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Plateau Uranium Inc. (TSXV:PLU), formerly Macusani Yellowcake Inc. (TSXV:YEL,FWB:QG1), has successfully consolidated all known uranium resources defined on the Macusani Plateau in Puno, Peru, solidifying a dominant position in one of the largest undeveloped uranium districts in the world with additional lithium potential.
More than eight years of resource growth, exploration and regional consolidation have resulted in an updated 2016 preliminary economic assessment (PEA) which indicates that the Macusani Project can be profitable in the low price environment of today’s uranium market.
Plateau Uranium recently released a technical report detailing lithium and potassium resources contained within only four of the company’s defined uranium deposits as well as the potential by-product value for the Macusani project. There is lithium present in the host rocks of all the company’s uranium deposits as well as most of the Macusani rhyolites on the plateau, demonstrating the growth potential of the current lithium resource.
In 2016-2017, Plateau Uranium plans to move the Macusani project toward production by focusing on environmental permitting; drilling to further delineate, expand and explore resources; and pre-feasibility metallurgical and engineering studies. Plateau Uranium completed a C$3 million financing In June 2016. The net proceeds from the financing will be used to fund the above work at Macusani.
Plateau Uranium is led by a highly experienced team specializing in a range of skills across project stages. CEO Ted O’Connor is a highly-regarded economic geologist with decades of experience in uranium exploration and development, including a 20-year long career with industry heavyweight Cameco. Chairman Ian Stalker is the former CEO of UraMin Inc., Niger Uranium and Berkeley Resources and has been a director of Plateau Uranium since September 2014.
- Control of all defined uranium resources in emerging uranium district: 52.9 M lbs U3O8 Measured and Indicated (248 ppm); 72.1 M lbs U3O8 Inferred (251 ppm) at 75 ppm U cut-off.
- Strong uranium-only project economics at US$50/lb U3O8; Well-positioned for uranium sector recovery.
- 2016 PEA highlights: NPV of US$603M / IRR: 40.6 percent / 1.8 years capital payback (post-tax).
- Proposed large-scale production of over 6M lbs U3O8 per year over a 10 year mine life .
- Low Cost: US$17/lb LoM cash production cost, <US$300M initial capital.
- New lithium and potassium resources add by-product value potential.
- Pathway to production in 2019.
Key Project: Macusani Project, Peru
Plateau Uranium controls all of the known uranium resources in Peru, all of which are found in the Macusani Plateau of Puno in southern Peru. The property comprises adjacent mineral claims covering 910 square kilometers or 95 percent of the plateau. The project lies 650 kilometers southeast of Lima and has access to labor, water, inexpensive hydro-electric power, and major transportation routes.
Just to the east of the property is the Interoceanic Highway which links the project to Pacific and Atlantic ports. The San Gaban hydro generating station is 20 kilometers to the north and high voltage power lines run adjacent to the project.
Plateau Uranium has built its land holdings in the region through strategic mergers and acquisitions. In 2012, the company became the dominant land holder on the Macusani Plateau following a merger with Southern Andes. In September 2014, the company completed the acquisition of Minergia S.A.C. from Azincourt Uranium giving it control of nearly the entire plateau.
“I’ve always believed in the region because the work done here shows this has the potential to be an incredibly low-cost production area for uranium despite the grade,” states CEO Ted O’Connor, who formerly served as Cameco’s Director of Corporate Development and was responsible for evaluating growth and diversification opportunities for Cameco’s exploration and development project portfolio in new jurisdictions, including some of the Macusani projects now controlled by Plateau Uranium.
Upside Potential—Lithium and Potash Resources
In March 2016, Plateau Uranium filed a technical report highlighting the amount of lithium and potassium resources contained within four of the company’s defined uranium deposits as well as the potential by-product value for the Macusani project. Initial leach testing shows recovery rates of up to 73 percent for lithium. Expected products from extraction of lithium from Macusani would include lithium carbonate and potassium sulphate.
