Labrador Uranium (CSE: LUR) CEO Stephen Keith on Consolidating a Top-Emerging Uranium Belt in Labrador, Canada
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the CEO of Labrador Uranium — Mr. Stephen Keith. Stephen, a pleasure to have you on. Congrats on the listing! How are you today?
Stephen Keith: I'm doing great, Gerardo! Thank you. And thank you to you and your audience for your time today. I really appreciate it. It's always nice to talk about this company we're building, about Labrador Uranium, so thank you.
Gerardo Del Real: Look, I appreciate the opportunity to have a chat. We talked a bit off air. I'm obviously very biased. I'm an early shareholder. I joked with you but I mean it… I'm looking forward to writing future checks at much higher prices!
And a part of the reason why I'm so excited for Labrador Uranium is because of the team you've been able to put together. For a company that's brand new out of the gate, has a phenomenal land package, exposure to multiple commodity types — although we all understand that uranium is the main event right now — you've been able to put together a team that not many companies at this stage are able to put together.
And so I want to start by asking you a bit about your background. And then, if you could highlight some of the key members that you have on the board and the technical team because I think the technical team is also going to be critical in advancing the company forward.
Stephen Keith: Yes, happily. So I agree wholeheartedly… I think fundamental to any exploration and then, hopefully, exploration and development story is you need the people that know what they're doing. And I hope to shine more light on them because they're the important ones.
By way of background, I started my career as an engineer. I worked in consulting engineering, mostly mining and renewable energy globally. Went into investment banking. Again, the focus there was mining and renewables. Since I left banking in about 2009, I've built several companies, one of which was a publicly-traded fertilizer company in Brazil, which we sold to a large private equity firm in 2013. Overall, I'm a resource guy.
So I'm, again, a professional engineer with a finance background who actually comes from a mining family. And although I swore this off as a child, I couldn't get enough of it! I like the people in it. I like the travel and the adventure. And I've been doing this now since, oh my goodness, 1996 and I don't get bored of it. So I do think I bring a few pieces to the puzzle.
I do have a technical background but a financial background as well, which I think that's the secret sauce I bring in looking at projects. But what I have learned is this is all about the people you bring to it, and that's why I think this company is very exciting.
And I think that to further hit on your question — we started a board of directors — is when people hand a junior mining company money — I learned this as a banker and I still believe this now — you need to have the faith that they're going to do the right thing with that money. And the first place I look is the board of directors because they're the only people that really can put handcuffs on management.
And although we're small right now, we've got Phil Williams as our executive chairman. He built Consolidated Uranium and has done very well in this space. Phil and I actually were investment bankers together. He was the uranium analyst when I was a banker, and I'm really excited to work there. Phil's strategic skills and his ability to look at deals and put them together is tremendous for us.
Richard Patricio is also on the board. Richard is the CEO of Mega Uranium. Look, he's been in uranium longer than most people I know. He's always been someone that has backed the companies and assets he has been behind. He was an investor in at least one, if not two, of my past companies and I'm really happy to have him here. He has that investor background and legal background which doesn't hurt.
And then, to round out the board, we have Justin Reid. Justin, as many of your guys will know, is the CEO of Troilus Gold. He's doing a spectacular job there. He and I actually ran fertilizer companies in Brazil at the same time so our paths have crossed before. What's also exciting with Justin is he's worked in this basin and he worked with the guys who had the Michelin deposit, which is the hundred million pound deposit that anchors the east end of our basin here. So it's nice to have guys that know uranium, financial markets. Justin is also very technical.
So we have this board that knows what to do and is very market-focused, right? So our job at the board of management level is to protect the money, come up with the right strategy, and just build this prudently.
And then, the second piece of that — and fundamentally to make investors money — and then, most importantly now — so if you look at that, great — now our job is to make discoveries. As you've said, we've got a great land package. We have over 125,000 hectares just from the Altius Minerals deal itself. And so what we have to do is figure out what's under the ground.
And we're approaching this in two fundamental ways, okay? And that's where the team comes from is, first, you always have to look at the ground. You need people and boots-on-the-ground that can make discoveries and figure out what they're doing. And so we are excited to get that team on the ground this summer in Labrador.
But there's another piece to this. And what we're doing is we're applying a modern data-focused approach to this because the Central Mineral Belt, which we now control — again, just from Altius itself is 125,000 hectares — so this is a land position that has been explored since the '70s. A lot of that original exploration was in there for copper and base metals.
