Forum Energy Metals released two pieces of news in recent sessions that set the stage for a highly anticipated drilling campaign on the edge of the prolific Athabasca Basin in Saskatchewan.
(click on the images below to amplify)
Aside from its strategic location 10 kilometers south of Cameco’s Rabbit Lake mine/mill and 30 kilometers south of the McClean Lake mill, Forum’s road-accessible Wollaston Uranium Project boasts a geological setting ripe for a significant new uranium discovery.
The company released two key pieces of news concerning Wollaston within the last two weeks. The first headline dropped on Nov. 9…
Here, the company released results from an airborne electromagnetic (EM), magnetic and radiometric survey on this highly prospective ground.
- New high priority targets identified in addition to the discovery of the Gizmo zone last winter.
- Ground gravity surveys planned over the new target areas.
- Immediate drilling planned on this project near existing uranium mills.
A brief review of previous exploration efforts: Last winter, the company’s first pass with the drill bit, a program that barely scratched the surface due to difficult ground conditions, was a technical success, delivering the following results:
- Anomalous radioactivity in four holes with up to 0.21% uranium and associated nickel in an area of intense alteration, bleaching and secondary hematite at the Gizmo target.
- Boron (an indicator of proximal uranium bearing fluids) returned up to 2,200ppm.
- Nickel, copper and cobalt locally elevated (up to 365ppm, 114ppm and 318ppm respectively) within the alteration zone at Gizmo.
The above hit, coupled with elevated boron, nickel, copper, and cobalt values, are indicative of a mineralizing event in Wollaston’s subsurface stratum.
Back to the here and now: On the strength of this November 9 press release, the company now has multiple targets, underpinned by over 40 kilometers of conductors, due for a proper probe with the business end of the drill bit. This brings us to the company’s November 15 press release…
Forum is currently busy mobilizing a drill rig and crew to Wollaston. The drill will be turning by month’s end.
With permits in hand, a 3,000-meter, 12-hole campaign will test targets generated by the recent round of geophysics highlighted above.
According to this press release…
Targets on the west side of the project, located near the all-weather road to the uranium mine/mill complexes of McClean Lake and Rabbit Lake, will be drilled first. (Figure below). Forum is also planning to continue with a ground gravity survey over the areas of interest identified by the airborne survey.
The first drill campaign on this property during last winter’s program resulted in anomalous radioactivity and associated nickel in four holes with up to 0.21% U3O8 identified in the Gizmo zone. The Gizmo zone lies within an area of truncated EM conductors and a large NNE trending fault with intense alteration, bleaching and secondary hematite, all good signs of a uranium mineralization event. Boron, nickel, copper and cobalt are locally elevated within the alteration zone at Gizmo as well.
Vectoring in on these Athabasca Basin high-grade orebodies requires a geological sleuth. Forum’s VP of Exploration, Ken Wheatley, is no stranger to the complex geology underpinning the Basin’s subsurface layers. He boasts an enviable track record of eight uranium (deposit) discoveries, four of which became producing mines.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Ken. The following Q&A came out of that discussion. I’m sure you’ll find his relies highly insightful.
Nolan: In a recent conversation, you explained how previous operators in the Athabasca Basin may have missed a potential uranium discovery due to exploration approaches that weren’t nearly as refined and sophisticated as those you deploy today. Can you explain the difference between exploration methodologies then and now?
Ken: Three main parts of the exploration equation have evolved over the years since the unconformity uranium deposits were first discovered in the mid-70’s.
One: the geological model of the unconformity deposit has been updated / modified with each new discovery. What was once thought to be a type of roll-front deposit was linked to the unconformity between the overlying sandstones and underlying ‘basement’ rocks of mainly meta-sediments, typically along a graphite bearing structure. This association was described in a paper on the Key Lake discovery which allowed for a number of discoveries to take place immediately afterwards (McClean Lake, Midwest Lake, Cigar Lake, Collins Bay), basing their exploration methods on this model. However, to save money, a lot of the drill holes in and around these deposits were stopped just below the unconformity contact because everyone knew that the uranium was deposited at the unconformity contact (even though Cluff Lake and Rabbit Lake deposits were in basement). Eventually several deposits, such as McArthur, were found to have very significant basement-hosted components to them, so drill holes began to go a little deeper into the basement. Several deposits located completely within the basement lithologies were discovered at Eagle Point (Rabbit Lake area), the Sue trend (McClean Lake area), the P-Patch (Key Lake area), Millennium, etc. It then became commonplace to look for both types of mineralization while investigating and it became obvious that some of the areas that had been explored in the past had not fully tested the potential for uranium mineralization.
