by Greg Klein | March 1, 2017
Looking at the dual benefits of cutting costs and cutting emissions, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE and TUGLIQ Energy have signed a memorandum of understanding to assess the potential for wind energy on the Ashram rare earths project. Announced February 28, the MOU follows TUGLIQ’s preliminary evaluation of local and regional wind data proximal to the northern Quebec deposit that Commerce is advancing towards pre-feasibility. Funding for the wind energy study comes partly from the province’s Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles.
An independent power producer already active in northern Quebec, TUGLIQ operates a 3 MW wind turbine with energy storage that the company built in 2014 at Glencore’s Raglan mine. In the Northwest Territories, the Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO/Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC Diavik mine has been supplementing its diesel power with a four-turbine, 9.2 MW wind farm since 2012.
TUGLIQ’s Ashram study will consist of wind resource assessment, electrical system engineering and an integration study including assessment of greenhouse gas emission reductions.
“We are excited to be collaborating with TUGLIQ and to have the support of the Quebec government on this renewable resource project,” said Commerce president Chris Grove. “We look forward to evaluating this potential in much further detail. The potential to incorporate cost-effective renewable energy into the Ashram project only makes it that much more attractive for development.”
In mid-February the company closed a $1.71-million private placement that included $1 million from Ressources Québec, a subsidiary of the provincial government corporation Investissement Québec. The money will be used to complete Ashram’s pilot plant and produce REE and fluorite concentrates for companies that requested samples. Among them are Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle and Blue Line.
Having reached PEA in 2012, the high-grade, near-surface deposit features an impressive distribution of magnet feed elements and relatively simple metallurgy, suggesting a potentially low-cost operation.
Quebec maintains its respected position as a mining jurisdiction, according to a Fraser Institute study released February 28. “Quebec ranks third in Canada and sixth globally—up from eighth spot last year—and is the only other Canadian jurisdiction [along with Saskatchewan and Manitoba] in the top 10 worldwide for overall investment attractiveness,” the FI stated.
In another rare metals project, Commerce holds the Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
by Greg Klein | February 17, 2017
With potential customers waiting for rare earths concentrate samples, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE closed a $1.71-million private placement on February 17 that included $1 million from Ressources Québec. A subsidiary of the provincial government corporation Investissement Québec, Ressources Québec “focuses on projects that have good return prospects and foster Québec’s economic development,” the organization says. “Its role is complementary to private funders.”
We are excited to have the support of the Quebec government with this investment from Ressources Québec. The province of Quebec continues to prove that it is one of the most attractive jurisdictions to develop a mineral project. —Chris Grove,
president of Commerce Resources
“We are excited to have the support of the Quebec government with this investment from Ressources Québec,” Commerce president Chris Grove stated. “The province of Quebec continues to prove that it is one of the most attractive jurisdictions to develop a mineral project. We are excited to be advancing our Ashram project with this financing.”
The private placement will be used to complete the project’s pilot plant, to produce samples of REE and fluorite concentrates, and for general working capital. Among companies requesting REE samples are Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle and Blue Line.
The money comes in addition to a three-year, $300,000 environmental grant from the province to optimize tailings management.
Ashram’s high-grade, near-surface deposit benefits from relatively simple metallurgy, suggesting a potentially low-cost operation with an impressive distribution of magnet feed elements. Now moving towards pre-feas, the project reached PEA in 2012.
Commerce also holds the Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
by Greg Klein | February 14, 2017
Geologist Jody Dahrouge has joined Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST as an adviser, the company announced February 14. With a CV spanning over a quarter of a century in Canada and abroad, he brings a successful background in base metals, industrial minerals, rare metals and uranium exploration.
As president of Dahrouge Geological Consulting, he and his staff have worked with a broad range of exploration and mining companies. Until 2007, Dahrouge served as president/COO of Fission Energy, a predecessor of Fission Uranium TSX:FCU. While there he played a key role in the acquisition of Waterbury Lake and Patterson Lake South, both of which yielded significant discoveries. Dahrouge has also served as a director and VP of exploration for Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE since 2000.
“We are excited to be able to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of Mr. Dahrouge and look forward to working with him,” said Pistol Bay CEO Charles Desjardins.
Last month the company outlined plans for a regional and multi-disciplinary exploration approach to its Confederation Lake portfolio, the largest land package in the western Ontario greenstone belt. Pistol Bay expects to file a 43-101 technical report on Confederation Lake’s Arrow zone by mid-March.
In Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, the company holds the C4, C5 and C6 uranium properties, now being drilled by a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary as it advances towards its 100% option.
by Greg Klein
The appeal to Western markets is obvious—an advanced, low-cost rare earths project in a friendly jurisdiction. So even before the recent military build-up in the South China Sea, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE experienced an increase in American requests for concentrate samples from its northern Quebec Ashram deposit. With the U.S. Navy now challenging Chinese territorial aggression, the confrontation seems to pit two superpowers against each other. But what does that really indicate?
It’s actually “one lonely small old Russian-built carrier against three U.S. Nimitz-class supercarriers,” Commerce president Chris Grove points out. “So when Beijing says it’s going to take off the gloves, I think they’re referring to trade.”
That brings to mind the Senkaku incident, a much smaller 2010 confrontation in the same region that prompted China to cut off rare earths exports to Japan, sending global supply chains into turmoil and prices soaring. A possible Senkaku redux is one of a number of aspects to a global paradigm shift that Grove sees coming, to the benefit of Western industry in general and Ashram in particular.
The U.S. might easily outgun China, but China produces about 90% of the world’s rare earths. They’re essential to several defence needs, “a fact that really drives certain people in the U.S. absolutely apoplectic,” says Grove.
While Westerners have struggled to compete with China on costs, prices mean little to the U.S. Department of Defense, which last year began putting money behind potential domestic processors, Grove says. That support complements a multi-faceted advantage that the West is gaining over China, he explains. The latter country struggles with rising labour costs and the need to finally address its environmental woes. Meanwhile Western countries offset their labour costs with technological innovation and maintain the world’s highest environmental standards.
Even putting aside defence, demand for rare earths continues to grow with another global development. The international commitment to address climate change through clean energy, exemplified by the Paris Agreement, increases rare earths demand for numerous applications ranging from EVs to wind turbines.
In a research report last year, Chris Berry noted that “REE usage continues to grow at a pace well above global GDP growth with demand CAGRs growing anywhere from 4% to 8%, with permanent magnet demand forecast to lead this charge to 2020.”
Clearly there’s a market for non-Chinese sources. And Grove sees Ashram uniquely positioned to help serve that market. Certainly others have failed but, he emphasizes, they lacked Ashram’s benefits of mineralogy, metallurgy, grade and jurisdiction—all of which add up to lower costs.
The project reached PEA in 2012, with an amended PEA in 2015. Since then the company’s been busy on multiple fronts as it advances towards pre-feasibility.
Ashram’s advantage begins with its relatively simple mineralogy, with carbonatite host rock and rare earths within the minerals monazite, bastnasite and xenotime, which dominate commercial REE processing.
Pilot plant metallurgical tests have quadrupled the PEA’s concentrate grade, producing 41% total rare earth oxides and 43% TREO, both at 71% recovery. That puts the grade well within the range of commercial producers and does so through a single-leach process that simplifies the flowsheet.
Requests for concentrate samples have come from Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle and Blue Line, among others covered by non-disclosure agreements.
Metallurgy has also found a potential fluorspar byproduct, offering an advantage to both revenue and opex. Grove credits Glencore Canada’s interest in fluorspar with the willingness of its NorFalco Sales division to supply Commerce with sulphuric acid on highly favourable terms.
Proud as he is of Ashram’s high-grade, near-surface resource, Grove anticipates an even more impressive upgrade. The current estimate uses a 1.25% cutoff to show:
Commerce has since drilled another 9,200 metres, mostly infill but always with some stepout holes as well. “In all those drill programs, we always hit mineralized material in the stepouts, we always encountered less waste rock at surface than was modelled in the resource and we always hit zones that were higher than the average grade,” he says.
Ashram’s magnet feed distribution also has Grove enthused. Overall, the deposit ranks with the largest producers for praseodymium, neodymium, terbium and dysprosium. Ashram’s medium-to-heavy REO resource, moreover, surpasses the producers for those elements. And, as Grove points out, those are critical elements. Efforts to find substitutes for magnet REEs have failed.
Companies with higher operating costs are probably praying for higher prices. Commerce Resources doesn’t need them. We still have a margin at today’s prices.—Chris Grove
Benefiting both Ashram’s opex and the environment would be wind energy, currently being studied for the project. Commerce’s environmental commitment as well as its community outreach have been recognized by the e3 Plus Award for social responsibility from l’Association de l’exploration minière du Québec.
