When Aubrey Eveleigh started Zenyatta Ventures Ltd. in 2010, he thought he was creating a new nickel and copper exploration company. But when he went searching for these metals in an area north east of Thunder Bay area, he found something else. “There was no copper and no nickel,” he says. “What we found was a rare form of Graphite.”
Eveleigh, along with Cliffs Natural Resources, his partner in this project, had never seen this material in their life. They weren’t sure if they were sitting on something valuable or if they had just wasted their time. After getting a sample tested, they got their answer. They had found an extremely rare form of graphite, something many companies would pay big money for. According to Eveleigh, there are only two or three other areas in the world that are mining this material. “We’re still excited about this,” says the longtime geologist. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”
To help make this discovery, the company raised $10 million on the TSX Venture Exchange—it listed in December 2010—and it’s still fully funded. “We’ve made it go quite far,” he says. While the company will bring in another $7 million through warrants on the shares that are now getting exercised, Zenyatta’s president says it’s unlikely they’ll issue more equity anytime soon.
Right now, the company is using its Venture-raised capital to drill holes in their graphite deposit to determine its size. They’ll then be able to determine what it will cost to extract the material, what the project will look like and its internal rate of return. He hopes that the company can start pulling the graphite out of the ground—and selling it—by 2015.
One reason why the company made the Venture 50—its stock price climbed 455% last year; it’s up another 139% year-to-date—is that it only began marketing itself to investors in 2012. Once people heard about this nearly one-of-a-kind find, says Eveleigh, people wanted to buy in.
Graphite is used to make lithium ion batteries; it’s also used in electronics, steel production, nuclear reactors and more. Graphite is typically man made—it’s created by cooking petroleum coke, a byproduct of refining oil. It’s costly to make from scratch, says Eveleigh, and that’s why he thinks his company has an edge. “It can cost nearly $5,000 a ton to make graphite,” he says. “Our costs won’t be anywhere near that mark.”
While Zenyatta still has a ways to go before revenue starts coming in, making the Venture 50 list proves that he’s on the right track. “It’s satisfying for all of us,” he says. “It goes to show that there’s still money in the market, but you have to have something special.”
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