Friday 9th December 2016

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Posts tagged ‘graphite’

NRG Metals completes due diligence on Argentinian lithium properties

November 21st, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 21, 2016

Among the companies active in South America’s Lithium Triangle, NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ has finished due diligence on two properties that would comprise the Carachi Pampa project in northwestern Argentina. Totalling 6,387 hectares, the contiguous properties sit in an area hosting geological features common to other lithium-rich salars in the region, the company stated on November 18. “The lithium target is a paleo salar (basin) at depth that has the potential to host lithium-enriched brines.”

NRG Metals completes due diligence on Argentinian lithium properties

NRG sees potential for lithium-enriched brines
in the Lithium Triangle’s Carachi Pampa project.

Located 40 kilometres from the town of Antofagasta de la Sierra at about 3,000 metres in elevation, the properties have winter access, a paved road 10 kilometres away and nearby services.

NRG has retained experienced lithium explorers Rojas and Associates and Sergio Lopez and Associates to review the project, with Rojas to complete a 43-101 technical report.

The properties are subject to different four-year purchase agreements, according to an LOI announced September 21. With all dollar figures in U.S. currency, one property calls for $120,000 on signing a definitive agreement, $200,000 in each of three annual payments and $600,000 at the end of the fourth year. A 1% NSR applies, which NRG may buy back for $1 million.

The other project would cost $160,000 on signing, $100,000 in two annual payments, $250,000 in year three and $625,000 in year four. Again, the company may buy back the 1% NSR for $1 million.

NRG offered a private placement up to C$1 million. Additionally, the company has negotiations underway on other properties.

In October NRG announced a management team for its Argentinian subsidiary, NRG Metals Argentina S.A. Executive director James Duff has written several 43-101 reports for Argentinian projects and served as COO of McEwen Mining TSX:MUX acquisition Minera Andes and president of South American operations for Coeur Mining NYSE:CDE.

Non-executive director José Gustavo de Castro is a chemical engineer with extensive experience in the evaluation and development of Argentinian lithium projects including the continent’s largest lithium producer, FMC Corp’s Hombre Muerto operation.

Manager of business development and corporate relations José Luis Martin’s 35-year career includes senior positions with Galaxy Lithium S.A. and Rio Tinto’s (NYSE:RIO) Argentinian projects.

Director Jorge Vargas specializes in property, mining and business law in Argentina.

Also last month NRG announced plans to spin out other assets to concentrate on lithium. The portfolio currently includes the LAB graphite project in Quebec and the Groete gold-copper resource in Guyana.

American election fosters forecasting frenzy

November 11th, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 11, 2016

An anti-establishment crusader, a dangerous extremist or a sensible person given to outrageous bombast, that new U.S. president-elect has some mining and metals observers in as much of a tizzy as the official commentariat.

Soon after the election result was announced, the World Gold Council cheered as their object of affection passed $1,300, “compared with $1,275 an ounce before the vote counting began.

U.S. election fosters forecasting frenzy

“We are seeing increasingly fractious politics across the advanced economies and this trend, combined with uncertainty over the aftermath of years of unconventional monetary policies measures, will firmly underpin investment demand for gold in the coming years,” the WGC maintained.

Two days later gold plunged to a five-month low, “hit by a broad selloff in commodities as well as surging bond yields on speculation a splurge of U.S. infrastructure spending could stoke inflation.” At least that was Reuters’ explanation.

GoldSeek presented a range of comments, with Brien Lundin predicting a short rally for gold. GATA’s Chris Powell suggested the metal’s status quo would prevail. “Trump won’t be giving instructions to the Fed and Treasury until January, if he even has any idea by then of the market rigging the government does.”

About a day after that comment, Reuters noted that Trump’s team had been courting big banking bigshot Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co for Treasury secretary.

