Thursday 18th July 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘brazil’

Proven provenance

April 20th, 2018

B.C. tantalum-niobium enhance Commerce Resources’ essential metals portfolio

by Greg Klein

Not just inadequate reserves but dubious origins threaten security of supply for strategic commodities. A prime example is niobium, a largely single-source product from CBMM in Brazil that gives one company and one country enormous potential power. Tantalum raises further concerns as it passes through shadowy supply lines that could obscure conflict sources. Both metals appear on the recent U.S. draft list of 35 critical minerals. And both appear in substantial quantities in one east-central British Columbia deposit.

That brings additional interest to Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE, best-known for its Ashram rare earths deposit in northern Quebec. While that project moves towards pre-feasibility, the company’s Blue River property in B.C. offers advantageous resources, metallurgy, infrastructure and economics for the rare metals age, says company president Chris Grove.

Industry has noticed, evident in the inquiries he’s received from end-users.

“We’re very excited about the new interest in Blue River,” he says. “Companies are looking at the provenance of these commodities and the new executive order signed by President Trump focuses on the origin of these critical commodities, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity to be seen for Blue River.”

The property’s Upper Fir deposit boasts a resource effective February 2015 based on 271 holes totalling 59,100 metres:

  • indicated: 48.41 million tonnes averaging 197 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,610 ppm Nb2O5 for 9,560 tonnes Ta2O5 and 77,810 tonnes Nb2O5

  • inferred: 5.4 million tonnes averaging 191 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,760 ppm Nb2O5 for 1,000 tonnes Ta2O5 and 9,600 tonnes Nb2O5

At this stage, processing looks good. Tantalum and niobium “occur within the minerals pyrochlore and ferrocolumbite and are amenable to conventional flotation and proven refining processes with estimated recoveries of 65% to 70%,” the 43-101 stated. “The industrial processes proposed for the production of high-quality tantalum and niobium products from the concentrates have not been tested using material from the Blue River project but are known processes that are not expected to be difficult to develop for the project.”

Tantalum and niobium enhance Commerce Resources’ essential metals portfolio

Those qualities alone encourage optimism for production costs, Grove points out. But a more recent development suggests even greater potential savings to both capex and opex. In February the company announced successful processing through a patented method called the Krupin Process. That followed months of work on a 1,300-kilogram sample of Blue River material at the Estonian lab of Alexander Krupin. An expert in tantalum and niobium recovery, his CV shows more than 35 years’ experience, including over 15 years processing high-grade concentrates of those two metals.

But it took another expert to confirm the results. To that end Commerce dispatched chairperson Axel Hoppe to Krupin’s lab. Formerly president of the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center and a senior manager at H.C. Starck, a global producer of tantalum and niobium products, Hoppe “confirmed a very significant new development in processing that should save significantly on costs,” Grove says.

As a result, Commerce is now working on a definitive agreement to incorporate the Krupin Process at Blue River and also acquire worldwide rights to the method.

Covering 105,373 hectares, the property sits about 250 highway kilometres north of Kamloops, with access from another four klicks of gravel road. CN rail tracks and a parallel high-voltage transmission line cross the property’s western side, while a 20 MW run-of-river hydro plant operates adjacent to Blue River.

With niobium in a location like that, Blue River has attracted “huge interest from the steel sector,” Grove says. As electronics manufacturers take a closer look at some of the Democratic Republic of Congo mines that supply their cobalt, tantalum’s due for similar scrutiny, he adds.

Meanwhile, highly impressive niobium-tantalum assays from Commerce’s Quebec property have spawned an early-stage exploration project. Samples have graded as high as 4.24%, 4.3% and even 5.93% Nb2O5, as well as 1,040 ppm, 1,060 ppm and 1,220 ppm Ta2O5. The exceptional grades prompted Saville Resources TSXV:SRE to sign a 75% earn-in for the Niobium Claim Group on the Eldor property that also hosts Commerce’s advanced-stage Ashram rare earths deposit. Saville now has a 43-101 technical report underway. Dependent on TSXV approval of the deal and subsequent funding, the company plans drilling this year.

