Aben Resources (TSX-V: ABN) CEO Jim Pettit on the Experienced Aben Team and the Building Excitement for the Upcoming Drill Season at the Flagship Forrest Kerr Project
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Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is President and CEO of Aben Resources (TSX-V: ABN)(OTC: ABNAF), Mr. Jim Pettit. Jim, thank you so much for joining me today.
Jim Pettit: Thank you for having me here.
Gerardo Del Real: Well, you and I were talking a bit off air, and we were going over the advanced nature of, specifically, the flagship, right? The Forrest Kerr drill program is going to start here soon. Before we get into the flagship and the projects, I'd love to hear a bit about your background and the team in place at Aben, because in this business, it's a relationship and people business. I always like to start there. Can you tell us a bit about your background, Jim?
Jim Pettit: Oh, sure, sure. Absolutely, yeah. I've been in this business probably now for 20 years, mainly on the finance side, corporate governance, management, that sort of thing. Working hand in hand with the senior geologists. My background at university actually was heading towards a geology degree, never quite got that far, my dad talked me out of it oddly enough. But the crux of the matter is you need a good background, good people on the board, you need the guidance. I can raise the money, I can do all the travel and marketing, and that sort of thing, but you need the people.
Our Chairman is Ron Netolitzky, who for this area, the Golden Triangle in British Columbia, he was in on the discovery of Snip and Eskay Creek. There's probably nobody who knows it better than him. He's also involved in Skeena. But for us, we bounce an awful lot of information off him, and he's a wealth of knowledge.
We've got Tim Turmuende who started his career with Ron on the Snip Mine back then. He came out of the University of British Columbia, geology degree, and went start to work up in this area. Worked extensively, actually, in the area of the land we've acquired, which is awesome for us.
We've got Cornell McDowell who's running our drill program and the field program, et cetera, et cetera. He's very well versed in this whole region from, let's call it, Stewart or Smithers, all the way up to the Yukon border. He worked with me in another company for a while that I'm still a director of. It was called Gold Reach at the time, and Cornell was overseeing 130,000 meters of drilling that we did for a copper porphyry deal.
Over the years I've done a few deals. The last deal I ran, the last company I ran, Bayfield Ventures, I sold to New Gold. And it's now become their Rainy River Project, a fairly significant project in northwestern Ontario.
Gerardo Del Real: Absolutely.
Jim Pettit: Yeah. And then I've got some really good advisers. A couple guys that came on at advisory capacity to us, Henry Awmack and Mike Roberts. They were involved in the companies that we acquired the ground from, and guys like Henry have been up there almost as long as Ron Netolitzky. We get together quarterly, basically, and go over everything we're doing. These guys are just full of insight, it's a great team. Not to forget, but we've also got a good project in the Yukon and a good project in Saskatchewan, everything helps.
Gerardo Del Real: Perfect, let's talk about those projects. Let's start with the flagship which is Forrest Kerr. There's a drill program that I believe commences in mid-June. I also believe it's a 5,000 meter diamond drill program. Is that all correct, Jim?
Jim Pettit: That's all correct, that's what we've just recently announced. This is subject to change, obviously. We assembled the ground, let's go there. We decided we wanted to get involved up there, there was these three claim groups that created this long, narrow property that we now have. It looks narrow, it's not really that narrow, it's 50 kilometers long. It runs the whole length of the Kerr Fault, which is a major structural feature in the Golden Triangle, right in the dead center of it all and it acts as an engine for a lot of the geologic things that go on up there. Probably very involved in the supply of fluids to all the other deposits that are there historically.
It took us a while to get it together because you're dealing with three different groups. All of 2016 basically was devoted to acquiring it, and then we had about one month in November to go in and do some field work. What we did is we assembled the three properties and we compiled all the data that came with these properties. That in total was about 130, well it was 130 drill holes. Over 20,000 soil samples, over 5,000 rock samples, and a lot of geophysics and a lot of geochem data. That took over six months to put into a compilation study, so now it’s all being looked at on a regional scale, rather than three individual properties and nobody shared information.
