Friday 26th May 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘cobalt’

Kapuskasing targets zinc past-producer to bolster Newfoundland presence

May 18th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 18, 2017

A former zinc mine with potential for another discovery would expand Kapuskasing Gold’s (TSXV:KAP) portfolio of Newfoundland prospects for high-performing metals. Under a non-binding letter of intent announced May 18, the company would get the 1,050-hectare Daniel’s Harbour property on the Rock’s Great Northern Peninsula.

The announcement follows a recent acquisition of proximal claims by Altius Minerals TSX:ALS, but the former mine sits on property covered by the Kapuskasing deal.

Kapuskasing targets zinc past-producer to bolster Newfoundland presence

In operation from 1975 to 1990, Daniel’s Harbour produced around seven million tonnes averaging 7.8% zinc. A chief characteristic was the mine’s Mississippi Valley Type deposit, a kind that characteristically occurs in clusters or districts, Kapuskasing stated. “There remains potential in the area of the old mine workings of the historic ore bodies continuing at depth or along the favourable breccia horizon,” the company added.

Subject to due diligence and approvals, the 100% acquisition calls for $60,000, 1.75 million shares and $100,000 of spending within two years. A 3% NSR applies, two-thirds of which can be bought back for $2 million. Should Kapuskasing define a resource of five million tonnes at a grade to be determined, the vendor gets a $50,000 bonus.

The news comes amid a busy few months as Kapuskasing collects properties in Newfoundland and Labrador. The company began in March with the acquisition of eight properties offering potential for copper, cobalt or vanadium. Among the standouts is Lady Pond, which an LOI announced last week would expand to 1,625 hectares covering historic mine workings. Surface grab samples graded up to 3.3% copper, 0.12% cobalt and 813 ppb gold.

While previous operators focused on copper, Kapuskasing sees potential for other metals including cobalt. The company has drilling planned later this year.

Another recently expanded March acquisition is King’s Court, now 2,275 hectares covering at least 10 copper showings at surface. Historic channel samples included 14% copper over three metres, 9.3% over 10 metres, 19% over 2.13 metres and 15.87% over 2.59 metres, along with cobalt samples up to 0.24%. The company has sent a 4.79-metre section of drill core to be re-assayed for cobalt and other elements.

Additional acquisitions bring with them historic, non-43-101 results:

  • Alexis, with grab samples up to 0.422% nickel and 0.822% cobalt

  • Cape Charles, with grab samples up to 1.12% copper, 0.47% nickel and 0.526% cobalt

  • Hayes, with a reported 27,000 tonnes averaging 54% iron, 9% titanium and 0.2% vanadium

  • Indian Head, with two dormant mines and iron-titanium-vanadium mineralization

  • Iron Mountain, with grab samples up to 39.8% iron and 0.26% vanadium

  • Ross Lake, with drill intercepts of 21.49% titanium dioxide, 0.24% vanadium and 0.16% chromium oxide over 13 metres; as well as 15.9% titanium dioxide, 0.2% vanadium and 0.13% chromium oxide over 11 metres

Again, those are historic, non-43-101 results.

With Daniel’s Harbour and Lady Pond as dual flagships, Kapuskasing has a busy year planned. Last month the company offered private placements totalling up to $750,000, including up to $250,000 in flow-through.

Infographic: Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

May 8th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 8, 2017

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

 

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

The inner-workings of most commercialized batteries are typically pretty straightforward.

The lead-acid battery, which is the traditional battery used in the automotive sector, is as easy as it gets. Put two lead plates in sulphuric acid and you’re off to the races.

However, lithium-ion batteries are almost infinitely more complex than their predecessors. That’s because “lithium-ion” refers to a mechanism—the transfer of lithium ions—which can occur in a variety of cathode, anode and electrolyte environments. As a result, there’s not just one type of lithium-ion battery, but instead the name acts as an umbrella that represents thousands of different formulations that could work.

The cathode’s importance

This infographic comes to us from Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Canadian tech company that specializes in battery materials, and it provides interesting context on lithium-ion battery advancements over the last couple of decades.

Since the commercialization of the lithium-ion battery in the 1990s, there have been relatively few developments in the materials or technology used for anodes and electrolytes. For example, graphite is still the material of choice for anodes, though researchers are trying to figure out how to make the switch to silicon. Meanwhile, the electrolyte is typically a lithium salt in an organic solvent (except in lithium-ion polymer batteries).

Cathodes, on the other hand, are a very different story. That’s because they are usually made up of metal oxides or phosphates—and there are many different possible combinations that can be used.

