- Aurion Resources AU.V
- Current market cap: $155M Canadian FD
- Current share count: 90M FD
- Current share price: $1.72
A rare discovery of over 100 high-grade gold boulders, many with coarse visible gold, caught the attention of geologists and gold exploration investors in early 2017. The share price quadrupled quickly as people tried to understand the significance of this find. I had decided six months earlier to buy Aurion (AU on TSX-V) based on the honest, technically strong, and hard-working people involved. A quick turn of events was not something I foresaw.
Much has happened since then and the market took back a good portion of those initial gains. Today, the stock price is not much higher than after the initial find! However, the project is much more advanced than in those exciting early days. Below is a brief description of key events and the roller coaster stock price ride:
In early October 2019, wanting to see progress with my own eyes, I visited the site which is north of the Arctic Circle in Finland. For those already following the story, significant progress has been made since Luc Ten Have visited the site last year. https://ceo.ca/@luctenhave/gold-in-finland-my-tenbagger-story
One of the axioms in exploration is that in order to find big deposits, one needs big structures and wide zones of alteration. Aurion has these qualities in large doses at their properties of Risti and Launi East. Drilling and channel sampling is ongoing, and will continue into the winter. Over the next several months I expect a lot more data to be released which could make Aurion desirable for acquisition by a major mining company.
Aurion has a large land position straddling the Sirkka shear zone, of which they control ~80 km of the 125 km feature. The Sirkka shear zone is a crustal fault zone, much like the Destor-Porcupine Fault or the Larder Lake-Cadillac Break in Canada’s prolific Abitibi region. The plumbing source for a large mineralized system is obvious. Epithermal systems like the ones seen on Aurion’s properties are characterized by having deep roots.
Aurion’s land position in the Central Lapland Greenstone Belt is comparable in size to the Timmins portion of the Abitibi Greenstone belt and there are geological similarities. The Timmins camp has produced over 70 million ounces of gold. If Aurion can demonstrate it has several million ounces of gold, the company should be sold at multiples of the current share price.
I will begin by describing the flagship property Risti, but don’t miss the description of the Launi property which follows. I will conclude with a summary of the investment opportunity Aurion presents.
Since the boulder discovery occurred on the Risti property in late 2016, many additional rock grab samples averaging 8 g/t Au have been taken over an area of 15 km by 8 km. As a result of surface sampling seven targets have been identified. The majority of work done to date is at Aamurusko Main and Aamurusko NW. In these two areas over 1,200 surface samples averaging 25 g/t Au have been taken. These are very high-grade values.
Initially it was thought that the boulders had been frost-heaved from the ground directly below the rocks. This led to some disappointment with the first set of holes in 2017. It turns out the boulders had been relocated by glacial meltwater from a source not far uphill. In 2018 and 2019 improved understanding of the structural controls has been achieved through trenching and additional drilling.
There are two parallel faults running WNW-ESE through Aamurusko, spaced about 250 metres apart. These faults were a pathway for quartz-bearing gold which rose from the depths. Within these parallel faults there are multiple NE-SW trending breaks along a 1.7 km distance. The veins discovered to date appear to be associated with those NE-SW trending breaks. The high-grade shear veins are steeply dipping to the WNW. Multiple flatter dipping extensional veins run between the shear veins. These shear veins and extensional veins look similar to the picture below from Kalgoorlie which is the largest mine in Australia.
This visual helps me understand the variability in drill results that has occurred. The veins tend to have nuggety, high-grade gold and the sandstone host rock has a much lower grade of gold. If the drill core does not pass through the veins at right angles but rather more obliquely, the drill results will be sub-optimal. This is thought to be the case in some previous drilling where the drill holes were roughly parallel to the veins.
Aurion now thinks they have cracked the code for orientation of mineralization at Aamurusko. They have used downhole cameras to view veins as the core often breaks up and the original orientation of veins is lost. If the new theories on mineralization are correct, drill results will show more consistent continuity.
The picture attached below shows a drill pad recently constructed at Aamurusko Main which will soon be drilled. The best intercept to date at Aamurusko Main is 789 g/t Au over 2.9 m. The hole being drilled will test the new theory of vein orientation.I earlier mentioned the two parallel faults running through the Risti property. One of these faults is at the base of the talus covered slope. The other is at the top of the slope. The area between the faults contains a steep hill covered in rock which makes drilling difficult. Aurion has found a gold deposit in probably the most terrain challenged location in Finland!
Geophysics has identified a 13 km long trend at Risti, and there are currently seven targets on this trend. The two main ones being explored, 600 metres apart, are Aamurusko Main and Aamurusko NW. Aurion is currently using a helicopter drill rig at Aamurusko NW due to the steep terrain in this zone. Drilling has been significantly slower than expected in 2019 due to the heli-rig not having enough torque to drill at high rates. This problem has been solved in the past month with the arrival of a new rig from Canada. Currently 100 m/day is achieved on most days.
A total of 17 holes have been completed recently in 2019 at Aamurusko NW. Six of these have had results reported and 11 holes are still outstanding. The best intercept in this area is 13.3 g/t Au over 19.5 m (including 230 g/t Au over 0.58 m). It’s worth noting that Aurion is hitting gold mineralization on nearly 100% of holes recently. Due to the variable nature of mineralization, bonanza grade intersections do not always occur. Mineralization is sometimes more disseminated and in stringer form.
The unveiling of Launi East with 750 metres of open trenches was my highlight of the tour. Most of the North American based management of Aurion had not seen Launi trenches before and they were as excited as anyone. Launi East is the #2 prospect of Aurion, but it seems to have similar potential to Risti. In comparison to the challenging terrain at the Aamurusko portion of Risti, Launi is quite flat. We were able to drive four-wheel drive vehicles to the trenches dug recently.
