IM Cannabis: Early Mover Status Drives Growth in Multiple Legal Cannabis Markets

IM Cannabis (CSE:IMCC) Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Oren Shuster believes that entrepreneurs have to trust their “gut instincts” and follow the data to make good business decisions.

Earlier in his career, Shuster had co-founded with Rafael Gabay the Ewave software group, which was thriving with over 1,000 employees. Nevertheless, when the subject of medical cannabis came up during a meeting, Shuster’s instincts nudged him toward exploring its potential. 

“We started the Ewave technology group, and I quickly focused on healthcare technology. I’ve been one of the pioneers in developing web-based electronic medical records, radiology management and telemedicine solutions. But one day, a man talked to me about medical cannabis,” says Shuster. 

“As an entrepreneur, it got my attention, so I spoke with patients and doctors and collected data and feedback on medical cannabis. A light bulb went off in my head; I knew I had to do it – there’s something significant here for patients.”

With decades of experience in technology and medical ventures, Shuster then pivoted to co-found IM Cannabis, or IMC, in Israel.

In 2010, IMC sold its first batch of premium flower. The company is an outlier, and in a very good way, with operations in Israel, Canada and Germany, the world’s three largest federally legal markets.

Where most people see problems, entrepreneurs such as Shuster tend to see opportunity.

“A lot of cannabis companies went to Malta, as it was easy, but we went to Germany. A tough or challenging environment didn’t matter, as we have a strategic approach to Europe – not opportunistic,” says Shuster.

Germany legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2017. Shuster’s early push into the regulated German medical cannabis market has positioned IMC for high-octane growth as Europe’s largest economy presses ahead with plans to legalize cannabis for recreational use. German lawmakers are expected to introduce a draft bill on recreational cannabis legalization by the end of this year, according to media reports. 

“We’ve laid our foundation in Germany, currently one of the largest medical cannabis markets in the world, which is expected to rapidly expand as the German government enacts broad regulatory reform of cannabis use,” says Shuster. 

Undoubtedly, Germany legalizing cannabis for recreational use will be a seismic move for Europe. Tiny Luxembourg and Malta have given the go-ahead for people to grow and consume cannabis, but Germany is the continent’s biggest market.

Currently, IMC operates in Germany through its fully licensed EU-GMP subsidiary Adjupharm GmbH, which has built a logistics centre that allows it to repackage products. With the completion of the logistics centre, IMC has doubled its footprint in Germany to 8,000 square feet, upgraded its production facilities and increased its storage capacity to seven tons of cannabis. 

“IMC has a very clear strategy. What we’ve done is built the supply chain which starts with premium products in Canada going to our state-of-the-art EU-GMP facility in Germany. We are building it as the hub for the EU market,” explains Shuster. 

“We are in the best position to take a leadership position in the massive European market of 750 million people.”

In Germany, the IMC Hindu Kush strain has been a strong seller, helping make Adjupharm GmbH a top 10 cannabis company in the country. Adjupharm has initiated product licence applications to prepare for the launch of new high-quality THC products in the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter of 2023.

“We entered the Canadian market because we needed premium products for Germany and Israel. Our cannabis capacity in Canada is about 15,000 pounds (6,804 kilograms) annually, and we are not yet at full capacity. It’s all premium, indoor-grown Canadian cannabis,” notes Shuster.

“We are growing locally and selling in the Canadian market while supplying our other global markets. We’re also buying premium products from Canadian growers.”

IM Cannabis offers cannabis flower and strain-specific cannabis extracts under the IMC brand, plus dried flower, pre-rolls and pressed hash offerings under the WAGNERS and Highland Grow brands. IMC serves both medical and recreational consumers in Canada. 

IMC has launched a slew of new products in Canada in response to high demand for its WAGNERS and Highland Grow brands, which hold top-three spots in the premium and ultra-premium segments in Ontario, according to sales data from the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). 

The WAGNERS pre-roll catalog at the OCS has expanded with the launch of Tiki Rain, Blue Lime Pie and  TRPY ZLRP pre-rolls. Two new 3.5g dried flower stock keeping units (SKUs) – Tiki Rain and Purple Clementine – were launched in addition to an expansion of the concentrate portfolio, with the introduction of soft black hash and 3.5g soap bar hash. New product rollouts include Frost Bite, Leviathan and Space Jagger, according to the company.

“There are distinct advantages to being in different markets in diverse phases of maturity. The Canadian market is the most mature, fully legalized market with a variety of products. We’ve gained insights from being in an ultra-competitive market and can carry those insights to less mature markets,” says Shuster. 

IMC produces a full suite of distinct strains – Roma, Tel Aviv, London, Dairy Queen, Mango Mint, Lemongrass, Pecan Pie, Mimosa – and at least three different oils. The premium brands are aimed at high-end consumers and benefit IMC with premium pricing and higher margins.

“Most of our products are premium and occupy the highest category, as consumers are willing to pay more for quality and artisanal brands,” says Shuster.

While focusing on revenue growth, Shuster has also rigorously pursued cost and margin efficiencies at IMC. For its second quarter ended June 30, 2022, IMC reported C$23.8 million in revenue, a 114% increase from the same period in 2021.

IMC sold 3,210kg of dried flower during the quarter, at an average selling price of $5.72 per gram, compared to 1,842kg for the comparable quarter in 2021, at an average selling price of $3.92 per gram. 

IMC chalked up the jump in revenue to more medical and recreational cannabis sold at higher average selling prices per gram in Israel and Canada. The company’s gross profit, before fair value adjustments, was $5.6 million during the quarter, compared to $0.6 million in the second quarter of 2021.

“At the end of Q2, we had $5.8 million in the bank. We’ve accelerated along the path to profitability with increased revenue, operational streamlining and a focus on cost reduction,” says Shuster. 

