We live in an era of celebrity athletes, judges, CEOs — even celebrity chefs.
But there are few geologists who’ve become household names.
Except Charles “Chuck” Fipke. He’s one person who seems to have reached celebrityhood in the mining industry. Indeed, his accomplishments are legendary, according to Mike Kachanovsky, a Lindsay, Ontario-based writer specializing in junior mining stocks.
Mr. Fipke was the point man behind DiaMet Minerals, one of Canada’s junior mining plays of the 1980s. Like many geologists, Mr. Fipke toiled in obscurity with his team in search of a major discovery.
He focused his attention on Canada’s Northwest Territories, a region not known for prospective diamond geology. But his persistence paid off with a ground-breaking discovery of an emerging district for gem-quality diamonds.
Ultimately, it led to the development of Ekati, a diamond mine 310 kilometres northeast of the territorial capital of Yellowknife.
DiaMet made piles of money for speculative investors. Mr. Fipke himself retained a 10 per cent stake in the hugely profitable company, becoming a newly minted billionaire in the process.
But a passion for exploration isn’t easily quenched — even after a monumentally successful discovery. So, Mr. Fipke has continued his efforts to find other mineral discoveries by participating in junior resource plays.
It’s hard to think of two minerals more different than diamonds and uranium.
But Mr. Fipke is now hot on the trail of the latter. And in hopes of finding it, he’s recently turned his attention to a relatively underexplored part of northern Manitoba.
First, though, take a look at the Athabasca Basin in northern Saskatchewan. Not only is it one of the most productive regions for mining uranium in the world, it continues to yield large, high-grade deposits.
Meanwhile, just across the border in Manitoba, Mr. Fipke has put a big chunk of his own money into a newly established junior miner: Northern Uranium Corp. (UNO-TSX/VEN).
Northern Uranium was founded to earn a majority interest in a large property area on Manitoba’s western edge, just beyond where most geologists think uranium is. As with his successful venture exploring for diamonds, Mr. Fipke isn’t put off by the challenges of poking around an area that has been passed over by others.
The property in question was controlled by Vancouver-based CanAlaska Uranium Ltd. (CVV-TSX), another junior play. CanAlaska spent about $8 million on exploration and came across some promising clues.
But CanAlaska had also committed itself to participate in other uranium projects. As a result, it agreed to a joint venture with Northern Uranium under which the latter’s ownership stake can go as high as 80 per cent through a series of spending commitments, along with share issues.
What investors need to focus on with the company is that it’s now completed several rounds of geophysical surveying, the results of which have been very encouraging. This work has identified several high profile exploration targets that seem to have very promising indications for the kind of host geology that’s proved so productive in Saskatchewan.
Summer drilling season begins
Northern Uranium was able to raise about $2.3 million in March. And it hopes to carry out an ambitious drilling program this summer. But because infrastructure is very limited in northern Manitoba, the company is only able to drill up to about October when it has to suspend activity until the beginning of the winter season.
When drilling is done, Northern Uranium will have reached its first milestone, having spent $3.2 million to earn a half interest in the project. It can then decide if it wants to reach other milestones — and, in so doing — position it to earn a bigger ownership stake.
As a newly launched junior play, Northern Uranium has a relatively tight float with roughly 42 million shares outstanding. About 22 per cent of this total is held by insiders, of which Mr. Fipke is a major owner.
Keep in mind that even as DiaMet made new highs on the strength of its diamond discovery, Mr. Fipke held on to his shares. He represents the ideal insider who has deep pockets, perseverance, as well as the patience to carry a project forward without rushing to take profits.
Investor’s Digest of Canada, MPL Communications Inc.
133 Richmond St. W., Toronto, On, M5H 3M8, 1-800-804-8846