Standard Uranium (TSX-V: STND)(OTC: STTDF) President & VP Exploration Sean Hillacre on Multiple Partner-Funded Uranium Projects Lined Up for 2024 Drilling in Canada’s Prolific Athabasca Basin


Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the president & VP of exploration for Standard Uranium — Mr. Sean Hillacre. Sean, it's great to have you on. How are you today, sir?

Sean Hillacre: I'm doing really well, Gerardo. Thanks for having me.

Gerardo Del Real: Well listen, let's get right into it. Let me start by full disclaimer, I am biased. I'm a shareholder. I look forward to writing checks at higher prices, and I think we're going to have a heck of a 2024. So let's start there. 

I want to get into all of the significant catalysts that Standard has ahead of it here in 2024. But before we get to that part of it, I would love for you to kind of go over some of your background and prior successes because I think that's going to be instrumental technically on why I think 2024 is going to be a year of not just a discovery but hopefully multiple discoveries for the Standard team.

Sean Hillacre: Absolutely. So I'm a professional geoscientist and spent my entire career as an economic geologist working in the Athabasca Basin in uranium. I started off my career with NexGen Energy. 

I cut my teeth in uranium in the southwest corner of the Athabasca Basin and had the privilege of being part of the technical team at NexGen that took the Arrow discovery from discovery all the way through to feasibility. That was an invaluable experience for me being able to be part of that technical team and working with several fantastic geologists over there. I actually did my Master's degree on that world-class deposit. 

So a super awesome experience for me to be able to publish the first paper on one of the biggest deposits in the world over in that corner. And that translates really well to what we're doing at Standard Uranium with our flagship Davidson River project right across the street from the NexGen project.

So yeah, bringing that experience to the table and coming over after leaving NexGen to Standard Uranium in 2020 where I’ve been ever since. They brought me on to run the very first drill program on Davidson River in 2020. 

I was promoted to VP Exploration within the year and then moved more into the capital markets side of things over the last couple of years. I was recently appointed president of the company as well. It's been a fantastic experience for me blending the geoscience and hard academic side of the geology of these things with the business side of the industry as well. So it's been a really awesome ride so far and I'm hoping we can recreate what we did at NexGen with Standard Uranium.

Gerardo Del Real: Well, listen, you have the perfect uranium bull market to do it with. We have a little bit of what I call a healthy correction in the uranium spot price. It ran really hard and fast from US$70 to US$110 per pound. It has since pulled back to the US$94, US$95 level. I think it's healthy, and I think we're headed much, much higher. 

And within that macro backdrop, Standard has positioned itself to have multiple drilling programs throughout 2024. Some will be at the flagship projects and some will be as operator with projects that you have joint ventured.

The most recent piece of news is that drilling has commenced at the Atlantic project in the eastern Athabasca Basin. Now, that is a project that is under option to another company I'm a shareholder of, Atco Mining (CSE: ATCM)(OTC: ATMGF). 

And I’ve got to tell you, it makes me smile to know that it's you working with the Atco team on that project because I think there's a lot of potential to get something maybe really special out of this thing. Can you go into the details of the project and a bit of the hybrid business model that Standard is employing?

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Sean Hillacre: Yeah, absolutely. John and I had been kicking around this idea for more than a year on blending pure exploration plays with this kind of project/prospect generator model. We made the switch in the summer of last year and brought that component into it. And we've been able to deliver really quickly on that. 

We've got four deals done here totaling over C$31 million over the next three years. A pretty fantastic pivot during kind of the rough last half of 2023 there. So it's great to be coming out swinging here in 2024, and this is definitely going to be our busiest year yet. 

We're kicking that off, like you said, with the drill program at Atlantic, which is just due west of IsoEnergy's Hurricane deposit. So this is a very fantastic and exciting area of the basin. Lots of infrastructure over there, lots of really high-grade uranium, and we're looking for that classic unconformity-style uranium mineralization.

