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Temas Resources: Financial and environmental benefits are some of the good things that come from thinking outside the box

At first glance, Temas Resources (CSE:TMAS) is an explorer with two key mineral assets: a titanium project in Quebec and the intent to acquire a boron property in Serbia. As these commodities are used to make products such as paint, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals, Temas is positioned as a potential supplier to the specialty chemicals sector.

A deal was announced by the company in late January of this year that adds an exciting new strategic dimension. With its acquisition of a large stake in ORF Technologies, Temas will have access to patented, cost-efficient and eco-friendly processes for extracting, separating and recovering nickel, iron, gold and titanium dioxide.

Expanding the number of angles to the Temas story suits Chief Executive Officer Michael Dehn just fine. The new CEO has been involved in the titanium industry for years but honed his early skills in the gold sector in Red Lake with Rob McEwen and Goldcorp.

“I see us becoming a mining technology or mineral processing company,” Dehn tells Public Entrepreneur.

The key here is how all of the assets work together. The company’s flagship La Blache project is a 2,653-hectare property approximately 100 kilometres north of the community of Baie-Comeau, Quebec. It is home to the Farrell-Taylor magnetite-ilmenite lens, where consistent iron, titanium and vanadium grades are found across the entire length of the complex.

Preliminary metallurgical testing of oxide mineralization indicated 90% recovery of iron and 95% recovery of vanadium into a final high-purity product. A titanium dioxide product suitable for further processing to pigment-grade titanium dioxide was fully recovered in testing.

La Blache’s value lies not only in the ground but also in its proximity to key end users in North America. Temas is looking at processing in Ohio, which is close to at least five major US paint producers. What’s more, production at La Blache could be powered by tapping into the area’s electrical grid, making it a greener option than alternatives reliant on diesel.

There are other ways in which the project is green as well, as Dehn describes. “Your mine is wherever the rocks are. In our case, about 65% of the recovered rock goes into a finished product. We’re using around 65% of the rock to recover iron, vanadium and titanium.”

Shortly after Dehn joined Temas in November 2020, the company formed a strategic partnership with Erin Ventures to develop the Piskanja borate project in Serbia. Piskanja has an indicated mineral resource of 7.8 million tonnes averaging 31% boron oxide and an inferred resource of 3.4 million tonnes averaging 29% boron oxide. The project will be the only production of borates on the European continent, according to Temas.

Boron is primarily used in chemical compounds, with around half of all boron used as an additive in fibreglass for insulation and structural materials. The next leading use is in polymers and ceramics in high-strength, lightweight structural and refractory materials.

For Temas, adding Piskanja to its portfolio didn’t trigger much debate. “It’s such an obvious project,” says Dehn. “We have reasonable capital expectations to get to production in a country with very strong mining roots. The European Union and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are trying to encourage Serbia to phase out coal mining, which means there is going to be a locally skilled workforce that will be looking for another opportunity.”

Under the terms of the agreement with Erin Ventures, Temas will commit to spending a total of €10.5 million toward the development of Piskanja within a three-year period. Erin will remain operator on the project until Temas has exercised the option to earn a 50% interest in its subsidiary, Balkan Gold, at which point Temas will become operator of Piskanja. The two companies expect to finalize the agreement by April of this year.

Between Piskanja and La Blache, Temas already has a couple of company-making projects. The acquisition of ORF Technologies was the missing component that can take things to the next level.

ORF’s technology is estimated to be 59.2% better on a production cost basis, leading to a process that is around 144% more cost-efficient than that used by the world’s largest titanium dioxide producer, The Chemours Company. ORF’s process is less energy-intensive than the industry standard and can create high-quality titanium dioxide from low-grade materials, which contain contaminants that competitors must discard, according to Dehn.

With the ORF approach, rock is dissolved in hydrochloric acid to selectively extract metals such as titanium, nickel or vanadium. The purity of the extracted elements is extremely high.

“We can go right from an ilmenite ore to a titanium dioxide without having to go through several intermediate steps, which is what the rest of the industry has to do,” Dehn explains. The same goes for commodities such as nickel, which now is in higher demand thanks to the red-hot electric vehicle market.

Temas plans to acquire a 50% interest in ORF. The company will fund certain ongoing expenses through secured loans, including acquisition and development of new technology, to be repaid from income generated by ORF before declaration of dividends to ORF shareholders.

Temas is in good financial shape to advance its 2021 agenda. Since November, the company has raised $5 million via Crescita Capital and an additional $3.6 million in flow-through funding.

It’s an undeniably exciting time for Temas, and right where you would expect to find a team that Dehn says is constantly thinking outside the box.

“We don’t want to do things the traditional way,” says Dehn. “Instead of blindly going forward with how things are always done, look for the opportunity that’s going to give you a quicker return on your investment but also leave a smaller environmental footprint.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Temas Resources at http://www.temasresources.com/

Getchell Gold: High grades at Nevada projects have this team’s confidence running strong

When Getchell Gold (CSE:GTCH) optioned the Fondaway Canyon gold project in January of last year, President Mike Sieb had never felt more confident that he was making the right move.
To Sieb, a 30-year industry veteran known for a combination of technical ability and senior management experience, the Fondaway site checked all the boxes, particularly given the stellar data left behind by the previous owners.

Fondaway is a past gold producer with a legacy resource estimated at 1 million ounces. Located a mere two-hour drive from Reno, Nevada, it is easily accessible, which helps to keep costs reasonable. Nevada is also a mining-friendly state, so taking the project from exploration to a fully functioning mine would not generate a red-tape nightmare.

“The mineralization is very apparent on the surface,” Sieb explains to Public Entrepreneur. “That’s really the package that finally brings us to the table. You’re starting off with a healthy foundation to work from, and when we started to do even just a cursory review of the asset it was readily apparent that the historic resource was actually quite constrained.”

In fact, as Getchell’s team continues work on Fondaway, the opportunities to in-fill and expand the mineralization zones are becoming quite evident.

Early assay results from the company’s inaugural 1,995-metre diamond drill program in 2020 to test the geological model of the Colorado zone exceeded expectations and set in motion plans to ramp up drilling and develop a mine model.

“It’s not very often that every hole of an exploration drill program returns gold intersections as good as or better than anticipated,” Sieb says. “Our 2020 drill program substantially expanded the known mineralization and demonstrated that our broadest gold zones remain open with excellent potential for further extension.”
Sieb, who called the findings “an absolute rarity from my experience,” says all six drillholes show promise. One high-grade standout hole pierced the main Half Moon Shear Vein 54 metres below surface and registered 8.6 grams per ton gold over 9.8 metres. Another returned 21.9 metres grading 6.2 grams per ton.
“The success here is that what we represented in the model actually showed up in the real world. We know that we have what we modelled. We know what the historic work accomplished and what it represents. The model indicated that there is a substantial 100-metre-thick band of mineralization that you can envision,” Sieb says.
“The 2020 drill program was designed to prove that the very thick band of mineralization actually exists and that it has real potential continuity.”

