 2022 and delivering Aurora’s maiden drilling program. 

Aurora Energy Metals is focused on the exploration and development of its flagship, wholly owned project in Oregon. The project holds a current resource of 107.3 million tonnes @ 214 parts per million U3O8 for 50.6 million pounds U3O8. 

As of December 2023, the company had $2.637 million cash and cash equivalents at hand, according to its latest quarterly report. 

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Valor gearing up for uranium exploration 

Valor Resources (ASX:VAL) is gearing up for a detailed mobile magneto telluric (MT) airborne electromagnetic (EM) survey over the Cluff Lake Uranium Project in the prolific Athabasca Basin in Canada. 

The $13.76 million market capitalisation company says results from the MobileMT survey will help further refine the current drilling targets at Cluff Lake. 

Expert Geophysics has been enlisted to undertake the airborne EM survey.

MobileMT has been proven to detect deep conductive horizons, as well as resistivity variations within the sandstone cover that potentially reflect alteration associated with unconformity-related uranium deposits. 

This has been demonstrated at the Shea Creek uranium deposits, sitting 5km southwest of Cluff Lake.

The company also announces approvals have been received from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment to extend the Cluff Lake drilling permits to August 2025. 

Executive Chairman George Bauk says: “Given the proven success of MobileMT surveys in identifying uranium deposits in this part of the Athabasca Basin, we are very excited to soon have a major survey underway across our tenements. 

Valor has already identified a number of high-quality exploration targets within our tenement holding at Cluff Lake, with this new survey data to help rank and prioritise prospects for near-term drilling.”

Valor Resources is an explorer focused on acquisitions and exploration activities to hunt for uranium, lithium, and copper in Canada. 

The company’s Canadian portfolio includes the wholly owned Hidden Bay, Cluff Lake, Surprise Creek Fault, and Beatty River projects, as well as its majority 80% owned Hook Lake project. 

Valor also holds ‘significant’ leverage in Peru through its 20.58% shareholding in Firetail Resources (ASX:FTL) plus a retained 20% project interest in the Picha Project. 

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Genex and Fortescue extend key PPA dates

Genex Power (ASX:GNX) has agreed with Fortescue (ASX:FMG) an extension of the sunset date for achieving a final investment decision in respect of Gibson Island to 31 March 2024.

Concurrently, the parties have also agreed to extend the sunset date for achieving financial close of the 2GW Bulli Creek Solar and Battery Project to 30 April 2025.

On 9 October 2023, a wholly owned subsidiary of Genex entered into a 25-year solar power purchase agreement (PPA) with a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortescue (ASX:FMG) for the up to 2GW Bulli Creek Solar and Battery Project (BCP). 

The BCP is being developed by Genex in partnership with Electric Power Development (J-POWER) with Solar Choice as co-developer. 

Under the agreement, Fortescue is hoping to secure 337.5MW of capacity from a ‘large-scale’ first stage solar farm at the BCP. It intends to utilise the solar energy procured under the PPA for the operation of a green hydrogen and green ammonia facility in connection with its Gibson Island project. 

The PPA contains typical conditions precedent for an agreement of this nature, including the aforementioned financial close of BCP and the final investment decision for Gibson Island. 

Further, the PPA with Fortescue will underpin a minimum project size of BCP at 450MW. 

Genex is continuing discussions with external parties for further solar offtake which would allow the initial capacity of the project to be increased to up to 775MW. The company, alongside J-POWER, expects such discussions will conclude and the size of BCP will be confirmed by mid-2024. 

Genex Power has a portfolio of more than $1 billion of renewable energy generation and storage projects across Australia. The company’s flagship Kidston Clean Energy Hub sits in North Queensland and will integrate ‘large-scale’ solar generation with pumped storage hydro. 

Fortescue is a global metal miner and green energy company focused on iron ore mining under the name Fortescue Metals Group until July 2023.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Infini Resources gets uranium exploration greenlight

Infini Resources (ASX:I88) has all systems in place to begin fieldwork at its Portland Creek Uranium Project in Newfoundland, Canada. 