Here are five examples of commercialized cathode formulations and the metals needed for them (aside from lithium):

Cathode Type Chemistry Example Metal Portions Example Use
NCA LiNiCoAlO2 80% nickel, 15% cobalt, 5% aluminum Tesla Model S
LCO LiCoO2 100% cobalt Apple iPhone
LMO LiMn2O4 100% manganese Nissan Leaf
NMC LiNiMnCoO2 nickel 33.3%, manganese 33.3%, cobalt 33.3% Tesla Powerwall
LFP LiFePO4 100% iron Starter batteries

Lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, aluminum and iron are just some of the metals used in current lithium-ion batteries out there—and each battery type has considerably different properties. The type of cathode chosen can affect the energy density, power density, safety, cycle life and cost of the overall battery, and this is why researchers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and combinations.

Drilling down

For companies like Tesla, which wants the exit rate of lithium-ion cells to be faster than “bullets from a machine gun,” the cathode is of paramount importance. Historically, it’s where most advancements in lithium-ion battery technology have been made.

Cathode choice is a major factor for determining battery energy density and cathodes also typically account for 25% of lithium-ion battery costs. That means the cathode can impact both the performance and cost pieces of the $/kWh equation—and building a better cathode will likely be a key driver for the success of the green revolution.

Luckily, the future of cathode development has many exciting prospects. These include concepts such as building cathodes with layered-layered composite structures or orthosilicates, as well as improvements to the fundamental material processes used in cathode assembly.

As these new technologies are applied, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will continue to decrease. In fact, experts are now saying that it won’t be long before batteries will hit $80 per kWh—a cost that would make EVs undeniably cheaper than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Related:

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Cobalt’s Congo conundrum

May 3rd, 2017

The battery market’s DRC dependency can only grow, says Benchmark

by Greg Klein

“If there’s any nation that contributes over 50% of supply for a mineral, alarm bells start to go off.” That’s especially true when the country is as troubled as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Caspar Rawles told a Vancouver conference on April 21. Social and political instability combined with child labour concerns intensify what he calls the “cobalt conundrum,” in which battery manufacturers have no choice but to increase their reliance on DRC resources. That’s his forecast, even as he acknowledges demand for new sources from elsewhere.

The DRC easily dominates global cobalt, with 64% of mined supply according to the most recent Benchmark figures. No more reassuring, China dominates refined supply with 57%. Without significant cobalt reserves of its own, the country holds a prominent position in DRC mining, where the energy ingredient results as a byproduct of copper extraction.

The battery market’s DRC dependency can only grow, says Benchmark

That position expanded this year with the Freeport-McMoRan NYSE:FCX/Lundin Mining TSX:LUN sale of their DRC Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine to China Molybdenum and a Chinese private equity firm. An anticipated and equally geopolitically feckless follow-up would be the American/Canadian JV’s sale of its Finnish cobalt refinery to the same people. By processing Fungurume ore, the facility provides about 10% of the world’s refined supply, Rawles says.

For all the disturbing news coming out of the Congo, “there will be no lithium-ion battery industry without DRC cobalt,” Rawles maintains. “We expect cobalt supply from the DRC to become more dominant in the market, and that’s because of where the large projects are, plus-10,000 tonnes a year.”

Yet by no means is Congo cobalt necessarily conflict cobalt, even when artisanal supply is considered. Some artisanal operations are perfectly legal, he says, while media-reported numbers can be “inflated.”

Tackling the issue presents difficulties, Rawles says. Companies often mine a small part of huge concessions, with no power to prevent the desperately poor from working other parts of the claims. The only people with any such power in the DRC “are the mining police and they just confiscate the material, they don’t take away the problem. It’s a longstanding problem and it’s going to take time to resolve.”

Not surprisingly, “substitution is definitely something that cathode companies are working on,” he points out. Not all cathodes require cobalt, unlike lithium. Even so, he sees about 81% of the market continuing to use cobalt cathodes.

As the Li-ion battery market grows from 70 GWh last year to Benchmark’s estimated 170 GWh in 2020, “cobalt demand will be high but won’t surpass supply.” Beyond 2020, Rawles predicts a deficit growing to 2023, then ending around 2024 or 2025.

“The only thing that can accelerate a reduction in cobalt is supply disruption,” he adds. Critics of DRC President Joseph Kabila attribute the country’s delayed elections to his determination to retain power after 16 years in office. Protests have resulted in scores of fatalities, raising fears of even wider civil unrest.

Another possible impact on supply/demand forecasts could come “if EVs take off even more quickly than we expect.”

The DRC hosts the world’s two big near-term copper-cobalt operations, Glencore’s majority-held Katanga mine and Eurasian Resources Group’s Metalkol Roan Tailings Reclamation project. Rawles expects Katanga to resume production early next year after its 2015 suspension. While the project’s technical report sets annual cobalt capacity at 30,000 tonnes, he expects the early years will probably realize half of that.