Two: the geophysical surveys available have become much more precise (with the help of GPS) and powerful, along with better processing capabilities (computers) and interpretation. These updated techniques have been surveyed over most, if not all, the deposits and we now have a pretty good idea of what the geophysical signature of a deposit can be (gravity low, magnetic low, conductive high, resistivity low).
Three: geochemical indicators are much better understood and laboratory techniques have improved significantly. Studies on the geochemistry of the unconformity deposits have shown that there are indicator elements that have a larger halo than the uranium; these can be used to vector our way towards the deposit (boron is a prime example).
Nolan: Forum recently released positive results from an airborne electromagnetic (EM), magnetic and radiometric survey on your wholly-owned Wollaston project. In a Nov. 9 press release, you state, “the results of this survey are quite exceptional, adding substantially to the understanding of this project and potential for discovery.” Can you elaborate on the significance of these geophysical results as you generate and prioritize targets for this upcoming drill program?
Ken: This airborne survey, completed by the Axiom Exploration Group, provided Forum with a clear and consistent picture of the magnetics, electro-magnetic conductors (graphitic units) and spectrometry of the project. We had been working with a collage of historic data that was based on different survey types done at different times. This information was reasonably accurate, but the 100m line spacing really increased the resolution of the magnetic map and brought out a number of features, including both major and minor faults, that we hadn’t previously seen. The new conductor map is extremely important as it gives us not only a detailed and accurate location for the conductors on the property but also gives us a relative strength of the conductors, something that could not have been done using different survey types completed in different years, usually by different exploration companies. The combination of the two maps (figures below) allows us to directly overlie the information from each part of the airborne survey so we can directly see the relationship between the magnetics and conductors. This is important for drill targeting as we can see the influence of faults on the conductors, and we will be following this up with area specific gravity surveys to test for alteration halos at the intersection of the conductors and faults.
Nolan: Uranium deposits in this region are structurally controlled and require a certain degree of geological sleuthing to define. Can you briefly describe the ideal geological setting and the structure you’re looking for?
Ken: Fertile structures tend to be orientated in the NE quadrant in the center and eastern parts of the Athabasca Basin, essentially from Fission and NexGen’s deposits by Patterson Lake, all the way over to the eastern mine sites at McArthur, Cigar, McClean and Rabbit. On the west side, Shea Creek, Cluff Lake and Maybelle, these structures tend to be mostly orientated to the NNW, with some WNW on Forum’s Northwest Athabasca project. Structures that are fertile are thought to have been active during the main mineralization event at about 1.55 billion years ago. A reactivation event at about 1.35 billion years brought in copper, nickel, cobalt and arsenides, both contaminating and lowering the spectacular grades of uranium not seen anywhere else in the world. Once a fertile structure has been discovered, such as the Midwest NNE trending structure, it is best to follow it along strike and look for the intersection of cross-cutting structures. These intersection zones tend to allow the deposition of uranium which is being carried by hot and salty brines developed at the base of the Athabasca sandstone basin. The Midwest structure, for example, produced at least 3 deposits along it’s strike length (Midwest, Midwest A and Roughrider) and I believe further mineralization was discovered further to the north as well. Other fertile structures are Key Lake (2 large deposits, 2 smaller showings), Collins Bay (a series of unconformity deposits with the basement hosted Eagle Point deposit at the NE end), Dawn Lake, the Sue trend, etc. These deposits may be high-grade, but they are also fairly small and narrow, making them difficult to find. Uranium exploration geologists have to know the signs of mineralization located on the peripheries of a deposit, even when there is no radioactivity present. Tectonized rocks, elevated associated geochemistry and remobilized quartz are some of the features we look for, along with the geophysical signatures mentioned above. We like to investigate along a graphitic conductor, especially when it is near the contact with an Archean granite gneiss complex as it provides a stable mass against which the slippery graphitic unit can get sheared along with fault movements, allowing the uranium-bearing fluids to be forced along it. Large quartz units also work well, and these can be seen from the McArthur deposit and down to the south to the Key Lake area.