Toronto-based Getchell obtained the Fondaway property from Canagold Resources as part of a four-year option agreement under which Getchell can acquire a 100% interest in the site at any time.
In return, Getchell pays Canagold $2 million in cash as well as $2 million in shares. And it must spend $1.45 million on exploration. Canagold also will retain a 2% net smelter return royalty should Getchell acquire its 100% stake in Fondaway.

The property was first staked in 1956, and after changing hands over the decades Canagold obtained it in 2017 and released a resource estimate showing 2.01 million indicated tons grading 6.18 grams per ton gold and inferred resources of 3.2 million tons grading 6.4 grams per ton. Past drilling was extensive, comprising 735 holes for a total of 56,682 metres.

In addition to Fondaway, Getchell is developing a second property in Nevada – a high-grade copper, gold and silver project called Star. The company also controls the Dixie Comstock gold project and the Hot Springs Peak gold project in the state, but the Star project stands out. The site is 60 kilometres north of Fondaway. Sieb calls it “excellent bonus potential” for investors.

“We have developed fairly compelling targets that will be drilled and tested this year at Star,” Sieb explains. “This project has some really good high-grade showings on surface and some compelling geophysical targets at depth and has never been drilled before.”
Meanwhile, the company has the finances to push forward with Fondaway in 2021. Getchell has $1.6 million in the bank and about $3 million of warrants that are in the money. Sieb also notes Getchell is fortunate that it can spread its earn-in payments on Fondaway over four years rather than having to make a hefty outlay upfront.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, Sieb says Getchell plans to undertake a drill program to extend known mineralization and follow up on the newly discovered zone. It also plans to drill an additional 4,000 metres this year and is advancing toward a revised resource estimate.

“The next step is readily apparent. It’s going to be a major drill campaign that is going to start to fill in the open spots with a focus on developing a mine model,” Sieb explains.

Sieb says he’s already visualizing the next drill program at Fondaway and that it is now in the planning process.

“I can easily see where those holes are going to be located to start to further expand as well as in-fill the mineralization,” he explains. “And we’re also going to do another model of the mineralization to get a better sense of what we really have.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Getchell Gold at https://www.getchellgold.com/

Appia Energy: The quest for a more balanced global supply of rare earths is underway in Saskatchewan

Tucked away in northern Saskatchewan, so close to the border that it practically touches the Northwest Territories, sits Alces Lake. It’s a gorgeous part of the province and the namesake for an important resource exploration project that happens to host the second-highest average grade of rare earth elements (REEs) in the world.

REEs are used in everything from permanent magnets for electric cars and wind turbines to lithium-ion batteries, as well as smartphones and the ceramics and glass found in superconductors. It’s an industry with rapidly accelerating demand, and Appia Energy (CSE:API), which owns 100% of the 14,334-hectare Alces Lake Project, is looking to become one of its major players.

Alces Lake has an in-situ average total rare earth oxide (TREO) grade of 16.65 weighted total percent (wt%). Anything with a wt% above 4 is considered high grade.

With a measure that high, a single metric ton of mineralization from Alces Lake would contain roughly 166.5 kilograms of TREO. Of that, 38.5 kilograms (a little less than 25%) would be what is known as critical rare earth oxide (CREO), which represents roughly 85% of the total mineralization’s dollar value.

Specifically, that’s neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium. Or as a former US Department of Energy national laboratory director once put it, “the stuff you need the most but can’t get enough of.”

CREEs are particularly important in the production of permanent magnets, which are also found in everyday items such as audio speakers, laptops and refrigerators.

Appia’s Chief Executive Officer, Tom Drivas, believes his company can play an important role in filling a resource need that is only going to get bigger in years to come.

“It’s because of the grade, because of the technology, because of our location and because of the right mix of rare earths as well as the mineralogy,” Drivas tells Public Entrepreneur. “Because of all that, we’re in a very good position to have a stable supply in North America.”

Pay close attention to the “North America” part of that last statement. Right now, two-thirds of the world’s TREO supply comes from China, and more than 90% of the world’s magnets are produced there. The potential for disruption to the supply of rare earths and related products is real. During former US President Trump’s trade skirmish with China, for instance, China threatened a REE blackout, according to Asia Times Financial.

“Whoever controls the supply of critical material controls the economy – and that means jobs,” Drivas explains. “There’s lots of interest from the Western world to get to a position where they have the supply of critical materials to have the economy start moving and create jobs.”

COVID-19 didn’t do the rare earths supply chain any favours, either in China or anywhere else around the globe. For Appia, it meant paring down its exploration program in 2020.

Since 2017, the company has discovered 74 REE surface zones and occurrences over a 45-     kilometre strike area and completed 78 diamond drillholes, 64 that reached a depth of 50 metres or less and 14 that extended further. Appia has a 95% success rate at intersecting REE-bearing systems, and more than 99% of its property remains to be explored.

This year, Appia has a lot more time – and a lot more money – to do just that.

“We basically have three times the budget of last year,” Drivas notes. “We’re going to be spending $3 million to $4 million at least and see how it goes from there.”

The REE minerals at Alces Lake are contained within a caramel-coloured phosphate mineral called monazite. This is good, according to Drivas, because monazite is relatively easy to extract elements from, and companies have been doing it since the 1950s. Not every REE site is so lucky.

Currently, much of the world’s monazite is shipped to China, where it is processed into REEs. That too, though, is changing.

In August 2020, the Saskatchewan Research Council and the provincial government announced plans to build a first-of-its-kind REE processing facility in Saskatoon, which is expected to be up and running in late 2022.

On the agenda for Appia is a property-wide airborne magnetic, electromagnetic and radiometric geophysical survey, followed by additional surveying and geological mapping to track known mineralization trends and investigate any newly discovered radiometric anomalies.

From there, the company plans a diamond drilling program of at least 5,000 metres to explore for more high-grade REO occurrences.

In terms of how big this could get, Drivas points to two established REE producers: MP Materials and Lynas Rare Earths. They have market values of US$6.2 billion and US$4.5 billion, respectively. Appia’s is US$41.6 million.

“They’re the two main rare earth producers outside of China, but our grade is much better with what we’ve seen so far,” Drivas says.

