Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Investors Guru Small Cap Stock Observer

(Amex/TSX: URZ) Uranerz Energy - America's Next Uranium Producer, Uranerz Receives Final NRC Permit

Exciting times ahead for (Amex/TSX: URZ) Uranerz Energy and its shareholders!

The company just announced receiving its long-anticipated NRC Materials License; one of the first new uranium-mine permits issued by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission in over 20 years!

A major milestone over 4-years in the making, this final approval was the last NRC hurdle before the company can now transition from Uranium Explorer to Uranium Producer status.

Our Read of the URZ Blueprint

Last year we especially liked uranium and since late 2010 we have closely followed URZ as one of our Featured Stocks. Uranerz Energy is a pure-play uranium company poised for near-term production in Wyoming - America's largest uranium producing state.

Uranerz Energy has great properties with an established resource, safe mining district with good infrastructure and nearby production, and with lots of exploration potential upside. The other URZ key for us is that their management really knows their stuff. They are some of the same people who built the world's third largest uranium producer, sold to Cameco in 1998.

Same people, same business plan, just a new name - actually even the name Uranerz comes from that company sold 13 years ago.

Uranerz Energy's impressive property portfolio covers over 95,400 acres (38,610 hectares or 149 square miles), consisting of over 30 uranium projects located in the Pumpkin Buttes Uranium Mining District of the Central Powder River Basin of Wyoming. Several of these projects, including Nichols Ranch and related properties covered under their NRC mining permit, are adjacent or nearby uranium producers (NYSE: CCJ) Cameco Corp. and (TSX: UUU) Uranium One Inc.. Cameco and Uranium One are two of the largest ISR uranium miners in the world!

Uranium mine permitting is an especially complicated, costly and time-taking process. Management's proven skills, and a few key announcements over the last year made us believers that Uranerz Energy might soon win the permitting race to become America's next uranium producer.

While several uranium explorers remain at various stages of the NRC licensing process, Uranerz Energy stands apart in that it can now commence construction of its first uranium mine!

Latest URZ News Releases:

From Uranerz Energy's July 20, 2011 news release, "The receipt of the NRC Materials License, the final step in the NRC licensing process, marks a very significant milestone achieved by the Company and represents the culmination of over four years of effort which was spearheaded by Mike Thomas our Manager of Environment, Health and Safety," stated Uranerz CEO & President Glenn Catchpole. "I congratulate our entire staff for their valuable contributions through the permitting process. The hiring of new staff is now underway and the Company is focused on the development and planned operation of the Nichols Ranch ISR Uranium Project."

Jul 20, 2011 - Uranerz Receives Final NRC Approval
Jun 28, 2011 - Uranerz Included in the Russell Family of Indexes
May 10, 2011 - Uranerz Initiates 2011 Powder River Basin Drilling Program
May 03, 2011 - Uranerz Energy Corporation Letter to Shareholders
Mar 02, 2011 - Uranerz Treasury Increases to $47 Million from Exercised Warrants
Jan 26, 2011 - Uranerz Announces Accelerated Expiry Date of Warrants
Jan 24, 2011 - NRC Determines No Major Environmental Impacts Preclude Licensing of Nichols Ranch ISR Uranium Project
Jan 04, 2011 - Uranerz Receives WDEQ Permit to Mine for Nichols Ranch Uranium Project
Dec 29, 2010 - Uranerz Completes $20 Million Financing

From Uranerz Energy's January 4, 2011 news release, "... This is a very significant event for our company, and it is one of the first new commercial uranium Permits to Mine issued by the WDEQ in almost 20 years, stated Uranerz President and CEO Glenn Catchpole. It gives Uranerz the State's approval to construct and operate an ISR uranium mine and demonstrates, through no negative comments being submitted to the WDEQ during the public comment period, that the citizens of Wyoming support uranium mining as long as operations follow the State's comprehensive environmental laws and regulations. ..."

Fast Track to Production - still 100% URZ play

In-Situ Recovery ("ISR") Uranium Mining has several advantages compared to hard-rock mining.

Typical hard-rock projects take many years to develop and are very capital intensive. For example, a diamond explorer I have followed closely since the mid 1990's recently released a positive Feasibility Study that projects ore production could start by 2017. This assumes timelines are now met in designing, permitting, infrastructure and raising around $2 billion in capital costs. The economics of this 20-years to production finish line is especially sensitive to diamond prices and grades, currency exchange rates, capital and operating costs, plus market conditions and interest rates if debt is needed.

