Tuesday 26th September 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘Commerce Resources Corp (CCE)’

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.

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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, 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.

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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.

Commerce Resources signs MOU for tantalum-niobium processing

July 11th, 2017

by Greg Klein | July 11, 2017

While focused on its Ashram rare earths deposit in Quebec, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE has plans for its other critical minerals project. Under a memorandum of understanding announced July 11, a one-tonne sample from the company’s Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit in British Columbia would be tested for suitability under a proprietary separation process developed in Estonia by Alexander Krupin.

Commerce Resources signs MOU for tantalum-niobium processing

Previous drilling has established a resource estimate for two
critical minerals on Commerce Resources’ Upper Fir deposit.

The sample should arrive within the next several weeks, with tests expected to begin immediately afterward. The goal would be to process Upper Fir feed stock into independent tantalum and niobium products.

Krupin’s background includes over 35 years in this area, including more than 15 years processing high-grade tantalum and niobium ore concentrates, Commerce stated. “His research activities have developed new technologies for the chemical upgrading of low-grade tantalum and niobium ore concentrates.”

Based on a tantalum price of $381 a kilo, Upper Fir has a 2013 resource showing:

  • 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

The road-accessible east-central B.C. project has transmission lines and CN Rail crossing the western part of the 105,373-hectare property, and a 20-MW run-of-river electricity facility situated adjacently.

Commerce has found niobium in Quebec too, where samples showed very high grades up to 5.9% Nb2O5 on the company’s property about a kilometre from Ashram. Nevertheless the advanced-stage rare earths deposit remains the company’s priority, as it advances towards pre-feasibility. Among Ashram’s features are high grades, an impressive distribution of magnet feed elements and, crucial to the REE space, relatively simple mineralogy amenable to commercial processing. The deposit shows potential for a fluorspar byproduct as well.

Last month Commerce signed an MOU with Ucore Rare Metals TSXV:UCU to assess the suitability of Ashram concentrate for a proprietary method of REE processing at a plant Ucore plans to build in Utah. A Colorado pilot plant has already produced an Ashram concentrate exceeding 45% rare earth oxides at about 75% recovery.

The U.S. Geological Survey lists tantalum, niobium and rare earths among the critical minerals that the United States depends entirely on imports.

Read more about Commerce Resources’ Ashram rare earths deposit.

Linking the chain

June 9th, 2017

The REE world comes together at the Argus Americas Rare Earths Summit

by Greg Klein

What’s the rarest distinction of rare earths—economic deposits, expertise outside China or public awareness of our dependence on these critical metals? Those are concerns crucial to our society and among topics to be discussed as over 100 industry experts and insiders meet in San Diego from June 12 to 14. The event is the Argus Americas Rare Earths Summit 2017 and, with certain geopolitical circumstances looming in the background, this year’s conference might be especially auspicious.

The REE world comes together at the Argus Americas Rare Earths Summit

The San Diego conference scrutinizes several
rare earths topics from a variety of perspectives.

The gathering brings together end users, miners/processors, researchers/consultants and traders, as well as some investors and U.S. government reps. Topics will include supply and demand, the challenges of building non-Chinese supply chains, new developments in recovery and processing, and the potential for new production outside China.

Japanese and European markets get special attention, as does this continent. The North American session will examine the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency’s analytical techniques, rare earths stockpile and R&D programs. The session will also address Donald Trump’s impact on international trade, as well as the METALS Act, a proposed bill to provide government support for domestic sources of critical minerals.

The fate of that Congressional bill could indicate how well American lawmakers understand American dependence on China—and for minerals essential not only to the economy, medicine and green energy, but also to military defence. Those issues should also be understood by the wider populace, believes keynote speaker David S. Abraham.

Author of The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age, Abraham emphasizes the dubious origins of some necessary commodities, along with their complex and often fragile supply chains.

Companies will be on hand too. Just a few examples include vertically integrated giants Albemarle Corp and Treibacher Industrie, RE supplier HEFA Rare Earth Canada, Burundi miner-to-be Rainbow Rare Earths, along with Canadian advanced-stage RE juniors Matamec Explorations TSXV:MAT and Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE.