The $12.51 million market capitalisation company says exploration is being accelerated with personnel mobilising to site to undertake target reconnaissance. 

Prospecting, channel sampling, and geochemical surveying have all been designed for priority uranium targets T1 to T8 on mineral claims 036683M and 036684M, respectively. 

No archaeological sites exist over this uranium corridor.  

CEO Charles Armstrong says the Talus prospect in particular remains the key focus of any ongoing field activities where ‘high-grade’ grab samples coincident with a massive U/Th anomaly suggest the potential for an undiscovered uranium deposit to exist on the wholly owned project. 

Uranium is considered a critical mineral by Newfoundland and Labrador to supply zero-carbon energy in the transition towards a green economy. 

Portland Creek covers an area of 108km-square in addition to 41km-square in application and sits in the Precambrian Long-Range Complex of the Humber Tectonic – Stratigraphic zone. 

Infini Resources is an energy metals explorer focused on mineral exploration in Canada and Western Australia for uranium and lithium. 

The company has a diversified and ‘highly prospective’ portfolio of assets that includes greenfields and more advanced brownfields projects.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Boss Energy takes enCore with US expansion 

Boss Energy (ASX:BOE) has secured a 30% stake in the Alta Mesa ISR Uranium Project in South Texas, US for US$60 million in cash from enCore Energy (NASDAQ:EU) and its wholly owned subsidiary enCore Energy U.S. Corp. 

Boss Energy, which has a $1.9 billion market capitalisation, says the acquisition paves the way for increases in production and cashflow while securing further exposure to a booming uranium market. 

The Alta Mesa Central Processing Plant and Wellfield hosts a fully licensed and constructed ISR uranium plant sitting on 200,000 plus acres of private land in Texas. 

Total operating capacity of the plant is 1.5 million pounds U3O8 per year, with the project historically producing nearly 5 million pounds between 2005 and 2013 when full production was curtailed as a result of low uranium prices.   

Boss Energy Managing Director Duncan Craib says Alta Mesa shares many key similarities with its existing Honeymoon Uranium Project in South Australia, where it is set to produce the first drum of uranium in the coming weeks. 

“This acquisition marks another major milestone in Boss’ strategy to continue growing our uranium inventory, production and cashflow in tier-one locations. 

Alta Mesa will also enable us to diversify our production on both a project and geographical basis. 

Our strong production and growth outlook is underpinned by a robust balance sheet with no debt and a strategic uranium stockpile now worth $195 million based on current spot prices. 

We look forward to developing future opportunities to collaborate with enCore. 

The combination of the significant commissioning progress and ramp-up at Honeymoon, the exploration success which will underpin growth there, the Alta Mesa acquisition, our very strong balance sheet and impending cashflow means we are ideally positioned to capitalise on the strong demand for uranium from tier-one locations”.

On 6 December 2023, Boss Energy entered into a master transaction agreement with enCore and its subsidiary pursuant to which Boss Energy agreed to acquire a 30% stake in a new limited liability company that was formed to hold the Alta Mesa Project. At present, enCore holds a 70% equity in the joint venture (JV) company. 

Pursuant to the JV agreement enCore will act as manager of the JV company, which will distribute uranium from production at the project on a pro rata basis to enCore and Boss Energy’s ownership interest.  

As part of the subscription agreement, Boss Energy has gathered just over 2.564 million common shares of enCore at a discounted price of US$3.90 per share for total proceeds of US$10 million to enCore. 

The parties also entered into a uranium loan agreement providing for up to 200,000 pounds of uranium to be loaned by Boss Energy to enCore, and is expected to be transferred to enCore next week. 

The principal loan, valued at the prevailing spot price, plus interest of 9% will be repayable in 12 months in uranium or cash at the election of Boss Energy. 

Meanwhile, Boss Energy has also received an exclusive Australian licence for, and collaborating on the development of, enCore’s Prompt Fission Neutron exploration and production tool technology under a strategic collaboration agreement. 

enCore Energy is a US domestic uranium developer focused on providing clean, reliable, and affordable nuclear energy. 

Boss Energy is an ASX-listed uranium company focused on restarting its Honeymoon Mine in South Australia. The project is fully permitted, with $170 million of established infrastructure already in place, including a well-maintained plant. 

