TNM’s 2013 Mining Persons of the Year: Fission’s Ross McElroy and Dev Randhawa

Fission Uranium's president and COO Ross McElroy, and chairman and CEO Dev Randhawa.Fission Uranium's president and COO Ross McElroy, and chairman and CEO Dev Randhawa.

Since the days of the Manhattan project, there have been three conventional rules for finding uranium mineralization in Saskatchewan: it occurs in the Athabasca basin, usually in the lowest sandstone unit that’s in contact with the basement rock; the best place to look is in the eastern part of the basin; and the shallow stuff has all been found, so you need to go deeper into the basin to find more.

Well, the new Patterson Lake South ultra-high-grade uranium discovery by joint-venture partners Fission Uranium (TSXV: FCU; US-OTC: FCUUF) and Alpha Minerals turns all that conventional wisdom on its head: the deposit is 8 km outside the southwestern edge of the basin in a relatively unexplored area, and it lies almost at surface, covered only by glacial overburden and a shallow lake.

And for this, we are awarding our 2013 “Mining Persons of the Year” to Fission president and COO Ross McElroy, the technical point man on the discovery, and Fission chairman and CEO Dev Randhawa, who has ably guided the company through not one, but two major corporate overhauls in a single year.

Ross McElroy is a veteran geologist with an uncanny ability to place himself at the heart of the discovery of high-grade Canadian mineral deposits. He earned a B.Sc. in geology from the University of Alberta in 1987, and has worked in the Athabasca basin for companies such as Cameco and Areva, as well as hunted for gold for BHP Billiton in the Hope Bay gold belt in Nunavut, and for diamonds at the Ekati mine in the Northwest Territories.

He came aboard as Fission Energy’s top technical brains in 2007, leading the team to two major uranium discoveries in three years — including Waterbury Lake — and working with high-profile JV partners such as South Korea’s KEPCO, Rio Tinto, JOGMEC, Uranium One and Denison Mines.

Fission Energy was sold to Denison Mines in early 2013, and Fission Uranium was spun out with a bit of cash and a half stake in the PLS project, with the other half held by Alpha.

The PLS discovery has its roots in an airborne geophysical survey flown in 2009 that used proprietary technology developed by Fission. It was able to detect a radioactive anomaly just south of what is now PLS. (Fission and Alpha had a oddball arrangement whereby operatorship at PLS would alternate every two years, with Fission as operator in 2008–2009 and 2012–2013, and Alpha as operator in 2010–2011, and at one time due to resume operatorship in 2014.)

Follow-up ground prospecting in 2011, spearheaded by Alpha’s Garrett Ainsworth, uncovered a train of high-grade uranium-bearing boulders that ultimately led back to PLS on the shore of a lake, 2 km away and under 50 metres of glacial overburden.

With Fission resuming operatorship in 2012, and after more ground geophysical work, drilling on the lake shore in November 2012 came up with the PLS discovery hole in what is now called Zone R00E.

In 2013, more ground geophysical work carried out under the direction of Fission’s vice-president of exploration Raymond Ashley, innovative lake-bottom radon surveys, and further drilling from barges resulted in the discovery of three more zones under the lake, stretching 1 km along strike from R00E.

For 2014, the challenge is to connect these four zones into a single orebody and calculate the first resource estimate.

Meanwhile, Fission’s CEO Randhawa was furiously working the phones and crafting the deals throughout 2013, first finessing a sale of Fission Energy to Denison and spinning out Fission Uranium, and then mounting an ultimately friendly takeover of Alpha Minerals that put to rest the operatorship uncertainty, ensured improved liquidity, and paved the way for a simpler sale of the company.

Randhawa is a consummate Howe Street mining promoter — smooth-talking, polished and connected, with a proven track record of delivering the goods for investors. (Since November 2012, Fission’s stock is up about 400%, during one of the worst times for mining juniors, and uranium juniors in particular.) He earned a bachelors degree in business administration from Trinity Western College of Langley, B.C. in 1983, and an M.B.A. from the University of British Columbia in 1985.

In our next two issues, we present in-depth interviews with Ross McElroy and Dev Randhawa, as they discuss their careers, Fission Uranium and PLS, and the path ahead.