It's given us a tremendous leg up so that we could go in there last year for our first drill season with priority targets. The very first target that we wanted to get to was the Boundary Zone that we drilled last year, and it was based on one or two holes that were drilled in the very old days by Noranda. Hit really good results and they didn't follow up, because they were looking for specific geology, they were looking for VMS style, Eskay Creek style deposits. What they hit was, when you hit something like 11 meters of 33 grams, you tend to want to follow up. But that wasn't in their model and big companies would do that, they'd put in some holes every half a kilometer or kilometer apart, and worked their way through the region. They're looking for the specific geology that gave up the Eskay Creek deposit.
So we went in there, and first of all, we did the groundwork. The Structural Geo and our Head Geo went in there and they modeled the whole area, and said, okay, well they were drilling straight along the same direction as the fault that came up with that old result, tremendous result. We put a pad up to the north of it a couple hundred meters and drilled back towards it, so we knew we'd drill across that fault. It's a shear zone coming off the big Kerr fault, which there's plenty of.
That's what we came up with, we hit three holes off the same pad at 45, 60, and 75 degrees. We've come up with a huge zone, the broadest intersection of the three was in total 387 meters, which totals only a quarter gram. But it was mineralized throughout so you could call it 387 meters. It had a very high-grade core, you've got 20-some-odd meters in there of anywhere from 6 to 9 grams. Well, that's worth following up, and the holes below it, 60 degrees and 75 degrees, had the same zone. Not to 387 meters, but 140 and I think 97 meters with a high-grade core.
So we've got a system, and we didn't have enough money or time last year to carry on drilling there, we actually moved our drill to another pad and actually tried to duplicate that old historic hole. The guys called it spear fishing, because when you've got something that is historic and doesn't have a lot of information about the area, well then you're trying to hit it again, and we didn't. Then further analysis of the data tells us that it was actually a half meter of 300-something grams. So what you're trying to do is hit a half meter from 100 meters away, that's tough to do.
We're not worried about it, we're in an area that is alive, it's a new system and we're going to start our drilling there this year. We'll do some step-outs from this particular pad that we hit this new zone with, and I think it's going to give us a fairly high degree, or it has given us a very high degree of confidence when we start our drill program.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk about why you have a high degree of confidence. I understand that the initial focus is going to be at the Boundary North Zone, I also understand that's located right near the center of the Forrest Kerr property. I want to touch on those 3 drill holes from 2017, because context is important. You hit 6.7 grams per tonne over 10 meters in one hole. This isn't insignificant, you also hit 2.2% copper in another intersect, 0.9% copper over 10 meters, and 3.1% copper over 6 meters. So it's a gold-silver-copper target the way that I understand it. Is that accurate, Jim?
Jim Pettit: Yeah, it is. It's gold-silver-copper. In this area when you've got elevated copper you pretty much know you've got elevated gold. Easier to see the copper it's chalco, a lot of it's chalcopyrite. The guys can look at it and go, “Wow, that's pretty high-grade stuff.” They can guesstimate. But that helps lead your drilling without waiting for assays, which is a good thing. This is what GT Gold's doing as a matter of fact, they don't have to wait for assays. They've got so much chalco. Anyways, here you've got a really good somewhat polymetallic zone, and this is a zone that the guys had uncovered doing the field work prior to drilling in the year before. There was a bit of outcrop and we got 30 and 50 gram samples out of the rock outcrop.
We just set the pad up, and drilled back into the fault. We were targeting it towards the old historic hole that Noranda did, but we'd go through this zone first. Well, we hit this at 16 meters deep, so that's something that shouldn't be lost in the conversation either. Apparently, according to Ron Netolitzky, you got a lot of this running through this region. He remembers it well. You follow the geochem, this is what we're going to do once we get into more exploration mode rather than delineation of this zone. These mineralized zones run south of here for several kilometers, and they're all coming off the big Kerr Fault. Within 2 kilometers of the Kerr Fault you're going to get all kinds of this.
We call it a target rich environment, and just about 2 kilometers from this Kerr Fault you've also got what's called the Red Line. And you'll hear more of that throughout this next season or so of drilling. The Red Line is important because that's the contact between the Stuhini and Hazelton Groups, two different age rock groups. The BC Geologic Society geologists have now realized that there's probably all but one deposit in the area historical that's been discovered outside of that 2 kilometer distance from that Red Line, from that contact. What they also say you need is a major geologic feature that would allow the fluids to enter that area, and that's what we've got in the Kerr Fault.
