Monsters of Rock: Our first big raising of 2024 is afoot and Patriot plots monster drill drive in Canada
WA1 Resources (ASX:WA1) has locked itself away in a planned raising as one of the boom stocks of 2023 looks to continue its momentum by keeping the drillbit in the ground in 2024.
The niobium hopeful emerged as one of the top performers on the ASX last year on the back of its monster Luni carbonatite discovery – which could become one of only a handful of primary niobium deposits globally with development potential.
A run sparked by bullish broker notes last year pushed its share price as high as $14.74 in early January, with the explorer briefly breaking through the $500m market cap milestone after listing only in early 2022 in a $6m IPO.
According to its December quarter report today, posted after entering a trading halt to progress that capital raising, WA1 boasted $18.7m in cash at December 31.
The new raising – $30m at $10 a share according to the Australian Financial Review – would come in at double the price and level of a $15m institutional placement conducted at $5 per share just four months back.
WA1 said it completed around 30,000m of drilling across the West Arunta project in 2023, located on the border of WA and NT in one of the few remaining frontier exploration regions in Australia’s vast outback.
Alongside the 2km long Luni mineralisation, where a maiden mineral resource is expected this year, it has also found a possible satellite 30km to the west at the P2 prospect.
The niobium market is tightly controlled, with a single Brazilian producer which holds the world’s largest and highest grade deposit responsible for around 80% of global supply.
Largely shipped as ferroniobium to improve strength and fight corrosion in steel, that firms executive manager for battery products Rogerio Ribas told Fastmarkets last year that around 25% of its revenue would come from the battery sector by 2030.
Lithium explorers have had a less than perfect start to the New Year, with prices continuing to flop.
Spodumene is now below US$1000/t – Fastmarkets’ last spot assessment clocked in at US$875/t – well over 80% down on their late 2022 highs.
A perfect time for well funded explorers to focus on their drilling. Ken Brinsden-chaired Patriot Battery Metals (ASX:PMT) will do just that.
After banking C$109m from a placement by US lithium giant Albemarle last year, shortly after announcing what it said was among the 10 largest hard rock lithium deposits in the world in 2023, PMT says it will drill a minimum 45,000m at its Corvette project in Quebec’s James Bay region from January to April.
At least 10 rigs will be put to the task in the mammoth drill drive, including targeting infill drilling to up the maiden resource at the CV5 pegmatite from the inferred to higher indicated category.
A new mineral resource estimate is due in the third quarter of this year.
The inferred resource, which only includes the CV5 deposit, was reported as 109.2Mt at a grade of 1.42% lithium oxide at a 0.4% Li2O cut-off.
PMT shares fell more than 4% on a tough day for both battery and base metals and gold stocks, with Lynas (ASX:LYC) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) among the biggest losers as the materials sector fell 0.78%.
The gold space was stung by the twin terrors of a falling commodity price as commentary from the US Fed suggested rate cuts would not be as strong as hoped in 2024 and a massive production miss in Evolution Mining’s (ASX:EVN) December report, which sent the ASX gold giant down over 17%.