Interestingly it was Saville president Mike Hodge who staked the Blue River claims, after Dahrouge Geological Consulting brought the property to the attention of Commerce. Now a former Dahrouge geologist currently with the B.C. Geological Survey plans a public site visit to Blue River. Alexei Rukhlov will co-lead the June 22-24 field trip, an event open to participants of Resources for Future Generations 2018. Click here for more info.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Read more about Saville Resources.

Emerita Resources mobilizes rigs to Brazilian zinc project, plans mid-year resource

April 10th, 2018

by Greg Klein | April 10, 2018

With one or more rigs now en route, Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO has field staff preparing its Salobro zinc project for a 3,500-metre program and a late-Q2 resource estimate. Located in eastern Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, the 1,210-hectare property has an historic, non-43-101 estimate compiled by Vale NYSE:VALE of 8.3 million tonnes averaging 7.12% zinc-equivalent using a 3.5% zinc-lead cutoff.

Emerita Resources mobilizes rigs to Brazilian zinc project, plans mid-year resource

Regional infrastructure includes paved roads,
cell phone service, rail, water and power.

“We see excellent potential to expand the existing resource and the previous work completed by Vale was to a high technical standard, which provides an excellent base from which to accelerate the evaluation of the project,” said Emerita chairperson David Gower.

The company closed its 75% acquisition of Salobro in March, retaining the right to pick up the other 25% from IMS Engenharia Mineral Ltda. Also last month, Emerita filed a 43-101 technical report on the property.

As part of the resource update work, Emerita has assays pending for resampled core from 10 selected historic holes and has relogged 11 holes.

Additionally, an engineering firm has completed a preliminary mine plan for the project. Emerita also has a community engagement proposal under review.

The work comprises part of an ambitious campaign that might reach pre-feasibility as early as next year.

In northern Spain, meanwhile, the company takes part in a 50/50 joint venture on Plaza Norte, another zinc-lead project with substantial historic work and regional infrastructure. Emerita has permitting underway for a drill campaign that could bring a maiden resource early next year.

The company closed an oversubscribed private placement of $4.24 million in December.

Read more about Emerita Resources.

Trans-Atlantic treasures

February 26th, 2018

Emerita Resources fast-tracks high-grade zinc in Brazil and Spain

by Greg Klein

Two years of escalating prices and several years of historic work have Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO in an exceptionally sanguine mood. Following December’s oversubscribed $4.24-million cash infusion and last month’s TSXV approval to close the Brazilian acquisition, the company announced a breathtakingly ambitious timeline for its Salobro zinc project. Should all go to a very optimistic plan, the company would advance from updating an historic resource to completing pre-feas and mine permitting within two to three years.

Emerita Resources fast-tracks high-grade zinc in Brazil and Spain

Should success reward optimism, Salobro
could reach pre-feasibility next year.

The 1,210-hectare former Vale NYSE:VALE project’s located in southeastern Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, where regional infrastructure includes a zinc smelter, paved roads, rail, water and power.

Salobro comes with an historic, non-43-101 Vale-compiled resource of 8.3 million tonnes averaging 7.12% zinc-equivalent lying at shallow depth and showing expansion potential along strike and down dip. The geology suggests either a Mississippi Valley-type or sedimentary exhalative deposit, Emerita says. A standout among historic intervals assayed 10.39% zinc and 2.13% lead over 13.92 metres.

The acquisition would give Emerita a 75% stake in Salobro and the right to pick up the remaining 25% from IMS Engenharia Mineral Ltda. Vale, meanwhile, has begun the process of withdrawing a civil claim against IMS concerning ownership of the property, Emerita stated. The company expects to close the deal by the end of March.

“Ambitious” might be an understatement for such an optimistic timeline. But the project “has consistently exceeded our expectations during our scoping and analysis phase,” says newly appointed CEO Michael Timmins. The veteran of Agnico Eagle Mines’ (TSX:AEM) expansion from one to nine operations adds, “We are encouraged by the outcome of this early mine study and are very excited to have the opportunity to utilize our award-winning mine-building team in Brazil to fast-track the development of Salobro.”

With that in mind the company foresees a 43-101 technical report filed by the end of March, a 43-101 resource by the end of Q2, 3,500 metres of exploration drilling to begin in early March, a PEA complete by the end of Q3, baseline enviro studies beginning in Q3, a pre-feas finished by Q3 2019 and mine development permits in hand by Q2 2020.

