True Width: Valor supremo George Bauk on the future of uranium and other fancy stuff
In Barry FitzGerald’s regular column, True Width, he sits down with Australia’s leading resource and mining bosses to discuss their current projects and plans for the future.
Veteran mining executive George Bauk has Valor Resources ready to roll with two potentially high-impact exploration drilling programs.
And in typical Bauk style, rather than ratting around for leftovers in Western Australia’s goldfields, Valor is looking to move the needle in a big way at its Athabasca Basin uranium project in Canada, and its Picha copper-silver project in Peru.
A focus on the critical minerals of uranium, copper and nickel, and the more opaque mineral markets of rare earths, mineral sands, lithium and graphite, has been a feature of Bauk’s 32-year career.
A Perth born son of Croatian migrants, Bauk started in the mining industry in 1990 in mineral sands (TiWest) after graduating with a finance degree.
He then joined the Finnish metals group Outokumpu which was commissioning the Flying Fox nickel project (now Western Areas) at the time.
From there it was off to Western Mining Corp for 10 years, mainly in the nickel business in various operating and corporate roles, including a stint at the Mount Keith nickel mine during its commissioning (1995) living in Leinster.
“My last role at WMC was logistics manager for the whole company (acquired by BHP in 2005) which included the challenge of exporting uranium concentrates from Olympic Dam in South Australia,’’ Bauk said.
“When I left WMC I took up a little trucking gig with Mitchell Logistics. My Dad was a truck driver so I was going back to my roots. But that didn’t last long!’’
“It made me realise how hard it was being a contractor, especially in the early 2000s.’’
Bauk then moved into the small cap end of the market across a range of commodities, both here and overseas.
The mysterious allure of the rare earths market soon beckoned, initially with Arafura, and from 2010 for 10 years, with Northern Minerals, owner of the Browns Range project in Western Australia
Under Bauk’s leadership the Browns Range project was advanced from greenfields exploration through to it becoming a producer of mixed rare earth carbonate.
Bauk finished up with Northern Minerals in June 2020 and like many during the onset of COVID-19, he holed up for a while before becoming Valor’s executive chairman in October 2020.
Because of his previous experience in uranium, Bauk is well aware the nuclear fuel has had a chequered past with the public, and investors.
“But I think we are starting to see a genuine acceptance that the world has to move to zero carbon emissions, and that we need alternative fuels in the equation,’’ Bauk said.
“Searching for high-grade uranium deposits in the Athabasca Basin is not easy, and it can be expensive, because they are small in size. But because of their high-grades, the prize in finding one can be massively rewarding.’’
Valor joined the Athabasca Basin uranium hunt in early 2021. It has been adding to its ground position since and has been busy developing drill targets.
Bauk said the Athabasca Basin has the highest grade uranium potential in the world – “And we all know that if you get on to something high grade, it usually gives you an advantage.’’
He said another attraction was the limited modern-exploration in the region since the 1980s when exploration stopped because the provincial government went down an industry privatisation pathway.
“It needs to be remembered that the exploration techniques of 40 years ago were nothing like what is available today,’’ Bauk said.
“We are literally on the ground as we speak, following up multiple targets identified with airborne gravity surveys, and with ground based reconnaissance and mapping work.
“That is all being pulled together so by the end of the year we will have our drill targets established. We will then go through an approval process which should see us drilling in the first half of 2023,’’ Bauk said.
He singled out the Surprise Creek project for special mention.
“It is a fascinating project. We’ve had our first reconnaissance trip where we had six scintillometer readings with maxed out cps counts (readings are measured in counts per second). There will be more mapping and sampling there this month,’’ Bauk said.
“It also has very interesting copper prospectivity on the southern part of the project area, highlighting that the Athabasca Basin is prospective for metals other than the singular focus on uranium over the decades suggests,’’ Bauk said.
Surprise Creek is located 25km northwest of Uranium City in northern Saskatchewan, and 30km from the historic Beaver Lodge uranium mining district.
“We want to be drilling at Surprise Creek early in 2023,’’ Bauk said.
Ahead of the uranium drilling actively, Valor plans an November start to drilling at the Combre Coya target at its broader Picha copper-silver project in Peru.
“To be honest, 12 months ago we were thinking of dropping Picha. But first we got a geologist to have a look at its potential and we have since expanded the project area from 20sq km to 200sq km, plus another 60 sq km about 30km away!’’
“We are continually mapping, soil and rock chip sampling and undertaking IP / resistivity surveys to define new targets. We have developed 11 really solid copper-silver targets and are just going through the approvals process to start drilling there,’’ Bauk said.