In the last uranium boom, we saw a lot of activity come into this basin for uranium. So you've had 50 years of exploration work in this basin; geophysics, drilling, geochem, soil sampling and all that. But it's never ever been in a single set of hands, and it's never been looked at with a singular strategy. You know… someone's looking for copper… someone's looking for this… a lot of guys were scratching the surface.
So that is both an opportunity and a risk. It's a risk because when you have that much land… how do you ever turn it into something real? The opportunity is… all those decades of information and historical data — we know there is something there. There have been dozens and dozens of uranium occurrences, copper occurrences, rare earths in this area. And now we're going to use this machine-learning data approach to try to come up with key targets.
So to start this, when Altius brought these assets together — and they did a great job of consolidating the Central Mineral Belt — so when they put this together, they then created a working group here in the Central Mineral Belt to figure out what was there. And in looking at all of this historical data and applying machine-learning to it, they actually came up with 146 targets that we should be looking at in this area.
So now what we have done, now we have those assets, we have that data, and so now we're looking at building out on that. First and foremost, you need people that know what they're doing. So on the machine-learning big data side, our chief geologist is a guy by the name of Paul Pearson. Paul is a PhD geologist. He's a specialist in structural and economic geology.
But what really excited me is he also won the Gawler Prize. What he won that prize for is he worked with a team of people in Australia to look at how to use large data in vast areas to come up with targets. And that's what they were able to do, and they did that very successfully.
So he's working with us on that. And he's already bringing in different people to the team, consultants and others, that can do that because the machine-learning… you know, you can look at it as a black box. But it doesn't matter what the sort of AI does if you don't know how to feed the proper data to it. So you need real geologists… you need to do this.
There was a view that you go and hire an outside consultant to do it. And internally, we said, no, we've got to do this ourselves because you don't do a pass once. You're going to do hundreds of passes of the data. Because, as you learn, you come up with targets. You go out to the field… you show why this is a target.
And look, let's be clear… I'm not the guy who knows how to do this. So I will mishandle how it is being done. These guys do and that's why they're there. With Paul, we've got a guy named Drew Heasman. Drew is actually finishing off his Masters right now. He's our director of geo-data. But he's actually up for an award at PDAC for the exact same sort of idea; looking at big data to come up with targets.
So we think we're really ahead of the curve because we have the people that can do it. We already have had groups do that first pass and come up with the first targets, and now we're bringing in the expertise. But on our own, we can build that out and come up with, instead of 146 targets — which is what the first pass that Altius came up with — what are our top 20, 30, 40 targets that we should be getting on the ground and proving up?
And then, we combine that with the other side of the equation which is boots-on-the-ground. So we have Nancy Normore; we just brought her on. She was working up at Voisey's Bay. She's a great geo. She and Drew have already moved to St. John's, and she's in charge of putting the field team together and getting boots-on-the-ground and coming up with a drill program.
We're working with some very good local and regional consulting companies that have worked with us on these before. We've got a guy named Mike McNeill. Mike is our operations manager. He and his family are from the area and from the region. One of the things we do need to do is — I did this when I built companies in South America — is I've learned that some guy sitting in Toronto telling someone in South America how to build something is just plain ignorant. You need a local team.
Gerardo Del Real: Yeah.
Stephen Keith: I think it's the same with Labrador, right? I am not of the area. This is going to be — assuming success — one, two, hopefully, multiple mines that are going to be developed in this area. We're going to be neighbors so we need to find local hires and partnerships and build that out.
And so one of the first people we picked up was Mike because that's his focus. And our focus is to try to become as local as possible. So that's the team on a high level. And look, I think we've got the building blocks to do the combination of the field work and the big data machine-learning. And we'll just keep looking at targets… what are our priority targets… get in there and prove them out over time.
Gerardo Del Real: So just to be clear, you're a brand new company, right, but you have 50 years of data and already established over 146 targets. And you mentioned Altius. Anyone familiar with Altius understands the rigorous vetting process that that company applies to any land package that is ever in its portfolio.
It's not a coincidence that the company has been around for as long as it has and has been successful while it's been around. We talked about the team. You mentioned — and this is interesting to me and, again, as a biased a shareholder, I absolutely love it — but you mentioned the potential for this to not only be a uranium camp but also multiple shots on goal with the potential for copper, vanadium, gold… and I could continue on, right? Can you speak on that briefly?
Stephen Keith: Yeah, I can. Again, the very first groups that came in here — '70s and '80s — were looking for copper. When Altius put the land package together — and they did that at the end of the last uranium boom — people either couldn't raise money for exploration in uranium or, more importantly, at that point in time there was a period of time where there was a moratorium on uranium exploration in Labrador.
