Monday 24th October 2016

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Posts tagged ‘fluorite’

Commerce Resources’ rare earths project shows fluorspar byproduct potential

March 1st, 2016

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2016

Metallurgical tests bring further encouragement for a possible byproduct from Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram rare earths deposit in Quebec. A Colorado lab has produced over 50 fluorspar concentrates through the project’s base case beneficiation flowsheet, comprised of flotation, leaching and magnetic separation, Commerce announced March 1. The mini-pilot plant concentrates fluorspar with rare earths until the final stage of processing, when a fluorspar concentrate is separated from the rare earths concentrate.

Commerce Resources’ rare earths project shows fluorspar byproduct potential

Outcrops bearing rare earths overlay
Ashram’s shallow, high-grade deposit.

Fluorspar, also known as fluorite and measured in calcium fluoride (CaF2), comes in two grades. Acidspar, or acid grade, finds uses in hydrofluoric acid necessary for fridges, freezers and air conditioners. Metspar, or metallurgical grade, is used to make steel, aluminum, ceramics and glass. China, and to a lesser extent Mexico, dominate global fluorspar production, Commerce noted.

In one of Ashram’s best concentrates so far, the lab produced 42% total rare earth oxides at 76% recovery along with approximately 75% CaF2 at 80% recovery. The project’s fluorspar concentrates have averaged between about 75% and 94%, which could potentially be sold as metspar without further processing.

The byproduct would result as a final tails product of the primary REE recovery process, requiring no additional cost to produce and could potentially reduce the volume of tailings.

In addition, Commerce plans tests to try upgrading the metspar concentrate into the more highly priced acidspar. Offtake discussions are underway with several interested parties, the company added.

The potential byproduct wasn’t factored into Ashram’s preliminary economic assessment. The project now moves toward pre-feasibility.

Commerce emphasizes Ashram’s relatively simple mineralogy, potentially allowing for a low-cost operation. Early last month the company announced tests indicating the process might eliminate one of two leaching stages while maintaining efficiency.

As pre-feas work advances, the company continues to raise money. In early January Commerce closed the second tranche of a private placement that totalled $1.97 million. Late last month the company filed a final short form prospectus for an offer of between $1 million and $3 million, with a 15% over-allotment option.

Additionally, Commerce sees joint venture potential in its Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, which has a 2011 PEA and 2013 resource update.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Read Chris Berry’s report: Building a Non-Chinese Rare Earth Supply Chain.

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove discusses the Ashram rare earths deposit in Quebec

July 3rd, 2015

…Read more

Ashram advances

May 20th, 2014

Favourable mineralogy helps Commerce Resources move its Quebec rare earth project towards pre-feasibility

by Greg Klein

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On schedule and under budget, winter-spring drilling at Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram deposit in northern Quebec wrapped up last week, bringing one of the world’s largest rare earth projects closer to pre-feasibility. Ashram advances at a time when China’s “costs of producing ‘cheap’ rare earths are becoming increasingly unsustainable in terms of the environment, the availability of reserves, the health of its communities and the political ramifications,” according to a 28-page report by Secutor Capital Management. The study adds that China “is beginning to worry about its own domestic supply, as China is its own biggest customer.”

Favourable mineralogy helps Commerce Resources move its Quebec rare earth project towards pre-feasibility

The Ashram deposit makes Commerce Resources “one of the most
advanced REE juniors in regards to metallurgy which, in the REE space,
is everything,” according to a report by Secutor Capital Management.

That puts an interesting perspective on Commerce, “one of the most advanced REE juniors in regards to metallurgy which, in the REE space, is everything,” Secutor analysts Arie Papernick and Lilliana Paoletti stated. “The Ashram project hosts a substantial resource with a well-balanced rare earth oxide (REO) distribution. The deposit is enriched in light and heavy rare earths, including all five of the critical elements. The mineralogy is simple due to the presence of the minerals monazite, bastnaesite and xenotime, which currently dominate commercial processing. Unlike many of its competitors, Commerce is able to produce a 43.6% total rare earth oxide (TREO) mineral concentrate due to the deposit’s simple mineralogy, allowing significant cost reductions.”

According to Ashram’s 2012 preliminary economic assessment, the extent of those critical elements—neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium—is “unusual in carbonatite deposits and especially those of such tonnage and grade.”

That resource used a cutoff of 1.25% total rare earth oxide to estimate a measured and indicated 29.3 million tonnes averaging 1.9% TREO, and an inferred 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% TREO.