Powell added that a post-election “great grab for physical gold” might overpower “the paper market antics of the central bank. But geopolitical turmoil hasn’t done much for gold in recent decades and I’d be surprised if that changed any time soon.”

A pre-existing rally pushed copper past $6,000 a tonne on November 11, which Bloomberg (posted in the Globe and Mail) attributed to “Chinese speculators and bets that Donald Trump will pour money into U.S. infrastructure.”

Initial effects of Trump’s 10-year, $10-trillion campaign promise are “unlikely to kick in until the third quarter of 2017 and would in our view have the largest effect on steel, zinc and nickel demand,” Goldman analyst Max Layton told the Financial Times.

The FT also quoted Commerzbank cautioning that “metal prices still appear to be supported by the euphoria exhibited by market participants in the wake of Trump’s election victory, a reaction we find somewhat inexplicable.”

Industrial Minerals called a copper bubble.

Some sources consulted by the journal wondered whether the “pragmatic businessman” would carry out his threatened restrictions to free trade. As for Trump’s climate scepticism and opposition to green energy subsidies, Chris Berry told IM the economic case alone will sustain vehicle electrification and the resulting demand for lithium, cobalt and graphite.

Looking at a more sumptuous form of carbon, Martin Rapaport declared, “The diamond and jewelry trade will benefit as the new policies create a more prosperous middle class and greater numbers of wealthy consumers. Global uncertainty will also increase demand for investment diamonds as a store of wealth.”

But the outsider’s victory might have shocked Rapaport into ambiguity. While saying the election “sets the stage for growth and development,” a preamble to his November 9 press release called the result “positively dangerous.”

Not to be left out of the forecasting frenzy, ResourceClips.com predicts the Yukon tourist industry will add Frederick Trump, the Donald’s bordello-owning granddad, to its romanticized cast of colourful Klondike characters.

Battery infographic series Part 4: The critical ingredients needed to fuel the battery boom

October 27th, 2016

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | October 27, 2016

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

 

The critical ingredients needed to fuel the battery boom

 

We’ve already looked at the evolution of battery technology and how lithium-ion technology will dominate battery market share over the coming years. Part 4 of the Battery Series breaks down the raw materials that will be needed for this battery boom.

Batteries are more powerful and reliable than ever and costs have come down dramatically over the years. As a result, the market for electric vehicles is expected to explode to 20 million plug-in EV sales per year by 2030.

To power these vehicles, millions of new battery packs will need to be built. The lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow at a 21.7% rate annually in terms of the actual energy capacity required. It was 15.9 GWh in 2015, but will be a whopping 93.1 GWh by 2024.

Dissecting the lithium-ion

While there are many exciting battery technologies out there, we will focus on the innards of lithium-ion batteries as they are expected to make up the vast majority of the total rechargeable battery market for the near future.

Each lithium-ion cell contains three major parts:

1. Anode (natural or synthetic graphite)

2. Electrolyte (lithium salts)

3. Cathode (differing formulations)

While the anode and electrolytes are pretty straightforward as far as lithium-ion technology goes, it is the cathode where most developments are being made.

Lithium isn’t the only metal that goes into the cathode—other metals like cobalt, manganese, aluminum and nickel are also used in different formulations. Here’s four cathode chemistries, the metal proportions (excluding lithium) and an example of what they are used for:

 

Cathode Type Chemistry Metals needed 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

 

While manganese and aluminum are important for lithium-ion cathodes, they are also cheaper metals with giant markets. This makes them fairly easy to procure for battery manufacturers. Lithium, graphite and cobalt are all much smaller and less-established markets—and each has supply concerns that remain unanswered:

    South America: The countries in the Lithium Triangle host a whopping 75% of the world’s lithium resources—Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.

    China: 65% of flake graphite is mined in China. With poor environmental and labour practices, China’s graphite industry has been under particular scrutiny and some mines have even been shut down.

    Indonesia: Price swings of nickel can impact battery makers. In 2014, Indonesia banned exports of nickel, which caused the price to soar nearly 50%.