There will be demand from certain companies that don’t want to touch DRC cobalt.—Caspar Rawles,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

RTR’s slated for 2019 startup, Rawles says. ERG targets an initial 14,000 tonnes of cobalt annually, increasing to 20,000 tonnes over the next three to five years.

So despite “a number of other, smaller projects in the pipeline,” DRC dominance will prevail. Still, Rawles does see opportunity for other sources of cobalt. But new suppliers will have to follow a “value-added strategy,” he argues. They must produce a cobalt chemical that meets a manufacturer’s precise requirements. And the suppliers need to do that without refining their product in China, where it might be blended with conflict supply.

“That’s how they can brand themselves,” he says. “There’s going to be demand for that. Certainly the large supply is going to come from the DRC and if you’re really serious about EVs, that’s where the cobalt’s going to come from. It’s not going to happen without that.”

But, he emphasizes, “there will be demand from certain companies that don’t want to touch DRC cobalt.”

Lithium-ion’s bigger picture

April 25th, 2017

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

by Greg Klein

He dates it to what he calls “lithium’s Big Bang,” the February 2014 announcement of Tesla’s first gigafactory. New investment rejuvenated the juniors, as they set out in search of new supply. But “it’s not just the metals and mining space that’s seen an influx of capital,” Chris Berry points out. As an independent consultant to asset managers, he’s spent a lot of time over the last 18 months “talking to what I call new types of money that are trying to understand the lithium-ion space.”

He brought his perspective to Vancouver on the April 21 stop of the Benchmark Mineral Intelligence World Tour.

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

Although lithium prices continue their ascent, the battery-powered revolution is “really rooted in economics,” explained the president of House Mountain Partners and editor of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal. “I don’t think this technology-driven deflation in battery prices can really be stopped…. Lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 60% in the last three years alone, just since the gigafactory announcement.”

With more battery megafactories coming (Benchmark currently tracks 15 existing or planned projects), he believes price deflation will “continue, perhaps intensify, for the next five to 10 years.”

That can only encourage further electric vehicle sales. And apart from the practical advantages of EVs, driving them is “a really transformative experience. There really is nothing like it,” he maintains.

There’s no questioning future demand for energy minerals, he insists. But there is a question of whether supply “will overshoot or undershoot.”

Even so he sees “a very robust supply chain response” that goes beyond Albemarle NYSE:ALB, FMC NYSE:FMC and SQM NYSE:SQM to include, for example, Intel’s $15-billion takeout of driverless car designer Mobileye, Chinese EV/energy storage manufacturer BYD’s plans to boost its battery production to megafactory stature and Beijing-based search engine giant Baidu’s cash injection into NextEV. “This entire lithium-ion supply chain is continuing to grow, continuing to see huge investment,” Berry emphasized.

“The beauty of it is there are a number of different ways you can gain exposure.” Fund managers and others with deep pockets might compare Albemarle with SQM, but Berry suggested also comparing the “risk/reward paradigm” of such companies with an outfit like Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Vancouver-based company working to transform battery design.

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

Chris Berry: “This entire lithium-ion supply
chain is continuing to grow, continuing
to see huge investment.”

Of course the pace of new development raises questions about operating margins. “Does it make sense to focus on a company like Albemarle that has a 40% EBITDA profit margin?” he asked. “Or does it make sense to go further down the supply chain and think about a company like Panasonic, much different than Albemarle but still heavily invested and involved in the lithium supply chain? The challenge, I would argue, with Panasonic is that they are going to get a tremendous amount of competition from BYD, Tesla and a number of other battery manufacturers. So the profit margin of Panasonic, despite being one of the biggest players in the space, is going to shrink.”

Looking back at lithium exploration and development projects, Berry said different extraction technologies offer miners and would-be miners additional opportunities to leverage themselves to investors.

For all that, one of Berry’s concluding remarks must have taken many attendees by surprise. Benchmark managing director Simon Moores asked why attention so often focuses on lithium and not other battery materials.

Berry’s response? “I would actually be the most optimistic about nickel, cobalt and lithium in that order.” But noting China’s long-term strategy in building supply chains, he added, “The interesting thing about lithium relative to other niche metals is that China doesn’t have a stranglehold on it.”

Nevertheless, he cautioned, about 60% of battery capacity comes from China.

Read about Simon Moores discussing the rise of battery megafactories.

Converging on batteries

April 23rd, 2017

Benchmark sees big investors wakening as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

by Greg Klein

It’s “a sign of the times that big investors with big money are starting to look at this space in a serious way,” Simon Moores declared. “We’re seeing it with lithium, that’s just starting. And I think we’re going to see it with the other raw materials as well.” To that he attributes the automotive, high-tech and energy sectors for their “convergence of three multi-trillion-dollar industries on batteries.”