We've got great targets that we've defined over the last couple of years on these eastern basin projects, including Atlantic. We’re really excited to have the drill spinning over on the east side for the first time. This is Standard's first drill program on this project; we’ve spent a couple of years getting the project turnkey. 

Atco was able to come in and bring capital to the table, and we've built out a fantastic technical team here at Standard. So we'll be operating these projects on behalf of the partners and getting paid to do so. We get to leverage our team's wide range of experience and expertise in the area, and we're really excited about it. 

What we're going to be focusing on at Atlantic is the western claim block, which, actually, the highway goes right through it. So it makes for a really, really lucrative exploration program where we can save a lot of money and put more money towards meters in the ground versus mobilization costs and things like that.

We’re targeting our highest-priority area on those western claims. It's a really beautiful density anomaly, meaning we've run a gravity survey over the project (in 2022), and we've defined this 1,400-meter-long and 850-meter-wide anomaly basically signaling a potential big alteration zone. 

These uranium deposits we know are associated with these big alteration halos, so there's some pretty nasty fluids that come through these major structural zones. Kind of pairing that with the EM conductors and the fault zones, we have the fluid highway for the uranium to come in. And when they do, they interact with the rock and create a density anomaly. So it's a change in the rock density that we're looking at, which looks really good. 

We're going to be focusing on that with this program. We've got about 2,000 to 3,000 meters planned in about four to six drill holes, and we are drilling right now. We’re just getting our first batches of rocks into the core shack up there right now, and I’m super excited to get up there and join the team in the field in a couple of weeks here.

Gerardo Del Real: I would ask you how the rocks look but I've been in this long enough to know you're going to tell me they look great. But we have to wait for assays. So I'm not going to ask you how it's looking. Let's wait for the numbers to come back. But I'm definitely excited.

Look, it's no secret that adding value and making a discovery via the drill bit is my single favorite way to add value and make money in this business. It's the single most exciting part to me. Now, some people love development, some people really enjoy permitting for whatever reason, and some people really love taking mines to production. I love the exploration side of things. 

I'm really giddy at the fact that you have so many drill programs on deck here for 2024. Can you kind of set the table for what the rest of the year looks like after the Atlantic drilling is completed?

Sean Hillacre: Absolutely. The Atlantic program is going to last for about a month. We should be able to crush that out in four to five weeks, which is fantastic, and just in time for a little break during the April breakup season. And then, we're going to be right back at it. 

Like you said, we've got four, maybe five drill programs that we're going to be running this year, which is pretty insane and awesome. We're just lining them up like dominoes and going to be knocking them down. Standard is going to be operating all of these. 

Most of the deals we've done are 75% earn-ins over three years, so making sure we're retaining lots of upside for our shareholders on any potential discoveries as well. And then, we're getting paid by bringing non-dilutive cash into the company and operating these things. So the next one on-deck after Atlantic is our Canary project.

That one is located just to the northeast of the Atlantic project. Again, really fantastic targets that we've defined over the last couple of years doing the geoscience and running a few surveys there. 

One of the anomalies on Canary that I'll speak about looks geophysically identical in size and response to that of the Roughrider deposit and the J-Zone uranium deposit just to the south. A couple of historical drill holes there as well that have some interesting results where we'll be following up and testing that with our modern understanding of these things, which is great. 

And then, we have another target area to the north that's never been tested. We've got a really fantastic geophysical combination of anomalies up there that look really juicy. We’re really excited to get to that one after that one's a deal with an Australian group called Mamba Exploration. We're really anticipating some good times up there at Canary.

And then, right after that, we have another project up to the northeast of that. So these are all in a line over on the east side. And the third one will be our Ascent project. That one sits right on the edge of the Athabasca Basin. One thing about all three of these projects is that they have really shallow drill targets, which is fantastic. If we find something economic, the economics are even better from a mineability standpoint because we're not looking super deep. 

The Ascent project is really exciting as well because it's analogous to what 92 Energy and Baseload Energy have done with their recent Gemini Zone and Ackio discoveries, respectively. We’re excited to go test that one for the first time. 