The company has also received a $300,000 provincial grant to optimize tailings management, funding that shows Quebec’s commitment to mining as well as the environment. Grove calls the province “a fantastic jurisdiction,” one that invests directly in companies through Ressources Québec and makes tangible progress on the visionary Plan Nord infrastructure program.
Following a private placement of up to $2.5 million offered last month, Grove looks forward to a number of near-term milestones. Still to come are final assays from last year’s drilling. The agenda also calls for completing the pilot plant and filling requests for REE and fluorspar concentrate samples. The samples, Grove suggests, could spur interest in a JV or offtake agreement.
The Commerce quest for rare metals hasn’t been confined to rare earths. Last September sampling on the company’s property about a kilometre from Ashram found “spectacular” results up to 5.9% niobium pentoxide, described by Grove as “approximately double the grade of the largest and longest-running niobium producer’s head grade, CBMM’s Araxa deposit in Brazil.”
Commerce also holds the Blue River project in southeastern British Columbia. The property’s Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
But Commerce remains very much focused on Ashram. Whether events in the South China Sea send RE prices soaring, Grove sees possible increases coming from producers boosting revenues. But, he emphasizes, Ashram doesn’t need higher prices. “Companies with higher operating costs are probably praying for higher prices,” he says. “Commerce Resources doesn’t need them. We still have a margin at today’s prices.”
by Greg Klein | January 26, 2017
A rare earths property in British Columbia’s Rocky Mountain rare metal belt gains new attention as Canadian International Minerals TSXV:CIN takes another look at previous assays. An 11-hole program on the Wicheeda alkaline-carbonatite project in 2011 targeted rare earths but the company didn’t consider the niobium results to be material info. On January 26, however, CIN released niobium assays from four 2011 holes, with highlights showing:
True widths weren’t available.
Formerly called the Carbo project, Wicheeda showed RE results in the range of 0.2% to 0.5% total rare earth oxides in most of the 11 holes sunk during 2011. The previous year’s campaign found significant RE mineralization in all nine holes, with one intercept hitting 1.43% TREO over 37.3 metres.
Adjacent to CIN’s Wicheeda, Spectrum Mining’s Wicheeda project holds an inferred 11.3 million tonnes averaging 2.5% TREO.
CIN noted two niobium deposits hosted in the Rocky Mountain rare metal belt. The Upper Fir deposit on Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Blue River project holds an indicated 48.41 million tonnes averaging 0.161% Nb2O5 and 197 ppm Ta2O5. Located about 330 kilometres southeast of Wicheeda, Upper Fir also holds an inferred 5.4 million tonnes averaging 0.176% Nb2O5 and 191 ppm Ta2O5.
About 240 kilometres northwest of Wicheeda, Taseko Mines TSX:TKO brought the Aley project to pre-feas in 2014 with proven and probable reserves of 83.8 million tonnes averaging 0.5% Nb2O5.
CIN stated it “continues to re-evaluate the exploration targets for the Wicheeda project and will be investigating a number of partnership avenues in the coming weeks.”
In November the company released sample results from a due diligence program on its proposed Tisova acquisition, a former copper-polymetallic mine in the Czech Republic.
by Greg Klein | October 20, 2016
A series of hydrogeological tests concluded the 2016 field season as Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram rare earths deposit moves towards pre-feasibility. Last month the company finished the year’s definition drilling and environmental data collection on the northeastern Quebec project.
“With the three main field objectives now completed, drill core processing and sample collection for analysis are the next steps,” the company stated.
The hydrogeological data will help evaluate sub-surface water flow and slope stability of different pit shell configurations. The environmental program included surface water and groundwater samples for baseline data collection and related studies. Last June the Quebec government granted Commerce $300,000 towards studies to optimize tailings management.
The season’s drill program sunk 14 holes totalling about 2,000 metres on the deposit’s northern, western and southern margins. While assays are pending, “initial geologic review and portable XRF data indicates significant mineralization is present over appreciable widths in several holes,” Commerce added. The goal is to expand and upgrade the project’s 2012 high-grade, near-surface resource.
The company keeps busy on a number of fronts as the project advances. Metallurgical studies have simplified Ashram’s flowsheet and shown a potential byproduct in fluorspar. Ashram’s rare earth elements mostly appear in monazite and to a lesser extent bastnasite and xenotime, minerals that dominate commercial extraction processes. Ashram’s REE distribution shows enrichment in the critical and magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium.