Addressing a Vancouver audience on the April 21st inaugural stop of the third annual Benchmark Mineral Intelligence World Tour, he pointed out that cobalt and graphite have yet to match lithium for investors’ attention. But not even lithium has drawn the financing needed to maintain supply over the long term.

Benchmark sees investment lagging as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

While EVs still lead the battery-powered revolution, energy storage
will become more prominent after 2020, according to Simon Moores.

Back in 2006, batteries accounted for 22% of lithium demand. Ten years later the amount came to 42%. “We believe in 2020, 67% of lithium will be used for batteries.”

What’s now driving the battery market, almost literally, is electric vehicles. Energy storage will play a more prominent role from about 2020 onwards, he maintained.

He sees three cars in particular that should lead the trend: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. As consumers turn to pure electric vehicles with battery packs increasing capacity to the 60 to 70 kWh range and beyond, the industry will sell “hundreds of thousands of cars rather than tens of thousands… the era of the semi-mass market for EVs is beginning and it’s beginning now, this year.”

Last year’s lithium-ion market reached 70 GWh, Moores said. Forecasts for 2025 range from Bloomberg’s low of about 300 GWh to Goldman Sachs’ 440 GWh and a “pretty bullish” 530 GWh from Cairn Energy Research Advisors. As for Benchmark, “we’re at the lower end” with a base case of about 407 GWh.

“What does that mean for lithium demand? A lot of raw materials will be needed and the investment in that space is just starting.”

Lithium’s 2016 market came to about 80,000 tonnes. By 2020, demand will call for something like 180,000 to 190,000 tonnes. While battery-grade graphite demand amounted to about 100,000 tonnes last year, “by 2020, that will be just over 200,000 tonnes.” As for battery-grade cobalt, last year’s market came to just under 50,000 tonnes. “By 2020 it’s going to need to get to about 80,000 to 85,000.”

Benchmark sees investment lagging as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

Simon Moores: “No other mineral
out there has this kind of price profile.”

Investment so far favours lithium but for each of the three commodities, it’s “not enough, not for the long term,” he stressed.

Three years ago only two battery megafactories had been envisioned. Now in operation, under construction or being planned are 15, with the number expected to grow. “That’s going to be needed if we’re ever going to get anywhere near the forecast that everyone’s saying. Not just us, not just Bernstein or Goldman Sachs, everyone is saying significant growth is here but investment is needed.”

But although Tesla gets most of the headlines, “the new lithium-ion industry is a China-centric story.” The vast majority of megafactories are Chinese plants or joint ventures with Chinese entities operating in South Korea or Japan. “The majority of their product goes to China.”

At the end of last month lithium carbonate averaged $12,313 a tonne while lithium hydroxide averaged about $17,000. Spot deals in China, meanwhile, have surpassed $20,000.

That compares with prices between 2005 and 2008 of around $4,000 for lithium carbonate and $4,500 for lithium hydroxide. Only slightly higher were averages for 2010 to 2014. But prices spiked in 2015 and 2016. “Between now and 2020 we believe lithium carbonate will be in and around an average of $13,000 a tonne and lithium hydroxide will be closer to $18,000 a tonne.”

Those long-term averages “are important for people building mines and investing in this space.”

Except for 2010, lithium prices have shown 11 years of increases, corresponding with battery demand. “No other mineral out there has this kind of price profile.”

Moores sees no oversupply or price crash for lithium in the next five years. Spodumene-sourced lithium “will fill the short-term supply deficit and brines will help fill the longer-term supply deficit post-2019 and 2020,” he said. “Both are needed to have a strong, balanced industry in the future.”

Turning to graphite, he noted that batteries had zero effect on the market in 2006. By 2016 they accounted for 16% of demand. By 2020, that number should jump to 35%.

While flake graphite comprises the feedstock for most anode material, “really, the price you should look at is spherical graphite.” That’s fallen lately to about $2,800 a tonne.

Moores foresees better margins for companies producing uncoated spherical graphite. “The people who make the coated will also make good margins, but not as good as in the past. For this reason, and because battery buyers are becoming more powerful and there’s more competition in the space, we believe the coated spherical graphite price will actually fall in the long term average, but will still be between $8,000 and $12,000 a tonne. So there’s very high value and significant demand for this material.”

He also sees natural graphite increasing its anode market share over synthetic graphite. “That’s a cost issue primarily, but there are green issues too.”

Silicon, he added, “will play a part in anodes but it will be an additive, not a replacement.”

Speaking with ResourceClips.com after the event, Moores said Benchmark World Tour attendees differ by city. The Vancouver audience reflected the resource sector, as well as fund managers attracted by BMO Capital Markets’ sponsorship. Tokyo and Seoul events draw battery industry reps. Silicon Valley pulls in high-tech boffins.