“We are seeing growth and a revenue run rate of almost $100 million annually.

IMC has launched its Canadian WAGNERS brand in Israel and plans to bring new medical cannabis products to the country later this year. 

IMC’s de facto company, Focus Medical Herbs, closed its Sde Avraham cultivation farm in Israel, resulting in cash cost savings of $2.5 million per year. It has also finalized the sale of SublimeCulture and restructured its operations in Canada, yielding $4 million in annual cash savings.

A cautious risk-taker, Shuster has connected the dots of opportunity by building a diversified company with a global cannabis supply chain.

“I take calculated risks. I never put all my eggs in one basket, which is why IMC is geographically diversified with operations in Israel, Canada and Germany,” says Shuster.

“On legalization, we are primed to target new adult-use recreational cannabis markets in Germany and capture substantial market share across Europe.”

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about IM Cannabis at https://imcannabis.com.

Trulieve Cannabis: Staying True to Proven Growth Plans and Core Values Turns Trulieve Into a Cannabis Powerhouse

Trulieve Cannabis (CSE:TRUL) is one of the cannabis industry’s major success stories, with many of its biggest achievements occurring in the four years since it became a publicly traded company. The Trulieve team focused on innovating and leading Florida’s medical cannabis market at first and then expanded into new jurisdictions, the prudence of its strategy confirmed by strong profitability.

Importantly, this seed-to-sale, fully integrated multi-state operator is also making a mark by supporting the communities it calls home and championing cannabis policy reform.

As Trulieve Chief Executive Officer Kim Rivers explains, community and advocacy have been at the heart of the brand since the beginning.

In one example, Gadsden County, a majority-minority community in northern Florida where Trulieve built its first cultivation facility, has seen the company grow to become its leading employer, according to Rivers.

“We’ve had a material impact on the jobless rate there and pride ourselves on the difference we’ve made in that community,” Rivers says. “That story has been repeated in other communities that we’ve gone into, particularly on the cultivation and manufacturing side of the business.”

Since its launch in 2015, Trulieve has expanded quickly, now operating more than 4 million square feet of cultivation and processing capacity, more than 175 dispensaries and with operations in 11 states. The company is the largest medical cannabis operator in Florida, having recently celebrated the sixth anniversary of its first retail sale in the state, and is a top player in its other core markets of Pennsylvania and Arizona.

As it grows, the company has been able to keep its values of community and advocacy at the forefront by entering into new markets with specific characteristics. “Where we chose to make investments and how we chose to go into a community is thoughtful and purposeful,” Rivers explains. “It allows us opportunities to have a deeper connection with the communities, customers and patients that we serve.”

In addition to Trulieve’s internal community-focused initiatives, such as its supplier diversity program, the company works with a range of organizations, including the Epilepsy Foundation and veteran’s and children’s initiatives. Rivers also highlights the support of individuals qualifying for expungement of low-level cannabis offenses.  Among other benefits, expungement provides these individuals the opportunity to remove the conviction from their record, to participate in the industry and to vote to influence future cannabis policy.

A combination of customer focus and financial discipline has allowed Trulieve to thrive where other cannabis companies have not, Rivers notes.

“We made the decision early on to focus on branded products through branded retail, and we’re not shy or hesitant about growing our scale in both supply chain as well as our retail network,” she says. “That gives us the ability to build more durable relationships with the customer and have more control over the customer journey.”

This approach is clearly working, with the company reporting strong Q2 2022 results despite a challenging macroeconomic backdrop, including pressure on the company’s wholesale segment.

Trulieve reported a 49% year-over-year revenue increase in the quarter to US$320.3 million, including a 3% rise in retail revenue to $298.6 million. “We’re proud to see strong customer loyalty continue in the first half of the year,” says Rivers.

The company also posted a 17% EBITDA increase to $110 million and finished the quarter with $181.4 million in cash. 

The success of Trulieve’s approach is also evidenced by its expansion of operations into other markets, including Arizona, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Almost one-third of the company’s retail operations were located outside of Florida as of the end of the second quarter.

While Rivers notes that each new market has unique challenges due to differing regulations, Trulieve has found many aspects of its Florida business model to be transferrable, including operating and manufacturing procedures and market analysis.

According to Rivers, the company has been thoughtful in terms of how it can share resources across its broader platform and gain efficiencies where possible, citing the company’s nutrient program as an example.

Currently, the company is unable to transport cannabis products across state lines, but it can transport nutrients, and its nutrient blends are used across all of its sites in the US. “We also do a good bit of our research, development and innovation work in Florida because we have the ability to do that at scale,” she says.

Rivers also points to the company’s team as a key strategic advantage. “We have individuals who have operated within our Florida market and been a meaningful part of our scaling of operations from when we were initially three stores to now more than 100 stores in the state,” says Rivers. “Being able to take these lessons and apply learnings across different markets has been invaluable.”

For Trulieve, the year 2022 is about organic growth, as more states enhance their medical cannabis programs and pivot toward recreational use. Rivers says the company has focused on its branded products and branded retail while optimizing the portfolio of Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation, which the company acquired in a $2.1 billion all-stock deal in October 2021. 

As part of that effort, Trulieve divested non-core assets and operations, one recent example being the decision to discontinue wholesale operations in Nevada. 

“Sometimes it’s just as important what you don’t do as what you do,” Rivers says. “The goal is to enter 2023 as a stronger company positioned for the opportunities we see ahead of us.”

Despite recent remarks by political leaders in support of cannabis policy to cover state banking or criminal justice, Rivers notes that progress around cannabis reform on a federal level has been slow.

However, she remains hopeful that the encouraging discussions will morph into actual policy. “It’s very apparent that this is a popular issue due to the amount of conversation that it is getting before the midterm elections,” says Rivers.