“There is lithium present in the host rocks to all our uranium deposits, and in most of the Macusani rhyolites on the plateau, so this initial lithium resource will indeed grow,” explained O’Connor. “We plan to complete additional engineering and process test work to better understand potential operating and capital costs for lithium and potassium by-product production using experts in this field like, and to re-sample those uranium deposits not included in this resource for lithium and multi element chemical analysis.”
Highlights of the lithium and potassium mineral resource estimate (based on a 75ppm U cut-off grade) include:
- Indicated:31 M tonnes grading 0.13 percent lithium oxide, 4.47 percent potassium oxide and 268 ppm uranium oxide, containing 67,000 t of lithium oxide, 2.34 Mt potassium oxide and 31 M lbs uranium oxide
- Inferred:68 M tonnes grading 0.12 percent lithium oxide, 4.49 percent potassium oxide and 283 ppm uranium oxide, containing 109,000 t of lithium oxide, 3.93 Mt potassium oxide and 54.8 M lbs uranium oxide
Further metallurgical test work is planned for the lithium and potassium resources at Macusani, the results of which will be used to complete a preliminary feasibility study for the project.
2015 Updated Resource Estimate
In 2015, Plateau Uranium released an updated resource estimate for the Macusani Project.
2016 Preliminary Economic Assessment
In January 2016, Plateau Uranium completed an updated PEA using the 2015 Resource Update. The strong PEA results further validate the merits of the company’s consolidation and organic growth strategy to control all defined uranium resources in Peru.
“Completing the updated PEA is a very important milestone for Plateau Uranium,” stated CEO O’Connor. “The new PEA results show the significant potential of the Macusani Plateau uranium district to become a future uranium production centre. The low cost potential of the Macusani Plateau uranium project, with estimated production costs similar to some of the best uranium operations in the Athabasca Basin and Kazakhstan, combined with significant estimated annual production levels, and estimated capital costs of less than US$300 million, near significant infrastructure in mining friendly Peru, all highlight the potential strategic nature of our project to supply the growing near-term uranium demand expected within the next 4 years.”
More than 60 million pounds of production planned over 10 years.
The 2016 PEA proposes the construction of a conventional open pit mining operation with a centralized processing facility operating over a 10-year life with a throughput of approximately 30,000 tonnes per day. Heap leach processing will be used to extract uranium into a weakly acidic aqueous leach solution with uranium recovery through exchange and a solvent extraction acid recovery circuit.
The proposed mine plans include predominantly open pit mining with underground mining proposed for some of the deeper high grade portions of the Kihitian complex to be accessed from the pit bottom.
Upside Potential—Regional Exploration
In terms of regional exploration, significant upside potential remains at Macusani with 85 percent of the 910 square kilometer exploration land package undrilled. Un-tested mineralized prospects have been identified at surface and will be evaluated in the coming year of work planned.
Path to Production
Plateau Uranium’s plan for 2016-2017 is to move the Macusani project further along the path to production by
- progressing through the environmental permitting process,
- initiating further delineation, expansion and exploration drilling, and
- conducting additional pre-feasibility metallurgical and engineering study work to also assess the lithium and potassium by-product opportunity.
Following constructive meetings with government officials including leaders from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy, Plateau Uranium commenced environmental baseline permitting work in April of 2016. “As a result of the positive government support,” stated CEO O’Connor, “the company has engaged ACOMISA to commence the next level of environmental baseline work on the permitting path through pre-feasibility and feasibility studies as we progress towards production at our Macusani project.”