This year’s tour currently has 15 cities scheduled with two more under consideration, he noted. That compares with eight locations on the first tour in 2015. Moores attributed the success to Benchmark’s access to pricing and other sensitive info, as well as Benchmark’s site visits. “We go to China and other countries and visit the mines,” he said. “Our travel budget is through the roof. We’re not desktop analysts.”

Elon Musk’s hidden agenda

April 1st, 2017

As he makes sci-fi reality, what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

by Greg Klein

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

A pioneer ponders her new planet, but the truth is down here. (Image: SpaceX)

 

Just two days ago—March 30—Elon Musk pulled off yet another stunning techno-coup by launching a pre-used rocket then landing it intact, ready for further re-use. Not only does that rate as a truly historic achievement, but it marks another milestone in his audacious plan to colonize Mars. Just what drives this guy?

His CV is phenomenal. Musk started with Zip2 and PayPal, went on to build the world’s most coveted electric cars, then supplemented them with a country-wide network of fast recharging stations and a growing empire of Gigafactories that he’ll likely merge with his unprecedented vertically integrated Solarcity green energy utility/storage battery company.

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

Whether with awe, apprehension or impatience, the first
Martians-to-be prepare to disembark at their new home.
(Image: SpaceX)

He’s actually booked tourists for a 2018 around-the-moon cruise. He’s pushing extraordinarily high-speed, long-distance pneumatic tube travel, musing about Internet access in outer space and working to wire people’s brains to computers.

Yes, he loses money on every Tesla he sells and a couple of his Falcon 9 rockets blew to smithereens. But Musk’s stunning success record would seem to make science fiction plausible. Has he finally strained credibility with the Mars colony? And, again, just what drives this guy?

As to the first question, a surprising number of experts consider the idea viable. Musk’s SpaceX, already in the business of transporting cargo and satellites into orbit, plans unmanned Mars trips in 2018 and 2020. The company has modelled craft that would initially ferry 100 people at a time on an 80-day voyage for about US$200,000 each. Later ships with greater capacity and a 30-day trip time would cut fares dramatically. Upwards of 10,000 return voyages within 40 to 100 years would give Mars an Earthling diaspora numbering one million people, enough to create a self-sustaining civilization, he claims. Necessities like air, water, food and radiation protection can all be realized, he insists.

The visionary CEO sees the first colonists arriving well within a decade.

But why does he strive for this, when he has his hands more than full with other soaring ambitions? And, with all the possible pitfalls, why risk capping a phenomenal career with monumental failure?

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

No symbolism is too obvious
for a little country.
(Image: SpaceX)

Musk speaks of our eventual extinction on Earth. But according to battery expert Raymond Tylerson, Musk’s real motivation lies in his need for resources. They’re not the extraterrestrial kind sought by those who would mine the heavens. They’re right here on Earth.

Almost completely overlooked in the mania about the battery minerals graphite, cobalt and lithium has been one essential ingredient, points out Tylerson. That’s lithium’s near-namesake, lithuanium.

“For every bushel of graphite, cobalt and lithium that goes into these suckers, you need only one demi-iota of lithuanium,” he explains. “That doesn’t sound like much until you realize it’s absolutely the most scarce commodity on the planet.”

Moreover, as its moniker memorializes, it’s found in only one place—the uniquely lithuanium-lush lithology of Lithuania. That gives the little country a lockhold on the most critical mineral of all.

Emma Rothstein recognizes the danger. A psychologist who specializes in nationwide borderline personality disorders, she says, “For its entire existence, Lithuania’s been pushed around by big country bullies. Now it’s fighting back. Make no mistake, this little country has big, big ambitions. It wants to achieve on an inter-galactic scale the domination it can’t possibly achieve on Earth. With their monopoly on lithuanium, Lithuanians have forced Musk into their service.”

Classified documents released by the Transparency Foundation confirm that Lithuania has guaranteed Musk exclusive rights to lithuanium provided he carries out the country’s expansionist agenda.

Not only might Musk be the one person most likely to succeed at interplanetary travel, but Lithuanians might be the one people most likely to succeed at interplanetary colonization.

“I mean, who the hell else would want to go?” asks Rothstein. “That 80-day trip would be worse than a group package vacation. It brings to mind the saying that hell is other people. By the time they’d arrive the colony would be screwed because they’d all hate each other’s guts. But not so with Lithuanians. They’ve always co-operated with each other despite the fact that they’ve always hated each other’s guts.”

But Musk faces formidable competition, she adds. “I recognized that as soon as NASA reported it was growing potatoes in a Mars-like environment. It was so obviously just another outcome of Little Country Syndrome.”

This little country is actually a province, tiny Prince Edward Island.

