General Base Metals
Millrock Resources (TSX-V: MRO)(OTC: MLRKF) CEO Greg Beischer on Advancing Strategically Important Nikolai Nickel Project in Alaska
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the President and CEO of Millrock Resources, Mr. Greg Beischer. Greg, great to have you back on. How are you today?
Greg Beischer: I'm doing very well, Gerardo, thanks.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's get right into it. You've spent the last several months positioning the company for the next leg up in the resource space, and though we all know that speculators that got into Millrock likely got in, I'm hoping for a discovery at 64 North, which is a project that we're still waiting for results from. We haven't had that discovery hole yet, but obviously, discoveries aren't typically made immediately, right in the first or second phase of the drill program.
But as we wait for news, you've actually been able to roll in an asset that has become really critical, and pun intended, cheesy pun intended, really critical to Millrock. And you've had some news here recently that's making this a pretty interesting project to me and pretty strategic for the company. You have a $6M market cap, and you've had some news here recently on the Nikolai Nickel Project that is making this really, really prospective for advancing. Can you provide a brief overview of the project? And then let's get into some of the news.
Greg Beischer: Yeah, sure thing. Yeah, so we acquired this project last summer, Gerardo, but this one's been on my radar for a long time. As you know, my earlier career was with Inco Limited, at the time, the biggest nickel mining company in the world. And they had identified this spot in central Alaska as one that's got geologic parallels to the Norilsk area of Russia, which of course, are where the biggest nickel deposits in the world are being mined.
And so yeah, we'd love to find another Norilsk, and so the ground all came open a few years ago, and I watched it and watched it and said, "Well, we got to jump on that," especially with the upsurge in interest in critical and strategic metals, and particularly battery metals. Of course, nickel and cobalt and platinum are very important components to make that happen. So yeah, we've developed the project, and I've been doing homework on it to make sure that it's really got the features we need.
Gerardo Del Real: Well, let's get into some of those features. You've been doing a lot of very good behind-the-scenes work. You resampled the historical drill core, and that led to the identification of a lower mineralized zone. And so it's what you describe as the eureka zone of the project, which is 270 meters at the location. Can you explain why that was important and some of the other work that went into the resampling of that core?
Greg Beischer: Sure thing. So the deposits of nickel at Norilsk are exceptionally rich. It's massive sulfide with nickel grades in the multiple percents: three, four percent, that sort of thing, and certainly, the potential to find that on this project still exists. But at the Eureka zone, we already know that there is a lot of low-grade mineralization, and we can see, from the historical drilling that's being done, that it's probably quite continuous over significant interval strike length.
But we went back to basics: resampled some of the cores that I had actually drilled for Inco in the 1990s and resampled them further. And we found that there is a core of low-grade mineralization, but it's flanked by an upper and lower zone, and taken all together, we can see now, at least on this one section, that it's got a true width of about 270 meters. That's a very significant thickness of mineralized rock that's got nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, and palladium, and also a bit of gold, too.
Gerardo Del Real: Those are important metals for this new economy that has emerged, and a trend, obviously, that's only accelerating with the critical metals.
Now, I know that when you and I have discussed the project, the analog is the Crawford deposit in Timmins. And that project there, if I'm not mistaken, the company that owns that, they have a market cap of about 180 million dollars. I mentioned Millrock's market cap of six million. Tell me a bit about the recovery and some of the bench tests that you did here recently, which was also very encouraging.
Greg Beischer: So with low-grade deposits, it's absolutely crucial that you know, going in, how much of the nickel you're going to recover. Some nickel gets tied up in silicate minerals like olivine, and it's impossible to recover that nickel. So you've got to be sure in what mineral form the nickel resides. And so we did those studies recently, and the results were very, very encouraging. Most of the nickel is in the mineral called pentlandite. This is a nickel sulfide mineral, the most common nickel sulfide mineral, and therefore can be very readily recovered by long-established, industry-standard milling methods.
Interestingly, some of the nickel was in the form of a nickel-iron alloy, which is good news, because it can also be readily recovered and contributes to the nickel. It's a bit premature to mention this, but the lab has identified the nickel alloy mineral as tetrataenite, which would be quite unusual, since almost all known occurrences of this mineral are from meteorite impact sources; there's maybe one known terrestrial source in the world. And we're working to verify now, but if true, it would be quite interesting, because the mineral tetrataenite has very exceptional magnetic properties and would replace, in fact, some rare-earth magnets in specialty electronic and defense systems, that sort of thing. Makes very special magnets, and so it would be of interest to high technology companies and probably to the Department of Defense, also. But like I say, it's a little early to be talking about that until we have a full verification. But we're working on it.
Gerardo Del Real: Awesome, and you mentioned it being early, and that it's important to caution that when we talk about what you describe as a large volume of mineralized rock, how large, in terms of if you have the strike length and you have the historical holes and you can see the widths which you described as substantial, roughly, where would that put you, tonnage-wise? If we did, again, a preliminary back-of-the-napkin, non-43-101-compliant estimate, just to ballpark what you may have here?
