Barry FitzGerald: This tightly held lithium startup comes with ‘Spodumene Island’
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Garimpeiro has continued his relentless search for lithium explorers with tight capital bases. If a nickel project, and exposure to a rare earths hot spot are thrown in as part of the bargain, then all the better.
That pretty much sums up Leeuwin Metals (ASX:LM1) which debuted on the ASX in late March after an $8 million IPO. Being a newcomer, it has plenty of cash to get on with things ($6m at June 30), and a tight capital base (83m shares including escrowed shares).
It was trading mid-week at 24c for a market cap of just under $20m, so it has lots of leverage to the exploration upside at its lithium and nickel projects in Canada, and its lithium/rare earths projects in Western Australia.
The portfolio was put together by Leeuwin managing director Chris Piggott, a geologist who previously held senior positions at the likes of Bellevue (ASX:BGL) and Northern Star (ASX:NST).
Garimpeiro admits he was alerted to Leeuwin as one to watch when he noticed that the junior explorer-focussed Lowell Resources Fund (ASX:LRT) was a significant supporter of the IPO, kicking in $700,000 for 2.8 million shares.
Lowell is a fan of Piggott, with chief investment officer John Forwood telling Garimpeiro that the fund liked to “get on to a young guy who is going to become the next Bill Beament (of Northern Star fame) and take a stock from 20c to $20.’’
“I am not saying Chris is the next Bill Beament but there is a glint in his eye that tells me he is going to give it a shot,’’ Forwood said.
Although Leeuwin came to market with its William Lake nickel project in Manitoba as its flagship asset, Forwood said it is the company’s Cross Lake lithium project, also in Manitoba, that “tickles his fancy the most.’’
“A company maker might be putting it too strongly but there is definitely a lead project there,’’ Forwood said.
The project covers a dominant 2000 sqkm of the Cross Lake greenstone belt about 120km south of the nickel mining town of Thompson. It comes with a long history of exploration for tin/niobium and other metals but not lithium, even though Leeuwin’s tenure includes Spodumene Island.
The long history of exploration means there is a big data base to work with, as well as drill core stored by the Manitobian Geological Survey that Leeuwin has been able to access. Resampling of the historic drill core has returned high-grade lithium mineralisation at shallow depths.
After the release of the latest batch of assay results (including 5.14m at 1.75% lithium from 20.77m), Piggott said he firmly believed Cross Lake had the potential to be one of Canada’s next major lithium discoveries.
Leeuwin’s is busy mapping and geochemical sampling to expand the existing 6km mineralised footprint and to define new drill targets.
Forwood said the current investor enthusiasm for lithium over nickel was why Cross Lake had inched ahead in Lowell’s opinion of the advanced the William Lake nickel project, 250km south of Thompson, in the company flagship stakes.
While that is acknowledged by Garimpeiro, it has to be said that Glencore, one of world’s biggest nickel producers from operations in Canada and elsewhere, is on the Leeuwin share register with a 9.97% for what might come from William Lake.
William Lake sits on the southern extension of the famous Thompson nickel belt and was explored in the past by some big names in the nickel game. It is considered advanced because of the data base that comes from the 174 diamond holes drilled in the past.
Advanced all right, but there has been little on the exploration front since for many years, something Leeuwin is now turning around to its advantage using all of the latest whizz-bang exploration techniques, and with Glencore proving technical input to boot.
Recent drilling identified a new high-grade zone extending from a known mineralisation over a 2km trend. Best results included 6.5m grading 2.56% from 439.2m and followed on from an earlier assay from another drill hole of 21.9m at 1.02% nickel.
Piggott reckons said the results validate William Lake’s status as a “major nickel system within the world-class Thompson nickel belt.’’
And a final world from Forwood. “Don’t forget the Gascoyne (lithium and rare earths) in WA where they have a large ground position.’’
“It is early days. They have been doing soil sampling and other things. It is a hot area, so it is a nice stocking filler, if you like, which could yield some nice surprises.’’
The views, information, or opinions expressed in the interviews in this article are solely those of the interviewees and do not represent the views of Stockhead. Stockhead does not provide, endorse or otherwise assume responsibility for any financial product advice contained in this article.