Wednesday 21st August 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘fluorspar’

Site visits for sightseers IV

July 31st, 2019

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage can captivate visitors

by Greg Klein

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

Among the Bell Island operations that produced about 81 million tonnes of
iron ore by 1966, this Newfoundland mine gives visitors a glimpse of the past.
(Photo: Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum)

 

Our survey of historic mining sites and museums wraps up with a trip through Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. With places known for precious and base metals as well as mineralogical exotica like salt, fluorspar and asbestos, these Atlantic provinces once hosted a globally important coal and steel industry—important enough to merit military attacks during World War II. Even where mining’s a practice of the past, many people continue to recognize the industry’s influence on their communities.

As usual with these visits, check ahead for footwear and other clothing requirements, for additional info like kids’ age restrictions, and to confirm opening times.

Three previous installments looked at Yukon and British Columbia, the prairie provinces, and Ontario and Quebec.

 

Nova Scotia

 

In a region where the industry goes back nearly 300 years, the Cape Breton Miners Museum tells the stories of coal diggers, their work, lives and community. The scenic six-hectare coastal site also includes a few restored buildings from the company village and the Ocean Deeps Colliery, where retired miners lead underground/undersea tours to offer first-hand accounts of a miner’s life. The museum also presents occasional concerts by the Men of the Deeps, made up entirely of people who’ve worked in or around coal mines: “We’re the only choir where the second requirement is that you have to be able to sing.”

Located on Birkley Street north from Route #28, about 1.5 kilometres southeast of downtown Glace Bay. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until October 20, with daily tours. Phone 902-849-4522 for off-season hours and tours.

 

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

Coal production in the Sydney Mines area dates as far back as 1724.
(Photo: Sydney Mines Heritage Museum)

Farther west along the serrated coast, the Sydney Mines Heritage Museum looks at not only coal extraction but also the time when this town was a major steelmaking centre. Originally a 1905 railway station, the building also houses a transportation exhibit, the Cape Breton Fossil Discovery Centre and a sports museum.

Located at 159 Legatto Street, just north of Main Street (Route #305), Sydney Mines. Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 to 5:00 until September 7. Phone 902-544-0992 for Sydney Coalfield fossil field trips held on Thursdays and Saturdays to August 24, weather and tides permitting.

 

About 76 kilometres east of Amherst was Canada’s first industrial source of an edible mineral, now commemorated by the Malagash Salt Mine Museum. This small building features the mine’s off-and-on operations between 1918 and 1959, and the local miners, farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks who worked the deposit until it was replaced by another salt source at nearby Pugwash.

Located at 1926 North Shore Road, east of Route #6, Malagash. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, Sunday noon to 5:00 until September 15. Call 902-257-2407 for more info.

 

In the Annapolis Valley about 95 kilometres southeast of Moncton, the Springhill Miners’ Museum portrays the historically dangerous work that prevailed in these coal mines between the late 1800s and the 1950s. Guides lead underground tours of about an hour’s duration.

Located at 145 Black River Road, about 1.5 kilometres south of Springhill, just east of Route #2. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00, with tours available hourly from 9:00 to 4:00 until October 15. Call 902-597-3449 for more info.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

Kids tour a mine that once employed boys as young as 10.
(Photo: Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum)

Complementing coal from Cape Breton was iron ore from Bell Island in Conception Bay, where six mines operated at various times between 1895 and 1966. The Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum hosts exhibits and offers one-hour tours through an underground operation that closed in 1949. Another feature relates the 1942 U-boat attacks at Belle Island that sunk four ore-carrying ships and killed over 60 men, leading to Allied fears that Germany would occupy St. John’s.

Located at 13 Compressor Hill, Bell Island. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until September 30. Call 709-488-2880 or toll-free 1-888-338-2880 for more info.

 

A number of mines produced fluorspar between 1933 and 1978 on the Rock’s southern-most peninsula, where Canada Fluorspar hopes to revive the industry. The St. Lawrence Miner’s Memorial Museum recounts workers’ lives, including the danger they faced before the presence of radon gas was recognized. Emphasizing the sacrifice, the neighbouring graveyard can be seen from museum windows. On a more pleasant note, new uses for the colourful mineral can be found in the gift shop’s fluorspar jewelry.

Located on Route #220, east of Memorial Drive, St. Lawrence. Open daily 8:30 to 4:30 until September 1. Call 709-873-3160 for more info.

