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America’s long-overdue critical minerals strategy heralds wide-ranging advantages, says Jeff Green

December 22nd, 2017

by Greg Klein | December 22, 2017

A long-time advocate of national self-reliance on critical minerals, the Washington defence lobbyist and former USAF commander calls it the United States’ “most substantive development in critical mineral policy in 20 years.” As President Donald Trump ordered a national strategy to reduce the country’s dependence on unfriendly or unstable sources of crucial commodities, Jeff Green responded: “I don’t think you can overstate the importance of the executive order because the U.S. government has fundamentally shifted its minerals policy, which impacts natural resource policy, national security and the economy.” Speaking with ResourceClips.com, he outlined five major outcomes that he foresees.

America’s critical minerals strategy was long overdue and will show wide-ranging effects, says Jeff Green

“One, I think you will see regulatory streamlining in the very near future and I think that’s really important for permitting and opening mines in the United States.”

Just six days before Trump’s announcement, Green published an op-ed arguing that unwieldly permitting procedures affected national security.

“Two, with the fundamental shift in policy and the easing of regulatory burdens, I hope to see companies get increased access to capital markets and private sector investment,” he added.

“Three, this is a formalization of the nexus between national security and critical minerals, and that is something that the last administration refused to do. When you look at the rare earths crisis, the prior administration said there was no problem. This administration has said that critical minerals are fundamental to national security, and that’s very important.

“Four, I think this will lead to investment by the Department of Defense in critical minerals, largely because they have the funding to do this and they can best pinpoint where those areas of investment need to be.

“Five, I think you’ll potentially see the U.S. bring additional anti-dumping actions, particularly against the Chinese, for dumping minerals into our market below value.”

I do think that the direct actions from the executive order will largely benefit U.S. companies. But I also see efforts to collaborate on access to materials with companies that can provide it.—Jeff Green

Of course the U.S. national strategy primarily affects the U.S. “President Trump has said ‘America first,’ and to our friends in Canada that might be a little disappointing,” Green pointed out. “But he has also said that international co-operation and partnerships with our strongest allies will be really important. I do think that the direct actions from the executive order will largely benefit U.S. companies. But I also see efforts to collaborate on access to materials with companies that can provide it. I think pragmatically the administration is going to say, ‘If you’ve got a tantalum project in Canada that’s more advanced than anything we have in the U.S., we ought to work with you to bring that supply to market, rather than continue to rely on some other countries.”

Meanwhile the proposed Metals Act, a bill calling for U.S. government support to develop domestic resources and supply lines, has been languishing in multiple committees. But “many of the principles in the act worked their way into the executive order,” Green said.

“The president’s action marks the culmination of almost a decade of work by many of us who’ve been advocating for more access to critical minerals,” he added. “There’s been tremendous effort by people in the industry to get to this point and the hope is that regulatory streamlining and everything go quickly so we can see positive results.”

Pleased as he was, Green wasn’t surprised. “There was word here in Washington D.C. that this was coming, so it was a nice early Christmas gift.”

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

Critical attention

December 21st, 2017

The U.S. embarks on a national strategy of greater self-reliance for critical minerals

by Greg Klein

A geopolitical absurdity on par with some aspects of Dr. Strangelove and Catch 22 can’t be reduced simply through an executive order from the U.S. president. But an executive order from the U.S. president doesn’t hurt. On December 20 Donald Trump called for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” The move came one day after the U.S. Geological Survey released the first comprehensive update on the subject since 1973, taking a thorough look—nearly 900-pages thorough—at commodities vital to our neighbour’s, and ultimately the West’s, well-being.

U.S. president Trump calls for a national strategy to reduce foreign dependence on critical minerals

The U.S. 5th Security Forces Squadron takes part in a
September exercise at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
(Photo: Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong/U.S. Air Force)

The study, Critical Mineral Resources of the United States, details 23 commodities deemed crucial due to their possibility of supply disruption with serious consequences. Many of them come primarily from China. Others originate in unstable countries or countries with a dangerous near-monopoly. For several minerals, the U.S. imports its entire supply.