So you've got these two zones or features that have now been kind of pin pointed by BC Geologic Society. Geologic society telling us where to go, and if you're within that and if you can identify them then your exploration profile goes way up.
Gerardo Del Real: Absolutely, now I understand that geochem is an important part of this exploration process for you, it's really helping with the target delineation. Is that accurate, Jim?
Jim Pettit: Yeah, it is. We haven't done any new geophysics at all, there is some old geophysics that have been done over the years that we're using very selectively. It's the geochem, it's the boots on the ground. We have a person that works for us that's a full time structural Geo, and she goes and does all the mapping. It's very good info, we're in an area that has reasonably good exposure. You do get into areas that have big vegetation so you've got to get through that vegetation horizon, but it is a very, very important tool for us.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent, I know you recently closed a $2.3 million dollar financing, what does the treasury look like right now?
Jim Pettit: Treasury is great. We've got about $3.2 million in the till. We had a lot of warrants taken down, so without having to go back to the markets to raise the full amount, we had close to $1.5 million dollars we got just from the exercise of warrants. So today, going forward we have probably two series of warrants left that haven't been exercised which could bring in another $3 or $4 million dollars during this drill program.
Gerardo Del Real: Perfect, what does the share structure look like Jim? Sorry to cut you off there, go ahead.
Jim Pettit: Hey, no problem. The share structure is, well, it's 78.3 million is outstanding, there's 108 million fully diluted. In that you've got roughly 8 million options for management, staff, and consultants. The rest is what's left with the warrants. So we're in good shape, really good shape, we've got a really good shareholder base. Ultimately we've got a fund in Europe that has 10%, they're very good to work with, they're not afraid to step into the market, too, and buy in the market. We've got between insiders, friends and insiders is what I call them, we've probably got 22% of the stock anyway.
Gerardo Del Real: That's good skin in the game.
Jim Pettit: It's very good skin in the game, and we've got a really good investor base. I've got guys I've known for years and years and years. They come into the market if I'm involved, if Ron's involved, if Tim's involved. They buy in the market. They will step in and if you look at our chart, if you go to our website and pull up the PowerPoint, the chart is pretty dramatic. You can see when we're drilling, you can see when the drill season comes up. We're coming up last year, July it went from about $0.07 to $0.50, on tremendous volume. Last year, we learn from our mistakes, last year we closed the financing and immediately started drilling. Now we've done a financing well before the drill season. If it comes free trading, it's going to come free trading right in the middle of the drill season, so I'm not concerned.
Last year it came free trading at the end of the drill season, and then that went right into tax loss selling. So you have this flattening that happens over the off season, hence my other projects. I've got the Justin property in the Yukon, we can actually work up there now, or could have been up there a month ago. Then our Saskatchewan project, that can be drilled all winter as long as it's frozen. We went in there to start it, but the First Nations Group there were having an election, didn't really want us around so we just backed right off. Just said, “No problem but next year.” Now they've contacted us and want us to come back.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. And then, Jim, that was going to be my next question but you answered it. Obviously the near term catalyst is going to be the drill results from Forest Kerr. This isn't a greenfields project, it's advanced age, it's near-surface, it's high-grade and it's got continuity so that's exciting. But you do have the portfolio of packages there to compliment the flagship, and I think you touched on it beautifully. That's going to an important part of the second half of this year.
Jim Pettit: Oh yeah, it will for sure. The Forest Kerr project, you're starting to see the ramp up of it now in the market, you can take a look at the chart. People are getting ready for it when we get going. Yeah, there will be that excitement based on the drill. I think personally, in my own portfolio I have far more exploration deals and upside. I've got some mid-tier companies, the development stage deposits, that sort of thing. They're not getting the traction, it's the exploration stage where you can get that upside from good results. The market is rewarding that right now.
Gerardo Del Real: Absolutely. Jim, I want to thank you for your time. I also hope to have you back as soon as those assays start coming in, because I get the feeling that it's going to be an exciting summer.
Jim Pettit: Yeah, I think it will be too, and it won't be long.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. Jim, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Jim Pettit: Okay, thank you very much.
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