Alaska Energy Metals (TSX-V: AEMC)(OTC: AKEMF) CEO Greg Beischer on Advancing the Flagship, 100%-owned Nikolai Nickel Project in Interior Alaska via the Drill-Bit in 2024
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today for a well, well overdue catch-up is the president & CEO of Alaska Energy Metals — Mr. Greg Beischer. Greg, Happy New year to you… how are you today, sir?
Greg Beischer: Happy 2024, Gerardo. Glad to be back on the show.
Gerardo Del Real: Well listen, we talked a bit off-air, and we were chatting about some of the gains that we've had personally. I've done extremely well getting in early with lithium stocks before the recent consolidation, and I think we're due for a second leg up or a third leg up in the lithium space soon.
Did really, really well for myself and subscribers catching the uranium uptick when it was first starting with uranium at like US$20 a pound. Now, it's surging towards the US$100 level and potentially going to US$200 a pound.
And so I thought it would be a great time to have you on to talk about nickel and nickel-copper but specifically nickel because I think it's one of those commodities that isn't getting the kind of attention that it should get.
If you're a contrarian speculator that likes to position early, you have yourself a project in the Nikolai Project that I think is one of two things… and you touched on it off-air. It probably either gets bought out or you're going to build this thing.
But I wanted to have you on just to get an update there. And before we talk Alaska Energy Metals, specifically, and Nikolai, I'd love to talk about the macro on nickel and how you view that.
Greg Beischer: Sure. It has been great. I've been gratified in the uranium space with my personal investing for years. I just pecked away at various companies that I liked all through that low price environment. And then, it seemed like it didn't take but a week or two and all of a sudden I was up 30%. And now, it's 50%, 60%, and 70% and more, and we're barely getting started with that bull market.
I'm very hopeful on gold and silver. I have been for just as long, and so waiting for the day. But I think gold and silver are going to have their day. And for me, I'm not a lithium investor; haven't been. I don't really know why but it's been gratifying to see people make lots of money at it.
But to come around to nickel, the United States Department of Energy has identified lithium and nickel as the two most critical metals for an energy transition but also for the risk of supply. And, I generally agree with that, since, in the case of nickel, there's a brand new use for the metal. And like lithium, it's electric vehicle batteries.
There are 64 pounds of nickel in every brand new average passenger car electric vehicle… so that's a great big new use on top of the base use, which is stainless steel. Of course, you just mix a bit of nickel and chrome, alloy it with the iron, and you've got stainless steel and it's ubiquitous. As our population grows, so does the demand for stainless steel. There are a myriad of other uses for nickel, which is a very special metal, and now a whole brand new major use coming.
But as a geologist, I know that nickel is a hard metal to find. I spent a lot of my career looking for it. My first career as a young geologist was with Inco; at the time, the largest nickel mining company in the world. So I know something about the geology of magmatic nickel deposits.
And it seems like we, as an industry, have recognized that lithium is very, very important for electric vehicle batteries. And we, as geologists, have been searching for it for maybe 10 or 12 years now. But the thing is, we're finding it in a lot of places, and I'm very confident in our mining industry to ramp up and put into production all of the lithium that we need.
But I'm not so sure about nickel because I know how hard it is to find. Rich deposits of nickel are really rare. The last discovery of global significance was over 30 years ago in Voisey's Bay, Labrador, Canada. And it's not that geologists haven't been looking over the last 30 years.
And nickel companies are starting; new ones are starting to form. And the industry is starting to look harder for nickel because they see the demand crunch coming. But the chances of finding another globally significant, massive-sulfide nickel deposit like Voisey's Bay are low. And so that leads me to where we are with Alaska Energy Metals.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk Alaska Energy Metals. I know this project is near and dear to your heart, Greg. I've known you for nearly 15 years now. I know it's been a quick 15 but it has been about 15 years. I think we first met in 2008, if I'm not mistaken. Tell me about Nikolai and what has you, and has had you, so excited about this project?
Greg Beischer: Well, as a young 30-something geologist, my employer, Inco, the big nickel mining company, sent me to Alaska. They moved me here, in fact, in 1995 to explore this exact same spot.
The Nikolai Project, we called it at the time, and the reason was that the global targeting team back in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, had recognized that the rocks here at Nikolai are very similar to those at Norilsk in Russia. And I know you know that Norilsk is the largest accumulation of nickel metal on the surface of the planet: rich, massive-sulfide ores.
And so, in the latter half of the 1990s, I had a great team of people here and great budgets and did a lot of exploration at Nikolai. And indeed, we found nickel. It was in 1995 and it was a completely grassroots conceptual idea. And five years later, we had discovered quite a bit of nickel.
But it wasn't in a high enough concentration to be economically viable at the time. It was a pretty good-sized deposit but it just didn't have the high-grade, the massive-sulfide that Inco was looking for. It was disseminated sulfides over a large body of rock. So eventually, Inco walked away. But by then, I liked Alaska so much that I remained, and I've been exploring for all kinds of different metals deposits all over the state ever since.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to reacquire all of the mineral rights to the Nikolai project. I was amazed that the ground had come open. There was just no interest in nickel, and, wow, the opportunity was there.