Obviously such an agenda depends on favourable outcomes at every stage. The company has already been resampling historic core for the new resource, which will also include upcoming step-out holes to expand the deposit’s shallow areas. A conceptual mine plan will build on info inherited from Vale.

Emerita credits its Brazilian team with significant involvement in projects including Belo Sun Mining’s (TSX:BSX) Volta Grande gold project and Aguia Resources’ (TSXV:AGRL) Tres Estradas phosphate deposit.

The deal calls for Emerita to pay Vale an initial US$350,000 after IMS turns Salobro over to a subsidiary held 75% by Emerita and 25% by IMS. Once Vale formally withdraws its claim against IMS, Emerita pays Vale legal costs of approximately 760,000 reals, about C$297,000. Further payments to Vale would cost Emerita US$1.65 million by July 14, US$1.5 million in 2020 and another US$3 million in 2024.

Emerita may buy out the IMS 25% for C$2 million and a million shares by 2021.

Emerita Resources fast-tracks high-grade zinc in Brazil and Spain

The Plaza Norte agenda aims for a late-
2019 preliminary economic assessment.

Helping on the financial side will be December’s oversubscribed $4.24-million private placement. But some of that cash will go to another Emerita zinc project—and for that, the focus shifts to northern Spain.

Situated next to the former Reocin mine that produced about 62 million tonnes averaging 11% zinc and 1.4% lead up to 2003, the 3,600-hectare Plaza Norte property sits amid regional infrastructure including rail, road and port facilities, along with a Glencore zinc smelter about 180 road kilometres away. The project is a 50/50 JV with the Aldesa Group, a specialized construction and infrastructure firm operating in Spain and internationally.

Emerita’s Spanish team now has permitting underway for a 5,000-metre campaign anticipated to start in May. The plan is to build a 43-101 resource over an area that’s already seen more than 300 holes totalling about 73,000 metres. Some historic intercepts include 9.72% zinc and 0.09% lead over 18.96 metres, along with 7.05% zinc and 0.3% lead over 8.2 metres. The company anticipates an initial resource in Q1 next year and a PEA by 2019 year-end.

Meanwhile Emerita awaits resolution of disputed ownership concerning two other Spanish zinc properties, Paymogo and Aznalcollar. The latter’s Los Frailes deposit hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate showing 20 million tonnes averaging 6.65% zinc, 3.87% lead, 0.29% copper and 148 ppm silver. The company considers the project ready for feasibility studies.

Paymogo’s La Infanta deposit has another historic, non-43-101 estimate of 800,000 tonnes averaging 1.77% copper, 6.91% lead, 12.66% zinc and 148 g/t silver. About seven kilometres away, Paymogo’s Romanera deposit holds an historic, non-43-101 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 1.1% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold.

Critical Quebec commodities

January 11th, 2018

Saville Resources moves into Commerce Resources’ niobium-tantalum target

by Greg Klein

A rare metal find on a property hosting a rare earths deposit becomes a project of its own under a new agreement between two companies. With a 75% earn-in, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE can now explore the niobium claims on Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Eldor property in northern Quebec, where the latter company advances its Ashram rare earths deposit towards pre-feasibility.

Saville Resources moves into Commerce Resources’ niobium-tantalum target

A map illustrates the mineralized boulder
train’s progress, showing its presumed source.

Grab samples collected by Commerce on a boulder train about a kilometre from the deposit brought assays up to 5.9% Nb2O5. “That’s right off the charts,” enthuses Saville president Mike Hodge. “People in the niobium space hope for 1%—5.9% is excellent.”

He’s no newcomer to the space or even to the property. Hodge helped stake Commerce’s tantalum-niobium deposit on southern British Columbia’s Blue River property, which reached PEA in 2011.

“I did a lot of the groundwork for Commerce in the Valemount-Blue River area and I was one of the first guys on the ground at the camp that now supports Ashram,” he points out. “I’ve been involved with these two properties since 1999.” That’s part of a career including field experience on over 25 projects as well as raising money for junior explorers.

Miranna’s grab samples brought tantalum too, with a significant 1,220 ppm Ta2O5. Forty of the 65 samples graded over 0.5% Nb2O5, with 16 of them surpassing 1%.

The company describes the sampling area as a “strongly mineralized boulder train with a distinct geophysical anomaly at its apex.”

