Friday 26th May 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘chile’

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.

Lithium: from brine to market

November 29th, 2016

Voltaic Minerals aims to simplify extraction and commercialize the process

by Greg Klein

Cost of production and timeline to market—those are critical issues for any project in the increasingly crowded lithium space. And that’s what attracted Thomas Currin to Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT. The newly appointed director/project manager sees the company’s Green Energy project in Utah’s Paradox Basin as highly prospective for creating a selective extraction process that would address both challenges. With Currin on board, Voltaic hopes not only to develop a successful project but to market the process to other companies.

“Some people like to classify lithium as a commodity, but it’s a specialty chemical,” Currin explains. “In the specialty chemical business you don’t separate R&D and process development from manufacturing. A good specialty chemical company is one that’s been able to integrate all those applications.

Voltaic Minerals wants to simplify extraction and commercialize the process

“I’m a chemical engineer who’s been in the manufacturing process in the lithium field for 35 years,” he adds. “With a manufacturing process background everything is about opex and capex, and how to optimize both.”

Having managed lithium extraction projects in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., he’s worked for FMC Lithium, Li3 Energy, his own company Limtech Technologies and currently Enertrex Corp, which signed an MOU with Voltaic late last month.

As technical consultant for Enertrex he’s been working with two PhDs on selective removal of specific minerals from wastewater streams and geothermal brines. “We’ve come up with a technology that can extract lithium selectively, so we were looking for a project that could commercialize our technology. I’ve seen pretty much every lithium project in the world over the last 10 to 15 years, and what attracted me to Voltaic and the Paradox Basin are the oil and gas wells in a Basin that also has lithium salts and potassium salts.”

Located about 965 kilometres from the Tesla Motors Gigafactory and close to road, rail, power and the Intrepid Potash NYSE:IPI Cane Creek solution mine, the 1,683-hectare Green Energy property underwent oil and gas drilling during the 1960s. Historic analysis of regional drilling showed lithium in saturated brines grading 81 mg to 174 mg per litre.

“Here’s a project with historic wells, historic data, a few kilometres from a facility producing potash which is a very similar salt to lithium, and a company that realizes that time to market is critical.

“It seemed like a perfect match, the place to do process development work in parallel with resource development and demonstrate Enertrex’s lithium-specific process. If we could remove the lithium economically, we could market it to other lithium projects. The technology would be a paradigm-shifter.”

After evaluating historic data, Voltaic plans to re-perforate some of the wells and draw samples. While the company evaluates Green Energy’s resource potential, Currin will study the concentrations of lithium and impurities like magnesium, calcium and boron to develop the processing chemistry.

That’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.—Thomas Currin,
director/project manager
for Voltaic Minerals

“Sampling traditionally takes 20-litre amounts, but our first sample will be 20,000 litres so we can start processing it,” he explains. “Our money will be invested in developing not only a 43-101 resource but also a process by which we can be competitive.”

Call it optimistic or aggressive, Voltaic believes a property of merit could potentially offer customers a 100-kilogram sample of lithium carbonite within 14 months. Plans call for three 90-day testing phases into H2 of next year, when work would overlap with pilot-scale processing.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Currin notes.

With Limtech he developed a selective process to extract and concentrate silica from geothermal brines, which won the company a 2016 Outstanding Partnership Regional Award from the U.S. Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.

He’s also worked on selective lithium-ion exchange resins with FMC and, in his client project work, evaluated the use of several lithium-selective solvent exchange systems.

“The membrane technology for de-salinization has become much more economical, that technology has blossomed in the last 10 years, and that’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.”

In addition to replacing the lengthy solar evaporation stage, the process would feature a modular design that could speed progress from pilot plant to production. With Green Energy’s existing wells, the project’s fast-track potential looks good, he maintains.

Should success be achieved there, the process could be applied to deposits with different metallurgy, making the technique marketable to other companies.

“Chilean brines are the most cost-effective sources of lithium in the world,” he says. “But there’s growing demand for sources outside South America. Our selective extraction process could help other projects compete with the Lithium Triangle.”

Canadian mining groups welcome Trans-Pacific Partnership

October 5th, 2015

by Greg Klein | October 5, 2015

In a deal supported by associations representing the country’s mining and exploration sector, Canada will become a founder of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ottawa announced the agreement on October 5 as a federal election loomed two weeks in the future.

The Canadian government says the TPP will cut tariffs and other barriers, broadening markets for a range of Canadian industries that include metals and mining. The deal also offers Canadian investors in mining and other areas “transparent and predictable access to TPP markets,” the feds added.