9 Comments on "TNM’s 2013 Mining Persons of the Year: Fission’s Ross McElroy and Dev Randhawa"

  1. Last time i checked PLS was found by boulder prospecting, not fission’s “patented” technology that theyve been flogging. And to boot it in my opinion it wasnt even fissions team that discovered the zone it was alpha. So who discovered the zone? The ainsworths got an award a couple weeks ago for finding PLS now is see fission has been crowned with making the discovery. So who was it. Seems like fissions taking credit where they dont deserve it. No matter who found the deposit they found some boulders and chased it up ice simple as that, thats prospecting 101. And any credit given to them regarding exploring the PLS area, again it was the ainsworths that did all the background work on the project. All the while fission was just working what little property they had left after being bought out which happened to have PLS. Oh yeah, and J zone just happened to be across the property from Hathor so they didnt find that either. Anyways, dont believe all the hype do a little homework and see for yourselves. Also, i would have to think that a competent team would see that you dont drill vertical holes into a vertically dipping system, unless you want to get overexaggerated thicknesses to fool people that dont know anybetter. Rant over!

  2. Finding a boulder isn’t finding a deposit, especially when the deposit is 2 km from the boulder, and buried under 50 metres of glacial overburden. The discovery was made by drilling, when Fission was the operator, and all the new zones under the lake were discovered by radon surveys and by drilling, when Fission was the operator. Case closed!

  3. Resource Investor | December 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Reply

    @ Rockhound – do your research my friend. I was a shareholder in both companies before the takeover and I’ve followed the PLS story from the start. If you take a look at operator dates it’s very clear that both companies contributed but it it’s Fission’s team that deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the discovery.

    As for that AME award – either the AME didn’t do any due diligence or someone on the awards committee is a friend of the Ainsworth’s and doesn’t care that cutting out Fission from the award harms the AME’s reputation. Based on the utter nonsense they put on their website about why the Ainsworth’s won the award, my vote is on the latter.

  4. Great article John. Really pleased to see Randhawa, McElroy and their guys get the credit they deserve. I met them a few months ago and got into the stock shortly after that. Am still in it and don’t plan on leaving it. It’s obvious these guys are totally committed to what they do and the Patterson Lake discovery is just incredible.

  5. @Resource Investor

    “As for that AME award – either the AME didn’t do any due diligence or someone on the awards committee is a friend of the Ainsworth’s and doesn’t care that cutting out Fission from the award harms the AME’s reputation. Based on the utter nonsense they put on their website about why the Ainsworth’s won the award, my vote is on the latter.”

    That or inversely Fission has friends at TNM. To me all this is a case of right place at the right time, had alpha been operating during the past year im pretty sure theyd have found the zones too as the zones show up as huge radon anomalies. Anyways im sure everyone involved is laughing all the way to the bank either way. If Fission 3.0 hits something, then maybe credit will be deserved, but until then….

  6. Resource Investor | December 28, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Reply

    @Rockhound – I think if Fission had friends at TNM then Alpha wouldn’t have even been mentioned. Instead, Ben Ainsworth’s son Garret gets credited with leading the ground prospecting team that followed up on the survey. The same can’t be said of the AME award which incorrectly places credit with the Ainsworths. If it was easy to follow the boulder train to the discovery then Alpha would have done it during their two year operatorship after the boulders were found. They didn’t.

    My issue is purely one of giving credit where it’s due. Both teams played a part but it took Fission’s expertise to make the actual discovery and to advance it as fast as they did. Saying it was the right place at the right time is a gross disservice to any geo team that makes a discovery in the Athabasca Basin. Alpha had their shot and they failed. The AME award reeks of an inside job. Just read the write up if you don’t believe me.

    Aside from that, I’m with you on the fact that both teams are surely laughing all the way to the bank. If I’d bought a bit more stock in both companies I’d be there with them!

  7. LOL Rockhound. Based on your comments it’s pretty clear you’ve got an agenda buddy. If Alpha were the real brains behind PLS they wouldn’t have been taken out by Fission. It’s no coincidence that their own investors wanted Fission to remain in the driving seat and no coincidence that the takeover was a smooth and sure thing. Well done to the guys at the Northern Miner for telling it how it is. Shareholder of both from Day 1.

  8. Congrats Fission. Great discovery. Well deserved.

  9. In the interview, Ross McElroy says that he did the first prospecting on Hope Bay. In 1967 and 1968, the Hope Bay gold deposits belonged to Pickle Crow Exploration. The prospecting and development work were done by Duncan Derry LTD. The site supervisor was Wilford Nethery. ’67 and ’68 were the years that I worked there. How long before then the deposits were known I can’t say.

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