As the Secutor report emphasized, “REE mineralization is virtually completely contained within the minerals monazite, bastnaesite and xenotime, allowing Commerce Resources to use standard processing techniques. In the REE industry, the ability to use conventional metallurgy and processing is rather unique. Only four REE-bearing minerals out of over 200 have ever supplied the market in a material fashion. These four minerals currently, and historically, dominate commercial REE processing and are host to the REEs at Ashram.”

The 43.6% TREO concentrate, at a recovery of 70.7%, comprises “one of the highest-grade REE mineral concentrates which we are aware of produced by a junior mining company globally.”

It’s considerably higher than that of Ashram’s 2012 PEA, which anticipated reaching a target of 20% TREO at a recovery of 60% to 70% “through an established and commercially proven technology.” Yet the PEA’s base case considered a concentrate grading 10% TREO at 70% recovery.

In the REE industry, the ability to use conventional metallurgy and processing is rather unique.—Secutor Capital Management analysts Arie Papernick
and Lilliana Paoletti

The study used a 10% discount rate to project Ashram’s pre-tax, pre-finance net present value at $2.32 billion and a 44% internal rate of return. The capex, including contingency, came to $763 million with payback in 2.25 years. The PEA envisioned a 4,000-tonne-per-day open pit operating for 25 years—based on just 15% of the total resource.

And although rare earth prices have dropped since 2012, “the project remains robust,” Secutor maintains.

The higher-grade concentrate, with its capex and opex ramifications, is just one of the reasons analysts Papernick and Paoletti see a potentially more impressive pre-feas. Ashram’s infrastructure costs might benefit from proximity to the Lac Otelnuk iron project, 80 kilometres south. A joint venture of Adriana Resources TSXV:ADI and WISCO International Resources Development & Investment, it’s the “largest iron ore deposit in Canada with the potential of becoming one of the largest in the world,” according to Adriana. The project’s 2011 PEA calculated a $12.9-billion capex which included power and, via the link at Schefferville 165 kilometres southeast, railway to the deep sea port of Sept-Iles. Since then the Quebec government has indicated it will only permit a multi-user rail service.

Lac Otelnuk has full feasibility scheduled for completion by year-end.

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Prima’s TSX Venture debut

April 19th, 2013

Prima Fluorspar advances a critical mineral in a safe jurisdiction

by Greg Klein

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Is this any time to join the TSX Venture? According to Prima Fluorspar Corp TSXV:PF president/CEO Robert Bick, his company’s April 19 trading debut comes at exactly the right time. He maintains Prima has a necessary commodity for a niche market, a big, high-grade, near-surface historic resource, a strong team with past success and the likelihood of future interest from some very big players.

For all that, fluorspar’s hardly well-known. Yet it’s all around us. The lower-priced metallurgical grade finds its way into iron, steel, aluminum and cement. As for the pricier acid grade, modern refrigeration wouldn’t exist without it. Most new medicines rely on its derivatives. An EU-designated critical mineral, fluorspar plays a crucial role in producing a wide range of products we’d rather not live without. As emerging countries improve their living standards, those societies will find fluorspar products increasingly important.

Purple fluorspar right at surface offers encouraging signs for Prima’s Liard project in B.C.

Purple fluorspar right at surface offers encouraging signs
for Prima’s Liard project in B.C.

That probably explains China’s export restrictions. It’s both the fluorspar world’s largest producer and largest consumer, in the latter role mostly as a manufacturer of goods for export. Last year the country produced 61% of global supply, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a slight decrease from the previous year. Mexico produced another 17.5% in 2012, with third-place Mongolia offering a mere 6%, demonstrating the enormous imbalance in world production.

Prices, meanwhile, have climbed 225% between 2005 and 2012.

Despite China’s overwhelming share of production, the country’s expected to become a net importer within five years. As Simon Moores of the authoritative journal Industrial Minerals has explained, country risk was a major factor in fluorspar’s designation as a critical mineral.

Located in a friendly jurisdiction, Prima’s Liard fluorspar project looks all the more appealing. The northern British Columbia property holds 22,500 hectares along the Alaska Highway in a region that is, by B.C. standards, not particularly rugged. And there’s certainly fluorspar in them there hills.

Chemical companies absolutely need what we do and there have been companies in Europe in the past, for example Bayer, who actually did their own fluorspar mining. But chemical companies have no idea what exploration is all about.—Robert Bick, president/CEO
of Prima Fluorspar

Some 3.2 million tonnes grading 32% calcium fluoride (CaF2, also known as fluorite), according to an historic, non-43-101 resource. That’s a big, high-grade—albeit non-compliant—asset that the Prima team plan to prove up and expand. “With fluorspar projects, it’s very difficult to get such high-grade deposits,” says geologist Neil McCallum of Dahrouge Geological Consulting. “And most of the high-grade deposits out there are vein-type deposits where you might only have widths of one or two metres. So we’ve got pretty wide mineralization. What we tested was exposed on surface.”