 

The Baie Verte Miners’ Museum stands above one of six major mines locally, the former Terra Nova copper producer that dates back to the mid-1800s in a north-coastal region that also provided gold, silver and asbestos. On display are mining and mineralogy exhibits and a mining locomotive, along with aboriginal artifacts. Museum tours are available.

Located at 319 Route 410, Baie Verte. Open Monday 10:00 to 4:00, Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 to 6:00 until mid-September. Call 709-532-8090 for more info.

 

The Iron Ore Company of Canada no longer provides tours of its Labrador City facilities but the Gateway Labrador tourism centre offers an alternative—an 18-minute virtual reality experience of IOC’s operations, from mining to processing to delivery at Sept-Îles. Gateway’s museum hosts additional mining exhibits as well as presentations on other industries “to debunk the popular misconception that Labrador West’s history is comprised only of mining.”

Located at 1365 Route #500, Labrador City. Open Monday to Friday 9:00 to 8:00, and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 to 5:00 until mid- or late August. Off-season hours Monday to Friday 9:00 to 5:00. Call 709-944-5399 for more info.

 

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 2 about the prairie provinces, and Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec.

Commerce Resources to provide rare earths and byproduct samples to potential customers

July 5th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 5, 2019

Commerce Resources to provide rare earths and byproduct samples to potential customers

 

With trade tensions once again demonstrating the need for rare earths supply outside China, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE announced plans for its advanced-stage Ashram deposit in northern Quebec. The company intends to resume pilot plant metallurgical work, provide rare earths samples to interested parties and also upgrade its potential fluorspar byproduct.

Using lab facilities in Colorado, Commerce plans to produce several kilograms of material for companies that have requested samples. The lab will also work on upgrading the deposit’s fluorspar from metallurgical grade to the usually more expensive acid grade.

An essential ingredient for coolants used in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners, acid grade fluorspar is also integral to processing uranium and aluminum. Like rare earths, fluorspar ranks among the 35 critical minerals listed by the United States. Over 60% of 2018 global production came from China, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. NorFalco Sales, a division of Glencore Canada Corp, has requested the fluorspar sample.

The pilot plant work will complement Commerce’s pre-feasibility studies as the Ashram deposit progresses.

Using Ashram material, the Colorado plant has already produced high-grade concentrates above 45% total rare earth oxides with recovery surpassing 70%, “comparable to current and past hard rock producers,” Commerce noted.

Separate, Quebec-funded studies at l’Université Laval produced a mixed rare earth oxide concentrate from Ashram material, showing the deposit’s versatility to processing procedures.

A key advantage of Ashram lies in its carbonatite-hosted mineralization and relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy, amenable to conventional rare earths processing.

The near-surface deposit hosts a 2012 resource estimate using 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

Ashram also features strong distribution of the high-demand magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.

In a report issued last month, Adamas Intelligence stated that permanent magnets accounted for over 90% of TREO consumption by value last year. “This share is poised to expand further as demand (and prices) for neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium continue to rise strongly in the years ahead.”

Ashram’s distinctions suggest the project could require a relatively smaller metallurgical plant, along with potentially lower capex and opex, Commerce stated.

Last May Commerce and two Inuit organizations signed a letter of intent to ensure participation as the project moves forward.

At another critical minerals project just a few kilometres away, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE works towards a 75% earn-in from Commerce on the Niobium Claim Group. Following a spring drill program that found high-grade, near-surface niobium along with tantalum and phosphate, Saville looks forward to a Phase II campaign.

In southern British Columbia, Commerce also holds the advanced-stage Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit.

Read more about China’s dominance in global rare earths supply.

Commerce Resources and two Inuit corporations sign LOI to advance northern Quebec rare earths

May 15th, 2019

by Greg Klein | May 15, 2019

Commerce Resources and two Inuit corporations sign LOI to advance northern Quebec rare earths

The parties consider Inuit involvement critical to this critical minerals project.

 

While a project that would provide essential raw materials continues towards pre-feasibility, a letter of intent ensures Inuit participation, the signatories announced May 15. The Nayumivik Landholding Corporation of Kuujjuaq and the Makivik Corporation signed the LOI with Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE regarding the Ashram rare earths deposit in arctic Quebec’s Nunavik region.

