Interim Report to June 2009
CHAIRMAN’S INTERIM STATEMENT
I am delighted to present my first interim statement as your chairman.
I believe that my experience as a senior international advisor to AMEC plc for the last ten years, together with my time as Trade minister promoting Britain’s mining and energy industries around the world, give me an insight into the commercial and political problems facing the Company.
As your CEO points out the climate for small mineral exploration companies has been far from easy over the last six months.
The industry has also been confronted by the seemingly split minded approach of the new US administration which very early on in its tenure has found itself on the horns of a dilemma.
On the one hand the new President is promoting a much lower reliance by the US on foreign energy resources but on the other hand his Secretary of the Interior is calling a two year “time out” on locating new claims in one of the most prolific uranium bearing areas of the United States, which will be crucial for the development of Nuclear Power.
No government will find it easy to reconcile the demands of conservation with ever growing commercial and consumer pressures for more energy. I shall do all I can to ensure that VANE Minerals’ interests are well represented in the debates ahead.
We believe that our assets and licenses are well grounded and well protected and at the appropriate time we will gain material financial returns from them.
We have recently commenced our second drilling programme on the Wate Pipe, mainly consisting of washing out existing holes and hope to be in a position to report the Company’s maiden NI43-101 compliant resource to the market by the end of the year.
Elsewhere, we are proceeding with a range of initiatives which because of our cash position and strong track record we believe have exciting prospects. Not only are we examining many potential additional uranium projects but also actively seeking to expand the copper division, utilizing the vast experience the team has in porphyry copper exploration.
Finally, any company is as good as its management team and its staff. VANE is, as I mention above, extremely fortunate in having some of the most highly respected and experienced exploration geologists in the business not only in copper but also uranium along with a strong team supporting them. I am confident they will over time bring to the company an increasing level of success and return.
Sir Richard Needham
27 August 2009
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER’S OPERATIONS STATEMENT
The first half of 2009 has been a difficult time for many natural resource companies including VANE. However, with the completion of a fund raising in November 2007 and by bearing down on costs, your company is well positioned to take advantage of opportunities currently becoming available within the industry as financial market conditions remain difficult.
On the 20 July 2009 we announced the appointment of Sir Richard Needham as non-executive Chairman of the Board. Sir Richard brings to VANE significant public company Board and political experience at both local and international level.
We have also appointed Arbuthnot Securities Limited as NOMAD and broker and look forward to working closely with them in developing the company.
U.S. URANIUM EXPLORATION
Uranium exploration by VANE’s wholly owned subsidiary VANE Minerals (US) LLC continued in southwestern US, more specifically in Arizona and Utah, under the capable leadership of Kris Hefton. The uranium price in January stood at $49.00 per pound U3O8 and ended the first half of 2009 at $54.00 down from the high of about $135 per pound in early 2008 but well above the $19.00 per pound price in late 2004, when VANE commenced building its uranium portfolio.
Our 50:50 joint venture with Uranium One Exploration U.S.A. Inc. (U1) in the high-grade (+/- 1% U3O8) breccia pipe district in northern Arizona operated smoothly. Previously drilled holes at the Wate Pipe were re-entered and logged. Those results were reported in a press release dated 2nd February 2009. Hole WT-5 intersected 30.5 feet that averaged 1.87% eU3O8. The Wate Pipe was previously explored with considerable success by Rocky Mountain Energy in conjunction with their joint venture partner, Taiwan Power Corporation. Although we are still in dialogue with Taiwan Power to obtain the drilling data, it has proved to be a time- consuming process and therefore we have decided to advance the project through washing out and probing the existing holes and new drilling as necessary to confirm previous results. With all the necessary permits in place, this work is now underway and when completed will allow us to issue a NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate. We will report results from Wate as they become available.
