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Pioneer by name, but not first to jump on Canadian lithium

Updated: Mar 12

This week’s Bulls N’ Bears profiled ASX runner is… Pioneer Lithium. Credit: File

For a fleeting few mid-week moments, it seemed this column’s predictable prediction last week that lithium would again be dominating the ASX markets was suddenly becoming a little shaky.

A scan last Wednesday of the best runners of the week threw up a wildly new theme when out of the blue and up the boards came uranium explorers Haranga Resources and Aurora Energy Metals and their respective share price jumps of 76 per cent and 52 per cent.

But, alas, a familiar tune started to play out loudly soon after, when lithium again rose powerfully to the fore – as dutifully prophesised – and two companies leading the charge were found to be plying their trade in what is becoming a trusted hotspot in Canada.

Then by Friday, biotech company Biotron had stuck its nose in to jump to the top of the runners table with a 125 per cent leap from the previous week’s close of 3.2 cents up to 7.2c – seemingly on the back of a letter to shareholders that was not lodged on the ASX announcements page until four days after its Tuesday stamp date.

But more on Biotron shortly.

In the meantime, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, two of last week’s major movers and shakers had one thing in common – real estate in the James Bay region of the Canadian province of Quebec.

Pioneer Lithium hit the ASX boards with a bang on Thursday, with a 95 per cent hike on its 20c listing. Its stock touched 39c on it first day of trading when the market appeared to see some potential in its swag of Canadian lithium projects.

The company holds a 90 per cent share of the Root Lake project and a 100 per cent share in the Lauri Lake play, with both of them residing in the Ontario province of Canada. However, it also holds the LaGrande lithium project in the famed James Bay.

Management says it will primarily be focused on the exploration and development of Root Lake and LaGrande, but will progress early investigations at Lauri Lake. Maiden exploration programs on the two sites will include prospecting, airborne surveys, mapping and sampling.

Root Lake appears to be in a prime position, situated directly between Green Technology Metals’ Root Bay and Morrison/McCombe’s lithium deposits. Pioneer says previous exploration at the site has already confirmed the presence of high-grade spodumene mineralisation and it is hopeful Green Technology’s known lithium deposit extends into its territory.

And, of course, any company that announces land in James Bay gets the immediate attention of the market. However, that does not come as a big surprise considering some of the names that are operating in the region, including Patriot Battery Metals with its Corvette project and Allkem with its inspirationally-named James Bay play.

Speaking of Allkem, Pioneer’s new chief executive officer Clinton Booth worked with that company when it was previously known as Galaxy Resources prior to its merger with Orocobre in 2021 and he has also held senior roles with Fortescue Future Industries. The company’s board also includes former Pilbara Minerals executives Nigel Broomham and Gerard O’Donovan as non-executive directors.

With some interesting real estate and a board full of lithium experience, Pioneer could be a company to keep an eye on.

Slovakian gold explorer MetalsTech stacked on 76 per cent to hit 26.5c, up from the previous week’s 15c close, when it pivoted to lithium with yet another Canadian project. And guess where it was located? Elephant stamp if you picked James Bay.

MetalsTech says its recently-acquired Sauvolles lithium project is seven times larger than Winsome Resources’ Adina lithium project and 1.5-times bigger than Patriot’s Corvette operation. It makes MetalsTech one of the biggest landholders within the highly-prospective Lac Guyer greenstone belt.

Sauvolles covers about 300 square kilometres along the belt that also hosts Adina, where Winsome recently intercepted impressive results including 107.6m at 1.34 per cent lithium oxide just 3km away from MetalsTech’s new site.

Management says that despite several recent discoveries in the James Bay area, it remains significantly underexplored compared to other historic lithium pegmatite districts. Sauvolles contains multiple mapped pegmatites and strong indicator minerology along the Lac Guyer greenstone belt, including anomalous historical lithium assay results from samples collected by the Geological Survey of Quebec.

Exploration at the operation is set to kick off in coming weeks, while the company will continue to develop its Sturec gold mine in Slovakia.

MetalsTech recently picked up its Sauvolles project in James Bay. Credit: MetalsTech

Moving away from James Bay – although we’ll probably be back there next week – and back to Biotron. It skyrocketed with pending clinical trial results for a drug it says just might be able to cure both HIV and COVID-19. However, the jump was not supported by any specific announcements and prompted a “Please Explain” notice from the ASX.

The letter the company sent out to its shareholders did give an update stating that it is in the final stage of three phase-two clinical trials for HIV-1 and COVID-19. Biotron expects to have data from three such trials available in the very near term and says it puts the company in a strong position. The data, if positive, will be central to successfully negotiating and completing a commercial transaction for its HIV‐1 and COVID‐19 clinical programs.

Remarkably, Biotron’s one lead compound – BIT225 – appears to have the potential to eradicate both HIV-1 and COVID-19 when used in combination with other anti-retroviral compounds.

And finally we get back to uranium – which has just recently soared to its highest price since 2011 – and Haranga Resources. The company’s share price jumped 73 per cent, leaping to 26c from a previous 15c close, after it raised $2.8 million to spend on drilling and exploration on its Saraya uranium project in Senegal.

Earlier in the week, management revealed an inferred maiden mineral resource at the site of 16 million pounds of uranium oxide at a grade of 587 parts per million, with the potential to establish an open-pit operation for mining. The resource is based on data from 541 historical drillholes, in addition to data from Haranga’s 2022 drill campaign.

The uranium potential of the Saraya prospect was first flagged by the French Atomic Energy Commission in the late 1950s, from large-scale aerial surveys and subsequent ground radiometric mapping and trenching.

Could uranium take over from lithium as the next mineral du jour? Probably not – well, at least not yet. Anyone know of any unclaimed ground in James Bay?

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