PDAC-Alpha Minerals looks to strike it rich in Athabasca, again

Mon Mar 4, 2013 12:25pm EST

* Shares soaring on drill results since November
    * Gains are in sharp contrast to most of industry
    * Uranium prices depressed since Japanese disaster
    * Alpha led by part of Hathor Exploration team

    By Rod Nickel
    TORONTO, March 4 (Reuters) - The last uranium company Ben
Ainsworth worked for, Hathor Exploration, became the target of a
bidding war that mining giant Rio Tinto PLC eventually
won, and the geologist-turned mining executive thinks he may
have struck it rich again.
    Ainsworth is now chief executive of Alpha Minerals Inc
, a junior miner that has a closely watched joint venture
project with Fission Energy Corp in Western Canada's
uranium-rich Athabasca basin.
    The companies are in the early stages of exploring their
deposit at Patterson Lake South, but drill hole results in
November and again in February sent Alpha's stock on a tear.
Shares of the Vancouver-based company have multiplied in value
eight times since Nov. 5. It has also raised C$9 million ($8.7
million) in private placements and exercised stock warrants,
funding it into early 2014.
    Alpha's gains stand in sharp contrast to declines among many
uranium stocks, such as Cameco Corp, the world's
largest listed uranium producer, due to soft prices following
Japan's Fukushima disaster two years ago. Despite those
conditions, and pressures on the global mining sector in
general, investors can still get excited about uranium given a
compelling reason, Ainsworth said. 
    Alpha was known as ESO Uranium Corp until Nov. 2, when it
consolidated shares in the renamed company, Alpha. The tight
share structure also contributed to the price spike.
    "There definitely was a great response," Ainsworth said.
"It's really helpful to have some momentum going forward after
you've completed the (share) rollback and come back trading."
    Results at five drill holes of relatively shallow depth,
suggested to some that Alpha's flagship project Patterson Lake
South could become Athabasca's next high-grade uranium deposit.
The work is so preliminary, however, that Alpha and Fission do
not yet have a legally defined resource.
    "The grades and the thicknesses become very significant,
especially when you put it at fairly shallow depth," Ainsworth
said, adding that means less digging for a potential open pit
mine.
    The results showed an attractive deposit at Patterson as
shallow as 50 metres below the surface. Hathor's Roughrider
deposit is five times as deep.
    Alpha and Fission were initially partners on exploring a
property further north when their geophysics contractor
suggested the deposit may be bigger than they thought.
    "We started to find the information for the south (property)
looking a heck of a lot more interesting," Ainsworth said.
    Ainsworth, a geologist and engineer, was vice-president of
exploration at Hathor Exploration, which developed the
Roughrider uranium deposit in the basin before selling the
company last year to Rio Tinto, who outbid Cameco. He later
brought along Michael Gunning, Hathor's former CEO, as Alpha's
chairman.
    "That certainly added to our ability to run up the old
Hathor flag and say, 'look, we've got parts of the Hathor team
here and we may be able to do something like that.'"
    Fission, which is being acquired by Denison Mines Corp
 pending a shareholder vote, is preparing for Patterson
Lake South a 43-101, an instrument to publicly disclose
information about Canadian mineral properties. The takeover does
not include Fission's half interest in Patterson Lake South,
which will be owned by a newly formed company.
    A producing mine at Patterson could be less than a decade
away, Ainsworth said, subject to a preliminary economic
assessment, feasibility studies and permit approvals.
    "Fortunately we are in one of the best parts of the world
politically, and geologically it's a super part of the world.
    "This is where the highest-grade mines in the world are."
    The world's biggest mining convention, held by the
Prospectors  & Developers Association of Canada, takes place
this week in Toronto.
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