The acquisition of additional targets within the area of the VANE-U1 joint venture was made possible, subject to due diligence, by the signing of an Agreement with Neutron Energy Inc. (NEI) as reported in the press release dated 25 June 2009. The property package included two confirmed pipes and 63 pipe targets. This would bring the number of targets within the VANE-U1 joint venture to more than 120 if the entire NEI land package is acquired.
Evaluation of VANE’s wholly owned Utah properties, Happy Jack, North Wash, Abajo and North Alice Extension, continued with the 2008 drill results at Happy Jack reported on in the press release dated 2 February 2009. Uranium prices in the $50.00 per pound range render these stratabound deposits marginal; however, costs to hold these properties have been re-negotiated enabling us to hold these properties in anticipation of price increases reflecting increased demand for clean affordable energy.
Two political issues have arisen regarding the exploration and mining of uranium in northern Arizona. One is the proposal of The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009 (HR644), which would withdraw forever from mineral entry 1,000,000 acres of federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The second issue involves Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s segregation order of 21 July 2009 covering the same 1,000,000 acres for two years, which although announced as closing the area to “new claims”, it transpires that it essentially is closing the area to exploration and mining unless the federal lode claims meet a ‘valid existing rights’ (VER) test. The exact requirements of the VER test are still being formulated. We are in close touch with the authorities and once we have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations and their potential effect on VANE operations, we will issue a press release.
The two year ‘time out’ is to be used to study the effects of uranium exploration and mining on the surrounding area, including the Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River. Mr. Salazar’s order appears to ignore the fact that uranium exploration and mining was far more active than at present in the same area during the 1970-1990s with no measureable effect on the surrounding area, including the Grand Canyon National Park or the Colorado River. There was however, the creation of many mining related jobs and the production of uranium from which clean, safe nuclear energy was produced.
For the moment, VANE will continue to pursue the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement initiated nearly one year ago and covering 25 targets within the Kaibab National Forest with the expectation that drilling will commence in 2010.
The United States, at present, is heavily reliant on foreign energy fuel sources, such as oil and gas, and is also leading the way on environmental and CO2 emissions agendas; these twin “issues” can realistically only be reduced by significant increases in nuclear generated power to feed the growing demand for electricity in the US. According to a report published by the U.S. Geological Survey, 42% of the undiscovered uranium endowment in the USA lies within the northern Arizona region. It would seem inconceivable that such an important resource to the nation could be denied to the American economy.
Your company is continually reviewing this situation and is fully engaged in the political and legal process. VANE has had a clearly established presence in the region and over the past five years our exploration work has identified a series of highly prospective targets and potential mines. We have operated in full compliance with US regulations and expect to be afforded the full protection of the established mining code.
DIABLITO MINING AND MILLING (Ag/Au) OPERATIONS, NAYARIT, MEXICO
VANE Minerals plc’s wholly owned subsidiary, Minerales VANE SA de CV (MV), operated well during the first half of 2009, due to the efforts of the MV team headed by Dr. Luis Perez, Director of Mexican Operations, and including Ing. Manuel Rizzoli, who manages mining and milling operations, and Ing. Luis Alberto, Superintendent of the Diablito Mine.
Production at the Diablito Mine at Las Lumbres averaged 1,919 tonnes per month, slightly below our target of 2,150 tonnes per month. Silver and gold grades were on target at 322g/T and 2.7g/T respectively. A periodic review of mine and mill safety and operating procedures by Dan White of PRE, Physical Resource Engineering, Inc. of Tucson was completed - no major incidents were recorded. All recommendations are being initiated to ensure maximum safety and efficiency.
The San Dieguito de Arriba mill (SDA) located 30km north of the Diablito mine and 5 km east of Acaponeta operated smoothly at 91% availability. Tonnes milled during the first half of 2009 amounted to 16,485 tonnes for an average of 2,748 tonnes per month or at 102% of target. The average grade of material processed was 297g/T silver and 2.5g/T gold. Mined tonnes, 1,919 tonnes per month, were supplemented by 829 tonnes per month of lower grade material stockpiled at the mine during the first three years of the mine operation. Approximately 12,000 tonnes of this lower grade material, which contains 200g/T silver and 1.5g/T gold, remained at the end of June 2009. Silver and gold recoveries in the mill were 88% and 84% respectively.