“Imagine what it’s been like, to start off as the birthplace of Canadian confederation only to find yourself by far the puniest province with the puniest population and an economy based almost entirely on potatoes. Puny PEI and its puny potato-pulling people carry an inter-galactic grudge matching that of Lilliputian Lithuania.

He’s making sci-fi reality, but what on Earth motivates his mission to Mars?

Musk: Could there be
something different about him?

“Don’t underestimate these pushy little people,” she warns. “They’ve already taken over NASA. Mars might be next.”

So who’s poised to win the burgeoning battle for the universe? “My money’s on anyone backed by Musk,” declares Kyle McCormick, a professor of sociological astronomy. “He doesn’t just talk about an interplanetary species. He comes from one himself. You don’t think he accomplished all that with Earthling expertise, do you? Listen to his speech, look at his eyes—he’s more alien than Mr. Spock.”

Then what’s he doing here?

“He just had to get away from his own planet,” McCormick responds. “Musk considers it a really tiresome, insufferably do-good crunchy granola save-the-endangered-whatever environmentally superior place. He’s sick to death of all that clean energy crap. Once he saves up enough trillions he intends to buy the entire U.S.A., pave it and compel everyone to drive around all day in huge dangerous noisy stinking gas-guzzling vehicles.

“He wants to turn America into one big monster truck extravaganza. And fossil fuels will be mandatory.”

 

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Ontario Ring of Fire development begins.
Mining company inspires Canadian political reform.

Not ready for another shock

March 1st, 2017

Unlike China, the West lacks a rare minerals strategy, warns David S. Abraham

by Greg Klein

Something of an epiphany came to him in 2010 as he watched the aftermath of a minor incident in internationally disputed waters. China’s shock-and-awe response turned its near-monopoly on rare earths into a mighty geopolitical weapon, exposing the perilous nature of our dependence on seemingly obscure commodities. That inspired David S. Abraham’s 2015 book The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age. Now, as a similar confrontation threatens to flare up again, he sees the West still unprepared for further attacks on vital supply lines.

Asked whether people in power have at least gained greater awareness, his response is a firm No.

Unlike China, the West lacks a rare minerals strategy, says David S. Abraham

Speaking on the phone from Indonesia, Abraham took time to discuss the issue with ResourceClips.com. The 2010 event, of course, began with the China-Japan territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Late last year American warships entered the South China Sea, in another challenge to China’s claim to sovereignty. Yet compared with previous years, “I think we’re even more vulnerable to shock in our supply lines,” he says.

“If you look at rare earths, in 2010 there were opportunities for new supplies to come onstream quite quickly, and they’ve since failed. People look at that failure and say these places couldn’t compete, they couldn’t produce economically, so they failed.”

China, having pushed up prices exponentially by withholding rare earths, swung to the other extreme and flooded the market. That dashed the hopes of many potential non-Chinese producers yet encouraged complacency among end-users. “But the supply lines themselves really look no different than they did back then,” Abraham cautions.

Of course the problem’s hardly limited to rare earths. Just one example Abraham points to is cobalt and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Estimates of DRC supply range from 51% of the world total (2015 figures from the U.S. Geological Survey), to nearly 60% (Benchmark Mineral Intelligence), to 65% (Disruptive Discoveries Journal). That gives a disproportionate amount of supply not only to a single country, but one plagued with political instability and conflict mining.

Troubling too is the ownership.

Already a major player in the country, China stands to increase its DRC position should China Molybdenum and a Chinese private equity firm succeed in their $3.8-billion purchase of a majority interest in Tenke Fungurume, one of the world’s biggest copper-cobalt mines. With a 20% stake, the DRC state-owned company Gécamines has tried to block the sale but reportedly accepted a $100-million settlement.

What you see China doing is really consolidating up the supply line…. What they’re trying to do is build up their material capacity so other people producing batteries have to use material coming through China.—David S. Abraham

“What you see China doing is really consolidating up the supply line…. What they’re trying to do is build up their material capacity so other people producing batteries have to use material coming through China.”

The country fosters economic growth by “adding to the value chain that they can produce in their own country. It’s a strong economic argument. It’s not dissimilar to what Trump says, but he hasn’t really gone into the deep thinking that’s happening in China.”

Certainly, China’s strategic approach contrasts with the West. That’s suggested by the example of Tenke Fungurume’s would-be vendors, the American/Canadian team of Freeport-McMoRan NYSE:FCX and Lundin Mining TSX:LUN.

“For those companies, it’s about profits,” Abraham acknowledges. “The question is, what are the technology companies thinking about? Companies like Apple are trying to do a better job of understanding where their materials come from, but some of the others are less concerned.”

With the U.S. military in mind, Rep. Duncan Hunter is anticipated to propose a congressional bill that would help develop domestic supplies of rare minerals.