The letter marks “a first for Nunavik mining development, specifically for a pre-development project,” said Maggie Emudluk, Makivik VP of economic development. The LOI ensures “Inuit will be directly involved upstream in any discussions and proposed planning of this project. They will also be enabled to provide insights and share concerns during the progression of the project. Makivik is pleased that the LOI is in accordance with the Nunavik Inuit Mining Policy objectives that look forward to establishing clear lines of communication with the industry.”

Commerce Resources and two Inuit corporations sign LOI to advance northern Quebec rare earths

The Nunavik Mineral Exploration Fund held the recent
Nunavik Mining Workshop to discuss the region’s
mineral potential as well as its rich culture.

With one of the most advanced deposits outside China hosting these elements deemed critical by the U.S., Ashram shows favourable metallurgy as well as grade. The project’s rare earths occur within carbonatite host rock and the minerals monazite, bastnasite and xenotime, which are familiar to commercial REE processing. Near-surface mineralization further optimizes potential cost advantages.

Using a base case 1.25% cutoff, a 2012 resource shows:

  • 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

The deposit also features some of the most sought-after REEs, with a strong distribution of neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium. Metallurgical tests also show potential for a fluorspar byproduct.

“We look forward to working closely with Commerce and Makivik Corporation to implement the LOI during the pre-development phase of the proposed Ashram deposit,” commented Sammy Koneak, Nayumivik Landholding president. “We are confident that continued communication between the parties under the terms and spirit of the LOI will result in ongoing respect for our rights and our environment.”

Commerce president Chris Grove heralded the LOI as “a milestone that speaks to the cooperation between all parties— a document that recognizes the primacy of the James Bay Agreement, the practicalities of advancing our Ashram deposit through the next few years of development, the practicalities of getting our material to world markets, and the best way to achieve our collective goals of a new producing mine in Nunavik through the cooperation of the Inuit and Commerce towards our mutual benefit. We look forward to this future with the Inuit in Nunavik.”

The urgency of securing rare earths and other critical minerals has been recognized in a number of American government initiatives. This week the U.S. exempted rare earths and other critical minerals from tariffs imposed on China, emphasizing America’s reliance on a trade war enemy for commodities essential to the economy and defence. Last week a bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposed legislation to reduce their country’s reliance on unreliable sources of critical minerals.

Looking at other critical minerals, Commerce holds the Niobium Claim Group just a few kilometres from Ashram. Working towards a 75% earn-in, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE awaits assays from this year’s spring drill program. Previous intervals of near-surface, high-grade niobium along with tantalum support the company’s optimism.

Commerce also holds the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southern British Columbia, which reached PEA in 2011.

Niobium-tantalum in Quebec

December 5th, 2018

Successful sampling readies Saville Resources to drill for critical metals

by Greg Klein

“Building momentum” is the way Saville Resources TSXV:SRE president Mike Hodge puts it. Steady progress, shown most recently through another encouraging sampling program, puts the company’s early-stage niobium-tantalum project in Quebec on track for drilling this winter. Assays so far have the company hopeful about proving up a maiden resource in this mining-friendly jurisdiction next door to a country increasingly concerned about sourcing critical metals.

Successful sampling readies Saville Resources to drill for critical metals

Conducted by Dahrouge Geological Consulting, the fall
program brought the Niobium claim group to drill-ready status.

The autumn field program met all of its objectives, Hodge enthuses. Twenty-two boulder samples surpassed 0.7% Nb2O5, with 14 of them exceeding 0.8% and one peaking at 1.5%. Tantalum made its presence known too. Those same 14 niobium samples also graded between 160 ppm and 1,080 ppm Ta2O5.

The project gained yet another target, where boulders reached 0.88% and 1.28% Nb2O5. A ground magnetics survey highlighted the prospectivity of the Moira area, already the location of exceptionally high-grade samples. In all, the results show a drill-ready project that should see action this winter.

Saville holds a 75% earn-in from Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE on the Niobium claim group, a 1,223-hectare package on the latter company’s Eldor property in Quebec. Just a few kilometres from the Niobium project and with obvious synergistic potential for Saville, Commerce has its Ashram rare earths deposit moving towards pre-feasibility. All this takes place in a province that demonstrates its support for mining through a number of initiatives, including direct investment and the Plan Nord infrastructure program. The northeastern Quebec region has two treaties in place that clearly define procedures for native consultation. Saville’s three-quarters stake in the Niobium claim group calls for $5 million in work over five years.