They’re necessary for medicine, clean energy, transportation and electronics but maybe most worrisome, for national security. That last point prompted comments from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, whose jurisdiction includes the USGS. He formerly spent 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer.

“I commend the team of scientists at USGS for the extensive work put into the report, but the findings are shocking,” he stated. “The fact that previous administrations allowed the United States to become reliant on foreign nations, including our competitors and adversaries, for minerals that are so strategically important to our security and economy is deeply troubling. As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the very real national security risk of relying on foreign nations for what the military needs to keep our soldiers and our homeland safe.”

Trump acknowledged a number of domestic roadblocks to production “despite the presence of significant deposits of some of these minerals across the United States.” Among the challenges, he lists “a lack of comprehensive, machine-readable data concerning topographical, geological and geophysical surveys; permitting delays; and the potential for protracted litigation regarding permits that are issued.”

[Trump’s order also calls for] options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.

Trump ordered a national strategy to be outlined within six months. Topics will include recycling and reprocessing critical minerals, finding alternatives, making improved geoscientific data available to the private sector, providing greater land access to potential resources, streamlining reviews and, not to leave out America’s friends, “options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners.”

Apart from economic benefits, such measures would “enhance the technological superiority and readiness of our armed forces, which are among the nation’s most significant consumers of critical minerals.”

In fact the USGS report finds several significant uses for most of the periodic table’s 92 naturally occurring elements. A single computer chip requires well over half of the table. Industrialization, technological progress and rising standards of living have helped bring about an all-time high in minerals demand that’s expected to keep increasing, according to the study.

“For instance, in the 1970s rare earth elements had few uses outside of some specialty fields, and were produced mostly in the United States. Today, rare earth elements are integral to nearly all high-end electronics and are produced almost entirely in China.”

The USGS tracks 88 minerals regularly but also works with the country’s Defense Logistics Agency on a watch list of about 160 minerals crucial to national security. This week’s USGS study deems the critical 23 as follows:

  • antimony
  • barite
  • beryllium
  • cobalt
  • fluorite or fluorspar
  • gallium
  • germanium
  • graphite
  • hafnium
  • indium
  • lithium
  • manganese
  • niobium
  • platinum group elements
  • rare earth elements
  • rhenium
  • selenium
  • tantalum
  • tellurium
  • tin
  • titanium
  • vanadium
  • zirconium

A January 2017 USGS report listed 20 minerals for which the U.S. imports 100% of its supply. Several of the above critical minerals were included: fluorspar, gallium, graphite, indium, manganese, niobium, rare earths, tantalum and vanadium.

This comprehensive work follows related USGS reports released in April, including a breakdown of smartphone ingredients to illustrate the range of countries and often precarious supply chains that supply those materials. That report quoted Larry Meinert of the USGS saying, “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

As both a former military commander and geologist, I know the very real national security risk of relying on foreign nations for what the military needs to keep our soldiers and our homeland safe.—Ryan Zinke,
U.S. Secretary of the Interior

David S. Abraham has been a prominent advocate of a rare minerals strategy for Western countries. But in an e-mail to the Washington Post, the author of The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age warned that Trump’s action could trigger a partisan battle. He told the Post that Republicans tend to use the issue to loosen mining restrictions while Democrats focus on “building up human capacity to develop supply chains rather than the resources themselves.”

Excessive and redundant permitting procedures came under criticism in a Hill op-ed published a few days earlier. Jeff Green, a Washington D.C.-based defence lobbyist and advocate of increased American self-reliance for critical commodities, argued that streamlining would comprise “a positive first step toward strengthening our economy and our military for years to come.”

In a bill presented to U.S. Congress last March, Rep. Duncan Hunter proposed incentives for developing domestic resources and supply chains for critical minerals. His METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security) has been in committee since.