This is why most small-cap explorers do not end up producing their own discoveries; instead having to partnership or joint venture to share the costs, risks and rewards, in order to get a mine done.

However Uranerz Energy is not your typical mining company. URZ has indicated total mine capital costs of approximately $35 million. No holdups there as the company currently has $44 million in the treasury and no debt.

Uranerz Energy has indicated construction of its first ISR Uranium Mine will take only 12 to 15 months. With its key NRC Material License and WDEQ Permit to Mine now in hand, and the Deep Disposal Well permit from the Wyoming Department of Water Quality anticipated prior to production, this puts the company on target to start producing commercial U3O8 Yellowcake at Nichols Ranch sometime around Q3-Q4 2012.

Now that both key state and national permits are in place, and with mine construction costs fully funded, how much ownership of the Nichols Ranch Project had to be given up to get to this point? Answer: Uranerz Energy still owns 100% of the Nichols Ranch property and mine, including adjacent Hank, Collins Draw and North Rolling Pin properties.

If you are thinking to get this far alone that there must be a gazillion shares outstanding, my screen shows only 76,738,574.

Uranium Resources

Uranerz Energy has reported NI 43-101 uranium resources for 7 of its over 30 uranium projects in the Powder River Basin area of Wyoming, U.S.A. The table below shows the Company's total estimated uranium resources as of October 14, 2010, on those seven projects.

Uranerz Attributable NI 43-101 Resources Table

Property Name Pounds eU3O8
Measured & Indicated
Average Grade
% eU3o8
Pounds eU3o8
Average Grade
% eU3o8
Date of 43-101
Report or Update
Reno Creek 4,292,948 0.056 142,167 0.039 October 13, 2010
South Doughstick 1,852,673 0.121 153,337 0.096 February 25, 2010
Doughstick Properties 882,736 0.081 86,909 0.055 January 26, 2010
Nichols Ranch 2,949,546 0.114 - - June 5, 2009
Hank 2,236,050 0.123 246,753 0.087 May 1, 2008
West North-Butte 2,837,015 0.153 2,681,928 0.120 December 9, 2008
North Rolling Pin 664,521 0.058 32,522 0.042 June 4, 2010
TOTALS 15,715,489 0.103 3,343,616 0.111
more information and cautionary note

Uranerz Energy has already qualified over 19 million pounds of U3O8 in the Measured & Indicated and Inferred categories. With only 7 out of 30+ uranium projects explored so far, the company's resources could potentially grow by multiples of this.

On May 10, 2011 Uranerz Energy announced their 2011 Powder River Basin Drilling Program. As additional uranium resources are potentially qualified at the company's +23 other nearby uranium projects, this additional feedstock could expand the economic size, cost efficiencies and overall value of the entire project, and should also extend the Nichols Ranch mine life significantly.

These additional resources can potentially be added to the company's existing permits and produced under the license amendment provisions.

ISR Uranium Mining & Nuclear Energy

Uranerz Energy's In-Situ Recovery mine-design is a relatively inexpensive and efficient mining process. Low capital costs, low operating costs and low labour costs. Compared to other mining methods, ISR is profitable on even lower grade uranium deposits.

ISR mining is also safe and environmentally friendly - no open pits or underground shafts, no waste rock or toxic tailings pond. Essentially a leaching agent of oxygen and baking soda is added to the groundwater and injected through wells into the ore body and then returned for processing.

Similarly, nuclear energy is the safest, cleanest, most efficient and lowest cost form of commercially available energy. Nuclear power has been around since the 1950's and provides 16% of the world's electricity. The IAEA shows 440 reactors in operation worldwide.

However, most opponents of nuclear energy can point to only three reactor accidents - Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. Japan's nuclear crisis may have more to do with faulty equipment and outdated plant design, than the 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.

For more about the Fukushima Daiichi accident and the effects on uranium investments see our past newsletters: The Fukushima Time Machine For Uranium Value Investors? and Uranium Stocks After Japan Quake, Deep Dip Within Long-Term Uptrend

Even three nuclear accidents are too many, but the point is that politicians and the media should provide factual research instead of stroking misguided fears. Uranium prices were above $70 a pound and trending higher with oil, then around $100 a barrel, just before Fukushima. U3O8 is now down to $55 although oil hasn't budged much from the century mark.