The 61 historic holes found 20 showings, seven of them major, along a 30-kilometre strike potential. Prima’s preliminary work last fall tested two showings to find channel samples of 23.76% CaF2 over 19.55 metres and 23.49% over 74.55 metres. By spring or early summer McCallum plans to be back with a field crew doing geophysics and setting up a base camp prior to this year’s drill campaign of up to 100 holes and 10,000 metres.

“We’ll mostly do confirmation holes until we get the geophysical results. Then we’ll focus on building resources. What we’re aiming for is something that could be mined cheaply. Having something at surface that’s open-pittable will be important,” McCallum explains.

“With rare earths and a lot of the specialty metals, a project sinks or floats on the right metallurgy,” he adds. “But with most fluorspar deposits, it’s a fairly simple process.” Historic metallurgical tests brought results over 97% CaF2, the threshold for the more expensive, more highly demanded acid grade fluorspar, known as acidspar. More recent improvements in metallurgical science suggest even better results to come, McCallum points out.

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Industrial Minerals authority Simon Moores on fluorspar projects in Canada

February 11th, 2013

…Read More

Overcoming country risk

January 31st, 2013

Canada Fluorspar and Prima Fluorspar develop critical mineral projects at home

by Greg Klein

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(Update: On April 19, 2013, Prima Fluorspar Corp TSXV:PF began trading on the TSX Venture. Read more here.)

When country risk threatens a vital commodity’s supply, it’s time to find new sources. And it’s because of country risk that fluorspar gained its designation as a critical mineral. Recent news from Canadian juniors, however, offers some reassurance for this widely used but less-widely known commodity.

Canada Fluorspar and Prima Fluorspar develop critical mineral projects at home

The rock looks almost too pretty to be practical,
yet fluorspar products are nearly ubiquitous in their uses.

So what is this stuff? Also known as fluorite and measured in calcium fluoride (CaF2), fluorspar comes in two grades. Metspar, or metallurgical grade, is used to make steel, aluminum, ceramics and glass, among other necessities. The higher grade and more highly valued acidspar, or acid grade, is largely used in hydrofluoric acid, which is used in hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their successors, hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs), used in coolants for fridges, freezers and air conditioners. Fluorspar finds its way into several other uses from pharmaceuticals to pesticides and toothpaste to Teflon.

Fluorspar customers can be formidable in size, including such giants as Alcoa, BASF, Honeywell, DuPont, Dow, 3M and Rio Tinto Alcan.

With China producing up to 58% of world fluorspar supply, a familiar story unfolds. The country has restricted exports to protect its own stocks, which the Chinese use to produce value-added products that the rest of the world needs. Mexico, Mongolia and South Africa comprise the planet’s other major sources.

Not surprisingly, country risk was “a huge factor” in the European Union designation of fluorspar as a critical mineral, says Simon Moores. A writer for the authoritative London-based journal Industrial Minerals, Moores spoke to ResourceClips in Vancouver while attending the Mineral Exploration Roundup Conference 2013.

Country risk actually works out to be “positive for the Canadian-based junior companies,” he says. “One of their selling points is having a stable, friendly country to build a new mine.” That doesn’t necessarily mean other supplies will replace China, he emphasizes. But the market needs diversity of supply as a long-term approach.

Hoping to provide some of that supply is Canada Fluorspar TSXV:CFI. On January 30 the company released an updated pre-feasibility study for its St. Lawrence fluorspar project in southern Newfoundland, a 50/50 joint venture with Arkema, a worldwide producer of chemicals headquartered in France.

Based on a fluorspar price of $500 a tonne and using a discount rate of 5%, the pre-feas projects a pre-tax net present value of $124 million and a 16.4% pre-tax internal rate of return. Should fluorspar average $550 a tonne, the numbers would change to a pre-tax NPV of $182 million and a 21.1% pre-tax IRR.

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Fluorspar for investors

October 23rd, 2012

A capacity crowd gets an essential perspective on this critical mineral

by Greg Klein

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A capacity crowd gets an essential perspective on this critical mineral

Over 200 people attended the Vancouver 2012 Fluorspar Pre-Conference Workshop aimed at investors.

(Update: On April 19, 2013, Prima Fluorspar Corp TSXV:PF began trading on the TSX Venture. Read more here.)