It basically remains undrilled with some really fantastic anomalies that we've defined there as well. There are also some radioactive boulders and some other drill holes around there with some anomalism to them… so we're excited to knock that one down as well.

That'll take us through into early summer. And then, we've also done a deal with a company called Aero Energy. What we've done up there in the Uranium City area with our Sun Dog project is we've put that into a deal with Aero Energy as well as they've also optioned a couple of projects from a group called Fortune Bay. 

We've compiled all of this into one of the biggest landholdings in that area with a ton of targets. We've got upwards of 50 targets on each of these projects. And what we're going to do is push that forward and do some drilling up there as well out of Uranium City this summer.

Following that, we are going to get back to our flagship Davidson River project. Gerardo, we haven't been back there in a couple of years. We've expanded the project since then and brought in some new land to the southeast that you can compare apples-to-apples geologically with the JR Zone discovery by F3 Uranium recently. 

And that completely validates our mirror theory there, that we know that there's world-class uranium endowments on the east side of that Clearwater domain, speaking to Arrow and the Triple R deposit and the Spitfire discovery. So now, we can point directly to the JR Zone on the western side where Davidson River lies, and that's exactly what we're looking for.

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That's our big home run… that's why it's our flagship project. And we've done a lot of work on that in the interim since drilling it last to really get back there and define some really exciting follow-up targets and then some brand new targets as well. 

So those are the drill programs for the year. We've expanded our portfolio to 11 projects now so we have some earlier stage ones. We have a really nice pipeline of projects, everything from complete greenfields all the way up to drill-ready.

What we're going to do is move a couple of these earlier stage projects forward into that turnkey position, making it easy for JV partners to come in and bring cash to the table and get these things moving.

We're going to look at doing some geophysics on our Corvo and Rocus projects. Those are also just over on the east side of the basin just outside the margin of the current Athabasca Basin outline. So again, very shallow targets there. 

There's uranium at surface on both of those, which hasn’t been touched in a long time in the case of Corvo. And Rocus has never been drilled, and there's actually half a percent U3O8 right at surface in outcrop on that project as well. We’re super excited to put a bit of capital into those ourselves and move them forward to an excellent spot for potential partners to come in on that as well. It's going to be a full year!

Gerardo Del Real: Sean, music to my shareholder ears! I know you'll be at PDAC. I encourage anyone that’s there to stop by. Look, the bottom line is this: Standard really wasn't in a position to take advantage of the first leg up in the uranium space. We had that push from US$30 to US$40/lb to that US$70/lb that got everyone excited.

And really, that's when Standard was in the process of reorganizing the business model and really getting busy on bringing projects in and joint venturing them out. I love the focus; I love the path forward. And frankly, I love the fact that you only have a C$15 million market cap right now where similar companies have market caps upwards of C$80 to C$90 million. And I'd venture to say that the projects in the portfolio are at least of equal merit. 

You have cash in the bank, and you have the technical acumen to advance them. I'm excited and looking forward to having you and CEO Jon Bey back on. And let's see what Atlantic delivers here in the next month or two.

Sean Hillacre: Sounds good. It's going to be a really exciting few weeks here as we continue drilling this project for the first time. And like you said, we're lined up for success, and we’ve got a lot of shots-on-goal this year.

You know how the uranium space works. We can go from where we're at now to one or two-bagger kind of overnighter in a couple of months here. So that's what we're trying to do and looking for that home run this year.

Gerardo Del Real: Yes, and just to be clear, everyone, I'm looking at much more than one or two-baggers from these levels before the year is out.

Sean Hillacre: Exactly.

Gerardo Del Real: Yeah, let's set the bar a little higher. I'll take it… but I think there's a lot of runway for an explosive move higher, especially if uranium does what we all think it's going to continue to do. Sean, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it, and good luck with PDAC out there.

Sean Hillacre: Yeah, thanks a lot, Gerardo. Pleasure to be on and we'll talk soon.

Gerardo Del Real: Alright, cheers.

Sean Hillacre: Cheers.

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