Al Alper and Mac Watson, President and CEO Freewest Resources
Mac Watson is a firm believer in making your own luck. For 45 years he has pioneered incredibly successful expeditions that have lead to the discovery of significant deposits of gold, coal and base metals throughout eastern Canada. Since 1984, as CEO of Freewest Resources Canada Inc., he has employed this philosophy to a great degree of success for the junior mineral exploration company. Metals News recently caught up with Watson and gave him the floor to fill us in on some exciting new prospects.
A unique organization, Freewest maintains its concentration on developing high caliber gold, precious metal, base metal properties throughout eastern Canada. “I believe you've got to get out and pull the moss and beat the rocks,” proclaims Watson when asked about his approach to making a name for himself and his company in the competitive junior mineral exploration market. “I believe in grassroots discoveries, and it’s with this determination that we’ve made a lot of new discoveries. I believe in finding something new rather than going back and going after an old property that may be already beat up.”
It was with this orientation that Watson and company did find something new, something so unique to the western hemisphere that their discovery could have a permanent impact upon the global market.
Since September 2008, there has been a buzz brewing louder and louder at Freewest’s 100 percent owned McFaulds property in the James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario. Situated within the emerging “Ring of Fire” metal district in the Sachigo Greenstone Belt, this property is made up of nine mineral claims (144 claim units) on almost nine square miles. In a region already known for its abundance of nickel, copper and sulphides, it was here that Freewest’s hammer first struck on what has come to be known as the Black Thor chromite zone.
From their website regarding their spectacular “Black Thor Chromite Occurrence”:
“Drill¬hole BT¬08¬01was the first hole completed on the Black Thor chromite zone. Highlighting the drill results is the intersection of a Main zone of chromite enrichment assaying 40.4% Cr2O3 over an intersected width of 46.3 metres. This is contained within a wider zone of mineralization yielding 30.1% Cr2O3 over an intersected thickness of 100.8 metres. In addition to the Main zone, a Lower zone of chromite was encountered over an intersected width of 43.5 metres near the top of the hole. Despite lower chromite grades relative to the Main zone, the discovery of the Lower zone demonstrates the existence of multiple chromite horizons in the host intrusion. The Main zone lies stratigraphically higher in the layered ultramafic intrusion relative to the Lower zone. Intersected widths obtained in the drilling are very close to true widths.”
“There's no doubt about what we’re seeing now: This deposit has the potential of being 100 million tons of high grade chromite mineralization,” Watson confidently declares.
Chromite is very unique mineral. It is an iron chromium oxide with traces of magnesium and aluminum crucial to the production of stainless steel, as it has no surrogate. It is crucial in the manufacture of refractory materials as well as making ferrochrome which is essential to the production of stainless steel. Currently there is no significant supply of it in the western hemisphere. South Africa, Kazakhstan and India are the forerunners of annual chromite production. China leads the pack in consumption of chromium at 600,000 plus metric tons a year, with Japan falling in at a close second. With this discovery, Watson is convinced that North America’s significance as a major contender in the chromite market could escalate very soon.
From Freewest’s website, Watson is quoted on the initial findings of the first drilling at Black Thor:
"The high-grade assay results returned from drill¬hole BT¬08¬01, coupled with the visual results of subsequent holes testing the Black Thor chromite zone, consolidate the belief that our wholly owned McFaulds property has excellent potential to host a world-class chromite deposit. We are also very encouraged by the chrome to iron ratios of semi massive to massive chromite mineralization that are in the order of 2:1. Currently, high quality chromite producers in the world have ores that are characterized by chrome to iron ratios of greater than 1.8:1."
In their most recent press release dated December 10th, Freewest has announced even more promising results taken from the samples at Black Thor. “Drill hole BT¬08¬03, a 1600¬metre step¬out hole from BT¬08¬01, returned 21.4% Cr2O3 over a core length of 109.7 metres (including 30.4% Cr2O3 over 50.1 metres); Drill hole BT¬08¬05, drilled beneath BT-08¬03, yielded 21.3% Cr2O3 over 92.4 metres (including 30.7% Cr2O3 over 23.3 metres and 30.0% Cr2O3 over 17.3 metres); Hole BT¬08¬12, a 100¬metre step¬out to the southwest of BT¬08¬01 intersected a 144 metre-wide zone of chromite mineralization including a 60 metre¬wide zone of massive chromite. Drill hole BT¬08¬01 intersected a wide zone of chromite mineralization yielding 40.4% Cr2O3 over a core length of 46.3 metres. This higher grade intercept is contained within a broader mineralized zone assaying 30.1% Cr2O3 over a core length of 100.8 metres (see Freewest news release dated November 26, 2008).”
From just the 12 holes that have been drilled thus far, “it certainly looks like the best chromite discovery ever, in North America,” according to veteran geologist Watson, whose former discoveries of major gold, copper and zinc in eastern Canada landed him the Prospector of the Year award in 1991.
Currently, there are no chromite producers in North America.
Of the world’s chromite supplies, South Africa produces nearly 50 percent. Kazakhstan comes in second with around 20 percent, and India a close third with around 17 percent. Zimbabwe, Finland, Brazil and Turkey place fourth, in that order, producing on average about 12 percent collectively.
“What we'll need is people who know the business, know the ferroalloy business, and the steel companies, I'm sure, will be looking at this deposit,” remarks Watson in anticipation of what appears to be in store for Freewest, in the new year.