    Democratic Republic of Congo: 65% of all cobalt production comes from the DRC, a country that is extremely politically unstable with deeply rooted corruption.

    North America: Companies such as Tesla have stated that they want to source 100% of raw materials sustainably and ethically from North America. The problem? Only nickel sees significant supply come from the continent.

Cobalt hasn’t been mined in the United States for 40 years and the country produced zero tonnes of graphite in 2015. There is one lithium operation near the Tesla Gigafactory 1 but it only produces 1,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year. That’s not nearly enough to fuel a battery boom of this size.

To meet its goal of a 100% North American raw materials supply chain, Tesla needs new resources to be discovered and extracted from the U.S., Canada or Mexico.

Raw material demand

While all sorts of supply questions exist for these energy metals, the demand situation is much more straightforward. Consumers are demanding more batteries and each battery is made up of raw materials like cobalt, graphite and lithium.

Cobalt:

Today about 40% of cobalt is used to make rechargeable batteries. By 2019, it’s expected that 55% of total cobalt demand will go to the cause. In fact, many analysts see an upcoming bull market in cobalt.

In many ways, the cobalt industry has the most fragile supply structure of all battery raw materials.—Andrew Miller,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

    Battery demand is rising fast

    Production is being cut from the Congo

    A supply deficit is starting to emerge

Graphite:

There are 54 kilograms of graphite in every battery anode of a Tesla Model S (85 kWh). Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts that the battery anode market for graphite (natural and synthetic) will at least triple in size from 80,000 tonnes in 2015 to at least 250,000 tonnes by the end of 2020.

Lithium:

Goldman Sachs estimates that a Tesla Model S with a 70-kWh battery uses 63 kilograms of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE)—more than the amount of lithium in 10,000 cell phones. Further, for every 1% increase in battery electric vehicle market penetration, there is an increase in lithium demand by around 70,000 tonnes LCE per year.

Lithium prices have recently spiked but they may begin sliding in 2019 if more supply comes online.

The future of battery tech

Sourcing the raw materials for lithium-ion batteries will be critical for our energy mix. But the future is also bright for many other battery technologies that could help in solving our most pressing energy issues.

Part 5 of the Battery Series will look at the newest technologies in the battery sector.

See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the battery infographic series.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

NRG Metals to focus on lithium, plans to spin out other assets

October 21st, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 21, 2016

A new company would take on graphite and gold-copper projects as NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ concentrates on lithium. In a proposed plan of arrangement announced October 21, the company would spin out its Groete gold-copper property in Guyana and its LAB graphite project in Quebec into a newly created subsidiary. NRG shareholders would get shares of the spinco on a pro rata basis.

NRG Metals to focus on lithium, plans to spin out other assets

NRG signed an LOI to acquire the Carachi Pampa
properties in South America’s Lithium Triangle.

Subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals, the deal would transfer the two properties and pay approximately $150,000 to an entity referred to as GPRL “as well as certain accounts payable attributable to these projects.” Plans call for the spinco to apply for a public listing.

NRG describes Groete as “one of the most easily accessed large gold-copper resources in Guyana, having both deep water and electrical power/support infrastructure within approximately 30 kilometres.” The project has a 2013 resource using a 0.22 g/t gold-equivalent cutoff for a pit shell showing:

  • inferred: 74.8 million tonnes averaging 0.49 g/t gold and 0.12% copper, or 0.66 g/t gold-equivalent, for 1.59 million gold-equivalent ounces

The LAB project sits adjacent and contiguous to Lac des Iles, the largest of North America’s two flake graphite mines. NRG has conducted sampling, metallurgy, airborne magnetics and TDEM surveys, and a ground PhySpy survey on the project.

Last month the company announced two letters of intent to acquire Argentinian properties within South America’s Lithium Triangle and stated it’s “also negotiating on several other lithium opportunities located elsewhere in Argentina and Chile.”