Canada’s mining industry has been a strong advocate for liberalized trade and investment flows for many years…. TPP, representing such a massive trade bloc, including critical emerging markets, is a trading partnership Canada must not risk being left out of.—Pierre Gratton, president/CEO of the Mining Association of Canada

In a declaration of support six days previously, the Mining Association of Canada said the country’s metals and minerals exports to TPP members averaged $158.6 billion per year from 2012 to 2014. The group noted, however, pre-TPP tariffs of up to 5% in Australia, up to 7.9% in Japan, up to 10% in New Zealand, up to 20% in Brunei, up to 40% in Vietnam and up to 50% in Malaysia.

TPP negotiations also addressed “numerous challenges that companies currently face in getting products, people and services across borders on a day-to-day basis,” MAC added. “As one of Canada’s largest outward investing sectors—accounting for 10% ($81.5 billion) of the 2013 total—benefiting from the greater certainty, transparency and foreign investment protection that the TPP will enable is important for the mining industry to remain competitive on the global stage.”

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada stated its “8,000 members invest significant financial assets across the Asia-Pacific region to explore for and develop mineral deposits. PDAC is particularly supportive of aspects of the TPP that will facilitate two-way investment, including protection for investors that provides greater clarity, certainty and transparency.”

The world’s largest trading bloc, the TPP partners Canada with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Conspicuous for its absence is China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Even so, TPP membership represents nearly 800 million people and a combined GDP of $28.5 trillion, the Canadian government stated. The 12 include some of the world’s fastest-growing economies “and this is expected to continue to be the case” as the bloc’s expected to comprise two-thirds of the world’s middle class by 2030 and half of global GDP by 2050. Some 81% of Canada’s total exports already go to TPP countries.

Canada now has free trade agreements with 51 nations which “will give Canadian businesses preferential access to over 60% of the world’s economy and more than 1.3 billion consumers,” according to Ottawa.

March 6th, 2015

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Bundesbank releases short film about Germany’s gold reserves GoldSeek
Mick Davis raises $5.6 billion to buy mine assets NAI 500
Chile gives us a lesson in plate tectonics Geology for Investors
Bre-X movie expected to cost $14 million and feature A-list cast Stockhouse
Gareth Hatch: New REE export rules inside China level the international playing field Streetwise Reports
Growth markets for new fertilizers Industrial Minerals

March 5th, 2015

Mick Davis raises $5.6 billion to buy mine assets NAI 500
Chile gives us a lesson in plate tectonics Geology for Investors
Bre-X movie expected to cost $14 million and feature A-list cast Stockhouse
Gareth Hatch: New REE export rules inside China level the international playing field Streetwise Reports
Trading small size and scaling in: Part I Equities Canada
Growth markets for new fertilizers Industrial Minerals
China is effectively consuming all of the world’s newly mined gold supply GoldSeek

October 10th, 2014

Infographic: The history of metals GoldSeek
David Morgan’s secret to being grateful, even at $17 silver Streetwise Reports
How important is a social licence to operate? Geology for Investors
600 million reasons to keep your eyes on India VantageWire
Lundin Mining, Franco-Nevada in Chilean copper-gold mine deal Stockhouse
Video: Flinders CEO discusses new graphite mine, Big North acquisition Industrial Minerals
The last resort when monetary policy fails Equedia

October 9th, 2014

David Morgan’s secret to being grateful, even at $17 silver Streetwise Reports
How important is a social licence to operate? Geology for Investors
Infographic: The 15 greatest gold heists of all time GoldSeek
600 million reasons to keep your eyes on India VantageWire
Lundin Mining, Franco-Nevada in Chilean copper-gold mine deal Stockhouse
Video: Flinders CEO discusses new graphite mine, Big North acquisition Industrial Minerals
The last resort when monetary policy fails Equedia

October 8th, 2014

How important is a social licence to operate? Geology for Investors
Infographic: The 15 greatest gold heists of all time GoldSeek
600 million reasons to keep your eyes on India VantageWire
Lundin Mining, Franco-Nevada in Chilean copper-gold mine deal Stockhouse
Catalyst check: Natural resources watchlist at three months Streetwise Reports
Video: Flinders CEO discusses new graphite mine, Big North acquisition Industrial Minerals
The last resort when monetary policy fails Equedia

October 7th, 2014

600 million reasons to keep your eyes on India VantageWire
Lundin Mining, Franco-Nevada in Chilean copper-gold mine deal Stockhouse
Catalyst check: Natural resources watchlist at three months Streetwise Reports
Opportunities in nickel GoldSeek
Video: Flinders CEO discusses new graphite mine, Big North acquisition Industrial Minerals
An introduction to alteration Geology for Investors
The last resort when monetary policy fails Equedia