Imminent Supply Deficit Raises Prospects of Increased Uranium Prices

Uranium is shining right now, sitting at its highest level in more than a year as short-term supply concerns fade and long-term demand prospects improve.

The uranium industry experienced a boost after the US avoided the debt limit crisis, which may have jeopardized the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA pledged $700 million to establish a domestic supply chain for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) in an effort to decrease dependency on Russia, which presently provides about a fifth of enrichment and conversion services.

According to committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the US is "dangerously reliant on Russia's supply of nuclear fuels for our existing nuclear power plant fleet," and the bill's passage "sends a strong signal to the market that will help restore American nuclear leadership and fuel infrastructure."

Concerning Russia, a bill prohibiting uranium imports from the country beginning in 2027 was approved by a US House panel in May.

Fortunately, higher uranium prices are a key growth driver for the industry, which is likely why Cameco plans to extract 95% more uranium from McArthur River and Key Lake, expecting 20.3 million pounds in 2023 compared to 10.4 million pounds in 2022.

In April, Cameco extended a long-standing arrangement to supply fuel through 2040 to Canada’s only private sector nuclear generator, Bruce Power.

This agreement, along with a number of others including supplying Ukraine’s nuclear needs until 2035, will account for a significant amount of Cameco’s production capacity. This could make it more difficult for buyers to find new supply which will help support the long-term uranium spot price and, in turn, benefit uranium companies like ATHA Energy Corp (CSE:SASK) (OTCQB:SASKF) (FRA:X5I).

Mineral exploration company ATHA Energy holds the largest exploration package in the Athabasca Basin, the world's most prominent uranium basin, with 3.4 million acres. The company also has a 10% carried interest portfolio of claims run by Nexgen Energy and IsoEnergy Ltd.

Securing Canada’s Next Generation of Uranium Supply

ATHA Energy just inked a binding letter of intent (LOI) with Stallion Discoveries Corp. to negotiate a definitive option and joint venture agreement that would allow Stallion to acquire a 70% interest in 47 ATHA mineral claims in the Athabasca Basin in exchange for 3.33 million shares and C$12 million in Exploration Expenditures.

“We believe the exploration commitment being made by Stallion is a testament to the potential in the SW area of the Athabasca Basin, where many of our neighbors have had tremendous success,” said Mike Castanho, CEO of ATHA Energy. “Exploration through partnership continues to be one pillar of our business as we seek to leverage the largest land position in the Athabasca Basin to create value for our shareholders.”

The company also recently bolstered its team, adding Doug Engdahl to its board of directors and as Managing Director of the company. Engdahl brings a wealth of uranium experience as a former Senior Mine Geologist for Cameco's McArthur River Mine, the world's largest high-grade uranium mine. Along with Engdahl, ATHA hired five technical team members in advance of its first exploration program this summer, when the company plans to use its technical skills to help define and develop prospective assets. Image Source: Pixabay.

JPMorgan Says Cut Equities and Buy More Gold

The US debt ceiling scare, rising recession risks and Federal Reserve hawks are just a handful of reasons why JPMorgan Chase is advising investors to cut exposure to stocks and hold more gold and cash.

With the macro environment taking on more and more risk, JPMorgan strategists are trimming exposure to US equities and increasing its cash holdings by 2%. The multinational bank is also shifting away from energy and moving full steam ahead towards gold.

JPMorgan’s chief global markets strategist Marko Kolanovic said that the risk-reward for equities is poor due to a number of factors including elevated recession risk, stretched valuations, high interest rates and tightening liquidity and pointed to gold's safe-haven properties as a hedge against these risks.

Of course, JPMorgan isn’t the only bank that’s bullish on gold. According to a new survey from the World Gold Council, up to 24% of central banks were looking to raise gold holdings this year.

In 2022, net gold purchases by central banks totaled 1,135 tonnes, sending gold buying levels to the highest level in 55 years. Since the beginning of 2023, the big banks are following the same trend, accumulating gold at the fastest pace on record.

Rising gold prices bodes well for the producers of the yellow metal, like Luca Mining (TSXV:LUCA) (OTCQX:LUCMF), a Canadian mining company bringing its second mine into commercial production this year.

A Junior Resource Company With a Unique Opportunity for Rapid Growth

Luca Mining holds two high-quality Mexican gold, silver and base metal mining projects with a combined 2.2 million gold equivalent ounce Measured & Indicated (M&I) resource.

The Campo Morado mine, a polymetallic underground operation with a Measured & Indicated (M&I) resource of 16.6 million tons grading 4.01% zinc, 0.80% copper, 0.93% lead, 123 g/t silver and 1.70 g/t gold, and the Tahuehueto Gold project, which is on track to deliver initial production by June 30, 2023.

On June 15, the company announced that pilot-scale testing of Jameson Cell technology at Campo Morado shows promise of improving base and precious metals recoveries and concentrate grades. A major advantage of Jameson Cell technology is the cells are smaller than conventional flotation cells and have no moving parts, meaning they can be easily maintained online without any shutdowns.

Luca Mining has also been making significant progress at its Tahuehueto gold mine. Last month, the company announced a detailed two step plan in achieving 1,000 tonnes per day (tpd) commercial production at Tahuehueto, with the first stage of 500 tpd projected to be completed by the end of June.

Along with construction, Tahuehueto is undergoing pre-production, allowing the team to continue fine-tuning systems and plant performance ahead of full-scale production. So far, the average lead recovery to concentrate has been 79.8%, with a composition of 29% lead, 50.5 g/t gold, and 584 g/t silver on average. To date, the average zinc recovery in May is 59.7%, with 47% zinc, 12.6 g/t gold, and 144 g/t silver. According to the 2022 PFS, total gold and silver recoveries are roughly 86% (average for April 2023).