It’s important to note that there is some diversification to the Appia story as well. The company has three uranium exploration projects over a total of 48,024 hectares in Saskatchewan: Loranger, Eastside and North Wollaston.

At Loranger, for instance, six of seven drillholes intersected uranium mineralization in the company’s first drill campaign. A second drill season was completed in 2019 and discovered a near-surface uranium zone that extends more than 900 metres.

Elsewhere, Appia has a 13,000-hectare uranium and REE property at Elliot Lake in Ontario. The Elliot Lake camp has produced more than 300 million pounds (136 million kilograms) of uranium and is the only mining camp in Canada with significant historical commercial rare earth element production.

Back at Alces Lake, the company seems to have the best of both worlds when it comes to where it finds its rare earths. Much of the high-grade material discovered to date is close to the surface, suggesting relatively easy extraction were a decision eventually made to put the project into production. In addition, a recent news release discusses that REE mineralization occurs within multiple sub-parallel trends of the system over 875 metres of strike length and down to 340 metres in vertical depth. With the mineralization hosted in monazite, it could be just what North American supply chains are looking for.

“If we can prove in the next few years that we’ve got a viable deposit here, there’s a lot of upside for Appia and the industry,” concludes Drivas.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Appia Energy at http://www.appiaenergy.ca/

Mistango River Resources: Strategic patience positions this Kirkland Lake explorer for its biggest year yet

Gold mining is a cyclical business, and right now the cycle is exactly where the industry wants it, with precious metals prices strong and investors eager to participate in the good times by backing well-run companies with capital. Macroeconomic factors, driven recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, are owed much of the credit, but the sector’s strong performance has actually been due for some time.

Few people understand these trends better than Stephen Stewart, an experienced resource industry executive and Chairman of junior explorer Mistango River Resources (CSE:MIS).

Stewart and his team have followed a pragmatic strategy that now sees Mistango drilling in Kirkland Lake, one of Canada’s most famous and productive gold camps.

Gold went through over half a decade of stagnation, trading in a fairly narrow range before breaking out to the upside in 2020, despite what some would argue was the macro background to move higher all along. What many industry executives saw as a crisis, however, Stewart recognized as opportunity.

Rather than ploughing cash into exploration during a downturn, Mistango took its time assembling a portfolio of high-quality assets then waited until investor interest returned and funds could be raised at an acceptable cost. With some $7 million in the treasury, now it’s time to put the growth part of the plan into action.

“No question about it, timing is everything, especially where I sit,” explains Stewart in a recent interview with Public Entrepreneur.

“We are now in what I would call our third phase. The first phase is buying cheap and the second phase is raising money at a good cost of capital. Now we are in the process of deploying that capital as intelligently and as efficiently as we possibly can so that we can either discover a new ore body or expand on a known one.”

Mistango’s first drill target is in Ontario’s famous Abitibi Greenstone Belt. The company is midway through a planned 10,000-metre drill program at its 4,300-hectare Kirkland West project, right next door to the Macassa Mine run by industry titan Kirkland Lake Gold. Macassa, by the way, is not only large, but also one of the highest-grade gold mines in the world.

“We are beside the third-largest gold ore body ever discovered, that has gone from east to west, and we’re the next property west,” says Stewart. “The anticipation is, and certainly my hope is, that we can extend that mineralization onto our property.”

Macassa, like Mistango’s project, sits on the major Cadillac-Larder Lake Break fault system, which is responsible for much of the 25 million ounces of gold produced at Kirkland Lake in the past 100 years or so.

Stewart reckons the current buzz around the Kirkland Lake area and the Canadian gold mining industry in general is justified as juniors get drills turning again, and impressive new discoveries, such as those in the equally famous Red Lake district, prove once again that Canada is one of the best gold mining jurisdictions in the world.

“Kirkland Lake has been mined for a hundred years. It’s going to be mined for a hundred more. There are more ore bodies that have not yet been discovered in that camp. There’s no question about it,” explains Stewart.

Mistango’s first phase of drilling targets three zones at Kirkland West, the first of which was the former Baldwin Mine, which is thought to sit on extensions of the main fault and where historical output showed grades of 15 grams per ton.

The Baldwin work is now complete and the rigs have crossed the river to test the main Cadillac-Larder Lake fault proper.

The company also plans to soon begin drilling its second asset, the advanced stage Omega Mine, which lies around 30 kilometres east of Kirkland West and has an NI 43-101 resource of around 585,000 indicated and inferred gold ounces.

In the middle of the last century, a mine at Omega churned out about a quarter of a million ounces. Notably, Omega also lies near some big names, including Agnico Eagle’s Upper Beaver deposit and the former Kerr Addison Mine, at one time Canada’s largest gold mine.

Omega is also just a few kilometres west of Orefinders Resources’ McGarry project, which hosts an indicated resource of 123,000 ounces of gold at 8.57 grams per ton.

Stewart points out that taken together, Orefinders and Mistango comprise one of the largest landholders on the Kirkland Lake/Cadillac-Larder Lake fault system.

Mistango is one of the companies in the Ore Group, which Stewart also chairs. Other companies in the group include QC Copper and Gold, American Eagle Gold and Orefinders.

So, how did Mistango manage to get its hands on such a prime piece of land? 

It’s fair to say that it took persistence. Ore Group, via Orefinders, put in an offer to buy Mistango a couple of years ago but was turned down by management. It later became a significant shareholder, initiated a proxy battle, and ultimately took control.

Next began the process of turning the company around, recapitalizing it and starting to put money into the ground, says Stewart.

“We consider that [Kirkland Lake] the Ore Group’s backyard. It’s a seven-hour drive from Toronto and we just know the area and we love it and so it was an opportunity to expand our position,” he says.

Mistango River has some impressive backers, notably resource icon Eric Sprott, who holds 20% of Mistango’s shares. Sprott was Chairman at Kirkland Lake Gold during much of its heyday when the stock went up over 20 times in value.

“When he saw our land package, he instantly chose to invest,” says Stewart.  

“He understands the possibility of the gold coming onto our property. He knows how pregnant those fault systems are with gold and took an educated guess on our company.”  

On the ground, Mistango also benefits from the insights of Vice President of Exploration Keith Benn, who has a PhD in structural geology and extensive experience with the Abitibi.

Director Charles Beaudry also has over 30 years of experience in exploration, project generation and business development.