Sale of our concentrates was split between Penoles in Torreon and Grupo Mexico in San Luis Potosi. Our first shipment of 2009 went to Penoles before a strike at the smelter halted operations. During the strike Luis Perez negotiated very favourable terms with Grupo and the remaining concentrates were shipped to Grupo Mexico in SLP. We shipped 245 tonnes of concentrates during the first half of 2009 representing a concentration ratio of 67:1, ore:concentrates. Average metal prices for the six month period were $12.88 and $912.42 per ounce for silver and gold respectively.
Plans for the remainder of 2009 are to operate the mill at full capacity, 2,700 tonnes per month, and to increase the grade of the mill feed either by increasing the grade of the material mined at Diablito or through acquisition of ore from near-by mine(s) having higher grade ore than our lower grade stockpiled material at Diablito. The stockpiled ore at Diablito is carried at zero cost since the mining costs of this material were written off against higher grade material mined at the same time, which has already been processed. Several acquisition opportunities are under investigation and will be reported as agreements are finalized.
SOUTHWESTERN USA COPPER EXPLORATION
VANE’s copper exploration group continues to seek opportunities to acquire porphyry copper targets in the southwestern U.S. One property currently controlled by VANE is the Yuma King Property. The agreement covering the Yuma King prospect in west central Arizona was announced on 30 January 2009. The property consists of 320 federal lode claims and encompasses approximately 6,400 acres in La Paz County, Arizona. Ongoing investigation/evaluation indicates a deep porphyry copper target. Historical data from several drill holes intersected highly anomalous copper and molybdenum at the bottom of the holes. We are also evaluating a near surface copper oxide occurrence within the same claim block.
Several other targets are being investigated in the southwestern US copper province. It is expected that additional property acquisition(s) will be made during the second half of 2009.
We originally became interested in the La Paloma area as a result of free gold found in panned stream sediments. Our efforts to locate the source of the placer gold were hampered by the very low topographic relief and extensive vegetation cover, both cultivated and natural. Our understanding of the geology and geologic history of the prospect area was initially based on sparse scattered rock outcroppings and a few shallow hand-dug pits. With completion of a diamond drilling program in February 2009 and more recently an interpretation of ground and airborne magnetic surveys, our understanding of La Paloma geology has come more clearly into focus and enabled us to concentrate on two areas that represent the probable source(s) of the stream borne gold.
We now understand that the area is one in which a thin soil horizon (1-2 meters) has developed over a deeply weathered (lateritic) basaltic bedrock. Gold tends to migrate in both the soil and the lateritic environments but in response to different forces. In the soil, the movement is down-slope under the influence of gravity as the gold works its way toward the slow-moving streams in which it was first detected. In the laterite, which is nothing more than deeply weathered rock, movement of gold is controlled more by chemistry and movement of ground water.
In order to follow the “gold trails”, extensive sampling of the deeper laterite is required. The VANE team in Paraguay responded to the challenge by developing a system of deep hand augering that allows them to penetrate the soil horizon and obtain a core-like sample of the underlying laterite to depths of up to 14 meters without resorting to expensive diamond drilling. Tests of this type are presently underway probing fault structures in the laterite whose location has been determined by magnetic geophysical surveys.
While we are encouraged by the determination and innovative spirit of the Paraguayan staff, we realize that success at La Paloma will require commitment to a long term effort. To that end, we are in the process of actively seeking a joint venture partner with whom to carry the work forward. We have assembled an executive summary and distributed it to a number of potentially suitable partners. Several groups have expressed interest and are reviewing the material.
With our current cash reserves and continuing production from the Diablito mine, the group has sufficient cash to carry out its proposed exploration programme over the next twelve months without recourse to any further borrowing.
Steven D Van Nort
27 August 2009