A 43-101 technical report filed in September followed field programs by previous companies including 41 holes totalling 8,175 metres drilled by Commerce. In addition to niobium-tantalum, the report noted phosphate and fluorspar as potential secondary commodities.

Some of the standout results from previous sampling came from the property’s as-yet undrilled Miranna area, where boulder samples graded as high as 2.75%, 4.24%, 4.3% and an exceptional 5.93% Nb2O5.

Other locations have been drilled, but not since 2010. Some 17 holes and 4,328 metres on the Southeast area brought near-surface highlights that include:

  • 0.82% Nb2O5 over 21.89 metres, starting at 58.93 metres in downhole depth

  • 0.72% over 21.35 metres, starting at 4.22 metres
  • (including 0.9% over 4.78 metres)

  • 0.72% over 17.35 metres, starting at 70 metres

  • 0.71% over 15.33 metres, starting at 55.1 metres

True widths were unavailable. Southeast results also showed tantalum and phosphate, as well as suggesting a possible fluorspar zone.

A wide, near-surface interval from the Northwest area showed:

  • 0.46% Nb2O5 over 46.88 metres, starting at 30.65 metres
  • (including 0.61% over 11.96 metres)
Successful sampling readies Saville Resources to drill for critical metals

Surface outcrops and near-surface core
produce encouraging grades for Saville Resources.

As in the Southeast, the Northwest area showed encouraging signs of tantalum and phosphate. But tantalum came through most strongly in the property’s Star Trench area, with results as high as 1,810 ppm Ta2O5 (with 1.5% Nb2O5) over 0.52 metres, as well as 2,220 ppm Ta2O5 (with 1.69% Nb2O5, and phosphate grading 20.5% P2O5) over 0.31 metres.

Another area gains greater prominence too, thanks to this autumn’s ground magnetics survey. A strong anomaly at the Moira target, about 250 metres north of Miranna, coincides with several overlapping boulder trains that suggest Moira could be one of several possible sources of mineralization.

And a new, yet-to-be-named area gave up two of the fall program’s best assays. About 400 metres south of the drill area, the new target produced boulder samples hitting 1.28% Nb2O5 and 260 ppm Ta2O5, along with 0.88% Nb2O5 and 1,080 ppm Ta2O5.

Intriguingly, glacial ice suggests the two rocks, found about 100 metres apart, originated in an area farther southeast that’s had very little attention so far.

Saville also holds the 3,370-hectare Covette project in Quebec’s James Bay region, where last summer’s field program found surface samples including 1.2% zinc and 68.7 g/t silver. Three other samples returned nickel values ranging from 0.13% to 0.19%.

Work focused on a highly conductive area identified by a 2016 VTEM survey. Samples gathered in 2017 included grades of 0.18% nickel, 0.09% copper and 87 ppm cobalt. One historic, non-43-101 grab sample brought 4.7% molybdenum, 0.73% bismuth, 0.09% lead and 6 g/t silver, while another historic sample returned 1.2 g/t silver and 0.18% copper.

As for niobium, it’s considered a critical metal by the American government for its use in steels and super-alloys necessary for jet engine components, rocket sub-assemblies, and heat-resisting and combustion equipment, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Almost 90% of last year’s world production came from Brazil, where new president Jair Bolsonaro has expressed concern about increasing Chinese ownership of resources.

Also a component of military super-alloys, tantalum additionally plays a vital role in personal electronics including phones and computers. The U.S. imports its entire supply of tantalum. About 60% of last year’s world production came from the troubled countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the advantages of markets, jurisdiction and geology, Hodge looks forward to winter drilling. “We’ve now got about 20 targets that we can go after,” he says. “One priority would be to define the Southeast area because we’ve got such good niobium numbers there. On getting a potential inferred resource, we’d go after Miranna or Moira and the untested targets. We’re looking forward to a busy, productive season.”

Read more about U.S. efforts to secure critical minerals here and here.