Numerous corporate success stories involve years of patience and hard work before the tide turns and management finally has the opportunity to prove that its instincts were right. With a strong team, a healthy treasury and ongoing exploration of high-quality projects in one of the world’s best gold addresses, that moment looks to have arrived for Mistango River Resources.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Mistango River Resources
at https://mistango.com/

Kuya Silver: Near-term production, exploration shape a game plan based on a proven path to the big leagues

When putting together the business plan for a new company, incorporating lessons from the leaders in your industry is always a good idea. David Stein worked as a mining analyst beginning in the early 2000s and was among the first to initiate coverage on marquee names such as First Majestic and Fortuna Silver. When he decided to establish an exploration company of his own, he understood the models that tended to position small companies to become billion-dollar players.

Focusing on high-grade silver projects with the potential for near-term production, Kuya Silver (CSE:KUYA), where Stein is Chief Executive Officer, is active in Peru and Canada, two of the world’s most prolific jurisdictions for precious metals production. With a healthy treasury, a balanced approach to its projects and a strong silver market, the company is ready to begin putting its plan into action. Stein shared his strategy of silver production and ongoing exploration with Public Entrepreneur in mid-February.

Kuya is obviously silver-focused. Before we get into your two projects and the outlook for each, tell us why you chose silver.

It really comes down to finding an exceptional project and it just happened to be a silver project. I found the Bethania Mine opportunity in 2017, and while my background is in all sorts of different minerals, precious metals are the main ones.

As I started looking more into the silver mining industry, I noticed there was a huge opportunity because many of the intermediate and large silver players from 10 or 15 years ago had diversified away from silver and more into gold. Now there is this sort of a void in the industry where if you want to invest in a primary silver mining company there are very few options. The opportunity to have this exceptional project and be able to get into production quickly made it all the more exciting. 

Your plans for Bethania call for putting a local mine back into production and at the same time doing exploration to help with mine planning and resource expansion. How did you come across Bethania, and can you talk about the thinking behind this two-part plan?

In terms of how I found it, I went out on my own after being in the industry on the investment side for 15 or 16 years and was looking for projects, mostly privately owned opportunities. During the bear market I had focused on private equity as a niche within the mining sector. Bethania was one of the projects that came up.

In terms of the business plan – restarting the mine, putting our own plant there and increasing production – that evolved over the course of negotiations with the former owners. Initially, they were really looking for someone to put a little money in for a minority interest and help them with some financial issues. It didn’t interest me as a minority investment, but if we could take control, there was a chance to do something special. I saw the potential to get enough silver production from this mine to make it into a meaningful public company one day.

I was a sell-side equities analyst in the early 2000s and one of the first analysts to cover some of the important silver companies. To me, this opportunity reminded me a lot of those: start with a high-grade silver mine with low capex that you could put into production quickly and easily. Then, by bringing better access to capital through the public markets, you could grow production, reduce costs, do more exploration – all those good things we plan to do.

If you look at the genesis of First Majestic or go back even further to the first projects that Pan American acquired in Peru, these very big and successful multi-billion-dollar companies all started with a single high-grade silver project. That was the beginning of the journey.

Peru has a long history of mining. What is the plan for community support and sharing the benefits with the people who live in the region where Bethania is located?

Peru is a very diverse country with different communities and types of environment. We are in the high Andes in central Peru, so we are in an area that is very accustomed to mining. As a recently producing mine, there is already acceptance of Bethania and a culture within the local community to support it. The community that has jurisdiction over the mining area is Poroche, and we are still in the process of working out what the people want to see over the longer term. The community has been very helpful, and I think they believe in the benefits of having more activity in the area and would prefer that the mine be operating.

One noteworthy aspect of our relationship is that we were able to receive our environmental impact assessment approval for the new plant and tailings storage. In order to do that you essentially have to get approval from your local community before you submit your paperwork to the government. There are site visits and other aspects of a legislated process. So, you work with the local community and essentially earn its support before permits can be granted. I think that demonstrates we are on a strong footing.

Your other project is located in northeastern Ontario. It has some very nice silver numbers and some cobalt in the mix as well. What is your plan there?

There are two parts to that deal. There is a part where we are buying a section outright, which is the Kerr Project. It represents about 10% of the First Cobalt land package and is the most advanced part. It is where most of the historical drilling is.  We have most of the data, and most of the high-grade silver hits are in that area. We see that as the part we can potentially get into production first. The other 90% goes into a joint venture.

This means there are two strategies. With the Kerr Project, we are looking to follow up on historical high-grade silver intersections and look for extensions of some of the known mines. There have been more than 70 million ounces produced in the area we are buying. We would like to find potentially some new veins and get them into production, at a similar scale to what we are doing in Peru.

And that is the link for us from Peru to Ontario, that the history of the Cobalt Camp is this super high-grade mineralization mined at a small tonnage. We want to produce a lot of silver but not necessarily go through a lot of rock. And we feel we can do that in the Kerr area.

With the joint venture, the opportunity is to find another collection of veins. If you look at the whole camp, the 400 million or 500 million ounces produced historically from this part of northeastern Ontario is in clusters of 50 million to 100 million-plus ounces of silver. With the joint venture we want to find a new cluster.

Do you have any closing thoughts, perhaps something we’ve missed or a statement that encapsulates how investors should think about Kuya Silver?

I would highlight that we are very focused on restarting production and becoming a profitable silver mining company in Peru. But we also feel that we have exceptional exploration potential with our property there. In 2021 and beyond you’ll essentially see us on two parallel tracks: one will be mine development and getting into production, and the other will be drilling and working to find the resource that underlies production for another decade or more. And we think we can do that in the next year or two.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Kuya Silver
at https://www.kuyasilver.com/

Clarity Gold: Unearthing big value in overlooked projects

Founded in 2019 and publicly listed on the CSE in July 2020, Clarity Gold (CSE:CLAR) has the objective to acquire and develop gold projects that have been “overlooked or underfinanced.”

Headed by Chief Executive Officer James Rogers, Clarity’s management team has certainly proven its ability to identify, evaluate and execute transactions, having collectively completed over 100 resource project deals.

In November 2020, the company acquired an option on 100% of the Destiny Project, a gold project located in the prolific Abitibi Greenstone Belt, which extends from Wawa, Ontario to  Val-d’Or, Quebec.

In addition to Destiny, Clarity has three 100% owned projects on its books in British Columbia: Empirical, a gold, copper and molybdenum project located 12 kilometres south of Lillooet; Tyber, a gold, copper and silver project located 18 kilometres south of Parksville; and Gretna Green, a gold, copper and silver project located 24 kilometres southwest of Port Alberni.

Rogers spoke recently with Public Entrepreneur about his views on building a company in the resource sector and what the future holds for his industry and Clarity shareholders.

Let’s start by delving into Clarity Gold’s mission statement and your guiding principles. 