The 980-hectare Eldor Niobium claims have also undergone drilling on the Northwest and Southeast zones, where some wide intervals gave up 0.46% Nb2O5 over 46.88 metres and 0.55% over 26.1 metres (including 0.78% over 10.64 metres).

Samples from Miranna and the Southeast zone also show that niobium-tantalum occurs within pyrochlore, described by Saville as the dominant source mineral for niobium and tantalum in global mining. That’s the case, for example, at Quebec’s Niobec mine, one of the world’s three main niobium producers, with 8% to 10% of global production. Moreover, pyrochlore on the Saville project “is commonly visible to the naked eye, thus indicating a relatively course grain size, which is a favourable attribute for metallurgical recovery,” the company added.

Hodge already has a prospective drill target in mind. “I pulled the rig around with a Cat for a lot of the holes on Ashram itself so I’m very familiar with the ground. We’d of course do more prospecting and try to prove up some more numbers while we’re drilling.”

Saville Resources moves into Commerce Resources’ niobium-tantalum target

Should Saville find success, a ready market would be waiting. The company cites niobium demand growth forecasts of 7.66% CAGR from 2017 to 2021. A December U.S. Geological Survey report lists niobium and tantalum among 23 minerals critical to American security and well-being.

The country relies on foreign exports for its entire supply of both minerals, according to an earlier USGS study. From 2012 to 2015, 80% of America’s total niobium imports came from Brazil, where one mine alone produces 85% to 90% of global supply. Looking at tantalum imports during that period, the U.S. relied on China for 37% and Kazakhstan for another 25%. A troubling source of tantalum remains the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where conflict minerals reach Western markets through murky supply chains.

Days after the USGS released its December study, American president Donald Trump ordered a federal strategy “to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” Although he emphasized the need for domestic deposits and supply chains, Trump also called for “options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.”

Meanwhile Saville also sees potential in Covette, the company’s other northern Quebec property. Historic, non-43-101 grab samples reported up to 4.7% molybdenum, with some bismuth, lead, silver and copper. A 1,402-line-kilometre VTEM survey in late 2016 found prospectivity for base and precious metals. “The VTEM and some sampling that we did indicates that drilling could find something valuable,” Hodge says. “Although it is early-stage, the Geotech guys that did the VTEM survey said they hadn’t seen targets like that all year.”

Still, “the niobium claims are my first priority,” Hodge emphasizes. “I’m very excited about this. I believe we can have a winning project here.”

Subject to approvals, a 75% interest in the new property would call for $25,000 on signing, another $225,000 on closing and $5 million in work over five years. Commerce retains a 1% or 2% NSR, depending on the claim, with Saville holding a buyback option.

Last month the company offered private placements totalling up to $500,000, with insiders intending to participate.

Read more about the U.S. critical minerals strategy.

Emerita Resources JVs on Spanish zinc project next to high-grade former mine

October 26th, 2017

by Greg Klein | October 26, 2017

A successful public tender brings Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO an acquisition hosting extensions of an adjacent past-producer characterized as “among the richest zinc mines in the world.” Through a newly formed JV, the company gets a 50% stake in the Plaza Norte project in northern Spain’s Reocin Basin. The neighbouring Reocin mine produced about 62 million tonnes averaging 11% zinc and 1.4% lead up to 2003.

Emerita Resources JVs on Spanish zinc project next to high-grade former mine

The regional government of Cantabria tendered 13,800 hectares of claims that lapsed when Reocin shut down. “Based on a rigorous review of [historic] drilling data, we are confident that we have selected the claims with the highest potential,” said Emerita president/CEO Joaquin Merino. “We are also extremely pleased with the strong support received from the community and government to date.”

Emerita will act as project operator on behalf of JV partner the Aldesa Group, a specialized construction and infrastructure firm with international operations. The tender granted rights to Plaza Norte for three years with an option to renew.

Emerita has been studying historic data from the property since mid-2016, building a database of over 300 holes totalling approximately 73,000 metres. The Plaza Norte claims cover most of the drilling area, including those with high-grade intervals, the company stated. Some examples include 9.72% zinc over 18.96 metres and 7.05% over 8.2 metres. The core was placed under government storage.

The JV will submit exploration plans to the government within four months.