One particularly important jurisdiction for Trulieve going forward is the southeast US. Rivers says the company has been “very bullish” on this region, citing recreational cannabis initiatives in Maryland as just one reason.

Another key area for growth is recreational cannabis opportunities in the company’s home state of Florida, which already has an 800,000-patient-strong medical cannabis market.

Trulieve backs the Smart and Safe Florida Act, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the recreational use of cannabis by people aged 21 or older in Florida. The company is hoping it will appear on Florida’s November 2024 ballot. Trulieve has contributed $5 million to help get the proposed amendment on the ballot.

“That will be a massive catalyst for our industry and certainly for our business, with 21 million residents in Florida and up to 130 million tourists visiting the state a year,” Rivers concludes. “We think our strategy will continue to serve us well in emerging markets as they develop but certainly also as the landscape on the federal side transforms.”

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Trulieve Cannabis at www.trulieve.com

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Cannabis Issue – Now Live!

Welcome to the latest issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of different industries.

Since launching just under a decade ago, the agility of the commercial cannabis industry has been nothing short of remarkable. As the global leader in publicly-listed cannabis securities, the Canadian Securities Exchange is acutely aware of just how nimble the various stakeholders in the industry have had to be in the face of various multifaceted challenges. 

In this issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, we feature executives from six of the most influential CSE-listed cannabis companies, as well as industry experts, who provide their perspectives on how the cannabis industry can maneuver through the current market conditions and where they see the industry going.

The CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Check out the Cannabis Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine here:

 

Spotlight on Darcy Krohman

Your education and experience are at a unique intersection of finance and mining. What made you decide to pursue this career trajectory?

During my undergrad, I completed several business courses which set me on a path to pursue the Chartered Accountant program, articling with KPMG. My intent was always to integrate finance and mining, as, from my perspective, the subject matter and information derived from these two disciplines provide the “nuts and bolts” of the operations of any mining or mineral exploration company.

Where did your career in mining start?

My first jobs in the mining space were with the UBC working for a PhD student and mapping a large region near the Mascot Gold Mine in the Similkameen Valley of southern BC, followed by summers working for BHP-Utah Mines in the Coastal Mountains of BC and on Vancouver Island at their Island Copper Mine.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during your time at the CSE?

The importance of patience and flexibility while working with issuers to achieve their objectives. Many junior companies do not have the in-house expertise or resources to address many of the complex issues to get their companies and mineral projects past the exchange listing “finish line.” EThe services the CSE provides for listing and ongoing continuous disclosure processes are integral to obtaining a positive outcome for the company, investors and the CSE.

What is the most important thing mining companies need to consider when going public?

The single most important aspect of any company, public or private, is having the right people doing the right functions. The mining industry is littered with examples of good projects significantly impaired by management with the wrong skill sets. Mining companies, like all companies who decide to go public, must also realize that the rules of the game change once you decide to go public. The assets of the company are no longer solely for the benefit of the directors, officers, management and insiders, and there is an ongoing obligation to account for those assets.

From your perspective, what are some challenges that public mining companies are currently facing?

In a complex industry like mining, there are numerous challenges faced by public companies. Some of these include identifying resources, dealing with longer lead times, developing new technology, finding qualified labour, working in remote and complicated jurisdictions, and complying with corporate social responsibility to stakeholders, Indigenous peoples, and the environment.

What are some misconceptions about mining you think people should know?

Probably the amount of environmental damage a mine will have if developed responsibly. To maintain our current standard of living, metals have to be produced, and environmental impact and surface disturbance will, unfortunately, occur. However, that impact can be mitigated by using evolving technologies, completing a cost-benefit analysis at each stage, and complying with professional and industry standards. Canada has high environmental standards, and I believe the export of these standards will help improve the acceptance of mining as a sustainable industry worldwide.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Québec Nickel: High grade at the core of a business plan to supply vital metals to the clean energy sector

Experienced executive David Patterson wanted to be ahead of the nickel curve when he formed a new Québec-focused company in September 2020, foreseeing growing demand for metal in the clean energy sector.

Patterson moved quickly, approaching Glenn Mullan, Chief Executive Officer of Val-d’Or Mining, ultimately leading to then-private Québec Nickel buying what is now the company’s 15,000-plus hectare Ducros nickel, copper and PGE project from Val-d’Or Mining for 3,589,341 special warrants.

In July 2021, Québec Nickel (CSE:QNI) listed its shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange, and in November of the same year raised approximately $7.5 million. 

At Ducros, the company is embarking on an extensive exploration program pursuing high-grade mineralization. Currently underway are airborne and ground surveys as well as an aggressive 20,000 metre, multi-phase drill program encompassing the 2022 exploration season. 

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine caught up with Patterson, Québec Nickel’s Chief Executive Officer, recently to learn more about the company’s plans.

Québec Nickel is exploring for high-grade nickel in the Abitibi, yet the area is better known for its many gold and VMS deposits, with only low-grade nickel occurrences. Talk to us more about your vision.

We believe that our Ducros property has all the necessary features to produce a high-grade nickel deposit. On our property we see geologic structures in an area with high volumes of mafic and ultramafic rocks. This unique combination of geological setting and geology give the Ducros the potential to host an economic nickel ore body. 

In a broader sense, what’s the difference between higher and lower grades in nickel?

All things being equal, a high-grade deposit will have a smaller ecological footprint and can better withstand volatile metal prices. A low-grade deposit may be economic at the current metal price, but could not sustain an operation if prices drop significantly.

How is your current drilling and exploration program going? What have you discovered so far, and what do you hope to achieve?