Since 2001 Industrial Minerals’ annual Fluorspar Conference has been touring the globe, bringing together producers and consumers of this widely used but apparently obscure commodity. What might distinguish this year’s Vancouver event, however, was the October 22 pre-conference workshop, which attracted over 200 potential investors. As the keynote speakers explained, fluorspar now tops the list of critical minerals and it’s irreplaceable in most of its uses. Shortages threaten unless new deposits are found and developed—and that, the audience heard, is exactly what some Canadian juniors are doing already.

Given the commodity’s low public profile, a quick Fluorspar 101 was presented by Simon Moores, a writer and Manager of Industrial Minerals Data for the authoritative journal Industrial Minerals. Miners report fluorspar (also known as fluorite) in percentages of calcium fluoride or CaF2. It can be processed into either of two grades. Metspar, or metallurgical grade, is widely used in steel making as well as ceramics and glass. About 60% of fluorspar production is acidspar, or acid grade, which starts at 97% CaF2 and is the most widely used, highly desired and expensive product, largely due to its use in hydrofluoric (HF) acid, one of the world’s most widespread industrial chemicals. “It’s the underlying and only feedstock raw material that feeds all these much, much higher-value products that some of the biggest industrial chemicals companies make,” says Moores. The list of applications goes on, but some of the most common include the coolants essential to refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners.

For most of its applications, fluorspar has no substitute. While North American chemical giants rank among the world’s consumers, neither Canada nor the U.S. currently mines fluorspar.

Simon Moores of Industrial Metals presented a Fluorspar 101 seminar to an October 22 Vancouver audience.

Simon Moores of Industrial Minerals presented a Fluorspar 101 seminar to an October 22 Vancouver audience.

Last year’s global production came to 6.3 million tonnes, with a drop projected for this year, Moores says. But as in other critical commodities, China looms large. “It produces 58%,” he says. “This has risen from 51% in 2006.” Although China’s not the biggest consumer of the high-value products, it’s the biggest end-user in the fluorspar production chain. “They’re decreasing fluorspar exports, they’ve also got resource taxes in place, so fluorspar is on their radar. Although it’s earlier days than graphite, ‘control’ is the underlying word for China’s approach.”

By factoring in the country risk of fluorspar producers, Moores points out, the EU assigns the mineral higher risk than graphite, lithium, cobalt, vanadium, molybdenum, tantalum, copper, zinc and titanium.

Although fluorspar prices have dropped a bit since January, “over 12 years it’s been price increase over price increase over price increase,” Moores says. “There was a 225% increase for acidspar between 2005 and 2012.”

Jon Hykawy, Head of Global Research, Clean Technologies and Materials Analyst at Byron Capital Markets offered some future projections. “We see very significant growth by 2017,” he says. “A large portion of that growth is in metallurgical applications, but more so in chemical applications. We see a very, very healthy growth in demand for acidspar, more than the Chinese can supply or other existing projects can supply through expansion.”

Hykawy sees 4% to 4.6% annual growth for basic uses such as catalysts, water fluoridation, glasses and ceramics, fluorine gas and steel manufacture. But the growth in fluorochemicals, he states, will be far more impressive.

“Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] were shown to be significant contributors to ozone depletion,” he explains. “It wasn’t the fluorine that was the problem, it was the chlorine.” CFCs were eventually replaced by hydrofluorocarbons [HFCs], a cause of global warming. “The current and best choice, and the chemical of the future, are HFOs, hydrofluoro-olefins—not a particularly more complex chemical, just different,” Hykawy explains. “CFCs are about 15% fluorine by weight, HFCs came in about 60% and HFOs about 67% fluorine by weight. So as you have a global economy that’s growing and increasingly using refrigerants, you also have an increasing proportion of fluorspar.”

As for fluoropolymers, “the one most of us knows is DuPont’s Teflon. It’s ubiquitous because it’s highly chemically and thermally stable. You can put it in frying pans, heat the bejeezus out of them and it doesn’t break down,” he says.

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Now’s the time

October 17th, 2012

Investors get an early look at fluorspar in an October 22 Vancouver event

by Greg Klein
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(Update: On April 19, 2013, Prima Fluorspar Corp TSXV:PF began trading on the TSX Venture. Read more here.)

When China produces over half of a critical mineral’s world supply, the world has a potential problem. But investors have a potential opportunity. Those are among the topics to be discussed at Vancouver’s October 22 Fluorspar Pre-Conference Workshop. The three-hour event will link investors with experts and companies who pursue this vital commodity.

The free workshop kicks off Industrial MineralsFluorspar 2012 conference, which brings the world’s producers and consumers to Vancouver. The annual event has been touring the globe since 2001.