While rare earths remain the company’s focus, a sampling program on the same property but one kilometre from the deposit brought a “spectacular” result of 5.9% niobium pentoxide last month. Forty out of 64 samples graded above 0.5% Nb2O5, with 16 surpassing 1%. Significant tantalum, phosphate and rare earth oxide grades were also found.
In August the company closed a private placement of $551,040 and the second tranche of a short-form prospectus that totalled nearly $1.45 million.
Commerce also holds the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
by Greg Klein | September 13, 2016
An exceptional niobium assay has Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE enthused about an exploration target one kilometre from its Ashram rare earths deposit. A sampling program on the northern Quebec Eldor property strengthens the Miranna area’s niobium-tantalum-phosphate potential, with results up to 5.9% niobium pentoxide. “This is spectacular,” says president Chris Grove. But excited as the company is, work continues to focus on Ashram’s pre-feasibility studies.
Of 64 samples, 40 assayed above 0.5% Nb2O5, with 16 surpassing 1%. The program also found significant grades of tantalum, phosphate and rare earth oxides. Two samples each graded above 1,000 ppm Ta2O5 and 1% Nb2O5, while several samples revealed more than 10% P2O5.
The samples also showed appreciable REE mineralization associated with the niobium, Commerce added.
The finding brings to mind the origin of Commerce, which was created around the Upper Fir project in southeastern British Columbia. The property’s Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
Niobium’s price explosion in late 2006 sent Commerce looking for additional deposits, Grove says. That led the company to Eldor. But Ashram’s initial drill results switched the focus to rare earths.
And while Miranna now presents additional multi-commodity potential, work will continue to focus on Ashram’s pre-feas, Grove emphasizes.
The Miranna samples come from a glacial train of niobium-tantalum-phosphate mineralized boulders believed to be near their source. Some mineralized samples hold magnetite, suggesting a magnetic signature to the source. The company says a magnetic high immediately south, which appears to coincide with the train’s apex, could mark the bedrock source.
Previous mineralogical work indicates that Miranna’s niobium and tantalum mineralization is hosted by pyrochlore, the world’s dominant mineral source of niobium, Commerce stated. The pyrochlore’s coarse grains would also benefit recovery.
Meanwhile work continues at Ashram, where a near-surface program of 14 holes totalling 1,600 metres began last month. Metallurgical studies at a mini-pilot plant have simplified the project’s flowsheet. Busy on a number of fronts, a company priority remains producing samples to send to potential JV or offtake partners, who might then take part in the pre-feas.
“It would make sense to have a potential partner offer input on what our production scenario would be,” Grove points out. “We have a huge deposit and we can go bigger, go smaller or stay the same. So advice from a potential partner does make sense before we actually complete the pre-feas.”
Using a 1.25% cutoff, Ashram’s 2012 resource shows 1.59 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides measured, 27.67 million tonnes averaging 1.9% indicated and 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% inferred. The near-surface deposit remains open to the north and south, and at depth.
Ashram hosts REEs largely in monazite and to a lesser extent bastnasite and xenotime, minerals that dominate commercial extraction. Ashram’s distribution shows enrichment in the critical and magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium.
by Greg Klein | August 17, 2016
With nearly $2 million in fresh financing, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE begins another round of definition drilling on its Ashram rare earths deposit in northern Quebec. The 14-hole, 1,600-metre near-surface campaign brings the project closer to pre-feasibility, targeting the deposit’s northern, western and southern margins. Mineralization has expanded north and south since the 2012 resource estimate, remaining open in those directions.
The resource defined 1.6 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides measured, 27.7 million tonnes averaging 1.9% indicated and 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% inferred. Rare earth elements are found mostly in monazite and to a lesser extent bastnasite and xenotime, minerals that dominate currently known commercial extraction processes, Commerce stated.
The distribution shows enrichment in the critical and magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium. Metallurgical studies continue to simplify the project’s flowsheet and have shown a potential fluorspar byproduct.
One of this season’s holes will test a gravity anomaly south of the deposit for a potential new zone of middle and heavy rare earth oxide enrichment. Ashram’s main zone of enrichment also features a strong gravity anomaly.
Additionally, the program includes hydrogeological and environmental work to advance the pre-feas. Work is expected to last eight to 10 weeks.
In June Quebec granted the company $300,000 towards its environmental studies. Among other announcements, Commerce reported an MOU with a Glencore Canada division which would supply sulphuric acid for metallurgical use.
Last week the company closed the second tranche of a short-form prospectus that totalled nearly $1.45 million and a private placement of $551,040.
In southeastern British Columbia, Commerce holds the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.