The COVID variant Omicron slowed our exploration activity at the start of 2022. However, in early February we were able to begin both our airborne VTEM survey as well as Phase I drilling on the Ducros. Our most recent press release has a detailed description of the rock types we have encountered. We will need to wait for assays for the current holes, and we anticipate having them in the next month or so.

Can you tell me more about the Ducros project and why you are excited by it?

We believe we have a large project area that has seen very limited exploration activity. Previous work by other independent operators on small portions of the property has provided our technical team with evidence that the area has a significant volume of mafic and ultramafic rocks. This is a similar geological setting for most of the magmatic sulphide nickel discoveries in the last 100 years.  

In addition, limited drill programs conducted in 1987 and 2008 show that there are nickel occurrences in these rock types. Our 2020-2021 exploration program of geological mapping, geochemical sampling and geophysical surveys has given us confidence that we are in the right geological setting. Our 43-101 Technical Report from 2021 discloses channel and grab samples from the Fortin showing outcrops that contain over 2% copper and 0.5% nickel with elevated platinum and palladium values.

Can you say more about your executive team, their background, and what you bring to the company as CEO? 

On our board of directors, we have people with tremendous nickel exploration experience as well as expertise in finance and accounting.

Our technical team has considerable experience in nickel exploration, with both brownfield and greenfield discoveries that have gone into production.  

As for me, I have helped finance large nickel exploration projects in Canada over the last 25 years. I believe the team that we have brought to Québec Nickel can find an economic ore body and has the experience to be able to develop the project through to production. 

How would you sum up the company’s opportunity to a potential investor?

I believe that we are in the early stages of a metal super cycle, that we have chosen the right metal given this super cycle and we have the right people to guide the successful development of the company.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Québec Nickel at https://quebecnickel.com/.

International Battery Metals: Technology to support clean, consistent lithium supply takes a big leap forward

Technological breakthroughs are where the big money is often made in the stock market, and International Battery Metals (CSE:IBAT) is a perfect example. As it entered the fourth quarter of 2020, the company’s shares could be picked up for around $0.10. More recently, those same shares have changed hands as high as $7.40.

It is a success story based on solutions in an industry crying out for them, one where inefficiency is clashing with a generational shift in consumption to create high prices and serious concerns about future supply shortages. Given the move toward greener economies, not to mention regional resource security, it might not come as a surprise that lithium is the prized product we are talking about.

International Battery Metals Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Burba can truly be described as a technology pioneer in the lithium extraction industry. Now at the helm of his own company, the pace of his achievements is only picking up momentum.

Dr. Burba spoke with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine in late March about the company’s technology and how he sees it contributing to a better macro climate for the lithium industry, and the global environment, in the years ahead.

We will explore your technology and the company’s success in a moment, but can you begin with your view on the state of lithium supply and demand and how it shapes your strategy?

I’ll start off by saying that I think the lithium industry today is where the oil and gas industry was in about 1910. There are strong analogies.

If you go back to what was happening in the early 20th century, people did not really know much about how to get oil and gas out of the ground successfully. The process was very dirty. Pollution was ignored. It was just a nasty process. Of course, that has improved in the decades since.

The lithium industry is not that different. There are two major supplies of lithium today. There is hard rock mining, which is spodumene. Basically, companies are mining this in a variety of places and sending it to China for processing.

Then there is lithium extraction from brines, and you either have solar evaporation, which is very damaging, or you have FMC’s process, which I invented when I worked for FMC. That approach is better but still has drawbacks.

The industry has old processes that are not as efficient as they need to be, and significant issues on top of that with environmental damage. That is the backdrop to where we are. We have a tremendous shortage looming over us, and that is why prices are so high for lithium right now.

If the world continues producing lithium the way it does, the shortages are going to get worse. It will negatively impact the number of vehicles that can be produced and the number of batteries that can be produced. People will start using less efficient batteries and that is not going to be good for the transition we hope to see.

Can you quantify industry efficiency for us?

To give you a few examples, recovery rates for these processes are not very high. If you look at solar evaporation in Chile, they only recover about 20% to 30% of the lithium and the rest is wasted on the desert floor. FMC’s process recovers around 40% to 45% of the lithium.

Lithium is the only industry I’m aware of that tolerates such abysmal recovery rates. Most industries would be going crazy if they were wasting over 50% of their desired product.

So, these are the burdens that this industry is bearing right now. And the answer is not going to come from big established companies. They are simply not capable of, or not interested in, radically changing the industry so that it becomes efficient and responsive to the needs of the world.

In a recent press release, Universidad de Santiago de Chile stated that your technology is the “only one capable of separating lithium without leaving a significant impact on the environment.” Walk us through what differentiates your approach.

When you look at lithium extraction, one hears a lot about direct lithium extraction (DLE), and many start-up companies preach that as if it’s some new thing. The DLE concept actually began at Dow Chemical in the late 1970s and the 1980s, so that idea has been around for a long time.

Basically, it is about having a technology that can selectively pull lithium from the brine and let everything else go by. We are using a proven form of direct lithium extraction that is based on an absorbent that a friend of mine and I invented back in the 1990s. We have improved it since then, but it was groundbreaking at the time.

This material will selectively recover lithium from a saturated brine. And the selectivity is astronomically high.

The reason that matters is because there is not that much lithium in even the best resources. In that Atacama brine that everybody loves, you have about 2,000 parts per million lithium. If you look at Alberta, you are talking about 50 to 80 parts per million.

The lithium concentrations are low and you have to have something that will pick up the lithium and leave behind everything else.

We have improved our process so that – and we still have to prove this – but we are expecting to see recovery rates substantially higher than 60%. And we are hoping for recovery rates in the range of 90% to 95%.

The second thing is we intend to inject the brine back into the formation rather than putting it onto the ground and letting it evaporate. The problem with letting it evaporate is that you create salt flats all over the place, and salt is very detrimental to ecology.