Presentations, panels, roundtables and networking—not to mention some conviviality at a brewery tour—portend a valuable three days. This could mark another step towards building vitally important supply chains for vitally important metals. For more information….

Commerce Resources and Ucore Rare Metals to co-operate on rare earths supply chain

June 5th, 2017

by Greg Klein | June 5, 2017

While China dominates the critical rare earths market, two companies plan to work together on potential North American supply and processing. Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE and Ucore Rare Metals TSXV:UCU have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct metallurgical tests on material from Commerce’s Ashram REE deposit in northern Quebec. Characterized by relatively simple mineralogy and a favourable distribution of magnet feed elements, Ashram is currently moving towards pre-feasibility.

Commerce Resources and Ucore Rare Metals to co-operate on rare earths supply chain

The MOU would integrate Ashram material into Ucore’s SuperLig-One molecular recognition technology facility in Utah. A joint venture of Ucore and IBC Advanced Technologies, the MRT process involves selective separation.

The tests would determine the suitability of Ashram concentrate for a Strategic Metals Complex that Ucore plans to build in Utah to process REEs and platinum group metals. Following the tests, Commerce and Ucore would consider long-term supply and offtake agreements.

Metallurgical tests at a Colorado facility have already produced an Ashram concentrate surpassing 45% rare earth oxides at approximately 75% recovery.

Ashram’s “high-quality and high-grade mineral concentrate … looks to be a very promising candidate for processing via an MRT separation circuit,” commented Ucore president/CEO Jim McKenzie. “The Ashram deposit is large tonnage, good grade, hosts a well-balanced REE distribution with an enrichment in the magnet feed REEs and, perhaps most importantly, is highly accessible. In combination with the SMC, Ashram promises to be a key link in a self-contained North American REE supply chain.”

The news comes as U.S. Congress considers a bill to support domestic supplies and processing for minerals vital to defence, including rare earths. A number of recent reports from the U.S. Geological Survey have highlighted that country’s dependency on possibly insecure foreign sources.

Commerce president Chris Grove added, “Security of supply is vitally important and, with our simple mineralogy and successful use of standard processing, we look forward with Ucore to realizing the goal of an independent North American REE supply chain.”

Another recent MOU signed by Commerce would have independent power producer TUGLIQ Energy study the potential for wind-generated electricity on the Ashram project.

Last week Commerce closed a private placement of $942,630, which followed a February financing that raised $1.72 million including $1 million from Ressources Québec, a subsidiary of the provincial government corporation Investissement Québec.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Read about the West’s dependency on China for critical minerals here and here.

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove welcomes Quebec’s participation in his company’s Ashram rare earths project

March 31st, 2017

…Read more

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove notes the advantages of a high-grade rare earths project with relatively simple metallurgy

March 2nd, 2017

…Read more

Commerce Resources and TUGLIQ Energy ink MOU on wind power for Quebec rare earths project

March 1st, 2017

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.

Commerce Resources and TUGLIQ Energy ink MOU on wind energy for Quebec rare earths project

TUGLIQ Energy provides wind-generated electricity
for Glencore’s Raglan mine. (Photo: TUGLIQ Energy)

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.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Province of Quebec invests in Commerce Resources’ Ashram rare earths project

February 17th, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 17, 2017

With potential customers waiting for rare earths concentrate samples, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE closed a $1.72-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.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Pistol Bay Mining appoints Jody Dahrouge to advisory board

February 14th, 2017

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.

Pistol Bay Mining appoints Jody Dahrouge to advisory board

Jody Dahrouge

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.

Read more about Pistol Bay Mining.

The Ashram advantage

January 30th, 2017

Commerce Resources prepares for a rare earths paradigm shift

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.”

Commerce Resources prepares for a rare earths paradigm shift

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.”

Commerce Resources prepares for a rare earths paradigm shift

Ashram has undergone another 9,200 metres since
its resource estimate, often hitting even higher grades.

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:

  • 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

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.”