Commerce Resources sees additional opportunity in U.S. critical minerals strategy

May 22nd, 2018

by Greg Klein | May 22, 2018

Taking another step to enhance national security, the U.S. Department of the Interior has formally accepted a draft list of 35 minerals deemed critical to the American economy and defence. Resulting from a presidential order to reduce reliance on essential raw materials from potentially unreliable or unfriendly sources, the list received 453 public comments after being compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. The agenda now moves to the strategy stage, with a final report expected by August on approaches to cut dependence. Topics will include:

Commerce Resources sees additional opportunity in U.S. critical minerals strategy

  • the status of recycling technologies

  • alternatives to critical minerals

  • options for accessing critical minerals from allies and partners

  • a plan to improve geological mapping in the U.S.

  • recommendations to streamline lease permitting and review processes

  • ways to increase discovery, production and domestic refining of critical minerals

The Americans’ heightened interest in sourcing these necessities from allies and partners brings to mind companies like Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE, which has two advanced-stage Canadian properties hosting four critical minerals. At the company’s northern Quebec Eldor property, Commerce undertakes pre-feasibility studies on the Ashram deposit, hosting a rare earths resource with fluorspar byproduct potential. In central British Columbia, the company holds the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit. Those two metals are also the subject of early-stage exploration on Eldor, a few kilometres from Ashram.

“Ultimately, what’s obvious from this critical minerals list is the U.S. government’s interest in cutting the Chinese umbilical cord,” points out company president Chris Grove. “A commonality that we at Commerce keep hearing is anxiety from companies in all of the major markets outside China—Japan, Korea, Germany, Austria, the U.S., France—companies in all these countries are concerned about future supplies of these commodities and they don’t want to have to depend on them from China. Essentially, the theme of this critical commodities list is getting it from somewhere besides China.”

And although China looms large, it’s not the only source of dubious reliability.

“There’s a huge increase in risk once you step outside North America. With our locations, we definitely benefit from that negation of jurisdictional risk.”

Mineralogy reduces another category of risk. “Looking at the specifics of our projects, both Ashram and Blue River are processed very positively with standard techniques,” Grove adds. “We’re not re-creating the wheel here, we’re not re-splitting the atom. Well-understood metallurgical processes work on both of our projects.

“Meanwhile we have ongoing optimization work on Ashram and also on the flowsheet for Blue River and there will be more data released in a timely manner on these potential successes.”

The company has early-stage prospects too, emphasized by especially high-grade niobium, along with tantalum, on the Miranna claims. Located on the same Eldor property hosting Ashram, the project has a 43-101 technical report now nearing completion. Subject to exchange approval, Miranna would then come under a 75% earn-in by Saville Resources TSXV:SRE.

USGS data accentuates American reliance on foreign sources for Commerce’s four minerals. Data from 2013 to 2016 shows the U.S. imported 78% of its rare earths from China, with much of the other 22% originating in Chinese-produced concentrates. China produced only 8% of American fluorspar imports, but Mexico supplied 71%. U.S. imports of tantalum minerals came 40% from Brazil and 26% from Rwanda, while America’s tantalum metal originated 23% in China and 12% in Kazakhstan. An overwhelming 72% of niobium, a crucial component to military, infrastructure and other uses, came from Brazil—most of it from a single company.

Read more about Commerce Resources here and here.

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.

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.

June 30th, 2016

June rainfall eases processing problems in China graphite hub Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
A classic case of failed socialism: What’s next after Brexit? Stockhouse
How long Brexit uncertainty reigns is key for commodities, gold NAI 500
Brits lead anti-establishment rebellion in European departure GoldSeek
Free-market capitalists and libertarians are feeling very good today Equities.com
Three bullish views on NexGen Energy Streetwise Reports
Let’s talk prices: Graphite, lithium, fluorspar and TiO2 Industrial Minerals
Limestone: Commodity overview Geology for Investors
Lithium penny stock soars on sample results SmallCapPower
Lithium in Las Vegas: A closer look at the lithium bull The Disruptive Discoveries Journal

June 28th, 2016

A classic case of failed socialism: What’s next after the Brexit? Stockhouse
How long Brexit uncertainty reigns is key for commodities, gold NAI 500
Brits lead anti-establishment rebellion in European departure GoldSeek
Free-market capitalists and libertarians are feeling very good today Equities.com
Three bullish views on NexGen Energy Streetwise Reports
Let’s talk prices: Graphite, lithium, fluorspar and TiO2 Industrial Minerals
Limestone: Commodity overview Geology for Investors
Lithium penny stock soars on sample results SmallCapPower
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