The third thing, and perhaps the most important for jurisdictions such as Chile, is that our technology enables us to recover vast amounts of water. We will be recycling about 98% of our process water. In the Atacama, for example, they don’t recycle any water with solar evaporation.

What about the equipment itself? Are there positive environmental aspects to your physical footprint at a project?

We have been able to shrink the size of the processing equipment and that has allowed us to modularize and develop a mobile plant concept. We can put modular equipment in place, assemble it, turn it on and begin processing lithium in a short period of time.

When we are done, we pick up the equipment and eventually you won’t be able to tell that we were ever there. We can build one of these plants in months, rather than years.  

I will add that our omnibus patent for this mobile and modular process has been issued.

What is the status in terms of commercialization? And what is the commercialization plan?

I’m glad you brought that up, because if we can’t make money, we can’t do a good job on the environment. We have two contracts with a company called Scorcia Minerals. They have substantial resources and we have a contract with them in Chile and Argentina providing exclusive rights to use our equipment there.

Our arrangement sees us receive a royalty on final sale of the product. They buy the equipment from us on a cost-plus basis, we operate on a cost-plus basis, and we own 10% of each project.

We are focused on North America right now and I would say that in the next two years we intend to have one of our units extracting lithium in the United States. We also intend to build a lithium carbonate hydroxide facility in the United States so that we have a North American base for significant lithium production.

Once we are established in North America, we are also open to Africa, Europe and other places where they have good resources.

Give us a look at your future and where the industry is going. How big do you think you can get and how does your company maintain a leadership position?

We have passed a tipping point from the standpoint of transportation and electrification. In the first question, I made the analogy to the oil industry a hundred years ago. I think lithium is going to see a lot of the same drive that oil did.

Some people will ask why not sodium, or why not potassium? It comes down to basic chemistry. Lithium is the best. Its transport numbers are the fastest, which means it will zip across a cell very rapidly, and go into crystals very rapidly, and it has a very high half-cell potential. So, when you look at this, all of it bodes well for powerful, high-capacity batteries. It is not likely we are going to find a battery chemistry that works better than lithium.

And then how do we remain relevant? We have to do every one of our projects in a credible and honest way and we have to be successful in everything that we say. We are not into predicting. We want to do it and then explain what we’ve done. Our accomplishments need to be real and measurable. That is the kind of thing that serious investors like.

Anything we have missed?

Right now, the biggest driver of success in the industry is time to market. We have exceedingly high prices. If I can start today and have a plant operating in 18 months, as opposed to six years, I have already won the game. That is where the mobile and modular extraction comes into play. We can get in rapidly, and we can expand a facility rapidly. It is like LEGO – you just plug it in.

I’d also point out that high recovery rates and things of that nature flow through to low operating costs. And something we have not talked about is that capital costs for our modular system are substantially lower than for traditional plants. We don’t have to put in foundations or construct big buildings. We don’t have a cast of thousands to support 24 hours a day. This makes it much easier to finance a plant and that makes it easier for us to expand. These are the reasons I am very optimistic about our future.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about International Battery Metals at https://www.ibatterymetals.com/.

Element79 Gold

Mineral exploration companies rarely talk about the potential for generating cash flow because it simply is not part of the vision. For Element79 Gold (CSE:ELEM), however, it is a key aspect of the path to success, and the company is currently putting the finishing touches on a portfolio designed to achieve it in the near term.

Element79’s flagship is the Maverick Springs Project in Nevada and it has a number of other properties along the state’s Battle Mountain trend as well. It also has projects in British Columbia and Ontario, and recently moved to acquire two high-grade Peruvian gold projects. 

Upon completing the Peruvian acquisitions, Element79 Gold will have a diversified portfolio of assets including greenfield, advanced 43-101 inferred resource stage, and historic high-grade past-producing mines that have the potential to become producers again.

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine sat down with Element79 Gold Chief Executive Officer James Tworek in late March to find out more.

Element79 recently completed a 43-101-compliant, pit-constrained mineral resource estimate for the Maverick Springs project in Nevada. What did it tell you?

It gave us an opportunity to gather all the data that had been amassed from previous owners of this property and to take the historical resource and bring it up to modern standards. In doing that, we were able to incorporate an additional 59 drill holes of data, which had been completed after the historical reports.

It also gave us the opportunity to refresh our perspective on the project. As it was previously conceived only as a prospective underground mine, arguably there was a lot that was being missed. By looking at it from the perspective of a pit-constrained model, we can now look at the strip ratio of all of the strata above the hard rock and begin to incorporate those economics.     

Right now, the strip ratio is about 5:1, and going forward our plans include doing some infill drilling to prove up value and to enhance our understanding of the project’s metallurgy, with the intent of getting better yields from higher strata and enhancing overall project economics.

Aside from Maverick Springs, Element79 has a portfolio of 15 properties in Nevada which you are assessing for further exploration, potential sale or spin-out. Which is most likely? 

Because it is such a diverse portfolio, we have stratified them into what we’ll call the “best hits” in terms of what we will likely keep ourselves and focus on to unlock value. I would argue that Element79’s market capitalization is very much weighted on the value provided by our 3.71 million ounces of gold equivalent and the potential of developing Maverick Springs. Little of the rest of the portfolio is being accounted for today.

Some of these are well-explored properties, with 160-plus drill holes on them, but they don’t have any form of modern report. So, this is a great opportunity for us to revisit data, put in some work on the properties and generate modern reports on them with the intent of unlocking the value of the resources onto our balance sheet.

In addition to raising capital for the projects, we have been speaking with potential partners that might want minority joint ventures on specific properties. We are looking at all these aspects, and now that we’ve reached our current strategic M&A plateau we’re confident in where we’re going with developing our portfolio.