Cantabria infrastructure includes an industrial port and an excellent rail and road network, Emerita added. Glencore operates a zinc smelter about 180 kilometres by road from Plaza Norte.

Regarding its bid on another Spanish project, last month Emerita reported encouraging news about the Paymogo property in Andalusia. After a competing bid was selected, a court ruled the process invalid, ordering bids to be re-assessed. The company expressed confidence that its bid would prevail if the process “eliminates the illegal criteria and leaves the legal criteria as originally scored.”

Paymogo hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 1.1% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold.

In March the company announced progress on another disputed Andalusian tender, this one for the Aznalcollar zinc project.

Earlier this month the company announced conditional TSXV approval for its acquisition of the Salobro zinc project in Brazil. Salobro comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 8.3 million tonnes averaging 7.12% zinc.

In June Emerita announced an option to acquire the Falcon Litio MG project, adjacent to Brazil’s only lithium mine.

Emerita also holds the Sierra Alta gold property in northwestern Spain.

Spanish court decision a positive step for Emerita Resources’ proposed zinc acquisition

September 29th, 2017

by Greg Klein | September 29, 2017

A court ruling bodes well for Emerita Resources’ (TSXV:EMO) bid to acquire a Spanish zinc project with an historic deposit, the company says. In appealing a 2014 decision that awarded the Paymogo property to another bidder, Emerita argued that the process involved procedural errors and lacked impartiality. Now the Upper Court of Andalucia has declared the tender invalid and ordered that the bids be reassessed, the company reported on September 28. Emerita believes that if the reassessment “eliminates the illegal criteria and leaves the legal criteria as originally scored” the company’s bid will be accepted.

Emerita stated it didn’t know when the panel members would reconvene “or how they will approach the reassessment.”

Emerita has an exceptional technical team in Spain and a great depth of experience in delineating and developing these types of zinc deposits and is ready to advance the project quickly should it be awarded the tender.—David Gower,
chairperson of Emerita Resources

The ruling marks “a strong endorsement for the region as a place to conduct business to see that the rule of law is transparently and fairly administered,” said company chairperson David Gower. “Emerita has an exceptional technical team in Spain and a great depth of experience in delineating and developing these types of zinc deposits and is ready to advance the project quickly should it be awarded the tender.”

The company has also disputed Spain’s tender process for the Aznalcollar zinc project. In March Emerita stated that the Seventh Provincial Court of Seville rejected a request to dismiss a criminal case against a competing bidder, the Andalucian government panel responsible for awarding the project and Andalucia’s former director of mines.

Calling the decision a positive step in resolving the Aznalcollar dispute, Emerita CEO Joaquin Merino said the company “strongly believes that it is the only qualified bidder.”

Paymogo consists of two areas about seven kilometres apart that have seen extensive drilling, La Infanta and Romanera. The latter hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate dating to the 1990s that showed 34 million tonnes averaging 0.42% copper, 1.1% lead, 2.3% zinc, 44 g/t silver and 0.8 g/t gold.

Aznalcollar also has an historic, non-43-101 estimate, this one showing 71 million tonnes averaging 3.86% zinc, 2.18% lead, 0.34% copper and 60 g/t silver.

In July Emerita announced plans to acquire the Salobro zinc project in Brazil, with its historic, non-43-101 estimate of 8.3 million tonnes averaging 7.12% zinc.

The company holds the Sierra Alta gold project in Spain.

Crucial commodities

September 8th, 2017

Price/supply concerns draw end-users to Commerce Resources’ rare earths-tantalum-niobium projects

by Greg Klein

“One of the things that really galls me is that the F-35 is flying around with over 900 pounds of Chinese REEs in it.”

That typifies some of the remarks Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE president Chris Grove hears from end-users of rare earths and rare metals. Steeply rising prices for magnet feed REEs and critical minerals like tantalum—not to mention concern about stable, geopolitically friendly sources—have brought even greater interest in the company’s two advanced projects, the Ashram rare earths deposit in northern Quebec and the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia. Now Commerce has a list of potential customers and processors waiting for samples from both properties.

XXXX

F-35 fighter jets alongside the USS America:
Chinese rare earths in action.
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Of course with China supplying over 90% of the world’s REEs, governments and industries in many countries have cause for concern. Tantalum moves to market through sometimes disturbingly vague supply lines, with about 37% of last year’s production coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 32% from Rwanda, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. One company in Brazil, Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (CBMM), produces about 85% of the world’s niobium, another critical mineral.