Outcropping mineralization was first discovered at Launi in 2018 by Aurion prospectors. Aurion is fortunate to have several Newfoundland based prospectors who love to work in the field, scraping moss and breaking rocks. Prior to 2018 Launi had never seen any significant exploration.
To date, trenches have been dug at the Kookoo and Christmas targets at Launi. The trenches have been dug parallel to each other and separated by 50 to 100 m. There is only 1-2 metres of overburden over the bedrock at Launi which makes digging with a backhoe relatively easy. In the picture below I am standing in front of a trench approximately 200 m long. A quartz fault fill vein is circled in the trench, showing how close to surface these veins are.
The size and number of veins in the trenches is notable. Fault fill veins seem to line up from one trench to the next. There are at least three main zones of veins observed running across the trenches. Some of these veins were seen in outcrop. Other subcropping veins were found while digging the trenches. Extensional veins extend out from the fault fill veins.
There are two particularly impressive veins that were uncovered by trenching. “Big Blow 1” ranges between 1 and 2 m wide and sections have been trenched over a 1 km long area. “Big Blow 2” has only been uncovered in one trench so far, but is comprised of an approximately 7 m wide zone with multiple quartz veins up to 1.5 m wide. Many channel samples were taken from these and other veins and the surrounding altered rock. Below is a picture of “Big Blow 2”:
Results of the rock chip samples at Launi were ~31 g/t Au at the Kookoo zone and ~7 g/t Au at the Christmas zone. It will be very interesting to see if the channel sample results from these veins (expected in early November) have similar grades to the chip samples. Overall the gold mineralization is finer at Launi than Risti, and more evenly distributed in the chip samples than was seen in the rock samples taken from Risti.
The sandstone bedrock units around the trench veins are highly altered in places, with fuchsite, hematite and pyrite being common. The green and reddish-brown coloration led to the naming of the Christmas target. This alteration further confirms the potential for a high-grade deposit at Launi.
We were able to see flecks of visible gold in several places in the Launi trenches. These specks of gold drew a lot of interest during the tour. In the picture below small pieces of gold can be seen to the left of the mechanical pencil tip.
Below is a picture of a rock containing quartz stringer veins. Mike Basha, CEO of Aurion, is pointing out a piece of visible gold.
I found the process of mapping of a trench interesting. After a trench is dug and washed, a drone flight over the trench produces photographs. This data is then processed and within four hours a detailed topographical map is produced. The definition on the map is very high, each pixel representing 3.5 mm. Teams of mappers then carefully go through the trenches and make detailed notes on the maps. This information is put into more comprehensive structural maps for use in drill targeting.
The current plan is to begin drilling at Launi near the end of October and continue into the winter. The shallow angle of the site lends itself to winter drilling with a track rig. Snow is typically light and fluffy and easily moved. Targeting should be relatively simple due to the obvious locations of the veins.
Aurion checks a lot of boxes for a gold exploration speculator, including the following items:
People: Aurion has an excellent well-rounded team. Mike Basha is the exploration geologist and CEO who leads the company. The hardworking team in Finland is also highly skilled in geology. Of the members I met, Eugene Flood is a technical advisor helping with establishing drill targets. Mike Stuebli was leading the structural mapping team. Juhani Ojala is a geologist with a high level of expertise in the geology of Finland. Anton, a Finnish geologist, was leading exploration work in the trenches. People like these are crucial to the success of the program and I was impressed with their high level of commitment and interest in this project. They work long hours 7 days a week. On the capital markets and strategic side, Dave Lotan, Mark Serdan, Mark Santarossa and Miles Thompson bring decades of experience.
Skin in the game: Management and the board own 17.5% of shares.
Cornerstone investors: Kinross 9.95%, Eric Sprott 5%, Newmont Goldcorp 3.8%.
Property: Aurion controls 80 km of the Sirkka shear zone and has a land position of 100,000 hectares in the Finnish Central Lapland Greenstone Belt.
Funding: Approximately $20M in cash presently.
Costs of exploration: These are relatively low compared to many projects. For a very reasonable cost Aurion leases an old school in Sodankyla which is 40 minute drive from site. It functions as an office as well as living accommodations for the staff. Likewise, the core shack is located in a warehouse leased from a car dealer in town. There is no need for an expensive camp.
Share structure: About 90M shares fully diluted which is reasonable at this point in the program.
Social license: Finland rates very high as a location for mining investment. There are two mines nearby, and there is no evidence of opposition to mining that I saw.
Metallurgy: Should not be complex as gold is visible to the eye.
Timing: Many early challenges have been solved and the pace of results is ramping up. A lot of data will be generated in the next year.
The Aurion properties of Risti and Launi East both show the potential for a large scale and high-grade gold deposit. There are similarities in size and geology to Timmins which has produced 70M ounces of gold. Either or both of the Aurion properties could host multiple millions of ounces of gold. The opportunity to participate in value creation by discovery of two potentially world class deposits does not come along very often in the same junior exploration company.
It seems like Aurion has cracked the geological code at the Aamurusko area of Risti and that in the next few months we could see drill results which show a significant increase in size of the deposit.
Aurion has identified a second highly prospective property in Launi that should advance quite rapidly over the coming year. Drilling will start soon. If the veins at surface have high-grade gold and these same veins can be intersected at depth multiple times by drilling, Launi could bulk up quickly.
Note: I am an Aurion shareholder and am therefore positively biased toward the company. I have not received any compensation for writing this report.