As of December 2023, Boss Energy had $226.717 million cash and cash equivalents at hand, according to its latest quarterly report. 

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Nuclear reaction: Renewed calls to revise ‘archaic’ law

Australia must bring its archaic laws into the 21st century and pass legislation allowing provisions for nuclear power if the country is legitimately seeking to reduce emissions, mining executives say.

They note that the US accounts for about one-third of global nuclear electricity, providing just under a fifth of US generation. Nuclear power peaked in Japan over a decade ago, however the disaster at Fukushima in 2011 led to all plants closing down although the country is now on a pathway to restarting facilities.

China has an active nuclear program, as do some European countries including France, Germany, and Slovakia. Australia, the industry sources say, continues to lag behind.

Coming off the hottest recorded year on record, they tell this news service it’s time for Australia to reassess its stance against going nuclear. 

Terra Uranium (ASX:T92) Executive Chairman Andrew Vigar has long been bullish on the uranium sector. He says the growing need for uranium projects to come online to supply the now burgeoning market has never been more apparent.

Aurora Energy Metals (ASX:1AE) Managing Director Greg Cochran is another vocal supporter of the silvery grey metal, telling Mining.com.au that enabling nuclear power in Australia has always been controversial. 

“Unfortunately, we’ve made it extraordinarily more difficult because we’ve got politicians involved.”

Last week in a wide-ranging interview with Mining.com.au, Minerals Council of Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tania Constable shared her thoughts on the country ‘completely lagging behind’ in terms of decarbonisation efforts. 

“A lot of critical minerals and other minerals, other energy sources that go into the electricity grid, but it’s not going to be enough. It’s not going to be enough for industrial processes in Australia, just to have that renewable energy.”

Cochran and Constable note a clause in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)states clearly that nuclear power cannot be considered. 

Aurora’s MD adds: “In that act there is a clause there that says you cannot consider nuclear power. That is the issue. Nuclear power is banned outright.”

The EPBC Act covers a range of nuclear actions including establishing or significantly modifying a nuclear installation; transporting spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste products; mining or milling uranium ore; and establishing or significantly modifying a large-scale disposal facility for radioactive waste, among others.

The Australian Energy Council says this law prevents the construction and operation of nuclear facilities for power generation, alongside facilities for the fabrication of nuclear fuel, uranium enrichment, and the reprocessing of nuclear waste.

However, nuclear energy is one of the most reviewed and assessed technologies in Australia. Despite this, progress to a nuclear powered country seems out of reach. 

“It won’t happen overnight, but our energy is not stagnant, it’s not a 2030 proposition. We need energy for the long term, so the sooner we can start, the better

The MCA’s Constable says while changes need to be made to reach net zero emissions by 2050, these will take time to implement and can’t be rushed despite a current favourable pricing environment. 

“It won’t happen overnight, but our energy is not stagnant, it’s not a 2030 proposition. We need energy for the long term, so the sooner we can start, the better.”

She tells Mining.com.au that if nuclear power is supported ‘wholeheartedly’ in places such as the UK, France, Canada, and the US, it’s curious why Australia is not considering adding it into the mix. 

“If you are seeing that in a country like France, why not consider adding it to our mix in Australia and taking the burden and the pressure off having to do renewable energy so quickly and it to be so costly for Australia.”

Cochran laments the lack of progress and believes the commitment to achieve 80% renewables by 2030 is merely impossible. 

“This commitment to 80% renewables by 2030, is just physically impossible, it just will not happen. The costs are exorbitant and uncosted and we know this is going to end in tears, it is already ending in tears.”

The uranium spot price has surged just over US$100 per pound, as this news service previously reported. The increase has led to a flurry of junior uranium plays releasing announcements and a hive of activity building with the momentum of a uranium bull market.

Interestingly, Cochran says: “The reality is, this is only the second time in history that the uranium spot price has breached US$100/lb.”

So, could this price shift be an impetus for legislators to change the law?

One simple step…

There is consensus that removing the impediment and ban on nuclear power from the EPBC Act is the first logical step of many for the country’s legislators. 