Using a music analogy I have called these deposits Variations on a Theme, as most have similar features but there is almost always something different about each one; making each new discovery a head scratching learning experience and giving us something else to watch out for when hunting for the next one.
Thank you Ken Wheatley.
The Thelon Basin, thought to be the closest geological analog we have to the prolific Athabasca Basin further south, is a region that remains vastly unexplored. Due to a lack of systematic, sustained exploration, the thinking is that the area is currently where the Athabasca Basin was a half-century ago, before Cigar and McArthur were put on the map.
There are three deposits at the development stage in this Basin—the Kiggavik, Andrew Lake, and the End deposits, pounds-in-the-ground that represent 133 million pounds of uranium at the Orano/Denison/UEX Kiggavik Uranium Mine Development Project (average head grade = 0.46% U).
Forum’s Thelon Basin Uranium Project captures 105,000 hectares within this highly prospective setting—ground that surrounds Orano’s Kiggavik zones. This dominant land position includes ground recently dropped by Cameco and includes two unconformity-style uranium deposits: the Tatiggaq deposit and the Qavvik deposit, both located in close proximity to Orano’s Andrew Lake deposit.
Snagging this recently dropped Cameco ground was a real heads-up move on management’s part (I suspect Forum’s neighbor is kicking itself for not having seized the opportunity).
Quoting Forum’s CEO, Rick Mazur, from a previous press release: “The Thelon Basin is an important unconformity-type uranium district that represents the closest geological analogue in the world to the prolific Athabasca Basin. We believe that our ground hosts major high grade uranium deposits with similar potential and grades as the Athabasca. Forum is formulating plans to aggressively explore this project in 2023.”
For more Thelon Basin insight, my October 11 Update looks at this asset in greater detail.
Dr. Rebecca Hunter is another geological sleuth on Forum’s team boasting an impressive resume. Rebecca joined Forum on October 3, 2022.
With her intimate knowledge of Forum’s Thelon Basin asset, Rebecca will play a key role in pushing the project along the exploration and development curve.
I also had the opportunity to chat with Rebecca Hunter recently. The following Q&A came out of that discussion. Again, I’m sure you’ll find her highly insightful.
Nolan: You recently joined the Forum team, can you tell us a little about your background in the uranium arena?
Rebecca: I spent 11 years at Cameco Corporation in their Exploration Department. I largely worked on their Thelon Project starting in 2006 and led the team from 2008 to 2014. It was a grassroots to discovery kind of project that started with us doing simple prospecting and geological mapping (2006/2007) to drilling beginning in 2008. We made our first discovery of high-grade basement-hosted unconformity-related uranium mineralization in 2009 (Qavvik) and in 2010 we discovered Tatiggaq. From 2015-2016, I was a part of the Dawn Lake Project team working in around the Cigar Lake area. In concert to all that, I created and worked part-time on a PhD thesis on the lithogeochemistry, structural geology and uranium metallogenesis of the Tatiggaq/Qavvik unconformity-related uranium trend, which I completed in 2021.
Nolan: The Thelon Basin is thought to represent the closest geological analog we have to the prolific Athabasca Basin. Can you elaborate on the geological similarities between these two regions?
Rebecca: Both the Athabasca and Thelon basins are similar in the following ways:
age (~1.7 billion years old)
size in square kilometres (~150,000 km 2 )
composition (basins largely made of well-sorted sandstone)
overlie similar older metamorphosed basement rock (that acts as a good reductant)
both areas have undergone fault reactivation events during the same, which ultimately led to
the uranium mineralization events in both basins
both basins host high-grade unconformity-related uranium mineralization
Nolan: Your 11 years working with Cameco put you in charge of an exploration effort that led to the discovery of two deposits—Tatiggaq and Qavvik—in the Thelon Basin. Forum’s recent acquisition in the Basin captures these two deposits and surrounding property. What are your plans for this project, and how would you characterize the discovery potential of this vastly underexplored region?
Rebecca: Currently we are putting together mineral resource estimates for Tatiggaq and Qavvik by an independent geologist to get a clear picture of what we have already. As for exploration, we would like to get in there and first focus on delineating the Tatiggaq zone. So far only about 200 m of the 1500 m long anomaly has been tested along strike. Plus, there are 2 additional sub-parallel faults that could also host similar mineralization. The size of the anomaly and strong clay alteration within the anomaly suggests that the area has undergone significant fluid movement indicative of unconformity-related uranium mineralization processes. It really just needs to drilled off to hopefully discover the rest of the mineralization. This anomaly at Tatiggaq is similar in size and intensity of alteration as the anomaly at Orano’s Andrew Lake deposit, five kilometres to the east that contains 59 million pounds uranium in the mineable reserve category. You can see why we have high hopes for this deposit.