The fundamentals of growing energy demand plus hundreds of additional nuclear reactors to be built support uranium's long-term uptrend, despite the Fukushima related sell-off.

Mine Construction - long-lead items ordered months ago, production capacity

Uranerz Energy already has several drill rigs onsite and has been making mine preparations for months in anticipation of receiving its NRC Materials License that is now in place.

From the July 20, 2011 URZ News Release, "Construction activities will commence within the next few days to take full advantage of the summer/fall construction season in Wyoming. Uranerz has already initiated procurement of ion exchange equipment, including three sand filters and six resin loading columns. Well-field installation equipment is also on order including a cement silo, cementing pressure pump units, mixing trucks and well casing. The local electric utility has recently completed construction of a substation in close proximity to the Nichols Ranch project which will service the Company's mining operations in the Powder River Basin as well as other industrial projects in the region."

The central processing facility at the Company's Nichols Ranch ISR Uranium Project has been licensed for a capacity of 2 million pounds per year of uranium (as U3O8). It is planned that this facility will process uranium-bearing well field solutions from Nichols Ranch, as well as uranium-loaded resin transported from the Hank satellite facility, plus uranium-loaded resin from additional satellite deposits that may be developed on the Company's other Powder River Basin properties.

This centralized design enhances the economics of the Company's potential additional satellite projects by maximizing production capacity while minimizing further capital expenditures on processing facilities.

Uranium Producer Status

One might compare resource plays to a book, becoming clearer as you advance through each chapter. Anticipation and participation tends to build with each successful exploration, discovery, qualified resource, feasibility, permitting, financing, construction, production and operation stages.

However most financial analysts and institutional investors avoid speculative exploration companies and won't consider them as investments until economic production and near-term cash flow can be reasonably assessed. Now that the probabilities of Uranerz Energy becoming a uranium producer are essentially de-risked, many new eyes may want to take a look at URZ.

One might also find it interesting to compare URZ’ current USD $243-million market capitalization to any publicly traded uranium producer. Uranerz is not yet a uranium producer but is now the closest near-term producer.

URZ may also get a premium for being a US domestic producer as the geopolitical risks are low. The company has already entered into long-term uranium sales contracts with two of the largest nuclear utilities in the U.S., including (NYSE: EXC) Exelon Corp..

The finish line is now in sight for Uranerz Energy to be able to remove the words “Near-Term” in front of “Uranium Producer” – having all permits for mine construction, all NRC permits for uranium production, and with funding in place. We look forward to regular URZ construction, drilling and analyst updates.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Investors Guru Small Cap Stock Observer

(TSXV: PCT) Prima Colombia Hardwood - Company CEO Interview

We recently got a chance to sit down with Donald Hayes, President and CEO of Prima Colombia Hardwood (TSXV: PCT). Mr. Hayes is also Chairman of the board of directors of British Columbia Ferry Services and President and CEO of the Hayes Group, which has provided forest management services in British Columbia for over 50 years.

Q: Mr. Hayes, thank you for joining us. Please tell us about your forestry background - and how you became President and CEO of a tropical hardwood company in Colombia?

Hayes: The Hayes family entered the forestry business in 1922 when my grandfather, Douglas Hayes built some of the first logging trucks. In 1989 my brother Harold and I bought out the Family contracting business and grew it into the largest private forest service provider in British Colombia.

Q: What attracted PCT to doing business in Colombia?

Hayes: We were approached by a group from Nova Scotia who had invested in a Colombian company, REM International C.I.S.A., which had a forest license on the west coast of Colombia. They needed expertise in forest management and in particular in selective helicopter logging. We took a trip to Colombia, reviewed the opportunity, made an investment in the company and took over the management. This led to the RTO last September whereby Prima Colombia Hardwood Inc. (formerly Flagship Industries) acquired REM International C.I.S.A..

Q: Your corporate presentation summarises PCT as having "First Mover advantage, using Canadian forestry technology employing low impact, sustainable logging methods". Can you elaborate on the PCTs harvesting methods?