The company expects the final stage of 1,000 tpd production at the Tahuehueto Gold project to be finished by the end of 2023.

Luca Mining also bolstered its board of directors with the addition of Dr. Neil O’Brien, a consulting economic geologist and former mining executive with three decades of experience including Board of Director roles in public and private mineral exploration companies, and Phil Brumit Sr., a mining executive with over 40 years of experience in property evaluation, engineering, project management, construction, start-up and operations.

Dr O’Brien previously served as SVP exploration and new business development for Lundin Mining, while Brumit served as former executive VP projects & operations at Josemaria Resources, president and managing director at Minera Candelaria, a subsidiary of Lundin Mining, president of Freeport-McMoRan's African division and senior advisor, North American manager of operations for Newmont and general manager of operations for PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara's Batu Hijau mine in Indonesia. Image Source: Freepik.

Saudi Arabia's strategic plans to safeguard food security for pilgrims

Saudi Arabia has successfully managed to achieve an excellent status in the framework of realizing self-sufficiency for several necessary food products before taking up the task of securing food for millions of visiting pilgrims coming from different countries of the world.

According to the head of catering in Mecca, products from 1,294 food factories in Saudi Arabia will secure more than 120 million meals for at least 2 million pilgrims in six days under the supervision of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Investment in food manufacturing amounts to about 7 percent of the total investments made in the Saudi industrial sector, and thus pumping more than 94 billion riyals to operate 11.35 percent of the total number of factories in the Kingdom, according to official data.

Saudi Arabia has been running a megaproject to increase its vegetation cover, which has effectively contributed to achieving self-sufficiency in agricultural products such as dates with a sufficiency rate of 125 percent, and vegetables whose rates reached 87 percent, in addition to possessing the Middle East's largest wheat and flour storage capacity with a daily milling capacity of 3.3 million tons.

Saudi Arabia's strategy to achieve food security involves 11 programs, including the Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad Program, with the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC) completing a 4.65-billion-riyal acquisition of 35.43 percent of the Singaporean Olam Agri company in December 2022, in addition to the acquisition of two meat processing factories in Australia.

Furthermore, water security also occupies a place on the strategic agenda of the Kingdom, who currently engages in massive seawater desalination projects and the operation and management of 563 dams, while it plans to build 1,000 new dams to enhance the utilization of rainwater.

The strategy of proactive planning allowed Saudi Arabia to avoid food supply shortages throughout its history, despite some of the harshest times witnessed by the region, such as the second Gulf War in 1990, the food price crisis in 2008, and the deterioration of food supply chains in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. SOURCE Ministry of Hajj

ULI Releases 2023 Asia Pacific Home Attainability Index

The Urban Land Institute's (ULI) recently released 2023 Asia Pacific Home Attainability Index report provides a high-level snapshot of the extent to which housing is attainable in cities in the Asia Pacific region. The report covers 45 cities in nine countries, namely, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam, with a combined population of 3.5 billion or around 45% of the world's total population, measuring home attainability for both home ownership and home rentals in relation to the median income of households.

Kenneth Rhee, Senior Director of ULI China and primary author of the report said, "Housing stocks and home attainability vary greatly in the Asia Pacific region. Key factors for home attainability include demographic trends, government policies related to land use and density, the ability to redevelop or regenerate urban areas in decay, availability of financing for home purchase, the government's involvement in the home provision, and the impact of COVID on new home supply."

In terms of home ownership, housing in Singapore is deemed most attainable with the median price of Housing Development Board (HDB) units at 4.7 times the median household income. Home attainability is severely challenged in Tier 1 and leading Tier 2 cities in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang with median home prices at approximately 20 to 35 times median household income. Compared to home ownership, home rentals are deemed more attainable with monthly rent for most cities at below 30% of median household income. Cities in Japan and South Korea have the lowest ratio of monthly rent to income.

According to the report, Singapore's private sector homes have surpassed Hong Kong SAR as the most expensive in the region with a median price of US$1.2 million. Also, with a nearly 30% increase in monthly rent, Singapore private sector rental homes are also the most expensive in the region with a median monthly rent of approximately US$2,600. For the sharp increase in home price and rent, the report cites as key causes (1) a large influx of immigrants into the city-state, (2) a growing trend of young professionals to move out of their multi-generational family homes for more space and freedom, (3) the government's new measure that requires homeowners to serve a 15-month wait-out period after the disposal of their private properties before they are eligible to buy a non-subsidised Housing Development Board (HDB) resale flat, (4) a relatively limited stock of institutionally or individually-owned rental properties, and (5) a reduced new supply of housing in the past few years due to the disruption to the supply chain of building materials and labour due to COVID.

Homeownership varies significantly in the region, often a function of government policies and population migration. Singapore continues to have the highest homeownership rate of nearly 90%, thanks to the government's decision and consistent commitment to enable its citizens to own homes at reasonable prices from the early years of the country's independence in the 1960s.

In contrast, other gateway cities such as Hong Kong SAR, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Seoul have relatively low homeownership rates, reflecting high home prices and the more migratory nature of the populations in gateway cities.

David Faulkner, President of ULI Asia Pacific said, "This report explores the implications of shifts in housing demand and regional competitiveness, arising from wide-ranging factors that impact home attainability. Our goal at the ULI Asia Pacific Centre for Housing is to advance best practices in residential development and to support ULI members and local communities in creating and sustaining a full spectrum of housing opportunities. Through thought leadership, we aim to catalyse the production of housing and inspire a broader commitment to housing."