April 15, 2014
During the last year, the case for development of commercial-scale “naturally occurring stainless steel” nickel-iron alloy targets (in the form of the mineral, awaruite) continued to strengthen. The Company’s flagship Decar project (“Decar” or “the Project”) made significant additional strides towards proof of concept as to the commercial exploitation of awaruite deposits, under the management of our partner Cliffs Natural Resources Exploration Canada Inc., an affiliate of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc (“Cliffs”). Cliffs, a Fortune 500 company and leading supplier to the steel industry, has been fully funding Decar since optioning the Project in 2009.
The March 2013 announcement of positive Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”) results was a critical milestone in demonstrating the potential economic viability of the Decar Project, and a more general endorsement of the prospects for successful independent development of First Point’s portfolio of 100% owned awaruite exploration projects and reconnaissance-stage targets.
As the technical merits of First Point’s awaruite-driven story came into sharper focus, the January 2014 imposition by Indonesia of a ban on exports of unprocessed lateritic nickel ores –the source of more than half of China’s laterite imports — has refocused attention on the long-term fundamental case for nickel. Consensus forecasts of substantial and growing mine and refined metal supply deficits enhance the positioning of awaruite deposits as a new long-life, low-risk source of nickel for world markets.
Following the PEA results and against an improving fundamental backdrop, key milestones at Decar in the last year included:
- Successful smelting tests on awaruite concentrates prepared from Decar bulk sample material, demonstrating the ability to produce marketable ferronickel products using conventional smelting technology, on both a stand-alone basis and blended with saprolitic nickel ore in a kiln-reduction/ferronickel smelting sequence.
- Cliffs’ September 2013 announcement of its election to proceed with sole-funding of a Pre- Feasibility Study (“PFS”) on the Project. Completion of the PFS would increase Cliffs’ interest in Decar to 65% and preserve its option to earn a further 10% interest by sole-funding the project through Bankable Feasibility Study.
First Point believes that continued study and test work will lead to further improvements in the Project’s financial results. These include additional drilling to assess a possible expansion of the higher grade area in the southeast portion of the Baptiste Zone at Decar, optimization of the concentration process flowsheet to further enhance nickel recoveries, ongoing technical cooperation with potential consumers, with a view to maximizing revenue capture for the concentrate product, and a number of other initiatives.
Based on the positive results and advancements at Decar, and our growing experience with our other exploration projects and reconnaissance targets, we continue to refine and focus the exploration model we have developed in respect of awaruite nickel-iron alloy mineralization. At the same time, advancements in de-risking the Decar Project raise the profile of the Company’s activities with potential joint venture partners on the 100%-owned properties, a key strategy to leveraging our financial resources and maintaining the pace of development on these projects.
Key advancements in the 100% owned portfolio over the past year include:
- Successful exploration campaign at the Mich project, including Davis Tube results and a ground geophysics program, significantly expanding the target zone and elevating the project to the company’s top exploration priority. Mich, now drill-ready, is a candidate for joint venture in 2014.
- Ongoing evaluation of the Orca and Wale properties, where generally smaller grain size of awaruite presents potential challenges to magnetic recoverability.
- Continued global reconnaissance efforts, focused on stable jurisdictions only, scaled back to reflect the Company’s limited financial resources.
In summary, the major milestones passed during the past year — in particular at Decar, but also on our 100% owned projects — have substantially advanced the search for a viable development model for our target nickel-iron alloy mineralization. We look forward to further progress in the coming year, with both advancement at Decar and continued, prudent value addition to our existing projects — in Canada and internationally. Your Company has cash on hand to complete our focused, results-driven 2014 exploration and testing programs, with sustainability of those efforts into 2015.
Your continued support and enthusiasm are much appreciated.
/s/ James S. Gilbert
James S. Gilbert
President & CEO