Greg Beischer: Yeah, exactly, and that's how we have to do it, is just ballpark it right now and not lead anyone to believe that we know for sure that this much metal is in the ground. But one can see quite readily. For example, if we were just to bracket the hole that we recently resampled on either side, 200 meters away, with a series of say, seven holes, we'd be able to block out very readily, in the order of 400 million metric tons of nickel-bearing rock. If we were to extend it further, say to about 1.2 kilometers strike length, assuming the same width of the mineralization, then with a series of maybe 12 or 14 drill holes, we could see that we would have in excess of half a billion tonnes of mineralized rock that would contain more than a million metric tons of pure nickel metal.
So right there, that's a very sizable nickel deposit, and the reality is, we've got scattered historical drill hole information that tells us this thing could be as much as 10 or 12 kilometers long. It does seem to be very continuous, from hole to hole, with a homogeneous grade, so it truly could be a stupendous amount of contained nickel.
Gerardo Del Real: What comes next? Obviously, with you having a six-million-dollar market cap, for you to be able to prove up that type of deposit and potentially even a bigger deposit, it would require a lot of dilution from current levels, Greg. Let's be frank. So what comes next? What options are on the table for you and Millrock, and what are you considering to unlock the value here?
Because again, it's clear to me, at least, that you have a pretty good handle on the metals, on the mineralization, on the potential strike length. And it seems like outlining a plan, an exploration or drilling plan to see exactly what it is you have is pretty clear-cut, but it's also clear to me that you're going to require some capital for that, right?
Greg Beischer: You bet, and so it's sort of a quandary. Millrock could stick with its generative model, bring in a partner, and of course, we've already been searching for those partners. There's been some pretty strong interest, and so that's a way to finance it.
But on the other hand, I feel quite strongly about this project, that if we were to invest a little bit more money, then we could significantly increase the value of the project. If you look at the comparable, which is Canada Nickel and its Crawford deposit, where they have a bona fide 43-101 resource that at this point has been well drilled off, but their market cap is $180 million. So a single drill program for Millrock, on the order of four million, could put us in the same ballpark, in terms of size of deposit, the concentration of metals. And so one would think our market capitalization would increase very significantly on that basis.
And so Millrock has to look at that. Even though it might be highly dilutive, it could increase our share price very substantially, and so it's something that's under consideration at this point, and we're having discussions amongst the management, the board of directors, and our long-term investors.
Gerardo Del Real: You have a very, very favorable macro backdrop with which to make that decision. And what I mean is, we're seeing, not just in the US and North America, but especially here recently, in the US and North America, we're seeing a bipartisan rush, which as you know, in America, it's hard to get politicians to agree on almost anything. But clearly, there's a bipartisan rush to establish a critical metal supply chain, independent of countries that may not be the friendliest to us here in the future and that have been problematic, in certain senses, to us in the past. And so that's a very favorable environment for you to be able to make that decision.
It seems like a lot of the pieces, the important ones, are there. You have the mineralization. You have good recoveries, initially. You have the potential for a lot of exploration upside. The jurisdiction is top-notch. Some decisions to make, Greg, but I'm looking forward to seeing which way you go with it, and it's good to have options with these types of metals.
Greg Beischer: You bet. I've been encouraged from what I'm starting to hear out of government agencies, in terms of streamlining permitting on federal land and money being made available to help jumpstart projects that can provide critical and strategic metals. I think finally the connection has been made; the light bulb's gone on, and the decision-makers in the United States government realized that the country is in a very vulnerable position, because most of the critical and strategic metals upon which it relies come from sources, countries that are not friendly towards us. And already, supply chains are disrupted, but there's potential to just be cut off completely from dozens of metals that the country needs.
I see that the Department of Defense, particularly, has recognized this vulnerability and is doing what they need to do to make sure they've got the metal supplies that they need to protect the country, and I think they might end up being the real driving force that brings the rest of the government agencies along to really accelerate domestic critical and strategic metal production. So I'm actually being quite encouraged in what I've seen lately, because that's always been one of the tougher parts, is permitting new mining projects on federally-owned lands.
Regardless of that, the Nikolai project is on State of Alaska lands, and our state loves mineral development and resource development, generally, so I think we're in a really good position, but in position to get even better. And I think it would be a great story to tell, going forward: Millrock's maybe key role in providing the metals we need to electrify our society and to protect it.
Gerardo Del Real: I'm looking forward to seeing the direction you take. I'm also looking forward to results from 64 North, which I imagine will happen this month. And then of course, I know we're going to be receiving results from the Felix Gold Project up in Fairbanks, which of course, a partner is advancing, but you have a substantial ownership interest in that partner. Anything to add to that, Greg?
Greg Beischer: Yeah, no, we're waiting with bated breath for all those results and the steady stream to come out over the next 60 to 90 days. And anything in there could be the catalysts that drive Millrock share price upwards.
Gerardo Del Real: Looking forward to having you back on, Greg. That was a great update. Thank you so much for your time.
Greg Beischer: Okay, see you soon, Gerardo.
Gerardo Del Real: All right, bye now.Click here to see more from Alaska Energy Metals