Abraham’s skeptical. “Most bills on critical materials have not passed and his bills usually have the least chance of passing…. That’s not to say the U.S. hasn’t given money to metallurgy and mining before, but with the exception of some dabbling in beryllium in the ’90s, I can’t recall a time where the U.S. was really investing in mines from a defence perspective.”

If decision-makers lack awareness, they’re not alone, he believes. Abraham sees little evidence that consumers understand the issues. “People talk about being concerned about where these materials come from but they really have to understand the challenging supply lines, and that’s what the book was trying to introduce people to,” he says. “It’s still a little too complex to fathom and I don’t think people think beyond ‘my phone causes conflict in Congo’ and get to the point that ‘my phone leads to geopolitical war.’”

If so, that makes The Elements of Power as timely now as it was in 2015. A paperback edition comes out in April.

In concluding the phone call, Abraham offers a maxim: “Nothing changes very fast. Then everything changes all of a sudden.”

King’s Bay flies geophysics over Labrador copper-cobalt project

February 28th, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2017

Following a 12-fold expansion of the property last month, King’s Bay Gold TSXV:KBG announced a VTEM survey now airborne on the Lynx Lake copper-cobalt project in southeastern Labrador. Survey operator Geotech Ltd says its proprietary system reaches more than 800 metres in depth, featuring high spatial resolution as well as a low base frequency to pass through conductive overburden. “This system is advertised to be able to delineate potential drill hole targets from the airborne results,” King’s Bay stated. The survey’s expected to wrap up by mid-April.

King’s Bay flies geophysics over Labrador copper-cobalt project

Field work revealed gossan and
massive sulphides at Lynx Lake.

Lynx Lake’s potential came to light after the Trans-Labrador Highway opened up the region in 2008. Grab samples from the 24,000-hectare property’s east side showed non-43-101 results up to 1.39% copper, 0.94% cobalt, 0.21% nickel and 6.5 g/t silver. On the west side, non-43-101 grab samples assayed up to 1.03% copper, 0.566% cobalt, 0.1% nickel, 5 g/t silver, 0.36% chromium, 0.39% molybdenum and 0.23% vanadium.

A regional low-res magnetic survey conducted by the province and a hand-held EM device brought preliminary indications of strong conductors in the area. A 90-minute drive from the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Lynx Lake has powerlines and a highway adjacent to the property.

Two weeks earlier King’s Bay announced a 100% option on the Trump Island property in Newfoundland, where a shipment of high-grade copper-cobalt material was reportedly mined in 1863. In early February the company picked up three Quebec properties, all of which had historic, non-43-101 sampling results showing cobalt.

King’s Bay closed a $938,752 private placement in January.

See an infographic: Cobalt—A precarious supply chain.

Battery infographic series Part 5: The future of battery technology

February 23rd, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | February 23, 2017

The Battery Series presents five infographics exploring what investors need to know about modern battery technology, including raw material supply, demand and future applications.

The future of battery technology

This is the last instalment of the Battery Series. For a recap of what has been covered so far, see the evolution of battery technology, the energy problem in context, the reasons behind the surge in lithium-ion demand and the critical materials needed to make lithium-ion batteries.

There’s no doubt that the lithium-ion battery has been an important catalyst for the green revolution, but there is still much work to be done for a full switch to renewable energy.

The battery technology of the future could:

  • Make electric cars a no-brainer choice for any driver

  • Make grid-scale energy storage solutions cheap and efficient

  • Make a full switch to renewable energy more feasible

Right now, scientists see many upcoming battery innovations that promise to do this. However, the road to commercialization is long, arduous and filled with many unexpected obstacles.

The near-term: Improving the Li-ion

For the foreseeable future, the improvement of battery technology relies on modifications being made to already-existing lithium-ion technology. In fact, experts estimate that lithium-ions will continue to increase capacity by 6% to 7% annually for a number of years.

Here’s what’s driving those advances:

Efficient manufacturing

Tesla has already made significant advances in battery design and production through its Gigafactory:

  • Better engineering and manufacturing processes

  • Wider and longer cell design allows more materials packaged into each cell

  • New battery cooling system fits more cells into battery pack

Better cathodes

Most of the recent advances in lithium-ion energy density have come from manipulating the relative quantities of cobalt, aluminum, manganese and nickel in the cathodes. By 2020, 75% of batteries are expected to contain cobalt in some capacity.

For scientists, it’s about finding the materials and crystal structures that can store the maximum amount of ions. The next generation of cathodes may be born from lithium-rich layered oxide materials (LLOs) or similar approaches, such as the nickel-rich variety.

Better anodes

While most lithium-ion progress to date has come from cathode tinkering, the biggest advances might happen in the anode.