Ted O’Connor, P.Geo., M.Sc., B.Sc.— Chief Executive Officer, Director
Ted O’Connor is a Professional Geoscientist with more than 22 years of experience, predominantly in the uranium exploration industry. He has spent the last 19 years with Cameco, one of the world’s largest uranium producers. Most recently he was a Director of Cameco’s Corporate Development group where he was responsible for evaluating, directing and exploring for uranium deposits throughout North America, Australia, South America and Africa. O’Connor successfully led new project generation from early exploration through to discovery on multiple unconformity uranium projects. He was also responsible for opportunity evaluation, acquisition and for managing Cameco’s exploration partnerships aimed at growing and diversifying Cameco’s exploration portfolio in new jurisdictions and other uranium model types. In addition to being a Director in Cameco’s Corporate Development group, O’Connor has also held director and executive positions in several of Cameco’s wholly owned subsidiaries working in Australia, North and South America and Europe. Prior to joining Cameco, O’Connor was an exploration field and underground mine geologist for major mining companies and junior explorers searching for gold, diamonds and base metals.
Laurence Stefan, M.Sc. & Ph.D. — President and Chief Operating Officer, Director
Dr. Laurence Stefan is a founder of Macusani Yellowcake and has served as its Managing Director in Peru since October 2007 when the Company went public. He is also the founder of the Colibri Group of Companies, a mineral service company based in Lima, Peru. Dr. Stefan previously worked at Gold Fields of South Africa and JCI (Pty) Ltd. with recent years spent mainly on South American projects. He has been involved in basic and specialized research in uranium metallurgical, recovery and enrichment programs at various gold-uranium mines along the Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa and Namibia.
Ian Stalker — Chairman
Ian Stalker is the former CEO of UraMin Inc., the London and Toronto listed public uranium company that was acquired by Areva for US$2.5 billion in August 2007. Prior to joining UraMin, he Stalker was a Vice President of Gold Fields Ltd., which at one point was the world’s fourth largest gold producer. Stalker has more than 30 years of development and operational mining experience in countries across the world. With an enviable hands-on approach, he worked his way up from operational roles early on in his career to executive positions with some of the largest mining companies in the world.
Alan Ferry — Director
Alan Ferry has more than 25 years of experience in the investment industry following a career as a geologist, mainly in uranium exploration. He has significant experience in mining analysis, mineral economics and corporate finance. His professional memberships include the Toronto Society of Financial Analysts, the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute, the Prospectors and Developers Association and the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. In addition, he is a past president of the Mineral Resource Analysts Group of Toronto. Ferry sits on the boards of directors of several publicly traded mining and exploration companies, notably as Lead Director of Guyana Goldfields Inc. and Chairman of Avalon Rare Metals Inc.
Maryse Belanger — Director
Maryse Belanger brings over 30 years of experience in the mining industry with strengths in operational excellence and efficiency. Most recently, she was the CEO and Managing Director of Mirabela Nickel where she was responsible for the remarkable turnaround of the company and the reestablishment of the Santa Rita Nickel-Copper sulphide open pit mine in Brazil. From 2012 to 2014, Belanger was Senior Vice President, Technical Services at Goldcorp where she oversaw the global geology, mine planning and design, metallurgy, hydrology, tailings dam and geotechnical engineering functions. During her career, Belanger has also gained considerable expertise providing oversight and project management support for some of the mining industry’s key strategic acquisitions. Prior to joining Goldcorp, she was Director, Technical Services for Kinross Gold Corporation for Brazil and Chile. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and a graduate certificate in Geostatistics and is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. She has been an active board member at Mirabela, True Gold Mining Inc., CEEC International Ltd. and is a member of Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST).
Christian Milau — Director
Christian Milau is a Chartered Professional Accountant with executive experience in acquisitions, financing, mine development, construction and operations. Milau was most recently CEO of True Gold Mining, successfully negotiating and closing True Gold’s sale and acquisition by Endeavour Mining Corp. for $240 million in April 2016. At True Gold, he was instrumental in the development of the Karma Gold Project where, under his leadership, True Gold was able to successfully negotiate agreements with the government and community in Burkina Faso, recommence construction, complete development, and reach production, all in under 12 months. In addition to his extensive background in finance and capital markets, Milau brings important operational, government and stakeholder relations experience, including successfully negotiating various community, security, fiscal and tax agreements. Prior to True Gold, Milau held senior positions at Endeavour Mining Corp., New Gold Inc., and in investment banking at BNP Paribas in London.