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Posts tagged ‘fluorspar’

Crucial commodities

September 8th, 2017

Price/supply concerns draw end-users to Commerce Resources’ rare earths-tantalum-niobium projects

by Greg Klein

“One of the things that really galls me is that the F-35 is flying around with over 900 pounds of Chinese REEs in it.”

That typifies some of the remarks Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE president Chris Grove hears from end-users of rare earths and rare metals. Steeply rising prices for magnet feed REEs and critical minerals like tantalum—not to mention concern about stable, geopolitically friendly sources—have brought even greater interest in the company’s two advanced projects, the Ashram rare earths deposit in northern Quebec and the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia. Now Commerce has a list of potential customers and processors waiting for samples from both properties.

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F-35 fighter jets alongside the USS America:
Chinese rare earths in action.
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Of course with China supplying over 90% of the world’s REEs, governments and industries in many countries have cause for concern. Tantalum moves to market through sometimes disturbingly vague supply lines, with about 37% of last year’s production coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 32% from Rwanda, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. One company in Brazil, 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.

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Commerce Resources’ field crew poses at the Eldor property,
home to the Ashram deposit and Miranna prospect.

Comparing Ashram’s inferred gross tonnage of nearly 220 million tonnes with the measured and indicated total of less than 30 million tonnes, Grove sees considerable potential to bolster the M&I as well as increase the resource’s overall size and average grade.

This season’s field program includes prospecting in the Miranna area about a kilometre from the deposit. Miranna was the site of 2015 boulder sampling that brought “spectacular” niobium grades up to 5.9% Nb2O5, nearly twice the average grade of the world’s largest producer, CBMM’s Araxá mine, Grove says. Some tantalum standouts showed 1,220 ppm and 1,040 ppm Ta2O5. Significant results for phosphate and rare earth oxides were also apparent.

Should Miranna prove drill-worthy, the synergies with Ashram would be obvious.

That’s the early-stage aspect of Commerce’s tantalum-niobium work. In B.C. the company’s Blue River deposit reached PEA in 2011, with a resource update in 2013. Based on a tantalum price of $381 per kilo, the estimate showed:

  • indicated: 48.41 million tonnes averaging 197 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,610 ppm Nb2O5 for 9.56 million kilograms Ta2O5 and 77.81 kilograms Nb2O5

  • inferred: 5.4 million tonnes averaging 191 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,760 ppm Nb2O5 for 1 million kilograms Ta2O5 and 9.6 million kilograms Nb2O5

Actually that should be 1,300 kilograms less. That’s the size of a sample on its way to Estonia for evaluation by Alexander Krupin, an expert in processing high-grade tantalum and niobium concentrates. “As with Ashram, we’ve already found that standard processing works well for Blue River,” Grove points out. “However, if Krupin’s proprietary method proves even more efficient, why wouldn’t we look at it?”

We’re always excited to see this project’s drilling results. We know we’re in carbonatite basically all of the time and over the last five years, in all the 9,200 metres we’ve done since the last resource calculation, we’ve basically always hit more material than was modelled in the original resource.—Chris Grove,
president of Commerce Resources

Back to rare earths, Commerce signed an MOU with Ucore Rare Metals TSXV:UCU to assess Ashram material for a proprietary method of selective processing. Others planning to test proprietary techniques on Ashram include Texas Mineral Resources and K-Technologies, Rare Earth Salts, Innovation Metals Corp, the University of Tennessee and NanoScience Solutions at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Should proprietary methods work, all the better, Grove states. But he emphasizes that standard metallurgical tests have already succeeded, making a cheaper process unnecessary for both Blue River and Ashram.

Potential customers show interest too. Concentrate sample requests have come from Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle, Blue Line and others covered by non-disclosure agreements. Requests have also come for samples of fluorspar, a potential Ashram byproduct and another mineral subject to rising prices and Chinese supply dominance.

A solid expression of interest came from the province too, as Ressources Québec invested $1 million in a February private placement. The provincial government corporation describes itself as focusing “on projects that have good return prospects and foster Quebec’s economic development.”

Also fostering the mining-friendly jurisdiction’s economic development is Plan Nord, which has pledged $1.3 billion to infrastructure over five years. The provincial road to Renard helped make Stornoway Diamond’s (TSX:SWY) mine a reality. Other projects that would benefit from a road extension towards Ashram would be Lac Otelnuk, located 80 kilometres south. The Sprott Resource Holdings TSX:SRHI/WISCO JV holds Canada’s largest iron ore deposit. Some projects north of Ashram include the Kan gold-base metals project of Barrick Gold TSX:ABX and Osisko Mining TSX:OSK, as well as properties held by Midland Exploration TSXV:MD.

But, Grove says, it’s rising prices and security of supply that have processors and end-users metaphorically beating a path to his company’s door. And maybe nothing demonstrates the criticality of critical minerals better than a nearby superpower that relies on a geopolitical rival for commodities essential to national defence.