Rebecca continues: Qavvik also needs to be further delineated with drilling to determine if it has significant size but will be conducted once we finish Tatiggaq. We also plan to spend about 25% of our budget each year drilling the other 9+ high-priority anomalies on our property for ‘at the unconformity’ unconformity-related uranium mineralization. We have several anomalies that have overlying Thelon Basin sandstone that have shown significant clay alteration, desilicification, and elevated uranium values in the sandstone column. It is our belief that the Thelon Basin holds the potential to host 100+ million lbs deposits similar to the Athabasca Basin that are just waiting to be discovered. We feel that Forum Energy Metals is extremely well positioned to make one or more of these ground-breaking discoveries.
Thank you Rebecca Hunter.
Final word on management
Management is everything in the junior exploration arena (okay, nearly everything). You can have a great company-maker of a project in the friendliest jurisdiction, but without the right team in place—a combination of gifted rock kickers and competent capital market types—things can fly apart at the seams. Operational inefficiencies often create a processional effect that can lead to an erosion in shareholder value via reckless spending and an endless cycle of heavily dilutive raises.
It’s safe to say Forum has these bases covered.
A word on 1-80 Gold (IAU.TO)
In my last report—A Nov. 8 Highballer report updating the companies on our list PLUS a few new names that may represent good value at this juncture—I trotted out a few new names that I considered good value. The standout among that shortlist was i-80 Gold which published a robust set of high-grade, polymetallic CRD results from the Hilltop Zone at its 100%‑owned Ruby Hill Property in Eureka County, Nevada. The results were sufficiently robust to prompt a trading halt. i-80 shares are up 35%-plus since that Nov. 8 piece, a tidy gain.
The Nov. 14 headline…
Highlights from the “Upper Horizon” Hilltop target include:
- 33.0 g/t Au, 3010.0 g/t Ag & 63.5 % Pb over 0.6 meters and
- 3.1 g/t Au, 683.3 g/t Ag & 37.6 % Pb over 14.6 meters
- 1.9 g/t Au, 631.3 g/t Ag, 7.4 % Zn & 33.0 % Pb over 18.3 meters
- 0.6 g/t Au, 374.1 g/t Ag, 3.9 % Zn & 20.2 % Pb over 20.8 meters
- 60.2 g/t Au, 908.7 g/t Ag, 1.1 % Zn & 15.7 % Pb over 10.0 meters
Incl. 83.2 g/t Au, 1261.0 g/t Ag, 1.5 % Zn, & 22.1% Pb over 7.0 meters
- 60.2 g/t Au, 908.7 g/t Ag, 1.1 % Zn & 15.7 % Pb over 10.0 meters
Hole 55 is a fat hit. The best I’ve seen in quite some time.
These results follow up on and confirm the high-grade (silver-rich) CRD mineralization tagged in the Upper Hilltop’s discovery hole reported on August 30, 2022—515.3 g/t Silver, 28.9 % Lead, 10.5 % Zinc, and 0.9 g/t Gold over 28.3 meters. Another fat hit.
The Hilltop discovery unlocks a structural corridor measuring >1.5 kilometers between the Archimedes pit and the original Ruby Hill Mine (above map).
The Hilltop discovery is a new zone of mineralization, located approximately 400 metres southwest of the polymetallic Blackjack Zone (maps above and below), immediately south of the Archimedes pit and proximal to the planned portal that the Company is advancing for construction. Mineralization consists of polymetallic carbonate replacement (CRD) in the form of massive and semi-massive sulphide and oxide mineralization containing high-grade precious metals and base metals. Continued definition and expansion drilling is underway and the horizon remains open along strike and at depth.
The company states that additional drilling is underway in both the Upper and Lower Hilltop horizons. Assays are pending.
That’s it for this one. In my next report, I plan to feature a few more new names that may represent good value at this juncture.
Full disclosure: Forum Energy Metals is a Highballer client. I own the company’s stock.Disclaimer - Legal Notice
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