Speaking to ResourceClips.com at the time, Abraham doubted the success of Hunter’s bill, while Green spoke of “a totally different dynamic” in the current administration, showing willingness to “invest in America to protect our national security and grow our manufacturing base.”

Update: Read about Jeff Green’s response to the U.S. national strategy.

“Shocking” USGS report details 23 minerals critical to America’s economy and security

December 19th, 2017

This story has been expanded and moved here.

American dependence on imported critical minerals threatens national security: Jeff Green

December 18th, 2017

by Greg Klein | December 18, 2017

The U.S. is “sleepwalking into the same level of dependence on imported minerals that there once was for oil—which became an Achilles’ heel for energy security.” So argues Jeff Green, a Washington D.C.-based lobbyist and advocate of increased American self-reliance for critical commodities. Writing in the Hill, Green says his country’s Department of Defense “should be gravely concerned that disruptions in America’s mineral supply chain could undermine our national security. The U.S. military uses 750,000 tons of minerals each year to keep our country and troops safe. However, the U.S. is now entirely reliant on other countries for at least 20 minerals needed to build fighter jets, engines, radar, missile defence systems, satellites, precision munitions and other key technologies.”

American dependence on imported critical minerals threatens national security: Jeff Green

Reliant on Chinese rare earths for its manufacture,
a USAF F-35C undergoes test flights in Maryland.
(Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann)

Last January the U.S. Geological Survey identified 20 minerals, some considered critical, for which the U.S. imports 100% of its supply.

But of all the challenges to American domestic production Green focuses on permitting, which he portrays as a seven-to-10-year federal and state rigmarole that makes even Canada look good by comparison.

While streamlining wouldn’t provide a solution in itself, “allowing American miners to get back to work, rather than waiting on multiple, redundant teams of lawyers to pore through thousands of pages of permitting applications, is a positive first step toward strengthening our economy and our military for years to come.”

Read more about Jeff Green and U.S. dependence on foreign supplies of critical minerals.

‘The next world order’

November 7th, 2017

Gold’s our best preparation for a new global monetary system, says James Rickards

by Greg Klein

Gold’s our best preparation for the new global monetary system, says James Rickards

James Rickards

An economic crisis looms, ready to strike within a few years and maybe imminently. Exponentially worse than 2008, it will be a disaster “so large the system does not bounce back. The system ceases to exist.” That’s the bleak vision of James Rickards, lawyer, economist, portfolio manager, newsletter writer, author of four books and a keynote speaker at the Silver and Gold Summit to be hosted in San Francisco on November 20 and 21. He offers some advice on how to prepare for the impending peril.

The collapse will hardly leave a void, he maintains. World powers redesigned the international monetary system three times last century and will do it again. Among the first casualties will be bank deposits, investments and the rest of a digitized belief system that many people think guards their future security. As citizens react, “the money riots will begin.”

Sovereigns don’t go down without a fight. The response to money riots will be confiscation and brute force. Governing elites will be safe in their hollowed-out mountain command centers. Private elites will fend for themselves in their yachts, helicopters, and gated communities, which will be converted to armed fortresses.

Gold’s our best preparation for the new global monetary system, says James Rickards

There will be blood in the streets, not metaphorically, but literally. Neofascism will emerge, order responding to disorder, with liberty lost.

This is the “next world order” that Rickards describes in his two most recent books, The New Case for Gold and The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites’ Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis. Published last year, the books share overlapping content, with the latter volume focusing on why and how Rickards believes such events will take place. The New Case for Gold emphasizes owning the stuff as a survival strategy.

Rickards says the too-big-to-fail banks that failed in 2008 are even bigger now and more bloated with leverage. As are derivatives, the Warren Buffett-labelled “weapons of mass destruction.” Moreover the complexity of markets goes beyond “interconnected.” They’re unfixable.