June 30th, 2016

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June 28th, 2016

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June 22nd, 2016

Tesla announces plan to acquire SolarCity to form an Elon Musk (not so) super group Equities.com
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A tale of two gluts: Oil and ore approach $50 on opposite paths NAI 500

June 21st, 2016

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Elon Musk: Our lithium-ion batteries should be called nickel-graphite Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
Lithium in Las Vegas: A closer look at the lithium bull The Disruptive Discoveries Journal
A tale of two gluts: Oil and ore approach $50 on opposite paths NAI 500

June 20th, 2016

Three bullish views on NexGen Energy Streetwise Reports
Let’s talk prices: Graphite, lithium, fluorspar and TiO2 Industrial Minerals
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Lithium in Las Vegas: A closer look at the lithium bull The Disruptive Discoveries Journal
A tale of two gluts: Oil and ore approach $50 on opposite paths NAI 500

June 17th, 2016

Let’s talk prices: Graphite, lithium, fluorspar and TiO2 Industrial Minerals
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Lithium in Las Vegas: A closer look at the lithium bull The Disruptive Discoveries Journal
A tale of two gluts: Oil and ore approach $50 on opposite paths NAI 500

Commerce Resources’ rare earths project gets $300,000 Quebec environmental grant

June 16th, 2016

by Greg Klein | June 16, 2016

As pre-feasibility work continues on the northern Quebec Ashram deposit, the provincial government awarded Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE $300,000 to optimize tailings management. Announced June 16, the three-year grant comes jointly from les Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies and le Ministre de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles.

The money will help research methods of recycling and managing residue from Ashram’s metallurgical flowsheet, the company stated. The project will also look at processing an acid-grade fluorspar byproduct.

Commerce Resources’ rare earths project gets $300,000 Quebec environmental grant

“This work will be completed in partnership with the Centre Eau Terre Environnement of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, a research-oriented branch of the Université du Québec, which has considerable experience in environmental management and sustainability,” Commerce stated. Results will be incorporated into Ashram’s pre-feas study.

With metallurgical work underway at a mini-pilot plant in Colorado, the company has reported progress in simplifying the flowsheet, showing potential cost reductions. Commerce emphasizes Ashram’s key distinction, in which the high-grade, near-surface deposit is hosted in the minerals monazite, bastnasite and xenotime, which have proven processing.

In April the company announced a binding memorandum of understanding with a Glencore division to supply Ashram with sulphuric acid for metallurgical use. That same month Commerce stated Tugliq Energy was studying the potential of wind-generated electricity for Ashram. Two northern Canadian mines currently rely on wind for part of their energy supply.

Late last year Ashram won the e3 Plus Award for responsible exploration from l’Association de l’exploration minière du Québec. In January the company closed the second tranche of a private placement totalling $1.97 million.

Commerce also holds the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

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

Vancouver Commodity Forum adds speakers: Gerald McCarvill, Jon Hykawy and Joe Martin

May 30th, 2016

by Greg Klein | May 30, 2016

Three more names bring additional expertise and insight to the June 14 Vancouver Commodity Forum. Prince Arthur Capital chairperson/CEO Gerald McCarvill, Stormcrow Capital president/director Jon Hykawy and Cambridge House International founder Joe Martin will address the conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Already booked are Chris Berry of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal, John Kaiser of Kaiser Research Online and Stephan Bogner of Rockstone Research.

Vancouver Commodity Forum adds speakers Gerald McCarvill, Jon Hykawy and Joe Martin

The speaker lineup grows as the June 14 Vancouver event approaches.

McCarvill’s 30-year CV includes conducting mining and energy projects globally, as well as private equity and finance transactions. Among other career highlights, he helped establish Repadre Capital, now IAMGOLD TSX:IMG, and Desert Sun Mining, later acquired by Yamana Gold TSX:YRI. McCarvill also helped develop and finance Consolidated Thompson Iron Ore from a $2-million entry valuation to its $4.9-billion sale to Cliffs Natural Resources NYSE:CLF.

An expert in areas such as lithium, rare earths, fluorspar and tin, Hykawy combines a 14-year Bay Street background with an MBA in marketing, along with post-doctoral work as a physicist with Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. His technical background also includes work on rechargeable batteries and fuel cells, as well as wind and solar energy.

Starting off in business journalism, Martin created BC Business magazine, then founded Cambridge House International to present some of the world’s largest mining/exploration conferences. He remains active in semi-retirement as a prominent advocate for investment regulatory reform.

The Vancouver Commodity Forum also features a range of companies pursuing lithium, uranium, rare earths, gold, nickel, copper, diamonds, jade, scandium, zeolite, magnesium and potash. Click here for free registration.

Interview: Chris Berry discusses the lithium boom.

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.