So for a few tens of thousands of dollars, we were able to acquire all of the mineral rights. And then, I felt so strongly about the project that, last year, we renamed our company to focus only on the Nikolai Nickel Project. I just feel the timing is right. I feel like we're just on the start of the formation of a big wave where everything could come together all at once.
The demand for nickel is going to be truly amazing in the coming decade, and that's going to mean that the nickel price goes well beyond where it is now. And it means that the global mining industry is going to have to mine these large lower-grade deposits, these bulk-tonnage deposits.
I liken the change to when our mining industry moved to mining porphyry-copper deposits way back in the 1950s. Before that, we only just mined really high-grade copper deposits. But then, the mining industry realized we could mine these great big bulk tonnage, lower-grade disseminated copper-sulfide deposits.
I think the nickel industry has to do the exact same thing in order to meet the truly remarkable demand scenario that's coming.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk Nikolai, specifically, and what happens in 2024, Greg, I know it's a busy year for you.
Greg Beischer: Right, maybe I'll just recap what's occurred since we formed the company in March of 2023. So we reformed and recapitalized. It was quite astounding to me that I ended up running into the right capital markets people that introduced me to the right people.
We were able to raise in excess of C$12 million in what I would consider a bad market. But I think the investors so far in Alaska Energy were contrarians that could see the demand scenario coming and had the wherewithal to write checks in a bad market… and so they did.
And we put that money to good use with a two-pronged approach. First, is that we purchased all of the historical information for the project. It's an excessive C$30 million worth of basic surface and airborne geologic and geophysical work and dozens and dozens of drill hole logs. Extremely valuable, and it's great for Alaska Energy shareholders because now, when they invest, almost every dollar is going into the ground as a drill hole. We don't have to repeat all of those expensive geophysical surveys and the painstaking geologic mapping.
The historical drill holes were close enough that we were able to calculate a resource based on those historical holes only. And it was a remarkable amount of potential ore. In fact, the rock that we outlined contains in excess of 1.5 billion pounds of nickel. So that was just right off the bat based on historical holes.
But at the same time, in 2023, we drilled eight holes of our own. And we've just finished receiving all of the assay results from that work. All of the assays are right in line with what we expected; very similar to the historical drill holes. And so we've extended the deposit significantly.
We're crunching all of the numbers now. And we anticipate announcing an update to our maiden resource within the next 60 days. And it should double it. Just the back of the envelope, it looks like it'll double the amount of nickel in the ground. And I should say there's copper and cobalt and platinum and palladium within the deposit as well.
So it's not super rich by any means but it's really continuous over long distances. It's thick; 300 meters thick on average, true width, and it's very homogeneous. It just seems like everywhere we pierce this specific magmatic layer, we get about the same concentration of metals in the ground.
And I think major mining companies love deposits like that. They can see decades of mine life out into the future, and they know every month, every year, approximately how much metal they're going to recover.
And so, I view this Nikolai deposit as one that will quickly rise to be viewed as the largest nickel deposit in the United States. And there's not a lot of competition, having said that, but this should be a very significant amount of metal that is a secure domestic source for the United States.
Gerardo Del Real: It sounds like, and we talked about this privately, you think you either get taken out, or, as I mentioned, you're going to want to build this thing. The demand is clearly going to be there.
You're in Alaska; it's a great jurisdiction. You have a lot of support for mineral development up there. We talked a bit off-air as well about Lisa Murkowski and then her support for the resource space and the resource industry… so I think you're in the sweet spot.
I think your timing is excellent, Greg. And look, again, I've known you for 15 years. I'm glad to see you have a project that you're so passionate about and really looking forward to shareholders benefiting from that. Anything to add to that?
Greg Beischer: Yeah, sure. I've been a supporter of our Senator Murkowski, and she was pounding the table 12 or 13 years ago about critical and strategic metals. She recognized the vulnerability of our country and knows that we have to get secure domestic supplies or we can be held ransom by countries on metal supply.
And metals are becoming just more important every day to our lives. And she knows that Alaska has untold metal mineral wealth. And so, she's been a great promoter of our state. And so I think, yeah, everything is lining up, and our government is coming around and realizing we really do need secure homegrown sources of metals.
And surely the battery manufacturers and the car companies must be worried. They're taking chances. They're spending multiple billions of dollars retooling their manufacturing plants and building US$5 billion battery plants.
But they're not sure that they've got the raw materials to keep their production lines going. So you’d think there's going to be really strong interest from American companies in an American source of the metals we need for an electrical energy expansion.
Gerardo Del Real: Well said. Greg, I think you and I will be chatting often this year. Thank you so much for that update and look forward to having you back on.
Greg Beischer: Yeah, thanks, Gerardo. You did ask about 2024, and we've got big plans. We expect to make this deposit a lot bigger. But we've also got our eyes set on some fantastic targets for the high-grade that I was sent to find 30 years ago by Inco.
We've done all of the groundwork and will have one drill dedicated to try and find those high-grade resources as well. Very, very excited and hopeful on that. So, lots of news to come and I look forward to talking to you more and giving you updates along the way.
Gerardo Del Real: Good stuff. Thanks again, Greg.
Greg Beischer: All the best, Gerardo, thank you.Click here to see more from Alaska Energy Metals