And so all of this land was dropped. Altius picked it up. But strategically, they were looking at this, and the first passes they did with the big data was charting IOCG. And their first dozen priority targets were for IOCG, which we will continue to look for. So that's iron ore, copper, gold — for those that aren't in the space. And they're often related with uranium like they do in Olympic Dam.
That is not necessarily our priority. What we know is this: this basin has a lot of uranium. We've seen dozens and dozens of hits. We've got the Michelin deposit at one end. We've got Moran Lake that we now own plus others. Guys have shown uranium is here. But there is an awful lot of copper in this system; there’s gold in this system.
In truth, this is the coming together of four geological provinces so there's actually been multiple mountain-building phases in this area. So you think about the structure that comes with that, the amount of fluids that come with that… so it's quite exciting for things like copper and IOCG. As any of your listeners will know, probably the most exciting mine to be found in Labrador in decades is Voisey's Bay, which is just a giant hunk of nickel.
So long answer to a short question: Yeah, there's going to be a lot here. What we have to have the discipline to do is focus on the very best targets. But look, I would be lying if I said I didn't expect to find more than just uranium. I think we will find a lot more than uranium. I expect there to be quite a bit of copper in the system.
In the Moran Lake deposit as well, just to be clear (that's the project we are getting from Consolidated Uranium), a significant portion of the economics of that — because it's been reported as a uranium equivalent, about 20 million pounds of uranium equivalent — the majority of the economics of that actually comes from vanadium.
So I think we will see multiple metals in this area. I think we are bound to make multiple types of discoveries. Again, as you said, uranium is our focus. We are confident we will grow uranium resources. But look, if I find some great deposit of something else on my way — we're not going to ignore it!
Again, as I like to say, this isn't about building a specific thing because I want to build it. It's about making the best choices to deliver value for shareholders. So if there is a massive high-grade deposit of copper or something else — yes, we will look at that.
Gerardo Del Real: Love it! Walk me through, briefly, the share structure and the cash position because I think, again, you're not only hitting the sweet spot of what I think is going to be a uranium bull cycle that is, at the very least, as violent to the upside as the last one was. And that one was phenomenal! But you mentioned rare earths… you mentioned vanadium… you mentioned copper.
This pivot towards the electrification-of-everything, I think, is going to be a dominant theme for decades. And I think the company is perfectly positioned, if successful, right, on the exploration front to really be one of those companies that goes from a small market cap to hundreds of millions, if not, potentially, a billion dollar company.
That's further in the future, obviously, and requires a lot of success. But I see the potential for that here. How's the cash position and the share structure look?
Stephen Keith: We're in pretty good shape. So last year in 2021, before going public, we did about C$10 million in financing. The main part of that was a C$8 million subscription receipt deal. And so that… with the closing of the transaction on February 22nd… those have now converted to shares and we have that cash on-hand.
So we're sitting on ‘net-net’ because we spent almost a million dollars last year on the ground before we went public. We're sitting at around C$8 million cash right now. The share capital is approximately 50 million shares. I think it's a little less than that because there is a deal that we have announced with another company that we still have to close and that'll add 3 million [shares]. But with that, we're just over 50 million shares outstanding.
The last financing was a subscription receipt that was in two units, so that was a C$0.70 deal. So it was a C$0.70 share and a C$1.05 half warrant. So that's it in a nutshell… as far as cash structure and cash, we're very confident at the cash level.
Look, one of the things we think about an awful lot at the board level is cash. Our job as an exploration company is to spend that and to put it into the ground and to prove what we have. But we also have to be prudent because there's nothing I like less than seeing small companies get to fumes and then try to raise financing and do stuff there. So we're not going to allow that to happen.
But I think further to what you were saying is I think our timing is exceptional. I have spent quite a bit of time in the renewable energy space as an engineer, as a banker, and as principal. I'm a big fan but… and one of the ‘big buts’ is storage, right? Wind, run-of-river hydro, solar… you're not generating power most of the time, right? A wind farm is often 30% of the time they're generating power.
Well, you can't fire industry, you can't fire cities off of only 30%-35% availability of power. We need storage, and where is that going to come from? In Canada, it's really difficult to build big hydro. Hydrogen is a possibility but we're a ways away from that and quite a bit of infrastructure and projects to go.
