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Update: Commerce Resources’ metallurgy upgrades Quebec fluorspar to acid-spar

On March 9 Commerce Resources announced a collaboration with CanmetMINING to enhance beneficiation performance for the company’s Ashram rare earths deposit. Funded by Natural Resources Canada, the study takes place within CanmetMINING’s rare earths and chromite R&D program. Commerce and CanmetMINING will present a paper on Ashram at the 2020 Conference of Metallurgists (COM2020) in Toronto next August.


by Greg Klein | Updated February 28, 2020

With further progress on a strong potential byproduct, an advanced rare earths project could provide a second critical mineral from a Canadian source. Metallurgical tests on material from Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram deposit in northern Quebec have achieved 97.8% calcium fluoride, surpassing the 97% level typical of the more expensive acid-spar grade.

Conducted at the Colorado lab of Hazen Research, the tests show Ashram’s amenability to standard physical separation techniques to upgrade fluorspar from a head grade of about 7.5% CaF2 to over 97%, Commerce pointed out.

Ashram is primarily a rare earth deposit that is well-positioned to supply the permanent magnet industry over the long term. However, these fluorspar test results also demonstrate the potential for Ashram to be a significant contributor to the acid-spar market.—Chris Grove,
president of Commerce Resources

The lab’s next trials will focus on removing impurities well as further improving fluorspar recovery, Commerce added.

The achievement follows December reports of flotation tests conducted by l’Université Laval and last month’s announcement that Hazen had studied an alternative or complimentary approach at the front end of the project’s current flowsheet.

This approach “includes a coarser-grind followed by a fluorspar pre-float as an initial beneficiation step to isolate a sizable portion of the fluorspar prior to material entering the primary REE recovery flowsheet,” Commerce stated.

Fluorspar’s higher-priced acid-grade is converted to hydrofluoric acid for the chemical industry and aluminum production. Considerable demand potential also comes from increasing use of refrigerants and from the growing lithium-ion battery market, according to Roskill. Met-spar, grading below 97%, is used in steel and cement production.

Apart from upgrading fluorspar, the Colorado lab has worked on improving REE recovery and producing concentrate samples requested by potential customers.

High-grade, near-surface drill results released by Commerce in November further highlight Ashram’s dual potential for rare earths and fluorspar. A few examples:

  • 1.71% rare earth oxides and 7.2% calcium fluoride over 221.95 metres, starting at 2.69 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 2.18% REO and 11.5% CaF2 over 36.6 metres)

  • 1.68% REO and 8.4% CaF2 over 101.86 metres, starting at 1.59 metres
  • (including 2% REO and 9.6% CaF2 over 13.28 metres)

True widths were unavailable.

Amid heightened concern about critical minerals, rare earths have gained considerable attention for their importance to the economy, clean energy and defence, among other applications. Less prominent, however, has been fluorspar, which also comes under the U.S. list of 35 critical minerals. China controls well over 50% of production but has become a net importer due to increasing domestic demand and mine shutdowns caused by environmental concerns, according to Roskill.

Commerce Resources’ metallurgy upgrades Quebec fluorspar to acid-spar

Working on northern Quebec’s Eldor property,
Commerce and Saville offer the Western world
potential for critical minerals including
rare earths, fluorspar, niobium and tantalum.

In January, Canada and the U.S. signed a Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals to develop deposits and supply chains.

Looking at yet more critical minerals on the Eldor property that hosts Ashram, earlier this month Commerce joined Saville Resources TSXV:SRE to announce a preliminary mineralogical analysis on material from the Niobium Claim Group. Saville operates that project, two kilometres from Ashram, under a 75% earn-in from Commerce.

Using core from last year’s drill program, a University of Windsor research project found three encouraging signs for the project, the companies reported.

The property’s dominant niobium minerals are pyrochlore and columbite, the main source minerals for niobium globally, a fact that suggests favourable processing.

The property’s niobium may have been mobilized, which could potentially enhance a project’s grade.

The mineralogy supports a model of a continuous niobium mineralized trend through the complex.

Commerce and Saville noted parallels between the project’s Mallard prospect and Magris Resources’ Niobec mine in Quebec. Both projects feature carbonatites, and Niobec’s mineralization is hosted by pyrochlore and columbite similar in grain size to that found in Mallard’s preliminary analysis. Additionally, both Mallard and Niobec show mineralization in moderate to steeply dipping elongate lenses.

Having assayed high-grade niobium and tantalum from 2019 drilling, Saville plans further exploration this year.

In November Commerce closed a private placement totalling $2.51 million.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Read more about Saville Resources..

Watch Roskill analyst Adam Coggins discussing fluorspar demand and prices.

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