Clarity’s objective since inception has been pretty clear – we’ve been entirely focused on gold in North America, with an emphasis on Canada. Our mandate has been to become an explorer concentrated on discovering and building ounces in stable jurisdictions within North America. 

British Columbia was our starting point, and we’ve grown by establishing a strong foothold in Quebec with the Destiny Project. 

Destiny is a project you acquired in November and it is in the famous Abitibi Greenstone Belt. Tell us about your decision to obtain a 100% option on this project.

Destiny is an exciting gold project on a lesser-known structure in the belt. The Abitibi is an important jurisdiction in Canada, and in the world, really. It is one of the most prolific greenstone belts there is.

The Abitibi is comprised of six dominant structures. The 400-kilometre-long structure that the Destiny Project is located along is called the Chicobi. It is a less-explored structure that is proving to have gold mineralization associated with it, just like on the Cadillac and other well-known structures through the Abitibi. This is one of the reasons we were attracted to it. Dominant structures play an important part in controlling gold mineralization within the Abitibi.

When we look at the main structures in the south, they are largely near surface. Nobody really found the Destiny Project until 1998 because it has a thin veneer of overburden and till – it is just not on surface.

It started in 1998, which kicked off multiple campaigns totalling over 50,000 metres of drilling, culminating in a historic resource in 2011. And it has basically lain dormant since 2012. Our mandate is to take a fresh look at this, peeling back the previous data and thinking more about this project’s optionality as a high-grade, structurally controlled gold deposit. 

You also have three projects in British Columbia. How do these fit into your near-term plan?

We started with Empirical, which was our flagship project in British Columbia. We then acquired two more grassroots projects in the province. My background is in project generation and one of my strengths is keeping an eye open for new opportunities and projects. When our team saw Destiny, we recognized the opportunity for a more advanced project to create value in a jurisdiction that we’re comfortable working in and understand really well. We see the best opportunity to create near-term value for the company in advancing Destiny, but will continue to maintain and advance the rest of our portfolio.

How are you funded to move forward with the planned work following your recent private placement? 

We just finished a $4.5 million financing. The next step for us is two-fold. We are financed to carry out exploration to advance Destiny but are also on the lookout for more projects with a similar profile where we could add value with our expertise. Destiny is a foothold – it is really our first step into a large gold camp where we have experience operating. 

You have somewhat of a different background than the typical junior company CEO in that you run a large services company for the industry as well. What do you consider is your main strength as head of Clarity Gold? 

I’d say looking at data and coming up with an idea. A cool stat is during the hunt for Destiny, I compiled 200,000 drill holes in Quebec and Ontario inside of the Abitibi and started thinking a bit about why the Chicobi structure just hadn’t been looked at the same as the others and why this is an important and underexplored part of the Abitibi story. 

Bear in mind, the Abitibi has produced more than 180 million ounces of gold, which is an incredible number. It’s actually hard to keep track of the number of headframes you pass as you drive from Val-d’Or to Timmins. One of my strengths is definitely looking at data but also in executing. 

I come from an exploration background, running a services company where our specialty is grassroots exploration and running drill programs, up to say 70,000 to 100,000 metres of drilling in a year. But when we get in and take a look at data, and we’re able to manipulate and think about things differently, that’s where we find things that get exciting. Where things have been overlooked or interpreted in a different way. Then we’re able to bring a fresh perspective to something and bring it to life. 

Let’s finish up with a look at what investors should expect from Clarity in 2021.

This year is going to be big. It will include our maiden drill program on Destiny, which should be kicking off before winter’s end. We’ll start with about a 10,000-metre program, which will then carry on into subsequent drilling as we get results and continue to move it forward.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Clarity Gold
at https://claritygoldcorp.com/

Red Light Holland: Proving the potential of recreational psilocybin begins with choosing the right market

One of the more interesting small-cap market developments of 2020 is increasing investor comfort with the psychedelics industry.

The year has seen multiple psychedelics companies IPO on exchanges in Canada and the US, and M&A activity is ramping up, too. Momentum in the sector is being driven by legislation in Canada opening the door for end-of-life patients to use psychedelics as a therapeutic option, while in the US, the Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough treatment” for mental health disorders. The industry clearly has plenty of runway heading into next year.

Most of the publicly listed companies in the segment focus on therapeutic applications, working on research and development of psychedelic-based treatments for mood and anxiety disorders.

Canada’s Red Light Holland (CSE:TRIP), however, has found its niche in the recreational part of the market by selling small doses of psilocybin to adult consumers seeking to experience the psychedelic effect without a prescription. In the process, it has set itself on a clear path to revenue, which is an immediate point of differentiation compared to most peers.

The Toronto-based firm is the first publicly traded company that has a legal psilocybin product on store shelves and online (in the Netherlands). Its iMicrodose pack is a collection of “magic truffles” – a type of fungi that contains a lower concentration of psilocybin than their mushroom brethren but still enough to produce a psychedelic experience.

While making very clear that medical claims cannot be made at this point and highlighting that substantial research is still being done to prove certain beliefs, Chief Executive Officer Todd Shapiro tells Public Entrepreneur that he thinks psilocybin has the potential to “change the world” for people suffering from depression and mental health disorders. “For me, the opportunity was never about a trend,” Shapiro explains during a recent interview. “It’s about making a difference with a long-term plan. And it’s about empathy, compassion and providing access.”

Shapiro, a former Toronto media personality, began to explore the world of psilocybin through conversations with guests on his SiriusXM radio program. Sensing opportunity, he assembled a team of investors and advisors containing some truly boldface names: Bruce Linton, Terry Booth, Brad Lamb and even comedian Russell Peters, who serves as the brand’s chief creative officer.

The group decided to explore the opportunity to sell psilocybin as a recreational product in a legal market and settled on selling truffles in the Netherlands. It raised nearly $4 million before going public on the CSE in May 2020.

At this point, it’s fair to ask – aren’t magic mushrooms illegal? The answer lies in the composition of the fungi. In the Netherlands, where iMicrodose recently debuted in smartshops across the country, magic mushrooms themselves are illegal, but truffles – a network of interconnected filaments that branch out from the mushroom below ground – are legal to buy and consume.

The pursuit of the recreational market as opposed to medicinal psilocybin is a huge part of what differentiates Red Light Holland. “We would love to be a part of helping to prove how psilocybin can help human beings, be it supporting studies or trials,” Shapiro says. “I think that the medical side is extraordinarily important, but why are we limiting the potential of responsible adult use? When we do that, we are limiting a lot of adults who have access to information, education and early trial data as well as anecdotal research. I don’t think we should do that for people who want to try this responsibly.”