Hayes: PCT uses helicopters to selectively log creating minimal environmental impact. We do this in a systematic way. We start by creating a forest cover or inventory map using personnel on the ground and specialized hand held, GPS and bar code enabled computers. Based on this data, we submit cutting permit applications, select the trees for production and dispatch the helicopter to harvest those trees. This allows for the retention of trees in each species to keep the forest naturally bio diverse and sustainable.

Q: How many trees do you take per hectare?

Hayes: The density is extremely low from about 6 to 12 trees depending on size. In fact, because the density is so low, one of our challenges is that once we cut a tree, we can lose it under the forest canopy. So we have to keep track of each tree cut with GPS. The end result is a commercial forest in which there is very little visual impact or ground disturbance.

Q: What is meant by "chain of custody"?

Hayes: The first time we encounter the tree, it is given a waterproof barcode tag. The tree is entered into a computer system including its geo reference. After that, we follow that tree all the way through the production system until it is delivered to customers worldwide. It's like UPS. At every stage of harvesting and production we can tell you exactly where the tree is, where it came from, and what permit it was harvested under.

Q: What benefit does that give you as a seller?

Hayes: It allows us to control the inventory and to track costs. Chain of custody is also critical in getting third party certification like the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Many buyers have FSC certification and they require chain of custody. A big part of the objective of the FSC is to combat illegal logging which is done in an unsustainable way.

Q: A number of financial commentators have predicted that PCT will attract the interest of the $3 trillion ethical fund industry. Why is this so?

Hayes: Forestry is an important sustainable regional economic opportunity. Prima Colombia employs high standards of forest management over the land base which displaces the opportunity for others to harvest either illegally. My conjecture is that ethical funds will be attracted to a company managing a base of forest lands on a sustainable basis which displaces illegal harvesting.

Q: In PCT's July 14th press release, the company announced a change in jurisdiction from the Choco regional government to the Colombian Ministry of the Environment. What does this change in jurisdiction mean to PCT?

Hayes: The system in Colombia is that you have a forest licence which gives you the broad right to manage a forest base in a specific area. Each time you want to cut a smaller area within that licence you apply for cutting permits. In this instance, the Ministry of Environment has taken over the jurisdiction from the local government of Choco regarding issuance of cutting permits. In the long run we see this as a positive development. The ministry of Environment is tremendously professional, they have the resources and they've already established a 4 person technical team to work with us. We are looking forward to establishing a new relationship with them.

Q: PCT's share price has fallen since the July 14th announcement, what is the process on getting the permits re-instated?

Hayes: The MOE is in the process of doing a review of documents. Our applications have been prepared in accordance with the requirements of Choco and MOE will let us know, if they have any different or additional requirements for the applications. While this is primarily a paper exercise, we are being very proactive to ensure that the MOE gets everything that they require. The MOE is also scheduling technical visits to the site, which we look forward to.

Q: How drastically has the risk reward profile of PCT changed in lieu of this announcement?

Hayes: The trees are still there, the opportunity is still there. We're dealing with a delay in production as a result of a government jurisdiction change. The timing is unfortunate but the forestry opportunity in Colombia remains unchanged and we remain very confident.

Q: Did the Ministry of Environment provide any reasoning behind the permit revocation?

Hayes: They have given us no specific reason, we feel that it is mainly a jurisdiction issue between two branches of government

Q: PCT has reduced their burn rate to $600,000 per month - what is this money being used for?

Hayes: The money is being used to ensure that we maintain the opportunity. Half a dozen forestry engineers continue to work to support the permit process. We have camp and security personnel at our camp ensuring the assets are secure. We have a reduced business office in Colombia. Our office here in Vancouver continues to operate on a reduced scale.

Q: How long will your current cash position last and how do you look to finance the company?

Hayes: Key stakeholders of the company have given strong indication that they will support the company through this period.

Q: Do you anticipate further stock dilution?

Hayes: We had announced a private placement at the time when this arose which would have resulted in dilution. This financing has been delayed but will eventually be required. We expect that the support will have some aspect of convertibility or some equity benefits.

Q: Where do you see PCT 6 to 12 months from now?

Hayes: It is my expectation that we will be fully operational on our existing license and will be aggressively pursuing additional timber lands to add to our sustainable timber reserves.

Q: Thank you for your time.

More at: www.PrimaHardwood.com.

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