Canada Fluorspar and Prima Fluorspar develop critical mineral projects at home
by Greg Klein
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When country risk threatens a vital commodity’s supply, it’s time to find new sources. And it’s because of country risk that fluorspar gained its designation as a critical mineral. Recent news from Canadian juniors, however, offers some reassurance for this widely used but less-widely known commodity.
So what is this stuff? Also known as fluorite and measured in calcium fluoride (CaF2), fluorspar comes in two grades. Metspar, or metallurgical grade, is used to make steel, aluminum, ceramics and glass, among other necessities. The higher grade and more highly valued acidspar, or acid grade, is largely used in hydrofluoric acid, which is used in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their successors, hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs), used in coolants for fridges, freezers and air conditioners. Fluorspar finds its way into several other uses from pharmaceuticals to pesticides and toothpaste to Teflon.
With China producing up to 58% of world fluorspar supply, a familiar story unfolds. The country has restricted exports to protect its own stocks, which the Chinese use to produce value-added products that the rest of the world needs. Mexico, Mongolia and South Africa comprise the planet’s other major sources.
Not surprisingly, country risk was “a huge factor” in the European Union designation of fluorspar as a critical mineral, says Simon Moores. A writer for the authoritative London-based journal Industrial Minerals, Moores spoke to ResourceClips in Vancouver while attending the Mineral Exploration Roundup Conference 2013.
Country risk actually works out to be “positive for the Canadian-based junior companies,” he says. “One of their selling points is having a stable, friendly country to build a new mine.” That doesn’t necessarily mean other supplies will replace China, he emphasizes. But the market needs diversity of supply as a long-term approach.
Hoping to provide some of that supply is Canada Fluorspar TSXV:CFI. On January 30 the company released an updated pre-feasibility study for its St. Lawrence fluorspar project in southern Newfoundland, a 50/50 joint venture with Arkema, a worldwide producer of chemicals headquartered in France.
Based on a fluorspar price of $500 a tonne and using a discount rate of 5%, the pre-feas projects a pre-tax net present value of $124 million and a 16.4% pre-tax internal rate of return. Should fluorspar average $550 a tonne, the numbers would change to a pre-tax NPV of $182 million and a 21.1% pre-tax IRR.
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