Uranium explorer UEX Corporation (TSE:UEX) is making good progress at its Christie Lake project in Saskatchewan where it’s focused on determining the ultimate size of the exciting Ōrora deposit, and where it has started drilling.
Ōrora is a new high-grade deposit 500 metres along strike and to the northeast of the Ken Pen deposit and latest assays have expanded this zone.
At the end of June the group said it had made a start on a two-phase exploration drilling program with a combined budget of up to C$2.5mln.
The sole goal is to expanding the Ōrora deposit discovered during the winter 2017 exploration campaign.
It is investing C$1.5mln in the first phase, in which nine holes will be drilled to a combined depth of around 4,500 metres. Most of these holes will test the area along strike to the south-west.
The ultimate width of the Ōrora deposit at the unconformity has not yet been defined by drilling. Most importantly, UEX said, Ōrora remains open for expansion along strike to the south-west and to the north-east and down-dip to the south-east into the basement.
The scope of the second phase of drilling, which has a budget of C$1mln, will depend on the first. The current plan is to drill another 4,500m over nine holes.
UEX holds 30% in Christie Lake and is working under an option agreement to earn up to 70%.
The property lies around 9 km northeast and along strike of Cameco's McArthur River Mine, the world's largest uranium producer.
There are two known uranium deposits on Christie Lake - the Paul Bay and Ken Pen deposits.
New funding from Sprott showed high-level backing, as 2017 drill results start to come in
In January this year, the firm announced it would raise C$6 mln in a private placement of shares to Sprott Private Wealth, one of the most influential and canny mining investors in Canada.
Since the company already had over C$3 mln in the bank, that set it up nicely for the year.
Uranium market set to strengthen
Although older nuclear reactors in the US have been closing, some new reactors are now due to come on stream.
Watts Bar 2 Unit started up operations at the end of last year, and new projects are planned elsewhere. This increase in nuclear power generation was billed by the Obama administration as a clean energy push.
President Trump comes at it from a slightly different angle. Although Trump is on record as saying he’s “very strongly in favour of nuclear energy”, recent submissions by his team to the US Department of Energy indicate that his approach is more about securing jobs in power generation.
Either way, the trend in the US mirrors that occurring in the wider world. During 2016 nine new nuclear reactors were commissioned worldwide and there are currently another 59 under construction, 20 of which are in China and five of which are in India.
The Chinese in particular are keen on the zero emissions aspect of nuclear, as smog in Chinese cities has now reached dangerous levels.
Big name companies AREVA and Cameco heavily involved
UEX has a significant landholding in Saskatchewan on the Athabasca Basin, one of the world’s best known and longest standing uranium producing districts. Some estimates attribute more than 20% of global uranium production to the Athabasca Basin alone, much of which comes from the Canadian national champion, Cameco (TSE:CCO). With its portfolio of projects and the calibre of its partners, UEX aims in due course to contribute to this output, and in its endeavours it will be helped along by Cameco itself, which is a major shareholder.
UEX a 49.1% interest in its Western Athabasca Projects, with French nuclear giant AREVA (EPA:AREVA) holding the other 50.9%.
Meanwhile, further to the east, UEX is in partnership with Japanese major JCU on the Christie Lake project. And it also holds a 100% interest in other Eastern Athabasca projects, including Hidden Bay.
Significant exploration and development upside in Saskatchewan
Already UEX can boast a resource base of nearly 96 mln pounds of U3O8 indicated and inferred at its Shea Creek joint venture with AREVA. And over at Hidden Bay there’s a further 39 mln pounds indicated and inferred. The most advanced of the Hidden Bay projects has already been the subject of a Preliminary Economic Assessment, which laid out a potentially profitable mining scenario if the uranium price moves to between US$65 and US$70 per pound.
That’s more than double where it is now, but given the market dynamics in nuclear power, may be realistic within a year or two