Current graphite anodes can only store one lithium atom for every six carbon atoms—but silicon anodes could store 4.4 lithium atoms for every one silicon atom. That’s a theoretical tenfold increase in capacity!

However, the problem with this is well documented. When silicon houses these lithium-ions, it ends up bloating in size up to 400%. This volume change can cause irreversible damage to the anode, making the battery unusable.

To get around this, scientists are looking at a few different solutions.

1. Encasing silicon in a graphene “cage” to prevent cracking after expansion.

2. Using silicon nanowires, which can better handle the volume change.

3. Adding silicon in tiny amounts using existing manufacturing processes—Tesla is rumoured to be doing this already.

Solid-state lithium-ion

Lastly, a final improvement that is being worked on for the lithium-ion battery is to use a solid-state setup, rather than having liquid electrolytes enabling the ion transfer. This design could increase energy density in the future, but it still has some problems to resolve first, such as ions moving too slowly through the solid electrolyte.

The long term: Beyond the lithium-ion

Here are some new innovations in the pipeline that could help enable the future of battery technology:

Lithium-air

Anode: Lithium

Cathode: Porous carbon (oxygen)

Promise: 10 times greater energy density than Li-ion

Problems: Air is not pure enough and would need to be filtered. Lithium and oxygen form peroxide films that produce a barrier, ultimately killing storage capacity. Cycle life is only 50 cycles in lab tests

Variations: Scientists also trying aluminum-air and sodium-air batteries

Lithium-sulphur

Anode: Lithium

Cathode: Sulphur, carbon

Promise: Lighter, cheaper and more powerful than Li-ion

Problems: Volume expansion up to 80%, causing mechanical stress. Unwanted reactions with electrolytes. Poor conductivity and poor stability at higher temperatures

Variations: Many different variations exist, including using graphite/graphene, and silicon in the chemistry

Vanadium flow batteries

Catholyte: Vanadium

Anolyte: Vanadium

Promise: Using vanadium ions in different oxidation states to store chemical potential energy at scale. Can be expanded simply by using larger electrolyte tanks

Problems: Poor energy-to-volume ratio. Very heavy, must be used in stationary applications

Variations: Scientists are experimenting with other flow battery chemistries as well, such as zinc-bromine

Battery series conclusion

While the future of battery technology is very exciting, for the near and medium terms scientists are mainly focused on improving the already-commercialized lithium-ion.

What does the battery market look like 15 to 20 years from now? It’s ultimately hard to say. However, it’s likely that some of the above new technologies will help in leading the charge to a 100% renewable future.

Thanks for taking a look at the Battery Series.

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

As cobalt prices soar, King’s Bay expands prospects with Newfoundland acquisition

February 16th, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 16, 2017

A name and a commodity that are both objects of feverish attention seem to meet up in Newfoundland, where King’s Bay Gold TSXV:KBG has acquired the Trump Island copper-cobalt property. A 100% option announced February 16 expands the company’s cobalt prospects in Newfoundland, Labrador and Quebec.

Back in 1863 a Cornish miner sunk a six-metre shaft to follow a zone of massive chalcopyrite. He reportedly sent a shipment of high-grade copper-cobalt ore to Wales.

King’s Bay expands cobalt prospects with Newfoundland acquisition

Grab samples collected nearby in 1999 brought historic, non-43-101 results up to 3.8% copper, 0.3% cobalt, 2.9 g/t gold and 10.9 g/t silver.

The initial King’s Bay agenda would call for additional sampling, along with mapping and a local-scale electromagnetic survey on the 200-hectare property. Successful results could bring a summer drill campaign.

Subject to approvals, King’s Bay gets Trump Island for 200,000 shares at a deemed value of $0.195 and a 2% NSR.

The boat-accessible property sits seven kilometres south of Twillingate, a town immortalized in Newfoundland’s unofficial national anthem.

In Labrador, meanwhile, King’s Bay has airborne EM planned for its Lynx Lake copper-cobalt project, where grab samples have shown non-43-101 results up to 1.39% copper, 0.94% cobalt and 0.21% nickel, as well as chromium, molybdenum and vanadium values. Last month the company expanded Lynx Lake from about 2,000 hectares to approximately 24,000 hectares.

Earlier this month King’s Bay picked up three cobalt projects in Quebec. The company closed a $938,752 private placement in January.

The acquisitions come as cobalt prices continue their meteoric rise, hitting six-year highs up to $20 a pound, reported MetalBulletin.com. That represents an approximately 50% increase since September, according to Reuters. Stating that many traders are hoarding the metal, Reuters predicted a supply deficit this year “exacerbated by an insecure supply chain. Almost 60% of the world’s cobalt lies in politically risky Democratic Republic of Congo.”

See an infographic about cobalt.