NRG has offered a private placement of up to $1 million.

A cautious approach

September 16th, 2016

Jon Hykawy discusses lithium, cobalt and a battery-fuelled frenzy

by Greg Klein

Making its Western Hemisphere debut in Toronto from September 26 to 28, Mines and Money kicks off with a full day dedicated to battery metals. That would seem to cast a resoundingly positive vote in lithium’s boom-or-bubble debate. But while conference speaker Jon Hykawy sees an enduring case for the celebrated commodity, he counsels investors to tread carefully.

A physicist with an MBA in marketing who’s covered energy metals and industrial minerals for Byron Capital Markets, he’s been focusing much of his attention on rechargeable batteries, fuel cells and renewable energy since founding Stormcrow Capital.

He sees renewed optimism in resources generally, especially in battery materials. But he sounds wary about lithium’s most recent price increases.

Jon Hykawy discusses lithium, cobalt and a battery-fuelled frenzy

“They look to me like what I would have expected if we had major producers that weren’t yet under pressure to increase output, speculators buying and warehousing material for future sale, and some panic buying and resulting over-stocking by end-users,” Hykawy tells ResourceClips.com. “It’s the situation we had in uranium back in 2007 and 2008 and with rare earths in 2010 and 2011. That’s not to say there’s going to be a catastrophic collapse in prices because fundamental demand for lithium is growing at a pretty respectable pace. But it doesn’t mean that every junior is going to see production.”

Of course assessing juniors involves assessing their projects. That brings up the distinction between two types of deposits, brine and pegmatite.

Brines generally offer lower operating costs, he points out. But “there are only so many natural brines out there. Some natural brines are problematic, some are in bad jurisdictions. No one’s going to go into Bolivia under the current government. That eliminates one of the largest resources in the world.

“But recently we’ve had new technologies come to the fore that could enable alternative brines that hadn’t been considered viable at any reasonable economic level,” Hykawy adds. Extraction processes developed by companies like POSCO, Eramet and Tenova Bateman Technologies “can pull lithium directly out of brine,” eliminating the lengthy solar evaporation phase.

That would open up more types of brines, for example fossilized brines from oil fields, which might hold a very good grade of lithium but a huge quantity of calcium or magnesium. And it opens up different locales.—Jon Hykawy, president of Stormcrow Capital

“Some of these technologies don’t worry as much or at all about the contaminants that conventionally impact solar evaporation production,” he continues. “That would open up more types of brines, for example fossilized brines from oil fields, which might hold a very good grade of lithium but a huge quantity of calcium or magnesium. And it opens up different locales. Let’s say you’re pulling lithium out of brine from oil fields near the U.S. gulf coast. The high humidity and heavy rainfall works against solar evaporation. But if you have a direct extraction technology, you can put that lithium through the process. If it ignores contaminants, all the better.”

He credits speed as the biggest advantage of hard rock deposits. “Once you’ve got a hard rock lithium mine up and running, the time it takes to pull ore out of the ground and turn it into saleable product is measured in days. That makes hard rock mines look like far more reliable suppliers.” The advantage comes with a higher opex, however.

Then there’s the distinction between lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate. The latter results from solar evaporation of brine and served as “ a decent feedstock for the initial type of lithium-ion battery that used lithium-cobalt oxide as a cathode material.”

Better suited to more modern battery chemistries, however, is lithium hydroxide, now considered “something of a wonderkid,” Hykawy says.

It’s associated with hard rock deposits, but not limited to them. Solar evaporation of brine can produce lithium chloride in solution or carbonate as a precipitate, he explains. “You can then send the carbonate or chloride to a processing company that will turn it into lithium hydroxide.”

That makes market share comparisons for carbonate and hydroxide problematic when it’s not clear how much hydroxide originated as carbonate.