We know uranium is a great way to go for carbon-free energy production. Batteries could be part of the future. But for energy for industries and cities, you're looking at multi-gigawatts. We don't have batteries that size! Personally, it's not my expertise but I can't think of the amount of material that would have to go into those.
On the smaller side for cars and smaller storage, hey, it's nice to be in a basin that also has things like copper and vanadium and whatnot that can feed that as well. But from a fundamental point of view, we're starting to see the world open up to uranium in a very different way.
And so we're going to be watching the uranium space closely. We're going to be watching our cash balance closely and, in the meantime, put some holes in the ground to prove out what's there and then just make the right decisions as we go. That's a convoluted answer to a very straightforward question but that's the full philosophy. It's an iterative process.
Gerardo Del Real: It's an excellent team. It's a very, very, very blue sky potential with a strong resource base already, I should add, project and land package. I should say ‘projects’ because, as you mentioned, the expectation here, I think, from everybody is multiple deposit types and potentially multiple mines in the future. What can we expect as shareholders for the rest of 2022?
Stephen Keith: 2022 is going to be an interesting year because, obviously, we can't get on the ground until the summer. We're not going to be drilling any holes until this summer so we're not going to get massive results there. But we do have, as you said, we have the Moran Lake Project, which has a historical resource. So we want to get on and try to expand that.
In the meantime, we're getting the machine-learning in place. So between now and summer, we hope to be able to come out with information on some of the structures or targets that we're zoning in on where we might take that exploration in the summer. So I don't want to keep saying the original pass is 146 targets because you can't run 146 to ground. So prioritizing and indicating where and why we're going for that I think is what we expect between now and the summer.
I think there's a lot of work to do because even though we have, again, the Central Mineral Belt, which has been all we've talked about, there is a project that Altius also brought much further north, which is very, very different to what we have here.
So in the south, in the Central Mineral Belt where we are, it's machine-learning, processing the old data, looking at new land, extending what we have, and proving out this model of what's there and coming up with targets. And then, this project in the north called Notakwanon — that thing is ready to drill.
So it’s at-surface; it’s a very different style of deposit to what you're seeing in the Central Mineral Belt. It looks like it could be something that lends itself to higher grade. So we've got multiple drivers post-summer based on the fieldwork. Between now and then, it's targeting and being able to talk more about what we're learning as we layer in the different experts and consultants and start adding that into what we feed the machine-learning program.
So look, in April, we're not going to come out with spectacular drill results because we wouldn't have been out in the field yet. This is the time to introduce the story. We're going to be marketing the hell out of this. We're going to be building our team and permitting the field camps and the fieldwork. So that's the sort of thing we will be getting out of the first half of this year. And then, the second half, hopefully, we'll start getting results.
Gerardo Del Real: Obviously, very early in the company cycle. I mentioned the exceptional team that carries with it an exceptional network. Are you still looking for potentially accretive acquisitions out there if the right deal presents itself?
Stephen Keith: That's always a tricky question to ask in the context of any market but in truth, yes, right? I think you have to look at the group behind the company… so the board of directors and the senior management… what we do and what we like to do.
And again, I'll keep going back to the main thesis that we have, which is our job is to make investors money. And the easiest way to do that is some massive discovery. But we are ignorant not to look at acquisition opportunities, growth opportunities. We will always look at that. I am not a believer that there should be 500 companies trying to do the same thing all over the world. If you can consolidate, put brains together, put teams together — that is always the better way to go… so we are always looking.
All of that being said, we have a huge land package with a lot of opportunity in it. So to pivot or to try to do something else that isn't on that exact theme, it has to be pretty attractive because why walk away from something before you've proven it unless you've got something that is much lower risk or much greater potential?
So we will always look but we have our hands pretty full. But we do have that capacity and we've got lawyers and ex-bankers and deal junkies that are involved in this company that will keep looking. And we always cast our net wide. I think we just have to keep looking.
Gerardo Del Real: A lot of shots on goal… I'm excited for 2022! It should be an exciting year for shareholders. Thank you so much for taking the time today, Stephen.
Stephen Keith: Gerardo, I really appreciate it! I hope I answered some of your questions… I think this is a very exciting year for us. It's just the start but I do expect that this will grow, and I look forward to talking the story the rest of the year and seeing where we come.
I think you're right… we've got a great group of people, an unbelievable land position, and the tailwinds of what's looking like a pretty exciting uranium space in front of us… and now we have to execute!
Gerardo Del Real: Looking forward to chatting again on that execution! Thank you.
Stephen Keith: Thank you… I really appreciate your time.Click here to see more from Latitude Uranium