Cochran says: “That is a very seemingly simple step. Get rid of the impediment and let market forces decide and actually be honest.

You get people like CSIRO to do genuine honest research, not politically biassed research that then favours a particular political viewpoint and then we will see that nuclear does stack up.”

After completing this, Aurora’s MD notes there is expected to be several additional agreements that would be executed internationally. He says it’s all about making progress to move ahead. 

“Nowhere in human history have people gone backwards to go forwards

“Nowhere in human history have people gone backwards to go forwards.”

Cochran refers to less dense forms of energy supply when going backwards, as the world was more transformed when it went towards more dense sources of energy — which was oil and gas at the time. 

“We’ve been riding the back of that for 150 to 200 odd years and now all of a sudden going backwards to less dense, more material intensive and more land intensive sources of power is somehow going to solve our problem? Sadly not.”

Nuclear energy is the largest source of clean power in the US, as per the US Department of Energy. It is sought to protect air quality by producing a large volume of carbon-free electricity. 

Viking Mines (ASX:VKA) Managing Director Julian Woodcock says there are tax breaks, subsidies, and incentives to maintain certain industries that do not contribute to the global decarbonisation efforts, such as fossil fuel industries.

Yet it appears for the uranium sector, which is an option away from fossil fuels, it often is overlooked.

“We’ve got to get away from the consumption of brown coal and all of those things. My understanding is there are tax breaks, subsidies, and incentives to maintain those industries over there. 

Coal isn’t that prevalent here in Western Australia, so it’s not as much forefront. So, I think recognising that there needs to be movement and I did see recently some whole approvals that were being given to some large coal mines which are all getting exported.”

According to The Australia Institute, in 2022-2023, the Australian Federal and state governments provided just over $11 billion worth of spending and tax breaks to support these industries. 

Woodcock says: “If there are subsidies and tax breaks going into that industry, could it be better diverted in promoting the development of other critical minerals which will actually have the opposite effect and that will work towards decarbonisation, such as whether it be vanadium or green hydrogen.”

Consultancy Hatch says there are ‘enormous’ challenges for the mining industry as achieving net zero carbon emissions requires the industry to adopt radical new approaches and technologies that have yet to be developed.

Those in the uranium space likely agree that adopting existing approaches and technologies such as nuclear energy might be a logical first step.

Write to Aaliyah Rogan at Mining.com.au  

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Written By Aaliyah Rogan
Relocated from the East Coast in New Zealand to Queensland Australia, Aaliyah is a fervent journalist who has a passion for storytelling. When Aaliyah isn’t writing stories, she is either spending time with friends and family or down at the beach.

Sabre looking to define NT uranium targets

Sabre Resources (ASX:SBR) is hoping to define new drilling targets on immediate extensions of known uranium deposits at the Ngalia Basin tenements in the Northern Territory from a new exploration program. 

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jon Dugdale says exploration will begin once landholder access agreements are in place. 

“The identification of high-grade uranium of up to 5,194ppm eU3O8 in previous drilling within our granted Dingo tenement highlights the prospectivity of our Ngalia Basin projects for high-grade uranium discoveries. 

Uranium exploration in the Ngalia Basin is actively encouraged by the Northern Territory government and its location in an arid area 300km northwest of Alice Springs makes it one of Australia’s best regions for uranium development.”

The $10.5 million market capitalisation company says the new exploration program has begun at the Dingo Uranium Project to follow-up on ‘high-grade’ results up to 5,194 parts per million (ppm) eU3O8 identified in previous drilling at the Eclipse 1 prospect. 

Eclipse 1 sits in the ‘highly prospective’ Mt Eclipse Sandstone, which is interpreted to continue for over 50km within Sabre’s granted tenements and new applications. 

Sabre reports only 5km of the sandstone contact has been partially tested with previous shallow drilling. This includes the ‘high-grade’ results at Eclipse 1 and the Camel Flat mineral resource of 211,000 tonnes @ 1,384ppm U3O8. The resource remains open in all directions.   

