The reawakening of North America’s domestic manufacturing powerhouse is here. And with it, are new opportunities for you to capitalize on the metals supercycle that is set to commence.
Two areas of growing interest are the energy storage and battery manufacturing markets. Recently, these technologies have experienced a ton of innovation that propelled them into the mainstream. From electric vehicles to large-scale energy storage and robotics, batteries are playing an increasingly important role in modern society.
Because of this, most investors are fixated on the growing demand for quality domestic lithium deposits, when surprisingly, they should be paying attention to another battery material of equal or even greater importance.
Nickel, primarily used in stainless steel, is a critical component of lithium-ion batteries, representing 80% and 33% of NCA and NMC batteries, respectively. These two battery types alone make up more than 56% of all lithium-ion batteries used in North, South, and Central America.
Source: US Department of Energy.
Moreover, nickel-based batteries offer many advantages, including high energy density, a long cycle life, and high safety performance. Without even mentioning the plethora of applications outside of battery and automobile technology, you can see there is a great need for this metal. In turn, S&P Global expects that nickel demand, alongside lithium and cobalt, will be 23 times higher by 2035. A staggering jump!
If so, what is the best way to capitalize on this highly sought-after mineral? Well, Alaska Energy Metals (CA: AEMC.V) (USA: AKEMF) could hold the answer. With an estimated 1.5 billion pounds+ of nickel so far documented at its Nikolai Project, sufficient funding, and a proven management team, this Alaska-based exploration company is in a fantastic position to benefit from the nickel boom. Let’s dive in.
The Team Behind Alaska Energy Metals
It goes without saying that building a successful business requires an incredible team. This is true with Alaska Energy Metals, which has assembled a group of industry professionals and capital market experts to unlock the full potential of its prized project, Nikolai.
Greg Beischer is the President and CEO of AEMC possessing over 30 years of experience as a geologist and mining engineering technologist. His expertise in magmatic nickel deposit exploration places him in an excellent position to guide his team, locate quality deposits, and allocate resources efficiently. Notably, while with INCO, Greg explored Nikolai in 1995, the very project he is working on today; but now with Alaska Energy Metals. Moreover, in his previous role as head of Millrock Resources, Mr. Beischer successfully raised over US$50 million for exploration projects, often through partnerships with major companies. This combination of technical expertise, leadership experience, and networking capabilities makes him one of the best-qualified executives in the industry.
But he is not alone. Alongside Mr. Beischer is a team of dedicated experts that includes Vice President of Exploration, Kyle Negri, Chief Geologist, Gabe Graf, Chief Financial Officer, Dave Cross, and Vice President of Administration, Traci Hartz, among others. Together, this team is committed to maximizing the potential of AEMC and the economic value of its assets. When exploring the market at large, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better group of individuals.
The Nikolai Project
Alaska Energy Metals’ flagship project, The Nikolai Project, is a 9,454-hectare plot comprising two adjacent claim blocks on the southern flank of the Alaska Range. It is strategically located near a network of paved highways and gravel roads; the cities of Fairbanks (200 km NW) and Delta Junction (130 km N); as well as Alaska’s main power line and railway (100 km W). What’s more, Alaska is a pro-resource development state with competitive taxation rates.
Though the company’s primary focus is nickel, Nikolai is home to a variety of secondary minerals including copper, cobalt, chrome, iron, platinum, palladium, and gold as well. Based on AEMC’s most recent Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE), the total mass of these metals equates to 2.098 billion pounds of Nickel Equivalent (Ni Eq), proving the abundance and favorability of this project. With the results of AEMC’s 2023 drilling campaign and an updated MRE from Stantec forthcoming, the project’s metal supply is expected to increase significantly in the first quarter of 2024.
All in all, The Nikolai Project serves as an impressive asset for AEMC, boasting several highly sought-after minerals. But, if you want the complete picture, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the land claims that make up Nikolai (The Eureka and Canwell blocks), and the recent developments taking place on these properties.
The Eureka Zone
The Eureka Zone of mineralization occurs on AEMC’s Eureka block of claims forming one portion of the Nikolai Project. It consists of 104 State of Alaska mining claims (6,734 hectares) and is 100% owned by Alaska Energy Metals. Eureka contains strong concentrations of nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, palladium, and gold.
Recently, AEMC conducted an extensive exploration drilling campaign consisting of eight drilled holes over a 1,200m strike length in 2023. The campaign proved to be quite promising with results consistent with historical drill hole results.
In November 2023, AEMC filed a National Instrument 43-101 Technical Report that provided an extensive summary of the scientific and technical material concerning the recent exploration. This documented a maiden Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) that exceeded 1.5 billion pounds of contained nickel.
With the summer 2023 drilling campaign complete (4,138m in 8 holes), and all assay data in hand, the company is poised to report an updated independent Mineral Resource Estimate, through the independent, industry-leading mining consultancy Stantec Consulting Services.
The updated MRE will serve as an important catalyst for the Eureka Zone and the Nikolai Project at large, showcasing the vast potential of this project and its resources.