As Ashram moves towards pre-feasibility, Commerce has a team busy getting a backlog of core to the assay lab. But tantalum and niobium, the original metals of interest for Commerce, have returned to the fore as well, with early-stage exploration on the Quebec property and metallurgical studies on the B.C. deposit.

The upcoming assays will come from 14 holes totalling 2,014 metres sunk last year, mostly definition drilling. Initial geological review and XRF data suggest significant intervals in several holes, including a large stepout to the southeast, Grove’s team reports.

“We’re always excited to see this project’s drilling results,” he says. “We know we’re in carbonatite basically all of the time and over the last five years, in all the 9,200 metres we’ve done since the last resource calculation, we’ve basically always hit more material than was modelled in the original resource—i.e. we’ve always found less waste rock at surface, we’ve always hit material in the condemnation holes and we’ve always had intersections of higher-grade material. So all those things look exciting for this program.”

Carbonatite comprises a key Ashram distinction. The deposit sits within carbonatite host rock and the minerals monazite, bastnasite and xenotime, which are well understood in commercial REE processing. That advantage distinguishes Ashram from REE hopefuls that foundered over mineralogical challenges. Along with resource size, mineralogy has Grove confident of Ashram’s potential as a low-cost producer competing with China.

As for size, a 2012 resource used a 1.25% cutoff to show:

  • measured: 1.59 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides

  • indicated: 27.67 million tonnes averaging 1.9% TREO

  • inferred: 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% TREO

A near-surface—sometimes at-surface—deposit, Ashram also features strong distribution of neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium, all critical elements and some especially costly. Neodymium and dysprosium prices have shot up 80% this year.

XXXX

Commerce Resources’ field crew poses at the Eldor property,
home to the Ashram deposit and Miranna prospect.

Comparing Ashram’s inferred gross tonnage of nearly 220 million tonnes with the measured and indicated total of less than 30 million tonnes, Grove sees considerable potential to bolster the M&I as well as increase the resource’s overall size and average grade.

This season’s field program includes prospecting in the Miranna area about a kilometre from the deposit. Miranna was the site of 2015 boulder sampling that brought “spectacular” niobium grades up to 5.9% Nb2O5, nearly twice the average grade of the world’s largest producer, CBMM’s Araxá mine, Grove says. Some tantalum standouts showed 1,220 ppm and 1,040 ppm Ta2O5. Significant results for phosphate and rare earth oxides were also apparent.

Should Miranna prove drill-worthy, the synergies with Ashram would be obvious.

That’s the early-stage aspect of Commerce’s tantalum-niobium work. In B.C. the company’s Blue River deposit reached PEA in 2011, with a resource update in 2013. Based on a tantalum price of $381 per kilo, the estimate showed:

  • indicated: 48.41 million tonnes averaging 197 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,610 ppm Nb2O5 for 9.56 million kilograms Ta2O5 and 77.81 kilograms Nb2O5

  • inferred: 5.4 million tonnes averaging 191 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,760 ppm Nb2O5 for 1 million kilograms Ta2O5 and 9.6 million kilograms Nb2O5

Actually that should be 1,300 kilograms less. That’s the size of a sample on its way to Estonia for evaluation by Alexander Krupin, an expert in processing high-grade tantalum and niobium concentrates. “As with Ashram, we’ve already found that standard processing works well for Blue River,” Grove points out. “However, if Krupin’s proprietary method proves even more efficient, why wouldn’t we look at it?”

We’re always excited to see this project’s drilling results. We know we’re in carbonatite basically all of the time and over the last five years, in all the 9,200 metres we’ve done since the last resource calculation, we’ve basically always hit more material than was modelled in the original resource.—Chris Grove,
president of Commerce Resources

Back to rare earths, Commerce signed an MOU with Ucore Rare Metals TSXV:UCU to assess Ashram material for a proprietary method of selective processing. Others planning to test proprietary techniques on Ashram include Texas Mineral Resources and K-Technologies, Rare Earth Salts, Innovation Metals Corp, the University of Tennessee and NanoScience Solutions at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Should proprietary methods work, all the better, Grove states. But he emphasizes that standard metallurgical tests have already succeeded, making a cheaper process unnecessary for both Blue River and Ashram.