Echoes of the cannabis sector’s growth trajectory ring through Red Light Holland’s story. Early acceptance of medicinal marijuana paved the way for the recreational market and, eventually, legalization. Shapiro is hoping that Red Light Holland can blaze a path to tolerance of recreational psilocybin. “Magic mushrooms have been used for generations for a wide variety of purposes,” Shapiro notes. “Red Light Holland wants to offer it to people who want it in legal jurisdictions, much like we saw in the cannabis market.”

That’s not to say that the company isn’t exploring possible therapeutic applications as well. Its scientific division, Scarlette Lillie Science and Innovation, recently secured a relationship with US-based Jinfiniti Precision Medicine to explore potential roles that psilocybin and truffles can play for age-related and psychiatric disorders.

Red Light Holland may not take the lead on clinical trials, but it wants to carefully look into how it can support the science by perhaps teaming up with people who could potentially get involved in trials in some capacity. “If we can learn more about the truffle itself, that would be our goal,” Shapiro says. “Maybe there’s a CBD-like element to the truffle that we don’t know about yet.” 

The therapeutic psilocybin market is poised to reach a value of nearly US$6.7 billion by 2027, according to Data Bridge Market Research, making it an attractive proposition for investors. While the recreational market is obviously much smaller in value, Shapiro hopes to find a new consumer – a young professional, a firefighter or a modern couple who just put their kids to bed.

“I want iMicrodose packs powered by Red Light Holland to be consumed by the Ketel One drinker, someone who loves a glass of wine, essentially an adult who wouldn’t necessarily walk into a smartshop but would rather order legally from an easy-to-use e-commerce store. I want to help expand the market,” says Shapiro.

There are signs that other countries will soon follow the Dutch lead of legalizing truffles, or at least relax the relevant laws. In Brazil there are no laws against the sale, distribution or use of magic mushrooms. Jamaica has long been a destination of choice for psychedelic retreats, and Bulgaria is on the radar. For now, though, Shapiro appears to have Red Light Holland firmly focused on its namesake country.

“A lot of the issues at cannabis companies came about because they thought there was a bigger market than there actually was, and then they wound up expanding too quickly,” Shapiro says. “We like the idea of learning who our customers are and expanding from there with education, information and responsible use initiatives.”

iMicrodose debuted in Amsterdam in September, retailing for €25 per pack. Distribution quickly spread to Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Den Bosch, as well as online. Shapiro and his team hope to have iMicrodose in as many smartshops as possible over the next year while growing brand recognition.

Red Light Holland is blazing a trail in the psychedelics sector as the first psychedelics company with a legally available product to list on a major exchange, and it fills Shapiro with pride.

“It helps legitimize what so many pioneers and advocates have pushed for, because we’ve gone through the regulatory bodies,” he says. “It’s not something that we’re doing underground. If you’re in the Netherlands, you can order iMicrodose packs online right now. Let’s end the stigma together.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Red Light Holland
at https://redlighttruffles.com/

Jushi Holdings: Timing is everything, and this expert cannabis team knows just when to pounce

Jim Cacioppo and his team at Jushi Holdings (CSE:JUSH) definitely know the meaning of patience, as they exercised plenty of it before setting up a new company to enter the legal cannabis industry. They watched as executives of all shapes and sizes rushed in during the early days of regulatory change, some quickly enjoying success, and others ending up on the ropes after making an endless trail of mistakes. The future Jushi management circle gathered know-how and bided their time.

That discipline is paying off hugely now.

Jushi is a multistate cannabis and hemp operator, and while the company may only have been founded in 2018, it is already gaining solid traction in its target markets and is exceedingly well positioned for long-term growth.

Cannabis is a complex industry in which most companies contend with a wide variety of regulatory environments. That’s especially true in the United States, given the patchwork of state-by-state regulations across the country. 

But to the Jushi team, the size of the pie available for successful operators to share in the United States makes the regulatory navigation worth it. “Everything else pales in comparison to the size of the US,” says Cacioppo, Jushi’s ambitious Chief Executive Officer, who is convinced the company’s strategy will make it one of the top global cannabis players within just a few years.

Cacioppo was a successful early investor in the cannabis space and became an expert in identifying distressed assets through his work in private equity. He saw what he calls a “gaping” opportunity to create a great company that had the right mix of management, financial resources and skills.

Cacioppo teamed up with fellow financial and cannabis industry hands Erich Mauff, Jon Barack and Denis Arsenault to prove his point. The combination of their personal networks, business experience and some early cash from their own pockets got Jushi off to a good start. It is now a vertically integrated cannabis juggernaut, operating in several US states, with cultivation, processing and retail assets under its corporate umbrella.

“Most people who win licences don’t have money, don’t have sophistication, don’t have the resources or the skills to operate these kinds of ventures,” explains Cacioppo, who says the sector is still littered with distressed players, even after the cull of recent years. “They just won licences, so they’re undercapitalized from day one.

“You could see the trends in our favour: the scale, the lack of good management teams and the opportunity to purchase companies rather inexpensively,” continues Cacioppo about the industry’s early days.

Jushi cleverly set about buying assets and licences where there were barriers to entry. It targeted growing, populated areas, with limited-licence medical markets and/or where legalized adult use had yet to arrive.

The team added to its depth in June 2019 with the acquisition of The Clinic, a Colorado business that brought new and proprietary information on cannabis cultivation, extraction and brand development. 

The group now has over 70 product formulations under its Lab brand, as well as a new line of hemp-based CBD products called Nira. Its 11 cannabis dispensaries all feature Jushi’s BEYOND / HELLO brand above the door.

Jushi has three core markets: Virginia, with a limited medical licence; Pennsylvania, Jushi’s largest market and home to a well-established medical cannabis environment; plus Illinois and its strong adult-use market. Illinois and Pennsylvania are expected to account for 77% of group revenue in 2021.

In three other markets, Jushi has established operations and is looking to scale up. These are Ohio (developing a medical program), Nevada (large adult-use market) and California. The last of these, of course, is the biggest cannabis market in the US and also home to a long list of very distressed assets.

In Illinois, Jushi aims to double the number of retail outlets it operates to four by early Q1 2021. Experts say the state’s adult-use market is growing rapidly and could reach US$3 billion in value.

In Pennsylvania, which could account for up to US$110 million in revenue in 2021, the aim is to grow its dispensary count to 15, from eight at present, with the already increased capacity at its 90,000-square-foot facility for cultivation and processing.