Beyond Nevada, you are in the process of acquiring the Snowbird project in British Columbia and have an option on another project in the famous Timmins mining camp in Ontario. What can you tell us about these? 

The Timmins project, called the Dale Property, has proximity to IAMGold’s Cote gold mine, where production is expected by mid-2023. Being on the same greenstone belt, about 60 kilometres away, there is a great opportunity to show there’s something worth pursuing.

That said, Dale is at a very early stage, so we have to balance that exploration requirement with developing our other more advanced projects at the same time.  

With the Snowbird project, where we have already funded about 3,000 metres of drilling, we intend to close the purchase shortly. The catch to the transaction was that the exploration permit ended on December 31, 2021, and the vendors, Plutus Gold, had a contractual commitment to invest $1 million in exploration by June 30, 2022.

Exploration permits are currently taking six months or more to obtain, so having to wait for it could have jeopardized the acquisition in the immediate term. We’ve been told that Plutus is just getting assays trickling in, and a 43-101 report on the project is underway. We should have that information in the first part of the second quarter.

Element79 recently signed a Letter of Intent to acquire some past-producing gold mines in Peru. What do these offer? 

We have an LOI signed and we’re going through a 90-day due diligence process prior to closing. These assets were previously producing but were shuttered due to low prices in the early 2000s. But there was prolific production out of them. The Lucero asset was producing in the range of 19 grams per ton gold equivalent.

The beauty of working in Peru is that mining is deeply rooted in the culture and it’s a cornerstone of the economy. Also, the permitting process is streamlined compared to many jurisdictions.

There are existing permits in place to extract 350 tons per day of ore. And with the Lucero asset, where the two permits are in place, there is regional infrastructure. The closest mill is only running at about 60% capacity and around 20 days a month, so there’s potential for us to start generating cash flow in the near term.

The company has said its portfolio offers a pathway to revenue. What do you think is the timeline?

Post-acquisition of the Peruvian portfolio, which should be closing at the latest by mid-June of this year, we plan to take the time to make sure that we have adequate basic exploration, including an initial 43-101 resource for both former mines to get them operating again. We feel quite confident that within 18 months we should be in production at Lucero.

That can help offset our day-to-day operating costs, and even fund some exploratory work. If we want to move by leaps and bounds, we are speaking to different financing parties, with debt financing a topic. With cash flow, we can justify borrowing to develop both the Peruvian assets as well as our flagship and Nevada portfolio that much faster.  

What should investors in Element79 expect in the medium term? 

We’re ratcheting up very quickly from a lean start-up to a fully functioning operational mining company on a global basis. We’ve just brought on another world-class teammate, Mr. Kim Kirkland as our VP of Global Exploration and are engaging further consultancies and country managers for specific assets.

The pending newsreel includes updates as we close on Snowbird and eventually on the Peruvian assets. We’re also actively raising capital, as well as progressing long-term sustainability initiatives while developing our portfolio. 

Bringing on cash flow is a key driver of our corporate strategy. There are a lot of junior miners that aren’t able to achieve this goal based on their assets or strategy. We intend to be doing that within 18 months of acquiring the Peruvian portfolio.  

My personal goal was to ensure that this company would have access to cash flow within 24 months of our IPO. We seem to be on that trajectory right now, with an amazing team of people and key assets to get us there.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Element79 Gold at https://www.element79.gold/.

Spotlight on Theresa Nyabeze

Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee Co-Chair Theresa Nyabeze talks about advocating for diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the mining industry and beyond.

What initially drew you to STEM?

A curiosity about how things worked. I grew up with very curious siblings who were always experimenting with multiple endeavours growing up, like raising silkworms, beekeeping and so on.

How did your career in mining begin?

By accident! In school, I learned that while I enjoyed math and sciences, I hated biology. I needed a program free from human anatomy, and as a younger-than-usual first-year student, I was hesitant to leave my home of Sudbury, Ontario where I lived since I was 12 – so, the mining program at Laurentian University it was! 

Speaking personally, why do you believe diversity and inclusion are important?

I just think it’s the absolute most common-sense lever in everything I do. When I have volunteered in groups or worked in teams, the more people felt understood and included, the more creative they became and the more they seemed to thrive within and outside my engagement with them. From that point of view, I think it’s critical.

As Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committe Co-Chair at CIM, what are some of the challenges you’ve seen or encountered when it comes to D&I in the mining industry?

I think connecting our stories and learning, growing and collaborating continues to be a challenge. I see so many well-intentioned initiatives and driven individuals. We need to break out of tackling challenges in silos.

In your opinion, what is the current state of diversity and inclusion in mining? How does it differ from when you began your career?

The mining industry is on an impressive growth curve, and we are making large strides in embracing D&I. Why I say that is because we are leaders in safety; taking care of the whole ecosystem is something that comes naturally. As we harness this similarity, we are making progress. Look around at mining companies: You will see a major effort to really embrace the learnings from society. There are signs and symbols that progress is underway to diversify workforces, as well as increased training and awareness-raising of key topics.

What efforts can people make to better foster inclusivity?

Investy time in the concept of “unlearning,” and become curious about your teammates and what belonging means to them. This is at a personal, team, and company level.

What do you feel is most important for people to know about diversity and inclusion?

We all need it – regardless of our appearance. Think about your experiences when you were in school until this day; we all thrive when we have a friendship group or people who “get” us. The same sense of belonging you need is what everyone else seeks. There is room for everyone to participate in this movement. Consider this your invitation if you need one! 

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Living out my values and being recognized for my radical authenticity.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Ameriwest Lithium: Unlocking value in a world shifting toward lithium-based energy solutions

Nevada is a hot spot for lithium exploration: Clayton Valley in particular is a mature, well-known, lithium-rich area that includes the only production in the United States, at Albemarle’s Silver Peak lithium mine.