Potential customers show interest too. Concentrate sample requests have come from Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle, Blue Line and others covered by non-disclosure agreements. Requests have also come for samples of fluorspar, a potential Ashram byproduct and another mineral subject to rising prices and Chinese supply dominance.

A solid expression of interest came from the province too, as Ressources Québec invested $1 million in a February private placement. The provincial government corporation describes itself as focusing “on projects that have good return prospects and foster Quebec’s economic development.”

Also fostering the mining-friendly jurisdiction’s economic development is Plan Nord, which has pledged $1.3 billion to infrastructure over five years. The provincial road to Renard helped make Stornoway Diamond’s (TSX:SWY) mine a reality. Other projects that would benefit from a road extension towards Ashram would be Lac Otelnuk, located 80 kilometres south. The Sprott Resource Holdings TSX:SRHI/WISCO JV holds Canada’s largest iron ore deposit. Some projects north of Ashram include the Kan gold-base metals project of Barrick Gold TSX:ABX and Osisko Mining TSX:OSK, as well as properties held by Midland Exploration TSXV:MD.

But, Grove says, it’s rising prices and security of supply that have processors and end-users metaphorically beating a path to his company’s door. And maybe nothing demonstrates the criticality of critical minerals better than a nearby superpower that relies on a geopolitical rival for commodities essential to national defence.

Emerita Resources targets high-grade Brazilian zinc project drilled by Vale

July 14th, 2017

by Greg Klein | July 14, 2017

Historic high zinc grades amid regional infrastructure have Emerita Resources TSXV:EMO planning to take on a new acquisition in east-central Brazil. Backed by 40 holes totalling 13,885 metres of drilling, the 1,210-hectare Salobro zinc project in Minas Gerais state comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 8.3 million tonnes averaging 7.12% zinc. One historic intercept graded 10.39% zinc and 2.13% lead over 13.92 metres.

Emerita Resources targets high-grade Brazilian zinc project drilled by Vale

Mineralization occurs in three lenses, all remaining open, the company stated. Emerita has already commissioned a 43-101 technical report.

The project’s mineralization “was delineated by the highly respected technical group of Vale [NYSE:VALE] and remains open for future expansion,” said Emerita chairperson David Gower. “The project is located in an area with excellent infrastructure and a supportive environment for responsible mine development. Emerita has an exceptional technical team in Brazil and is ready to advance the project quickly.”

Local infrastructure includes paved roads, rail, water, power and cell phone reception, the company added.

The deal would resolve a legal dispute over Salobro between Vale and IMS Engenharia Mineral. Under a definitive agreement with Emerita, Vale would withdraw its ownership claim against IMS in return for US$6.5 million over seven years from Emerita, which would also cover Vale’s legal costs of about US$245,000.

Emerita and IMS have signed a binding LOI to create a subsidy to be held 75% by Emerita and 25% by IMS. IMS would then transfer its Salobro rights to the new entity in return for one million Emerita shares. The subsidiary would hold Salobro until Emerita completes its schedule of payments to Vale. Emerita would have the right to acquire the 25% IMS stake for C$2 million and one million shares. Emerita and IMS expect to sign a definitive agreement within 90 days.

Emerita also announced the termination of a non-binding LOI to acquire the Masa Valverde zinc project in Spain. But the company remains committed to another Spanish project, Aznalcollar, which hosts an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 71 million tonnes averaging 3.86% zinc, 2.18% lead, 0.34% copper and 60 ppm silver. The property is subject to a legal dispute in which Emerita alleges another company was wrongfully granted ownership. In an update last March, Emerita said a Seville court “has indicated that this result is highly irregular, inconsistent with the laws and regulations governing public tenders in Spain and further investigations need to be made to determine if there were any criminal acts committed in connection therewith.”

More critical than ever

April 13th, 2017

The USGS promotes awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

by Greg Klein

Let’s call it Critical Minerals Awareness Month. The U.S. Geological Survey hasn’t actually labelled April that way, but the agency does have a “big push” underway to inform American decision-makers and the general public about the country’s often tenuous hold on commodities vital to the economy and security of that country. Of course those concerns apply to its allies as well.