Virginia, where Jushi is one of only two public companies licensed to operate, will be the jurisdiction of highest growth in percentage terms, as Jushi currently does not have any stores there but is planning to build six.

“We have three great states that give us growth in-house for several years, so we don’t need to do any acquisitions, and we have the capital to build up the businesses,” says Cacioppo. The company closed a $30 million financing in the latter part of October, adding to a cash balance that was already around the $50 million mark.

COVID-19 has brought challenges, of course, including the adoption of strict social distancing rules.

On the other hand, the cannabis sector was declared an essential service, and Cacioppo believes there have been other positives, such as increasing demand, an influx of new consumers, and a newfound respect and validation for the cannabis industry.

A quick look at Jushi’s financials shows how well things are working.

Preliminary third-quarter results announced in early October contained expectations for revenue of $24 million, which would be 61% above the prior quarter, while fourth-quarter revenue is anticipated at the high end of the previously announced range of $25 million to $30 million. Jushi also expects to report positive adjusted EBITDA in the fourth quarter.

Forecast revenue for 2021 has been revised upward to between $205 million and $255 million, from $200 million to $250 million, while adjusted EBITDA is expected to be between $40 million and $50 million.

Beacon Securities recently initiated coverage of Jushi with a buy rating, describing the company as a “hidden gem.” 

Its analysts noted that both New Jersey and Arizona were set to vote on adult-use legalization measures, with the New Jersey vote in particular holding the potential to have a domino effect on other markets, including New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

“Illinois has seen legal-market cannabis sales quadruple to a $1.2 billion annualized run rate after its adult-use market opened in January. Pennsylvania may be one of the ‘dominos’ that falls if neighboring New Jersey approves adult-use legalization next month,” notes Beacon.

With Jushi shares having traded as high as 300% above their March 2020 lows, the patient work of Cacioppo and his Jushi teammates is clearly being recognized. And with more positive regulatory change on the horizon in the United States, Jushi seems to be in that sweet spot with the right strategy at the right time.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Jushi Holdings Inc.
at https://jushico.com/

Bee Vectoring Technologies International: Delivering patented organic pesticides with some help from the hive

Swarms of mechanical drones are used in modern agriculture, but Bee Vectoring Technologies International (CSE:BEE) is wonderfully old school. The Ontario-based agritech company has successfully drafted some of nature’s little helpers – an army of commercially reared bees – to deliver organic pesticides to crops.

The company’s natural precision agriculture system relies on bees carrying BVT’s patented biological fungicide – Vectorite with CR-7 – from commercial hives to crops. The breakthrough is getting a lot of attention, as it could help farmers reduce, or even eliminate, the need for chemical spraying.

The intellectual property and creativity driving BVT’s business has been in development for nearly two decades, but it’s since 2016 that the company has really ramped up testing and field trials. Currently, BVT has over 65 patents and 35 patents pending in agriculture-dominant countries around the world.

With its patent-rich endeavour, BVT is now eyeing the global US$240 billion crop protection and fertilizer market with its targeted pest and disease management solutions. 

But how does it all work? 

Its genius is its simplicity. Inside the hive, bumblebees or honeybees walk through a tiny tray, picking up Vectorite with CR-7 powder on their legs as they exit their hives to travel out into the fields. The Vectorite carries a refined form of Clonostachys rosea (CR-7), a fungus that feeds on other types of fungi that damage crops. The powder naturally drops on plants’ blooms as the bees fly around the field pollinating the crop. 

The BVT trays are changed during the bloom period and accurately dispense portions of Vectorite with CR-7 that are just the right size for a bee to carry. The company says “multiple biocontrols” can be added to each tray at the same time in a process called stacking. 

“BVT is commercializing a system to harness the natural pollination process of bees to deliver safe, biological plant-treatment products to crops to help them fight pests and diseases, producing higher yields for farmers while reducing the use of synthetic chemical pesticides,” says Bee Vectoring Technologies Chief Executive Officer Ashish Malik.  

“We have demonstrated that yield increases of as much as 30%, and reductions in chemical fungicides of up to 98%, are possible with our unique and patented natural precision agriculture technology.”

When absorbed, BVT’s Vectorite with CR-7 enables a plant to block disease such as botrytis (grey mould) in strawberries, which is the most widespread strawberry disease in California. According to some estimates, BVT’s solution saves strawberry farmers over $4,000 per acre.

Bees still contribute to one-third of the food we consume by pollinating crops. “There are about 3 million beehive colonies that are used in commercial agriculture today, quite a staggering number when you further consider that each beehive can contain 20,000 bees,” says Malik, an engineer with an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

In August 2019, BVT became the only company to have US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for a bee-delivered fungicide. The company also received a “residue tolerance exemption” from the EPA, which confirms that products with CR-7 are safe for human consumption. Unlike many chemical pesticides, there is no requirement to test crops for residual CR-7.

“This underscores the safety of CR-7 for human consumption. It also gives growers an economic advantage since they don’t run the risk of their crop being rejected,” says Malik.

The Canadian company has an ambitious US blueprint, so it’s not surprising that Malik resides in Davis, California, near the US agricultural research nerve centre of Sacramento.

“Davis is home to the University of California, Davis, which is one of the leading universities in agricultural sciences worldwide, and the greater Sacramento area is one of the larger innovation hubs for agritech companies,” says Malik. “It is a great location from which to build out our US footprint. We have opportunities across the US – from the Southeast, to the Pacific Northwest, California, Michigan, New Jersey, New England and the Midwest.”

BVT sees its biotech as a solution for berry, almond, stone fruit, tomato and pepper growers. In fact, in its first growing season selling commercially in the US, it has garnered customers from growing regions that cover over 80% of US blueberry acreage. 

“Currently, we are focusing on the berry crops. Blueberry growers in the Southeast represented about 75% of our invoiced sales in 2020,” says Malik. The BVT boss says that as he looks to the 2021 season, he sees continued growth in the Southeast and new revenue in Michigan and the Pacific Northwest from berry growers. 

“From this base we will expand onto additional crops such as tree fruits and nuts (stone fruit, almonds), and indoor vegetables (tomatoes, peppers) in the medium to longer term,” says Malik. 

California requires its own approval beyond the EPA process and represents the largest market opportunity for BVT, with 1.4 million acres of almond farms pollinated by bees. “We are in the final stages of the regulatory approval process in California and Switzerland. In addition, we have started the process for Mexico,” says Malik.

BVT is opening new revenue streams by way of third-party product in-licensing, having successfully rounded out Phase 2 evaluations and a proof-of-concept field trial with two biological insecticides in North America. Field trials in Europe with a third biological insecticide, in addition to a biological fungicide, are in progress and expected to be completed by late fall.

