Over what has become a very important transitional week for the company, Ashburton Ventures Inc. [ABR:TSX.V] announced three significant uranium acquisitions within Saskatchewan’s hot Athabasca Basin. The new land parcels put Ashburton in the company of the Fission Energy [FIS:TSX.V] and Alpha Minerals [AMX:TSX.V] Patterson Lake District, and near Cameco Corp. [CCO:TSX] [CCJ:NYSE] and Denison Mines [DML:TSX] [DNN:AMEX] near the Cigar Lake Mine. Amassing over 3,000 hectares in prospective uranium plays, Ashburton took less than seven days to announce its presence as Canada’s newest junior uranium player.
The first of the two announcements pertained to Ashburton’s entry into the region of Patterson Lake where Fission and Alpha are operating their latest project which has garnered much deserved attention recently. The more recent announcement placed Ashburton amongst Cameco and Denison into a 1,800-hectare property that hosts Cameco’s Cigar Lake Mine less than 12 km to the northwest.
Combining both properties, along with some valued additions to the management team in the form of three geologists with uranium experience, Ashburton’s new vision appears to have two fronts. With the newly acquired Saskatchewan plays, combined with its Nevada gold plays, Ashburton has opened itself up as a two-front company with both gold and uranium as its focus.
PATTERSON LAKE DISCOVERY AREA
The first of two announcements had Ashburton officially moving into the uranium space, through acquiring two mineral claims near Fission and Alpha’s Patterson Lake South Project and discovery area. Contiguous to Fission and Alpha’s property is Ashburton’s 147 hectare claim, abutting a discovery that yielded significant results this past February and March.
The most notable findings of the Fissian/Alpha joint venture was a hole that intersected a 53m thick interval of continuous mineralization. The JV’s findings included a total of 11.5 meters of continuous “off-scale” radioactivity (readings that occur when the measurement device “pins” at its highest reading, and are typical of high-grade deposits). In total the JV found 13.89 metres of off-scale radioactivity.
Along with the land parcel that sits against the Fission/Alpha northern border, is a much larger property 25km to the southwest of the discovery block. A second property spanning 1,090 hectares in size, and on what historic governmental geological surveys returned with lake sediment samples ranging from 3.9ppm uranium to 7.69ppm uranium.
Results among five of Fission/Alpha’s relatively shallow drill holes suggested that Patterson Lake South project could become Athabasca’s next high-grade uranium deposit. Ashburton’s hopes are that the high-grade lake sediment samples can be brought into the modern era, and surpass those of the Fission/Alpha property. The historic numbers on the Ashburton project come from the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), and to-date are among the highest grades encountered in the area.
BERNICK LAKE URANIUM PROJECT
The latest announcement pertaining to Ashburton’s shift to uranium was regarding the acquisition of an over 1,800ha property on the eastern portion of the Athabasca Basin. Less than 12km from Cameco’s Cigar Lake Mine, Ashburton’s property, called Bernick Lake, sits within the most prospective corridor of the eastern basin, and bares similarities to Hathor Exploration’s (now Rio Tinto) Roughrider Discovery.
Targeting a broad subsurface EM anomaly with two GEOTEM surveys and an airborne gravity survey, former work on the project identified relatively shallow findings. The unconformity was encountered between 240-270m, which drew the comparison’s to Hathor’s Roughrider. While Cameco has already developed Cigar Lake to the west, Denison Mines also has significant interests to the east of the property.
“In consideration to its proximity to the Cigar Lake Mine (with reserves of over 200MLbs U3O8) combined with high-value targets identified through prior work, Ashburton is extremely excited about this key acquisition of boardwalk realty in the prolific eastern Athabasca,” said Michael England, president of Ashburton.
“With this second acquisition in the basin and in the re-emerging uranium space, the board hopes it can increase shareholder value in the short and long term.”
The property was picked up through an agreement with an arms-length vendor. Ashburton signed an agreement for the ability to earn a 100% interest in the project. An interpretation report by Michael J. Cain, P. Eng, interpreted the subsurface anomaly to be structurally controlled, with peaks in the X and Z channels gave further suggestion that “there could be a series of conductive trends and possible some complex geology and structure.” The target zone coincides with gravity highs observed from an airborne gravity gradiometer survey, which suggested that the area was subjected to alteration events that resulted in silicification.
THE URANIUM IDENTITY GOING FORWARD
Ashburton’s ability to put these two deals together in such rapid succession has a lot to do with the tightly-held nature of the company. With only 14.7 million shares out, and an association with Premier Gold Mines [PG:TSX] that owns 4-5% of Ashburton’s shares, management was able to quickly gain over 3,000 hectares of valuable uranium grounds.
Despite the slowdown tied to the tragic events of Japan’s Fukushima disaster two years ago, it appears that the uranium market has a healthy future ahead. The successes of Alpha (formerly known as ESO Uranium) have multiplied the company’s value eight times since November of last year. Alpha’s success as a junior fly in the face of the drop in value witnessed with the world’s listed largest uranium producer, Cameco.
Ashburton appears to be going after an opening in the uranium sector with these two announcements, and chasing a similar path as the Alpha story. Going forward, the company’s portfolio still also includes its Nevada gold properties, including an option on Premier Gold Mines’ Golden Edge Property. However, now with these latest two announcements, the entire face of the company has changed drastically, and for the better.
G. Joel Chury
for the Financial Press
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