Throughout the state, major players are scouting for the sought-after metal as demand soars due to the shift to green energy solutions powered by lithium-based batteries. The US government has also announced measures to increase domestic production of the metals and minerals that are used in advanced technologies, in order to reduce reliance on foreign suppliers.   

Ameriwest Lithium (CSE:AWLI) is a new, up-and-coming player in the lithium space in Nevada.  It has put together three highly promising early-stage lithium properties in that state and a fourth one in Arizona.  And they are in handy locations as well.  Railroad Valley is the most advanced property and is located about 260 kilometres east-northeast of Clayton Valley.  Edwards Creek Valley is located 225 kilometres west of Reno.  Deer Musk East is in Clayton Valley.  Thompson Valley is 190 kilometres north of Phoenix.

“We made the decision to move into the lithium space in March of 2021, so it’s been just more than a year since we made the transition,” says Watkinson. “Certainly, we see lithium as being one of the hottest metals to look for from an exploration point of view and to generate investor interest. Demand is increasing as we move to electric vehicles, and then there is the need for battery storage as we move to solar and wind energy. So, lithium is going to be something that increases in value over time. It’s a great opportunity for us as a company and for investors to get involved in the lithium area.”

With a number of other explorers also looking for the next big lithium find in Nevada, Watkinson says the technical team that Ameriwest has put together is an important factor, allowing it to grow and acquire what it believes are very good quality assets. The combined technical team has over 170 years of experience in the mining industry.

“There is certainly risk in an exploration company because, especially with a brine target, you can do surface sampling, but that doesn’t really help you to identify a brine target that might be 2,000 feet below surface,” he adds. “Our exploration strategy, using geophysics the way we have, helps set us apart. I don’t see other junior mining companies necessarily taking the same technical approach to define targets. The geologists we have put together and the management team has the ability to go out and find high-quality projects and also to understand and develop the resources on those projects.” 

Once the company has a clearly defined resource, Watkinson says it will augment the technical team with other specialists like metallurgists. However, he adds that it is probably up to two years before it gets to that point.

Ameriwest chose Nevada as its starting point of the focus on lithium, acquiring a series of properties, all of which contain lithium brine targets.  Railroad Valley, Ameriwest’s most advanced project, has brine targets identified by geophysics in preparation for drilling.  

In neighbouring Arizona, Ameriwest’s latest acquisition, Thompson Valley, is a prospective lithium sedimentary deposit with surface or near-surface exposure of lithium-bearing clays that were sampled in the early 1960s.  Geologic mapping is complete, which will be followed by permitting to allow surface sampling and drilling.

“We are trying to get a mix of brine, sedimentary, and, if we can find a hard rock deposit, we would look at that too,” Watkinson says. “While there are technical and environmental challenges when it comes to processing and recovering lithium from various deposit types, the lithium industry is really developing. The technology for processing is being developed almost on a month-by-month basis to handle different types of deposits.”

While the Ameriwest portfolio is shaping up nicely, Watkinson hastens to point out that the projects are all early in nature.  While Albemarle and its predecessor companies have been operating Silver Peak in Clayton Valley since the 1960s, exploration for new lithium properties in the US is essentially a recent phenomenon. With the movement to electric vehicles and alternative energy sources, there is a race to develop new operating mines. 

“Exploration success at any one of these properties could change the fate of the company if we’re successful in discovering significant lithium targets,” says Watkinson. 

Ameriwest’s approach to exploration for lithium brine has been to use geophysics. It typically undertakes a gravity geophysics survey that identifies targets in arid valleys where brine may have accumulated and become concentrated over millions of years. Magnetotelluric geophysics looks at the resistivity (or conversely the conductivity) of the subsurface, which helps indicate the potential for a concentrated brine.

Further seismic analysis helps identify structures such as faults, horsts and grabens that might be subsurface.  This data is then modelled and used to locate drill holes to target conductive brine targets that might host a lithium-bearing reservoir.  The modelling is also used to help target drilling to avoid structures like faults below the surface that might be encountered.

Geophysics also helps in perfecting the claim package staked or acquired by the company. Following acquisition, a gravity survey at Railroad Valley was completed and the claim boundaries have been expanded based on the results. Additional claims were also acquired from American Battery Technology Company to the north, resulting in 780 contiguous claims over 15,300 acres.  A similar targeting approach was used at Edwards Creek Valley where the company has 829 claims totalling about 22,200 acres.

Potential brine targets have already been identified at Railroad Valley and after analysing the geophysical data it has collected, the company plans to drill its first hole later this year targeting a reservoir that potentially hosts lithium brine.  The timing for drilling will be subject to permitting and availability of drilling equipment.

“The geophysics shows us the target, but the drill hole will be proof of concept that it’s there,” Watkinson says. “There’s permitting that will be done for the initial drilling; that’s relatively simple but when we get to developing resources, the permitting becomes more complicated. In the United States, there’s certainly a movement by the government to push the development of critical metals like lithium, but the challenge is moving through the permitting process, and it takes time. So, it’ll take several years to develop our deposit.”

It also takes capital, and Watkinson says Ameriwest has sufficient funds for the initial steps it is taking to identify potential brine targets. Once it reaches the development stages, it will have to raise additional funds or find joint venture partners with deeper pockets, such as one or more of the mining majors.

“We’ll evaluate all those different opportunities,” he says. “Certainly, we have the ability to push the project through and develop it into production if we decide to go that route. But we also would like to take advantage of relationships with senior partners on advanced projects and have them come in and develop. They typically have a lot more expertise in processing and can fund larger capital projects.”

While Albemarle has extracted lithium at its Silver Peak mine by pumping brine and using evaporation ponds to concentrate the lithium before processing, Watkinson says that method is falling out of favour from an environmental perspective due to the amount of water it uses.  New technologies being developed are aimed at pumping fluid back into the aquifer after the lithium has been removed.

