Mineral Exploration

Spring 2014

Mineral Exploration is the official publication of the Association of Mineral Exploration British Columbia.

Issue link: http://digital.canadawide.com/i/264766

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Page 49 of 51

>> profile 50 s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 photograph : Cour te sy B en & garret t Ainswor th is a game-changer, opening up a previ- ously ignored region for development. They are confident that the PLS project will provide better opportunities for northern communities for several gen- erations as it advances. But equally ful- filling and rewarding is the joy and satis- faction they get from working together. The story of the PLS discovery has been widely reported. The size of the mineralized zones, the high-grade con- centrations of uranium, the shallow aspect of mineralization and its proximity to all-weather Provincial Highway 955 all point towards a potentially cost-effective, revenue-generating development. It's a huge story with global implications. The inspiring human element of the discovery is founded on Ben and Garrett's relation- ship as father and son, mentor and pupil. Ben acknowledges their situation is rare: "Not too many fathers and sons get to work together in this business. I am really blessed to have had this opportunity to work with my son. It's been tremendous." Garrett continues, "We totally click on everything. Between Ben and I, it's amaz- ing teamwork – Ben has the wisdom and I've got the legs." Their working relationship started in 2007 when Ben commissioned a baseline environmental study related to dredging for diamonds and Garrett was assigned to do the fieldwork. Garrett recalls, "I had so much fun that when more work came up six months later, I took time off to go with my dad as a geological tech- nologist to look for diamonds in fluvial sediments. We found diamonds and this rush of adrenalin pumped through me. It really hooked me. In prospecting, there is this underlying sense that you're about to find something that's of value from raw nature. When you do, it's amazing." Ben's passion for exploration was trig- gered in his teens, when he worked on a uranium deposit in Cornwall, England. "I got totally wrapped up in it and was accepted by Oxford to read geology." His career opportunities in England would have been limited to working on the coal board, for an aggregate company or as an academic lecturer. Instead, he chose to travel the world in search of the next min- eral find. "Exploration fits with the plea- sure I get out of being a general scientist. I'm a bits-and-pieces man, a jack-of-all- trades and master of none. Mineral explo- ration is that kind of business. You've got to have a wide scope of knowledge to put the many bits and pieces together." When he started full time at Alpha Minerals with his father in 2007, Garrett unearthed a 1977 Canadian Occidental report that identified radioactive anoma- lies near Patterson Lake, and he became obsessed. "Every piece of information, every layer of data, was completely sup- portive of the idea that there was a high- grade uranium boulder field out there." Alpha Minerals entered into a joint ven- ture with Fission Uranium Corp., but remained operator of the project, work- ing tenaciously to verify the find. On June 1, 2011, the first day of a boul- der-prospecting and radon-survey pro- gram at PLS, Garrett uncovered the first uranium boulder. "From that day on, my dad and I never stopped working on PLS. Every day of our lives we were thinking about it and doing something to forward the project. It was so much fun. I was liv- ing every exploration geologist's dream." Ben says everything fell in line. "That was a good thing because we were in the bottom of the cycle and the money we had raised was getting short. We man- aged to make it last long enough to start a drill program." In 2012, Ben made a personal loan to Alpha Minerals to maintain its equal standing within the joint venture. "There was a lot of discus- sion around the kitchen sink about that loan. But it all made sense: we'd staked out a very big boulder field, we'd been hitting into all the right kind of geology with strong alteration, and the right kind of geochemistry with elevated uranium numbers. I was convinced we had to pur- sue the project with great diligence." That loan enabled Alpha Minerals to get to drill discovery – and the market noticed. So did Fission. It took over opera- torship of PLS, keeping Garrett in charge as project manager, until it recently bought out Alpha's 50 per cent interest in the project. Today, Ben and Garrett remain involved as shareholders. They will be keeping a close eye on PLS, predicting, "There's a lot of history still to unfold." Garrett has found his niche as a grassroots exploration geologist and is already on to his next project, compiling data on another boulder story. Ben keeps his immediate plans closer to his chest. Widely hailed as an exploration legend, it's a given he will not just be guiding and abetting Garrett onwards, but putting the bits and pieces together on this and many other potential new discoveries. ■ Ben and Garrett Ainsworth, recipients of the 2013 Colin Spence Award for Excellence in global mineral exploration, are honoured by their peers for their combined effort in researching, staking out, discovering and bringing to market the Patterson Lake South ( PLS) mineralized system in Saskatchewan's southwest Athabasca Basin. They take pride in the fact that the discovery Ben & Garrett Ainsworth The wisdom and The legs By Claire Festel p50-OBC_Profile.indd 50 14-02-14 3:03 PM

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