Investors get an early look at fluorspar in an October 22 Vancouver event

Vancouver’s October 22 Fluorspar Pre-Conference Workshop introduces investors to industry experts and interesting projects.

With increasingly widespread interest, says Industrial Minerals Data Manager Simon Moores. Even so, fluorspar is little known to investors. Yet it’s used to produce aluminum, steel, concrete, uranium, gasoline and hydrofluoric acid, which is essential to producing fluorocarbons. Fluorocarbons, in turn, are necessary for aerosols and refrigerants. In most of its applications, fluorspar is irreplaceable.

While the mineral is new to most investors, the supply-demand scenario will sound familiar. China produces the bulk of global supply. Dwindling reserves, a 15% export tax and increasing demand have pushed prices way up, from $130 a tonne for acid-grade fluorspar in 2003 to a range of $550 to $600 a tonne last month. As a result, the search is on for sources outside China. There are no producing fluorspar mines in Canada or the U.S.

Monday’s Fluorspar Pre-Conference Workshop will bring some of those companies to an investor audience, along with two expert speakers. Simon Moores, a writer with the authoritative journal Industrial Minerals, says he’ll provide “introductory, basic information that investors would need. We’ll look at where the bulk of the supply comes from, we’ll look at demand and the outlook for next year. We’ll also look at how the space is structured.

“That’s a key aspect,” he adds. “Fluorspar is not just sold as fluorspar, it’s sold as acidspar or acid grade, and metspar or metallurgical grade. They have two different market dynamics. So we’ll look at price trends in these two separate industries. I’ll be speaking to people who are new to the industry and give them the basics, the most important things they need to know.”

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October 10th, 2012

A critical mineral and a burgeoning Canadian industry

by Joel Chury

Reprinted by permission of Resource World

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(Update: On April 19, 2013, Prima Fluorspar Corp TSXV:PF began trading on the TSX Venture. Read more here.)

Fluorspar (the commercial name for fluorite or CaF2) may just be the most important but least-known industrial mineral. Among other applications, it’s most commonly used in manufacturing aluminum, steel, concrete and toothpaste. It’s also the precursor ingredient for hydrofluoric acid, which is vital to the manufacture of all fluorocarbons, which are used in refrigerators, air conditioners and propellants.

The global market for fluorspar consumes approximately six million tonnes a year, to be used in products that generate over $30 billion in annual sales. That being the case, it’s a wonder that the mineral is relatively unknown to investors. But like the meteoric rise of rare earth elements in 2010 and the more recent surge in graphite, fluorspar might soon get the attention it deserves.

A critical mineral and a burgeoning Canadian industry

As colourful and translucent as a gemstone, fluorspar has so many practical uses that it’s gained EU designation as a critical mineral.

“The problem with fluorspar is that nobody understands what it is, yet it’s a part of everyone’s life,” says Lindsay Gorrill, President/CEO of Canada Fluorspar Inc TSXV:CFI, which could become a fluorspar producer within the next two years. “I think one of our biggest issues is in explaining to the market what fluorspar is and where it’s used. There is currently no replacement for it in its uses.”

Like rare earths and graphite, fluorspar is mostly produced in China, although not in the same proportion compared to other countries. China currently represents approximately 53% of global fluorspar production. China also consumes 52% of global production. To protect its supply, the government has imposed a 15% export tax on the mineral.

As a result, fluorspar prices soared from approximately $130 a tonne in 2003 to a current price in the $550-to-$600 range. The price varies depending on the source. Much of the fluorspar used in North America comes from Mexico, where acid-grade fluorspar sells for $550 a tonne, compared to Chinese acid-grade fluorspar which sells for $600.

Like the differences between large flake and amorphous graphite, fluorspar comes in two different forms—metallurgical grade and acid grade.

Acid grade is considered most desirable. Consumers include multi-billion-dollar entities like DuPont and Honeywell, which use fluorspar to produce fluorocarbons and fluoropolymers. They rely largely on Mexican supply, despite the fact it requires additional, costly refining to remove traces of arsenic that are unique to the Mexican product. Currently there are only four plants in the world that can complete the arsenic-removal process; DuPont and Honeywell each own one.

Metallurgical grade is also useful in manufacturing, though its applications aren’t quite as diverse. Metallurgical grade is often used as a flux in iron, steel and aluminum smelting, as well as in cement making. Though slightly cheaper, metallurgical grade represents approximately 15% of the overall fluorspar market.

Acid grade’s greater demand is driven by the global market for hydrofluoric acid, the primary use of the mineral. As much as 45% to 60% of hydrofluoric acid consumption is used to make hydrofluorocarbons (or HFCs) to be used in coolants.

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