A watchmaker, he points out, can open the back of a timepiece, fix or replace a gear and put everything back together. “Now imagine you take the back off the same watch and instead of gears you find a metallic liquid soup. How do you change a gear now?” Old models of economic intervention won’t work.

Gold’s our best preparation for the new global monetary system, says James Rickards

And this time the crisis will accompany a worldwide lack of confidence in the U.S. debt-diminished dollar as a reserve currency. China, along with Russia and other countries, could hasten events by conducting international trade in other currencies, throwing the dollar into freefall. Countries that have been buying and hoarding gold (contrary to Canada’s selloff) will demand a say in the scrip’s replacement. Yellow metal will prevail, either as a gold-backed international special drawing right “or the oldest form of money, which is gold.”

“It’s not a ten-year forecast,” he insists. “Could it be five years? Maybe. Could it be one year? Yes.” Watch for the endgame when China’s gold-to-GDP ratio meets or exceeds that of the U.S.

Rickards expects $10,000 an ounce, maybe $50,000. Manipulation will end when powerful states have the price where they want it, nullifying the hustling ability of far less powerful players.

He recommends making gold 10% of an individual’s investible assets, excluding a principal residence and equity in one’s own business. Or 15% to 20% “if you’re somewhat more aggressive.” If he’s wrong and gold drops 20%, for example, the 10% allocation causes a 2% loss on the entire portfolio.

He believes the time to buy is now. “I know that when the crunch comes, the large players are going to get all the gold available. The institutions, the central banks, the hedge funds, and the customers with relationships with the refiners are the ones who are going to get all the gold. Small investors will find they can’t get any.”

Store it in a non-bank depository, he cautions. Americans might consider the Texas state bullion vault. “In an extreme situation, you should be able to drive down to Texas, pick up your gold, and drive home before the highways are closed. If the highways are clogged, use a motorcycle.”

Sweetness and light, he ain’t. But whether you’re seeking survival strategies or evaluating dystopian possibilities, he presents a compelling case.

Rickards delivers a keynote address and takes part in a panel discussion on the first day of the Silver and Gold Summit, to be held in San Francisco from November 20 to 21. To save 25% on admission click here and enter promo code RESOURCE25.

Aurvista Gold readies winter drilling on Abitibi’s Casa Berardi deformation zone

November 6th, 2017

Update: On November 8, 2017, Aurvista announced a change of name and stock symbol to Maple Gold Mines Ltd TSXV:MGM, tentatively to take place November 20.

by Greg Klein | November 6, 2017

Preparations on and off the field continue as Aurvista Gold TSXV:AVA plans another winter drill campaign at its newly expanded Douay gold property. Now totalling over 37,000 hectares, the project will benefit from an extensive program of re-logging, geological modelling and data integration to target both greenfields and brownfields priorities. The work focuses on outlining clusters of higher-grade and broader gold intercepts.

Aurvista Gold readies winter drilling on Abitibi’s Casa Berardi deformation zone

Dating to the 1976 discovery, Douay houses over
220,000 metres of core with more to come this winter.

Out of more than 220,000 metres of core dating back to Douay’s 1976 discovery, about 27,000 metres had yet to be re-logged as fall began. Aurvista also has a property-scale remote spectral geology project underway “to help us better understand the scale of the Douay system and to focus our future field work in the central part of the property,” said VP of exploration Fred Speidel.

Helping guide the project are an expanded board of directors and new technical advisory committee that joined the company in July. Last month Jay Chmelauskas took on the chairperson role. Having held a number of positions with Western Lithium and Lithium Americas TSX:LAC, he had previously served as president/CEO of Jinshan Gold Mines, where he led development of China’s second-largest gold producer as well as exploration that has since resulted in the development of an additional Chinese gold mine.

Douay covers over 55 kilometres of strike along Quebec’s Casa Berardi deformation zone. Using a 0.5 g/t cutoff, an April resource update for seven zones gave an inferred total of 83.33 million tonnes averaging 1.05 g/t for 2.81 million gold ounces. The deposit remains open in multiple directions.