The company notes new exploration will include drone magnetics to map the sandstone contact, detailed gravity and passive seismic surveys to locate palaeochannels, and follow-up drilling to extend the ‘high-grade’ zones. 

Sabre Resources is focused on the exploration and development of a ‘highly prospective’ portfolio of nickel sulphide, lithium, and gold assets in Western Australia, and uranium-vanadium prospects in the Northern Territory. 

Dugdale adds: “The company’s 1,100km2 tenement package in the highly-prospective Ngalia Basin is surrounded by ‘high-grade’ uranium deposits and remains largely unexplored due to shallow soil cover.”

As of 30 September 2023, Sabre Resources had $3.616 million cash and cash equivalents at hand, according to its latest quarterly report.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Volt surging ahead with downstream graphite business

Volt Resources (ASX:VRC) is looking to fast-track its downstream graphite anode business after applying for a US$100 million plus US Department of Energy (DOE) grant proposal.

The $24.78 million market capitalisation company says the funds, if approved, would be allocated towards the design, construction, and commissioning of a planned 10,250 tonne per annum (tpa) integrated natural graphite anode power plant in the US. 

As part of the planned 10,250tpa capacity, Volt has obtained letters of support for the purchase of over 9,000tpa of anode power from battery producers. 

Volt will lead a ‘strong’ consortium of customers, manufacturing technology partner, economic development authority, engineering company, and community organisations to secure the grant. 

The company notes full proposals are due in March this year and expects the DOE to announce successful applications by August. 

Volt submitted the concept paper, which represents step one of the proposal submission, yesterday (9 January 2024).

The funds are being requested under the DOE’s US$3.5 billion grant program for battery materials processing and battery manufacturing, as announced in November 2023. 

Volt Resources is a graphite producer and natural graphite anode developer with a majority 70% interest in the Zavalievsky Graphite business in Ukraine. 

As of 30 September 2023, Volt Resources had $1.129 million cash and cash equivalents at hand, according to its latest quarterly report.  

However, the company in November completed a share purchase plan raising an additional $400,000.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Aurora looking to usher in PFS

Explorer and developer Aurora Energy Metals (ASX:1AE) is looking to complete ‘scoping-level’ metallurgical testwork to support a potential Prefeasibility Study (PFS) for its namesake project in Oregon, US. 

Aurora has appointed ALS Metallurgy to complete the testwork program, which will focus on beneficiation and leach testwork, as well as optimisation to enable flowsheet development, design, and costing for an Aurora Project Scoping Study. 

It is Aurora’s belief that the results generated from this work, which are expected in the December quarter, will inform future decision-making pertaining to PFS- and then Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS)-level testwork programs.  

The $12.53 million market capitalisation company reports scrubbing and wet screening have delivered ‘promising’ results, demonstrating the uranium mineralisation at its Aurora Energy Metals Project in Oregon can be upgraded. 

This belief is supported by previous tests, which demonstrated up to 30% of the run-of-mine (ROM) feed could be rejected with only a small loss of uranium, therefore ‘significantly’ improving the efficiency and economics of the leach circuit.  

Commenting on the testwork program, Aurora’s Managing Director, Greg Cochran, says: “We’re looking forward to working with ALS on this very important testwork program which will enable us to design and price various flowsheet options for the Scoping Study. 

The completion of the Scoping Study itself is at the top of our list of priorities so that we can demonstrate the true potential of this large, well-defined uranium deposit

The completion of the Scoping Study itself is at the top of our list of priorities so that we can demonstrate the true potential of this large, well-defined uranium deposit. We also recognise the importance of permitting to further de-risk the Aurora Project, and we are working closely with our environmental consultants to finalise the scope of the Exploration Plan of Operations.”

Aurora Energy Metals is an explorer and developer focused on its wholly owned flagship namesake project in southeast Oregon. 

The project currently boasts the country’s ‘largest’ mineable measured and indicated uranium deposit, which holds a Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) of 107.3 million tonnes at 214 parts per million triuranium octoxide (U3O8) for 50.6 million pounds U3O8. 

Aurora Energy Metals had $3.5 million cash at hand with no debt as of 30 June 2023 following the completion of a $2.7 million placement, according to its latest quarterly report.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.