“Extending BVT’s product line through in-licensing of third-party biological products is one of the key innovation projects for BVT. It enables us to open new revenue streams by increasing our addressable market,” says Malik. “These products have the potential to not only deliver additional revenue but also extend BVT’s reach geographically and into new crops.”

BVT hopes to eliminate an unhealthy reliance on synthetic pesticides, and that would be great for the environment. “Having a safe, environment-friendly and affordable food supply system is something we should all care about,” says Malik. 

Malik began caring a lot about how food is grown when he was starting a family. “I became passionate about this after my wife and I started our family. I thought about my children’s well-being and joined the agriculture industry back in 2003,” says Malik.

“Bee vectoring is an all-natural approach that advances sustainable agriculture. BVT’s unique natural precision agriculture technology is a viable alternative to the inefficient practice of spraying crops globally.”

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Bee Vectoring Technologies International Inc.
at http://www.beevt.com/

Taat Lifestyle & Wellness: Helping smokers kick the habit by embracing the cigarette experience

The world of smoking has undergone quite a transformation over the past couple of decades, with cigarettes, cigars and pipes giving partial way to vaping and other next-generation products that more closely align with positive health and lifestyle values.

Few people are positioned better than Setti Coscarella to understand this change and assess whether it is here to stay. So firm is his belief in the segment’s potential that he left cigarette industry titan Philip Morris International (PMI) earlier this year to join young start-up Taat Lifestyle & Wellness (CSE:TAAT) as Chief Executive Officer.

Coscarella was a top strategist for reduced-risk products (RRPs) at the tobacco giant, where his insight led to initiatives that collectively yielded a fivefold increase in RRP leads and purchases.

Taat is focused on hemp-based products, so it should come as no surprise that the group’s Beyond Tobacco cigarettes feature CBD and CBG, both of which are known to provide a wide range of health benefits. The cigarettes contain no tobacco or nicotine, making them ideal as a tobacco replacement or cessation tool.

Public Entrepreneur caught up with Taat’s new boss a few months into the job to find out more. The first question was obvious.

You have just moved from the world’s biggest tobacco company to a start-up. Was this a big leap of faith or a no-brainer?

In a lot of ways, this might be considered a leap of faith, as there were the combined risks of giving up the stability and prestige of working at PMI and replacing that role with a position at a brand new company. 

If one’s modus operandi is to just collect a salary and grow within the parameters of a corporate environment, then a move like this would definitely be a leap of faith. I don’t feel that way about it, though, and there are two reasons.

The first is that I see greater potential in Taat as an alternative to traditional cigarettes than I do in any of the alternatives brought to market by Big Tobacco. PMI has spent US$7.2 billion producing smoke-free products, but how much market share has that earned them? It’s then arguably a leap of faith to stay on the Big Tobacco side, since it assumes their alternatives will become and remain profitable.

That brings us to the second reason, which is that a leap of faith is very different from a calculated risk. As an entrepreneur and investment banker by trade, calculated risks are something I’m very familiar with. When you take smaller risks, you position yourself for smaller rewards, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I’ve become very comfortable taking educated and balanced risks when making business decisions.

What is the advantage of Taat’s Beyond Tobacco cigarettes over other non-nicotine products? 

I love this question because it highlights an interesting discrepancy in the category of alternative products to tobacco cigarettes. Tobacco-free products such as gums, patches, lozenges and vapes all have two things in common. The first is that they generally contain nicotine, and the second is that they’re in a completely different format to what a tobacco smoker is conditioned to using.

I think most people can understand it doesn’t make sense to try to leave nicotine behind by continuing nicotine intake using a different method. As for the format, it matters far more than you think. If nicotine was the only thing smokers craved, then things like gums and patches would work much better. The fact that smokers frequently abandon these alternatives to return to tobacco cigarettes suggests they crave the sensory and motor elements of smoking, which none of those alternatives can provide. 

Taat is built around an objective of mimicking those elements: the stick format, tobacco-like smell and taste, the crackling sound from combustion and the ability to flick ashes off the stick as the product burns. You can’t do that with a vape device, and you certainly can’t do that with gum or a patch.

Part of that is the patent-pending refinement technique we use for the Beyond Tobacco base material, which creates a taste and smell resembling tobacco. While others sell difference, we sell similarity, and for a transition such as giving up tobacco, similarity is priceless.

You are targeting the launch of Beyond Tobacco cigarettes in the fourth quarter of 2020. How wide will the launch be? 

We’ll be launching in the state of Ohio, which puts us into a market of about 11.7 million people, with 22.5% of Ohio adults being cigarette smokers, based on 2016 data.

We are not concentrating on any particular part of Ohio. The big three cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland are spread out geographically, which will allow us to examine regional trends during the launch, to better shape our expansion strategies. Our near-term intent is to expand our footprint outward to other states and organically build traction that way.

Does the company have international ambitions? 

Most definitely. And this isn’t just because other countries represent more smokers who might be interested in switching to Taat. It’s also because there are unique opportunities in international markets. For example, not many people know how expensive cigarettes are in Australia. Try nearly $50 per pack.

We also mentioned in October how the recent US$5 million private placement led by a prominent Hong Kong financier could help to expedite our entry into Asian markets.

But our current focus is on maximizing our launch in Ohio, as I believe that will build far more sustainable momentum than moving to expand internationally right away.

Can you give us an idea of the size of the market the company is aiming at?

Globally, about 1.3 billion people use tobacco, according to the World Health Organization. In 2018, the tobacco market at a worldwide level was valued at approximately US$814 billion.

Naturally, not every tobacco user necessarily wants to switch to a nicotine-free and tobacco-free product such as Taat, but there are enough tobacco smokers who have had enough of nicotine and want or have attempted to quit. One figure I believe reflects this in the United States is 2018 data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that says 55.1% of adult smokers had attempted to quit in the past year, though only 7.5% succeeded.

Therefore, if I had to answer this question in one sentence: hundreds of millions of people, and hundreds of billions of dollars. 

What can investors expect from Taat in the future?

Putting myself in the investor’s shoes for a moment, a start-up in the tobacco industry offering an analogue product such as Taat should present a clearly defined plan for commercializing it in a way that makes it a credible competitor to incumbent tobacco products. Further, I would expect visibility into how Taat is made and what the supply chain is like. Finally, I would expect transparency regarding the company’s progress, whether good or bad, both during the launch phase as well as during any expansion.

This story was featured in the Public Entrepreneur magazine.

Learn more about Taat Lifestyle & Wellness Ltd.
at https://trytaat.com/