by Will Purcell
The diamond and specialty minerals stocks box score on Friday was a positive 71-60-169 as the TSX Venture Exchange rose one point to 570 while polished diamond prices lost ground. Rod Irwin's Stans Energy Corp. (HRE) jumped 2.5 cents to 8.5 cents on 1.33 million shares. There has been no news from the company in a month, and arguably nothing important since May, when a court arbitrator told it that it should have news of the company's case against Kyrgyzstan "no later than in the course of July, 2019." Of course, courts move slowly.
Dermot Desmond and Stuart Brown's Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. (MPVD) took another blow to the jaw this week with word that its stock has fallen below the $1 (U.S.) threshold for continued listing on the Nasdaq exchange. Mountain Province traded as high as $5.52 (U.S.) on Nasdaq three years ago, when it was ramping up production at its 49-per-cent-owned Gahcho Kue diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, but it has been a long downhill run from there.
Mountain Province now has six months to elevate its stock price, preferably through good news or a market rally, but otherwise through a share consolidation if the company chooses to keep its listing. Mountain Province ran afoul of the listing requirement when its stock failed to maintain a closing bid price above the $1 (U.S.) mark from late June until now. The company also had a tough run earlier this year, when it traded at or below $1 from early March to mid-April, but it apparently managed to occasionally pop a nostril above water to gasp a listing-saving breath.
The closing bid price is not to be confused with the intraday price, or the closing price: Mountain Province's stock traded above $1 (U.S.) on Nasdaq at least once every week or two through the latest period, and it closed at $1 twice in July. Now, having fallen into disfavour, Mountain Province will have to keep its closing bid price at or above $1 (U.S.) for at least 10 consecutive sessions. That could be a challenge, as the stock can be thinly traded on Nasdaq and bids for the stock tend to dry by closing time.
Mountain Province's stock has been listed on Nasdaq since the end of 2014, when it abruptly shifted its American listing there from the New York Stock Exchange. Patrick Evans, chief executive officer at the time, welcomed the downgrade as a move that would "improve the visibility of our stock." That explanation, curiously, was eerily similar with the one offered by Elizabeth Kirkwood, then chairman, when Mountain Province moved from Nasdaq to the NYSE in 2005. She said the promotion would generate "improved liquidity in the stock" and a "higher overall profile for the company."
Mr. Brown, Mountain Province's current president and CEO, said not a word about the company's plans for the Nasdaq listing but investors need not worry either way. The company maintains its main listing on the TSX exchange in Canada and there is no danger of Mountain Province's stock running afoul of the TSX listing requirements, which are minimal in comparison with Nasdaq. Mountain Province dropped three cents to $1.20 on 54,000 shares in Canada. On Nasdaq, it dropped one-half U.S. cent to 91.5 (U.S.) cents on 31,000 shares.
Tom Drivas and James Sykes's Appia Energy Corp. (API), down two cents to 28 cents on 9,000 shares, has wrapped up drilling at its Alces Lake rare earth project in Northern Saskatchewan. The drilling, which spanned 2,042 metres across 44 holes, tested six target areas selected through geophysics and geology. All but four of the holes returned monazite intervals and only one of the target areas, Alces, failed to produce the rare-earth-bearing rock. The Ivan target received roughly half of the drilling, and Charles and Dante were well probed as well, with eight holes each.
Mr. Sykes, vice-president of exploration, says that the drilling was an "important and successful progression" for Appia on the Alces Lake project. He says that the widespread nature of monazite indicates the mineralization system is far more extensive beneath the surface that what had previously been observed. "We remain excited to continue exploring for monazite-hosted rare earth elements" on the property, he enthused. Investors will presumably hold off on the enthusiasm until the assays are available.
Craig Taylor's Defense Metals Corp. (DEFN), up one-half cent to 14 cents on 122,000 shares, has begun a 2,000-metre drill program at its Wicheeda rare earth project near Prince George in north-central British Columbia. The six-week program is designed to further delineate and potentially expand the deposit sufficiently to produce an updated resource estimate.
Wicheeda has been explored and promoted for over 10 years and the deposit currently hosts 11.37 million tonnes inferred at 1.96 per cent light rare earth elements. It was big news during the last rare earth cycle and its revival is a sign that Howe Street is returning to rare earth plays. Defense acquired an option covering Wicheeda early this year. It can earn a 100-per-cent interest in the project by spending $1.93-million in stages and making staged payments of cash and shares.
Mitchell Smith's Global Energy Metals Corp. (GEMC), unchanged at 3.5 cents on 284,000 shares, plans to fly a geophysical survey over its Battery minerals project in Nevada using unmanned aerial vehicles -- drones, in other words. Mr. Smith, CEO, says that this is the next step following "robust preliminary results" of the initial program completed this summer, which showed "positive indicators of the potential of the nickel, copper, cobalt project." The initial surveys will cover high-priority targets on the Lovelock portion of the project, which hosts an old mine that yielded high-grade (what else?) nickel, copper and cobalt.
Peter Swistak's Vertical Exploration Inc. (VERT), unchanged at four cents on 8,000 shares, has acquired five new claims surrounding its St. Onge wollastonite project in the Saguenay district of Quebec. The project now spans 1,750 hectares of ground, and Mr. Swistak, president and CEO, is already touting "newly discovered graphite occurrences" on the project. He says that the new surface rights claims and the addition of a graphite prospect "further strengthens the company's ability to consolidate and quickly advance our high-grade wollastonite deposit." (He does not explain how a graphite diversion will speed up the pace with the wollastonite development.)
Wollastonite presumably remains the key story. Vertical Exploration lists 14.08 million tonnes measured and indicated at 36.61 per cent wollastonite, plus 17.9 million tonnes inferred at 40.25 per cent. Wollastonite is a mix of calcium oxide and silicon oxide that is used in construction, and as additives in paints and coatings, plastics, adhesives and sealings.