The project’s last drill program sunk 59 holes for 23,965 metres, with the final batch of assays released in July. The same month Aurvista closed private placements totalling $10.1 million.

Visual Capitalist: Nickel, secret driver of the battery revolution

October 30th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 30, 2017

Nickel, the secret driver of the battery revolution

 

Commodity markets are being turned upside down by the EV revolution.

But while lithium and cobalt deservedly get a lot of the press, there is another metal that will also be changed forever by increasing penetration rates of EVs in the automobile market: nickel.

This infographic comes to us from North American Nickel TSXV:NAN and it dives into nickel’s rapidly increasing role in lithium-ion battery chemistries, as well as interesting developments on the supply end of the spectrum.

Nickel’s vital role

Our cells should be called nickel-graphite, because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide.—Elon Musk,
Tesla CEO and co-founder

Nickel’s role in lithium-ion batteries may be under-appreciated for now, but certainly one person familiar with the situation has been vocal about the metal’s importance.

Indeed, nickel is the most important metal by mass in the lithium-ion battery cathodes used by EV manufacturers—it makes up about 80% of an NCA cathode and about one-third of NMC or LMO-NMC cathodes. More importantly, as battery formulations evolve, it’s expected that we’ll use more nickel, not less.

According to UBS, in its recent report on tearing down a Chevy Bolt, here is how NMC cathodes are expected to evolve:

Cathode Year Nickel Manganese Cobalt
NMC Present 33% 33% 33%
NMC 2018 60% 20% 20%
NMC 2020 80% 10% 10%

The end result? In time, nickel will make up 80% of the mass in both NCA and NMC cathodes, used by companies like Tesla and Chevrolet.

Impact on the nickel market

Nickel, which is primarily used for the production of stainless steel, is already one of the world’s most important metal markets, at over $20 billion in size. For this reason, how much the nickel market is affected by battery demand depends largely on EV penetration.

A shift of just 10% of the global car fleet to EVs would create demand for 400,000 tonnes of nickel, in a two-million-tonne market. Glencore sees nickel shortage as EV demand burgeons.—Ivan Glasenberg,
Glencore CEO

EVs currently constitute about 1% of auto demand—this translates to 70,000 tonnes of nickel demand, about 3% of the total market. However, as EV penetration goes up, nickel demand increases rapidly as well.

The supply kicker

Even though much more nickel will be needed for lithium-ion batteries, there is an interesting wrinkle in that equation: most nickel in the global supply chain is not actually suited for battery production.

Today’s nickel supply comes from two very different types of deposits:

  • Nickel laterites: Low-grade, bulk-tonnage deposits that make up 62.4% of current production

  • Nickel sulphides: Higher-grade, but rarer deposits that make up 37.5% of current production

Many laterite deposits are used to produce nickel pig iron and ferronickel, which are cheap inputs to make Chinese stainless steel. Meanwhile, nickel sulphide deposits are used to make nickel metal as well as nickel sulphate. The latter salt, nickel sulphate, is what’s used primarily for electroplating and lithium-ion cathode material, and less than 10% of nickel supply is in sulphate form.

Although the capacity to produce nickel sulphate is expanding rapidly, we cannot yet identify enough nickel sulphate capacity to feed the projected battery forecasts.—Wood Mackenzie

Not surprisingly, major mining companies see this as an opportunity. In August 2017, mining giant BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP announced it would invest $43.2 million to build the world’s biggest nickel sulphate plant in Australia.

But even investments like this may not be enough to capture rising demand for nickel sulphate.

Although the capacity to produce nickel sulphate is expanding rapidly, we cannot yet identify enough nickel sulphate capacity to feed the projected battery forecasts.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove relays comments about American military dependence on rival countries

October 6th, 2017

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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.

Robert Friedland talks copper, zinc, PGMs and China’s “airpocalypse”

August 28th, 2017

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