Little-known but essential commodities can offer near-term potential, says MGX Minerals
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Without them, modern life wouldn’t be very modern. A wide range of industrial minerals make possible so much of what we take for granted, from luxuries to conveniences to necessities. Although few of the commodities are familiar to investors, CEO Jared Lazerson of MGX Minerals CSE:XMG believes he’s found opportunities for potentially near-term domestic production to supply North American markets.
Since its trading debut last October, MGX has been busy acquiring properties in British Columbia, mostly with a goal of producing magnesite. In fact the company has tracked down and claimed most of B.C.’s significant magnesite occurrences. The province currently hosts one of the only two magnesite mines in North America.
As a source of magnesium, magnesite—not to be confused with magnetite—meets a number of agricultural, pharmaceutical, environmental and industrial applications. Exceptionally light for a structural metal, magnesium is used to manufacture cars and planes, among other uses. As part of an alloy, it helps make more rigid metals suitable for shaping into manufactured products.
Magnesium can be mined from magnesite or dolomite and can also be extracted from seawater or natural brines, which accounted for about 69% of American domestic magnesium compounds production in 2014, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
USGS data shows about 52% of magnesium compounds consumed in that country last year went to agricultural, chemical, construction, environmental and industrial applications. The remaining 48% was used for refractories.
As for magnesium metal, USGS numbers show 35% of American consumption in 2014 went to aluminum-based alloys used largely in packaging and transportation. Another 30% was used as a reducing agent in the production of titanium and other metals, 15% for structural purposes, 10% for desulfurization of iron and steel, and 10% for other applications.
By far the largest global supplier, China accounted for about 89% of the world’s magnesium metal production last year, according to the USGS. Israel and Russia managed to make up about 3.3% and 3.1% respectively.
As for magnesium compounds, China again dominated world production with about 70% last year. Russia came up with about 5.7% and Turkey 4.3%.
A new North American producer, especially one that’s close to existing transportation infrastructure, could offer the continent’s market considerable advantages, says Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC president Dave Hodge.
“MGX is a fairly unique story,” he points out. “It’s had a very recent IPO but it’s already in the permitting process. Magnesium comes in a variety of forms and one of the things they’re working on now is determining what form they would produce at what cost, versus the size of the market for that specific commodity. Those markets take different grades and different grades are produced at different costs. The opportunity here is to determine what’s the best product to produce and create value for their shareholders.”
Hodge adds, “In many respects this is not so much a mining story but more of a business story.”
Last July Lazerson signed a three-year cash, share and expenditure deal that would give the company a 100% interest in the 326-hectare Driftwood Creek project. Now MGX’s flagship, it’s located in southwestern B.C.’s Kootenays, a region that also hosts Baymag Inc’s Mount Brussilof magnesite mine. With logging roads on the property itself, Driftwood sits about 15 kilometres from highway, power and a CP spur line.
Lazerson sees near-term potential for a relatively simple quarry operation with a low strip ratio.
MGX also gained considerable expertise in CFO Michael Reimann and VP of exploration Andris Kikauka. Reimann, with a PhD in physics, has served over 45 years in senior corporate management positions, most recently with Skana Capital and PNG Gold TSXV:PGK. Kikauka’s 30-year background includes service as project geologist for the exploration and geotechnical consulting firm Rio Minerals. He’s currently a director of American Manganese TSXV:AMY.
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