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Thunderbird Resources says go on uranium, no to lithium

Thunderbird Resources is prioritising its search for uranium in the Athabasca Basin in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Credit: File

Thunderbird Resources (ASX: THB) has levelled its sole focus on its prospective portfolio of uranium projects in Canada’s world-class Athabasca Basin after turning its back on a pair of lithium projects in Ontario.

Following a strategic review of its operations, the company is adamant it will get “more bang for its buck” by using its available financial and human resources across fewer projects. It says it has now cancelled the option it was pursuing on the Morrison River lithium project and will also not continue with the exclusive Frazer Lake option agreement it had entered into with Canadian-listed Pegmatite One Lithium and Gold Corp (PGA).

While Thunderbird is committed to issuing the 1.2 million shares to PGA as part of the deal that was revealed in February and is set to expire on September 30, ongoing work it was undertaking at Frazer Lake has been suspended. The two companies are now expected to negotiate a final agreement.

Management says its prospective Athabasca holdings and a rising uranium price had shaped its decision-making process following the recent review.

The renowned Athabasca Basin is remarkable for its average uranium grades of about 2 per cent and its massive-scale deposits. It is most famous for the McArthur River uranium mine that boasts a 392 million-pound reserve going at a stunningly-high 6.89 per cent uranium oxide.

Further to the north-east, the Cigar Lake mine reserve registers at an astounding 15.9 per cent uranium oxide at its 165 million-pound reserve.

With the price of uranium currently over US$90/lb and projected to go higher, there is a compelling case to focus our full attention and resources on these projects. We also have other great assets in the Athabasca Basin and diverting resources of both people and money to the lithium properties in Ontario simply doesn’t make sense.
Thunderbird Resources executive chairman George Bauk

Bauk told Bulls N’ Bears he has only returned from the Athabasca where there was a “real buzz” about uranium among the many explorers working within the region.

Thunderbird is heavily-focused on its 100 per cent-owned premier Hidden Bay uranium project where five drill-ready targets have been identified. It also recently launched a new high-tech survey sampling program.

Taking advantage of ideal summer conditions, the high-tech program is understood to be able to detect blind uranium targets from depths of up to several hundred metres. The company says it will trial a spatiotemporal geochemical hydrocarbons (SGH) survey on several of its prime drill targets at Hidden Bay, in addition to scintillometer surveying of key areas and reconnaissance geological mapping.

Management says it plans to trial the high-tech method on three of its priority targets at Hidden Bay, with about 140 samples to be assessed.

The operation is just 20km south-east of Cameco Corporation’s massive Rabbit Lake mine – the longest-operating uranium mine in North America. It has produced a staggering 203 million pounds of uranium to date during more than 41 years of mining.

Hidden Bay sits on the projected eastern flank of the Athabasca Basin, similar to Rabbit Lake.

Thunderbird recently received a three-year work permit for the project, which includes the right to drill. It is planning to drill to an average 400m depth at each of the holes and is looking to determine the optimal access route to each drill-target site, with plans to test five priority targets identified by “gravity lows” from an airborne gravity survey conducted in 2022.

NexGen Energy’s huge Arrow deposit in the south-west of the basin is based on a gravity low, so this is a good sign. Importantly, there is also a plethora of faults and other geological structures surrounding all the gravity lows, making the targets that are begging to see the drill bit well worth testing.

And with only one hole drilled at the project site in the past 35 years, it is not before time.

The company has several other promising uranium projects in the basin, with four more priority drill targets at Cluff Lake. Its 100 per cent-owned Surprise Creek Fault project also has mineralisation for 500m of strike, with rock chip samples up to 7.98 per cent uranium oxide and 0.67 per cent copper making it a high-priority target.

The 80 per cent-owned Hook Lake has 11 new targets requiring follow-up work. The company started on-ground work in July 2021, with a program of reconnaissance geological mapping and rock chip sampling of historical uranium occurrences and uranium radiometric anomalies.

Results from the program were highlighted by ultra-high-grade rock chip samples up to 59.2 per cent uranium oxide from the S-Zone prospect and anomalous results from the West Way and Nob Hill Prospects.

Early drilling at Hook Lake hit elevated radioactivity and associated alteration and a 2.5m intersection going 160 parts per million uranium oxide from 105.5m. Following the drilling program, Thunderbird completed an airborne gravity gradiometry survey across the entire project area that identified the new targets.

In order to focus on its uranium strategy, Thunderbird last year offloaded the majority of two of its copper projects in Peru. It completed a sale agreement with ASX-listed Firetail Resources, retaining a 20 per cent free-carried interest in the Picha project up until a prefeasibility study (PFS) hits the street.

With a total potential shareholding of up to 35 million shares in Firetail resulting from the Picha sale, Thunderbird will also have the equivalent of a 20.58 per cent equity interest in that company if all performance milestones are met.

Picha includes two key targets – Cobremani and Cumbre Coya.

Cobremani already has a solid drill result of 13m at 2.81 per cent copper and 27.1 grams per tonne silver from just 2m downhole. Cumbre Coya hit 15.5m at 0.72 per cent copper, 130g/t silver, 1.92 per cent lead including 1.7m at 0.5 per cent copper, 500g/t silver and 5.9 per cent lead.

The company also has two other assets – the Beatty River heavy rare earths project and the Jesaulenko lithium play, about 21km from Rock Tech Lithium’s Georgia operation that has indicated resources of 10.6 million tonnes at 0.88 per cent lithium oxide and inferred resources of 4.2 million tonnes going 1 per cent.

With the decision to not expand its lithium portfolio to focus solely on its uranium projects that contain more targets than a shooting gallery, Thunderbird will be hoping long-term it turns out to be the right move.

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