“Some technologies can produce carbonate or hydroxide directly from brine, but they’re not in commercial use yet. Over time the industry will become more flexible.”

Hydroxide fetches the higher prices. “What you’re really paying for in lithium carbonate or hydroxide are the lithium units, the actual amount of lithium chemical…. Today you’re getting a very substantial premium for lithium units in hydroxide, much more than you’d expect. That suggests to me there’s a secular shortage of hydroxide and people are willing to pay up, especially in the spot market, because they themselves don’t have the ability to buy carbonate and convert it into hydroxide.”

Looking at graphite, he’s satisfied that increasing demand can be met by existing producers and up-and-coming projects. But cobalt presents a more intriguing story.

Normally mined as a byproduct of copper or nickel, most of it comes from the conflict-plagued Democratic Republic of Congo, where production has been reduced or suspended with the decline in base metals prices.

While battery demand raises cobalt prices, steel acts as a restraint. More than half of cobalt production has gone to the troubled industry. “That’s becoming less and less a factor in cobalt prices because a growing component of cobalt, well over 40% today, now goes into batteries.”

Cobalt prices have been climbing but, Hykawy says, “if you have access to them, the cobalt sulphates that are actually used in batteries have done far better in price than the cobalt metal.”

Getting back to lithium’s boom-versus-bubble debate, Hykawy takes the latter position. “Yeah, there’s momentum to be played, but just understand the floor you’re standing on might not be as strong as you thought…. There’s a long-term, strong growth trend in lithium demand and the prospects for lithium companies. But pick your entry points and the horse you’re going to ride carefully.”

Hykawy addresses the Mines and Money Battery Metals conference at St. Andrew’s Club in Toronto on September 26.

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

July 27th, 2016

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | July 27, 2016

Tesla Motors officially unveils its massive new Gigafactory 1 at a grand opening on July 29.

The ultimate objective of the first Gigafactory is simple, but it is not for the faint of heart. Battery costs are the most expensive component of electric vehicles and the multi-billion-dollar Gigafactory aims to combine scale, vertical integration and other efficiencies to bring lithium-ion battery costs down.

Costs have already come down faster than most analysts predicted and the Gigafactory could be the final catalyst to get below the industry’s holy grail of $100 per kWh. Cheaper battery packs could make electric vehicles competitive with traditional gas-powered vehicles—and if that happens, it is a game-changer for the auto industry.

It’s important to note that the Gigafactory is fairly modular by design and construction is not complete yet. That said, here is what we know about the Gigafactory and its possible impact.

 

The Tesla Gigafactory 1 will be the largest building in the world by footprint.

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

The Gigafactory will take up 5.8 million square feet of space, making it bigger than Boeing’s giant facility in Everett, Washington. That’s roughly equivalent to 100 football fields.

While the Gigafactory will certainly be one of the largest factories by volume, it will be hard to compete with Boeing for first place there. Boeing’s Everett facility, which is six storeys high to accommodate construction of the giant planes, has a total of 472 million cubic feet of volume.

 

The scale will make production of lithium-ion batteries way cheaper

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

Tesla recently stated that its current battery cost is $190 per kWh for the Model S. The Gigafactory aims to reduce battery costs by 30%. Tesla expects this to happen through vertical integration, adding economies of scale, reducing waste, optimizing processes and tidying up the supply chain.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also stated that the company is changing the form factor of the batteries from the industry standard. Lithium-ion cells used for notebook computer batteries are typically produced in an 18650 cell format (18mm x 65mm), but Tesla will produce them in a 20700 cell format (20mm x 70mm).

 

Tesla initially planned to produce 50 GWh of battery packs by 2020

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

 

However, Tesla has now moved that target forward by two years

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

Now it’s anticipated that Tesla could triple battery production to meet this demand. This means it could produce up to 105 GWh of battery cells and 150 GWh of completed battery packs. Musk says the current factory size will be sufficient for this ramp-up.