“Very few people understand chromite. But I'm sure China, India, Russia, and especially Xstrata, who is its largest producer, they understand it. And at some point down the road somebody's going to be banging on our door. Our stock price is undervalued. We're almost at the bottom selling about U.S. $0.15 right now and I think there's a terrific upside. We're going to have two drills operating in mid January 2009. We know we have the chromite, and we think we have a very good chance to discover one or more nickel deposits. I think we'll be making a lot of good news in the New Year.”
“But it's still early days,” surmises Watson. “We've got only 12 holes, but we're drilling as we speak. We plan to drill up to Christmas with one drill and then after the holidays we'll have a second drill in there, which will be looking at some nickel, platinum, palladium, copper targets. We have a number of good targets there, and I think we have an excellent chance of discovering a nickel deposit along with this very large chromite deposit.”
When asked about his sense of assuredness and his company’s solid reputation, the maverick CEO explained, “My philosophy is you make your luck. I also believe in a strong team. It's all team effort. We always maintain a very good relationship with the independent prospector, who will bring properties to us because we've always been fair. They end up with either shares in the company or cash and a small royalty. So, we treat them fairly, and we get a lot of prospects coming into us.”
Potential Size of Black Thor Chromite Zone
Based on conservative estimates of a 1600-metre strike length, a depth of 200 metres, a width of 30 metres and a specific gravity of 4.5 for chromite, a potential tonnage of 43.2 million tonnes of chromite ore is felt to be easily attainable
Using a $400 per tonne value for high-grade chromite ore (>40% CR203) an in-situ gross value of $17.3 billion is potentially present
Based on very drilling, the potential for a world-class chromite deposit existing on Freewest's 100%-owned property is considered to be excellent
From an investor’s perspective, that’s refreshing news in the extremely competitive realm of junior mineral exploration. But for anyone interested in chromite’s emergence in the western hemisphere, that’s doubly exciting news.
Freewest Moving Forward
Completion of first phase of diamond drilling involving 10,000 metres
Ni-Cu-PGE targets will be priority targets for drilling as well
Continued drilling of the Black Thor chromite zone along strike, to depth and fill-in, with the goal of being able to complete a National Instrument 43-101 mineral resource estimate as soon as practically possible
Systematic gravity surveying to be completed to assist in drilling chromite deposits
Chromite beneficiation and marketing studies to continue on our own and with JV partners
ManagementMac Watson has 45 years of exploration experience in the mining industry and has been involved in the discovery of numerous coal, base metal and gold deposits in Canada. He was awarded Canada’s Prospector of the Year Award in 1991 for his participation in the discovery of a number of deposits in Canada including the Harker--Holloway gold mine (Ontario), the Icon¬ Sullivan copper mine (Quebec), the Long Lake zinc mine (Ontario), the Ellison gold deposit (Quebec), and the Hébécourt copper deposit (Quebec). He was also awarded the Quebec Prospector of the Year Award for his participation in the discovery of the Pusticamica and Verneuil gold deposits in Quebec. He has been involved with Freewest and its predecessor company Freewest Resources Inc. since 1984.
Ronald Kay, P. Eng. Vice President and Director
Mr. Kay is a metallurgical engineer with over 40 years experience in the financial industry including the position of senior mining analyst and consultant to several major brokerage houses. He was the President of Q¬ Vest Management that raised over $50 million for mining companies and has been involved with Freewest and its predecessor company Freewest Resources Inc. since 1984.
Donald Hoy, M.Sc., P. Geo. Vice President, Exploration and Director
Don Hoy is an experienced exploration geologist who has been active in the Canadian exploration industry for 25 years, over half of them with Freewest. He has been directly involved with numerous gold and base metal discoveries in Canada. Mr. Hoy obtained an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1984 and a Master’s degree in Mineral Exploration from Queens University in 1992. He represents a key component of Freewest’s management team and along with Mr. Watson, is responsible for the projects selected by and overall direction of Freewest.
Mark Schneiderman, CAChief Financial Officer and Secretary-Treasurer
Mr. Schneiderman is a Chartered Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner. He has over 29 years of financial accounting and administration experience including partnership in a chartered accounting practice and senior audit position at VIA Rail Canada. He has been with Freewest since 1996.
George Bryson, B.A. Director
Mr. Bryson is an experienced business executive and publisher who graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Arts in 1960. He is President of Languages Direct Inc. a publishing company devoted to providing the service of English as a second language.
Edward Thompson, P. Eng. Director
Edward Thompson is a professional engineer and geologist with over 40 years of experience in all aspects of management in the North and South American mining industries. His expertise includes all phases of exploration, mine development, feasibility, acquisitions, corporate finance and project evaluation. He is president of E.G. Thompson Mining Consultants Inc. and is a Past President of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. As a director of more than 5 publicly traded mineral exploration companies, he plays an active role in the junior mining sector in Canada.
Neil Wiener, LL.B. Director
Mr. Wiener practices exclusively in the area of securities law, with an emphasis on public financings. He has been involved in numerous public offerings for both issuers and underwriters. Mr. Wiener has handled private placements, take¬over bids, reverse take¬overs, going private transactions, stock exchange listings and a broad range of other security matters. He was a former lecturer in Business Law at McGill University in Montreal from 1989 to 2000 and graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1980.
For more information, visit their website: www.freewest.com