The USGS promotes public awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

“We decided to do a big push on critical minerals in April largely because we’ve got several big publications coming out on the subject,” USGS public affairs specialist Alex Demas tells ResourceClips.com.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on is supply chain security, so with the sheer number of mineral commodities that are used in the United States, and the number of them deemed critical, we felt it was important to emphasize where a lot of those mineral resources are coming from and if there are any potential issues in the supply chain, getting them from the source to the United States.”

Computers provide an obvious example, increasing their use from “just 12 elements in the 1980s to as many as 60 by 2006,” points out one recent USGS news release. Smartphones offer another example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” states another USGS release. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

Larry Meinert, USGS deputy associate director for energy and minerals, pointed out some of the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

That brings an ominous warning. “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

The campaign also reveals the agency’s methods for tracking this essential stuff. A USGS-designed early warning system described as “mathematically rigorous and elegant” helps the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency monitor a watch list of about 160 minerals. Not all have been labelled critical, but those so defined can change due to technological development and geopolitical conflict.

The USGS itself tracks something like 90 minerals important to the American economy or security but sourced from about 180 countries. For last year the agency identified 20 minerals on which the U.S. relied entirely on imports and 47 on which the country imported more than half its supply.

Not all the source countries are always best buddies with the West. China supplies most of America’s mined commodities, including 24 of the 47 minerals supplied 51% or more by imports. Among the critical items are rare earth elements, 100% imported, over 90% directly from China and much of the rest through supply chains originating there.

As a supplier, Canada came a distant second, the chief provider of 16 minerals, not all of them critical. Runners-up Mexico, Russia and South Africa were each chief suppliers for eight American mineral imports.

Among the research reports coming soon will be “a compendium of everything the USGS knows about 23 minerals critical to the United States,” Demas says. “It’s going to cover the industry side of things, the reserves, production, shipment, etc. It’s going to cover geology and sustainability. Each chapter on each mineral will have a section on how this can be mined sustainably so we can meet our needs not only today, but also in the future.”

In part the publications target “decision-makers in Congress, as well as the Defense Department and others who use mineral resources,” Demas adds. But he emphasizes the campaign wasn’t motivated by the proposed METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security). Currently before U.S. Congress, the bill calls on government to support domestic resources and supply chains of critical and strategic minerals. On introducing the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter argued the risk of foreign dependence to national security “is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

As Demas notes, “Since we are a non-regulatory, non-policy agency, we don’t directly influence policy. But we do want policy-makers to have our tools available so they can make the best science-informed decisions.”

And while this month will see special attention to critical minerals, Demas says the subject’s an ongoing concern for the USGS. Some of the reports coming out now will be updates of annual publications.

“We’re really trying to promote the idea that USGS has a lot of really useful information that we put out all the time,” he adds. “This information will hopefully be useful to people when they’re considering where their resources are coming from.”

Follow USGS news here.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.

USGS: Possibility of supply disruption more critical than ever

April 5th, 2017

by Greg Klein | April 5, 2017

USGS: Possibility of supply disruption more critical than ever

Many and various are the sources of smartphone minerals.
(Map: U.S. Geological Survey)

 

In another article warning of foreign dependency, the U.S. Geological Survey uses smartphones as a cautionary example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” pointed out Larry Meinert of the USGS. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

USGS: Possibility of supply disruption more critical than ever

Smartphones now require nearly 75% of the periodic
table of the elements. (Graphic: Jason Burton, USGS)

The increasing sophistication of portable communications results from a “symphony of electronics and chemistry” that includes, for example, “household names like silicon, which is used for circuit boards, or graphite used in batteries. Then there are lesser known substances like bastnasite, monazite and xenotime. These brownish minerals contain neodymium, one of the rare earth elements used in the magnets that allow smartphone speakers to play music and the vibration motor that notifies you of new, funny cat videos on social media,” the USGS stated.

Almost as varied are the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also sources of conflict minerals.

“With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever,” Meinert emphasized.

The April 4 article follows a previous USGS report on an early warning system used by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency to monitor supply threats. In January the USGS released a list of 20 minerals for which the country relies entirely on imports. Whether or not by design, the recent awareness campaign coincides with a bill before U.S. Congress calling on government to support the development of domestic deposits and supply chains for critical minerals.

See an illustrated USGS report: A World of Minerals in Your Mobile Device.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.