 

This will require serious amounts of raw materials

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

We previously showed the extraordinary amounts of materials needed to build a Tesla Model S. The batteries, which currently use an NCA cathode formulation, need lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel and other base metals that aren’t used as much in an internal combustion engine.

This has created a significant rush for suppliers of these raw materials. It’s also something we are covering in our five-part battery series, in which we are looking at lithium-ion battery demand, as well as the materials that will need to be sourced as electric cars go mainstream.

 

If Tesla hits its 2018 projection, it will be a serious milestone for EVs

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

Tesla aims to sell 500,000 cars in 2018. If it hits the mark, it will be a big milestone for the electric vehicle market.

To put that number in perspective, the total amount of sales (all time) for the three most popular EV models (Leaf, Volt, Model S) added up to only about 404,000 cars as of December 2015.

 

This would also put Tesla on par with major auto brands

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

Tesla is still a small auto manufacturer—but if it meets its stated production goal of 500,000 vehicles in 2018, that will be comparable with brands like Chrysler, Land Rover, Isuzu, Volvo and Lexus.

This still doesn’t compare to a giant like Ford, which sold 780,354 F-series pickups alone in 2015. But it is a step in the right direction for Elon Musk’s company.

 

Every 500,000 electric cars on the road saves 192 million gallons of gas

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

That’s equal to 290 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with gasoline or 21,333 tanker trucks. Even taking into account coal power and pollution, driving a Tesla is already far better for the environment in most American states.

 

Other Giga-facts

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

The Gigafactory will be 100% powered by renewable energy. It’ll have solar panels covering the roof while also drawing power from wind and geothermal.

It will employ 6,500 people and it will have a state-of-the-art recycling system to make use of old battery packs.

Musk says the “exit rate” of lithium-ion cells from the Gigafactory will literally be faster than bullets from a machine gun.

 

Bonus slide

Visual Capitalist puts the new Tesla Gigafactory in perspective

Last week Musk unveiled the “master plan” behind Tesla. The Gigafactory will ultimately help make these ambitions possible.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

EM traces strong conductive anomalies on NRG Metals’ Quebec graphite project

July 21st, 2016

by Greg Klein | July 21, 2016

Geophysics over a property adjacent to the largest of North America’s two flake graphite mines have stoked the optimism of NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ. All three survey grids showed anomalous results, with one grid revealing two especially strong conductors, the company reported July 21. The findings come from a ground-based time-domain electromagnetic survey known as PhiSpy, which has proven effective in graphite exploration.

The LAB project’s strongest readings came from a grid located 750 metres from an area of historic graphite mining, NRG stated. The two conductive zones run almost parallel, are located very close to each other and measure about 50 by 500 metres. Although final results are pending, initial interpretation gives this area priority for follow-up trenching or drilling.

EM traces strong conductive anomalies on NRG Metals’ Quebec graphite project

NRG Metals’ surface samples graded up to 23.8% Cg on a
property hosting the former Lac Aux Bouleaux graphite mine.

Six grab samples taken from mineralized calc-silicate and paragneiss rock last year assayed between 13% and 23.8% graphitic carbon, averaging 17.2%. Metallurgical tests released last year achieved grades up to 96.7% Cg, “indicating the potential to produce a high-quality graphite concentrate with simple flotation,” the company stated.

The property holds an historic, non-43-101 resource of 1.32 million tonnes averaging 9% Cg based on 79 holes totalling 5,958 metres sunk during the early 1980s.

The road-accessible, 738-hectare property has water, power and technical support available locally.

NRG’s Groete project in Guyana hosts an inferred resource of 74.8 million tonnes averaging 0.49 grams per tonne gold and 0.12% copper for 1.59 million gold-equivalent ounces. The at-surface deposit remains open in all directions.

NRG closed a $225,000 private placement in March followed by another $250,000 in May.

July 13th, 2016

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July 11th, 2016

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