Ameriwest is not getting ahead of itself, says Watkinson. For now, the goal is to develop resources. Once those are established, the company will make a decision on the direction it takes as either a lithium producer, a project generator, or to seek out major companies to form joint ventures with.  

“As we develop resources there will be a transition the company goes through,” he says. “Our goal right now is to delineate resources on our properties and try to add value by doing that in the short term.  We have put together a high-quality technical team, acquired what we believe are high quality properties, and are minimizing exploration risk by developing multiple assets.  We have laid the foundation for long-term success with the goal of becoming a major lithium exploration and development company.”

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Ameriwest Lithium at https://ameriwestlithium.com/.

American Pacific Mining: High-grade projects in premier US jurisdictions position this explorer to make the most of gold’s newfound momentum

For American Pacific Mining (CSE:USGD) Chief Executive Officer Warwick Smith, forming a close partnership with the world’s second-largest mining company speaks volumes about the junior explorer’s growth and investment potential.

Smith’s team completed a transaction in 2020 that can in every way be described as a company-maker, when it acquired the past-producing Madison Copper Gold project in Montana. Madison is being explored under a joint venture with Kennecott Exploration, which is part of the Rio Tinto Group. 

“It’s huge validation for the project,” Smith says. “The majors these days are using the juniors as their exploration arms. They’re not funding their own exploration. They’re looking to the American Pacifics of the world, going, ‘Hey, these guys are onto something. Let’s fund them.’”

Through an earn-in agreement already in place at the time of acquisition, Rio Tinto can spend up to US$30 million for 70% of Madison. That’s something that Smith and President Eric Saderholm, a boots-on-the-ground geologist and veteran mining executive, never imagined would happen on their first attempt to purchase the project.

“We went to look at Madison in 2016. We really liked it and wanted to buy it,” Smith says, noting that between 2008 and 2012 the project produced 2.7 million pounds of copper and 7,570 ounces of gold at high grades.

“But before we got a chance to negotiate on it, another group bought the asset. They did a great job. They came in and drilled into the porphyry, which was a big deal and that got Rio Tinto excited,” he explains.

In 2021, Kennecott completed US$2.7 million in exploration, which included 10 diamond drill holes totaling 3,598 metres, targeting extensions to the project’s skarns and jasperoids. The drilling identified new zones of skarn-hosted massive sulphides, underscoring the potential for bonanza-style gold mineralization.

Highlights from the drill program include one hole which returned 14.44 grams per ton gold and 0.11% copper over 6.53 metres, including 39.57 grams per ton gold and 0.28% copper over 2.35 metres. The next step for Kennecott is to create a comprehensive 3D model of Madison’s skarn environment to direct the next drilling phase.

But what makes the deal, which cost American Pacific C$2.4 million, even sweeter is that it has been highlighted by S&P Global Platts, the leading independent provider of information and benchmark prices for the commodities and energy markets.

American Pacific was selected for 2021 as one of four finalists in the S&P Global Platts Global Metals Awards program in the Deal of the Year category. Even though his company lost out to winner Cleveland-Cliffs, Smith said American Pacific could not have asked for better recognition than being put in the spotlight with some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world.

“It was a significant nod of approval on what we think can be a world-class asset with world-class service in a smaller company,” he says.

Smith notes that the value of the company has grown significantly, making it one of the top percentage gainers among gold mining stocks on the Canadian Securities Exchange in 2021.

The CSE has helped us get to that point and it is the right exchange for us to list on and it’s been the right exchange to grow on,” Smith explains. “It’s been great for the company and has been great for shareholders as well.”

American Pacific’s profile is further bolstered by the presence of former hedge fund manager Michael Gentile. He is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 19.9% stake.

Also in the company’s project portfolio are two highly prospective high-grade assets: the Tuscarora gold project and the Gooseberry gold and silver project, both located in Nevada, a famously mining-friendly state.

American Pacific has two other assets in Nevada as well: South Florida and Red Hill. Smith says the company plans to partner up via joint ventures to further the projects.

At Tuscarora, near the town of Elko, Smith says the company is spending C$5 million on a 70-hole drill program. The 4,272 acre project consists of numerous high-grade gold vein targets, including the Grand Prize Target, from which the company reported high-grade samples of 21,032 grams per ton gold and 38,820 grams per ton silver in 2021.

“We’re the first company to ever own it all, which is a big deal. We’re focused there,” Smith says. “We think it’s got the opportunity to be big.”

As for Gooseberry, the company is planning sampling programs and eventual drilling of parallel vein targets within a low sulphidation, epithermal vein system. The mine sits close to the historic Comstock Mining District outside Reno, where discovered lodes and veins led to the production of 8.6 million ounces of gold and 192 million ounces of silver.

“The mine hasn’t been touched since 1991 when it was last in production. We staked it. It was available and cost us C$20,000 to pick it up,” Smith says. “We spent about a million and a half dollars there. We’re up there working again doing the sampling.”

However, Smith explains that it may be time for American Pacific to move beyond acquiring exploration targets as he, Saderholm and the rest of the management team mull growing the company by taking advantage of merger and acquisition opportunities.

“It gives us a chance to think big. I’m not interested in purchasing another exploration project,” he says. “If I were to do something on the M&A side, I’d want to double the size of the company overnight. That’s the type of M&A that we’re looking to do.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2022, Smith says the company is focusing its energy, and decidedly healthy treasury, on developing Madison, Tuscarora and Gooseberry.

“All three of those have the opportunity to be large multi-million-ounce deposits that we feel that we can grow to meet the desire of majors,” says Smith.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about American Pacific Mining at https://americanpacific.ca/.