This is backed by AEMC President and CEO Greg Beischer, who put it best: “With a strong foundation and increased confidence in the exploration pipeline, based on the highly positive results received from this year’s drilling program, we anticipate an ambitious, expanded program for the summer of 2024. We remain dedicated to responsible resource development and will continue to work towards uncovering a domestic supply of nickel, which is essential to a growing number of industries and critical for America’s energy future.”
The Canwell Prospect
The second of Alaska Energy Metals’ block claims is the Canwell block. It is a 2,720-hectare plot, consisting of 42 State of Alaska mining claims, that has historically demonstrated exceptionally high-grade surface showings.
To support these claims, the company recently performed surface sampling, Controlled-source Audio-frequency Magnetotellurics (CSAMT) tests, and a Time-Domain Electromagnetic (TEM) ground-based geophysical survey. What they gathered from the program was three excellent prospects for high-grade mineralization (Canwell, Odie, and Emerick); surface rock sample assay results exceeding 5% nickel and 5% copper; strong conductive zones with magnetic highs beneath the surface nickel-copper anomalies; and multiple high potential drill targets.
This program proved quite successful for Alaska Energy Metals with consistent high-grade showings across the board. Now, the company is gearing up for a summer 2024 drilling campaign that will highlight the extent of these deposits.
To drive this point forward, Beischer explains: “The surface sampling results confirm high-grade historical results, but it is the geophysical program results that are really exciting. The geophysical surveys strongly suggest that the high-grade mineralization extends below the surface, beneath prior, historical drilling.”
AEMC’s 2024 Exploration Strategy
With two promising block claims, boasting abundant and high-quality nickel deposits, AEMC is only just beginning to demonstrate the vast potential of its Nikolai Project. In 2024, the company aims to turn things up a notch by investing roughly $15 million into exploration. It plans to invest this capital into an additional 15,000m of exploration drilling (26 holes); continued metallurgical test work to determine deportment and recoveries; and the development of a flow sheet to optimize metal recoveries based on all the metallurgical work. Combined, these efforts will showcase the untapped potential of the Nikolai Project, as well as AEMC. Overall, this is shaping up to be an exciting year for the company.
There is a lot of buzz around battery-based metals, but what makes a resource like nickel special? As one of the most versatile metals on earth, nickel is an essential element for building infrastructure, chemical production, communications, and energy storage, among other things. This is due to its durable nature which makes it highly ductile, and resistant to corrosion and oxidation. Not only that, but nickel is 100 percent recyclable. But there is more to its story.
As you are well aware, nickel is a fundamental component of electric vehicle batteries. On average, this metal makes up 15.7% of an EV battery’s structure, with roughly 29kg of nickel in every pack. The reason it consists of such a large portion of the battery is because it lends higher energy density and greater storage capacity. This enables the vehicle to travel longer distances on a single charge.
However, there is an issue. In the current state of affairs, 75% of the world’s nickel is mined in China, Indonesia, New Caledonia, the Philippines, and Russia; all-non free-trade states. For a North American EV company to receive the Clean Vehicle Credit, imposed by the Inflation Reduction Act, 80% of an EV battery’s mineral must be “extracted or processed in the United States or a country with which the United States has a free trade agreement” by December 31, 2026. Moreover, it excludes any vehicle using battery components made by Chinese manufacturers and will exclude any that use Chinese resources, like nickel and lithium, in 2025. Given the economic incentives tied to this Act, the supply-side dynamics must shift dramatically if we are to fulfill this unprecedented demand. A domestic solution, like Alaska Energy Metals, is required.
Wrapping it Up
Do not underestimate the demand for high-quality nickel. Though it is often overshadowed by the hype surrounding lithium, it remains a fundamental component of most lithium-ion batteries, among other things. Moreover, nickel is a metal that is substantially more difficult to find than lithium.
As Elon Musk once remarked: “Our batteries should be called Nickel-Graphite, because it is mostly Nickel and Graphite.” This was followed up by him later saying: “Please mine more nickel deposits; Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way.” If it’s any indication, it is safe to say that the king of EVs remains bullish on this metal and so should you.
With an expected 23 times jump in demand by 2035, there are few resources available that boast this much upside potential. Not only that but Alaska Energy Metals’ deposits possess a variety of supplementary metals as well. Together, these deposits create a combined resource inventory of over 2 billion lbs of nickel equivalent, 1.5 billion lbs of it being nickel. And that doesn’t yet account for the 2023 drill program results!
If you were to compare these numbers to the North American nickel market at large, you would see that there are few opportunities better the Alaska Energy Metals (CA: AEMC.V) (USA: AKEMF). It may be able to recreate the success of the Canada Nickel Company (e.g. market cap of $160 million) So, with a market cap of CAD$33 million, a project with over 1.5 billion lbs of nickel, and a management team with over 30 years of experience, this is an exploration company worth keeping on your radar.
Remember, manufacturing is becoming increasingly domestic as North America pushes for independence. How will you take advantage?
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