Sunday 11th December 2016

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Posts tagged ‘lithium’

Lithium: from brine to market

November 29th, 2016

Voltaic Minerals aims to simplify extraction and commercialize the process

by Greg Klein

Cost of production and timeline to market—those are critical issues for any project in the increasingly crowded lithium space. And that’s what attracted Thomas Currin to Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT. The newly appointed director/project manager sees the company’s Green Energy project in Utah’s Paradox Basin as highly prospective for creating a selective extraction process that would address both challenges. With Currin on board, Voltaic hopes not only to develop a successful project but to market the process to other companies.

“Some people like to classify lithium as a commodity, but it’s a specialty chemical,” Currin explains. “In the specialty chemical business you don’t separate R&D and process development from manufacturing. A good specialty chemical company is one that’s been able to integrate all those applications.

Voltaic Minerals wants to simplify extraction and commercialize the process

“I’m a chemical engineer who’s been in the manufacturing process in the lithium field for 35 years,” he adds. “With a manufacturing process background everything is about opex and capex, and how to optimize both.”

Having managed lithium extraction projects in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., he’s worked for FMC Lithium, Li3 Energy, his own company Limtech Technologies and currently Enertrex Corp, which signed an MOU with Voltaic late last month.

As technical consultant for Enertrex he’s been working with two PhDs on selective removal of specific minerals from wastewater streams and geothermal brines. “We’ve come up with a technology that can extract lithium selectively, so we were looking for a project that could commercialize our technology. I’ve seen pretty much every lithium project in the world over the last 10 to 15 years, and what attracted me to Voltaic and the Paradox Basin are the oil and gas wells in a Basin that also has lithium salts and potassium salts.”

Located about 965 kilometres from the Tesla Motors Gigafactory and close to road, rail, power and the Intrepid Potash NYSE:IPI Cane Creek solution mine, the 1,683-hectare Green Energy property underwent oil and gas drilling during the 1960s. Historic analysis of regional drilling showed lithium in saturated brines grading 81 mg to 174 mg per litre.

“Here’s a project with historic wells, historic data, a few kilometres from a facility producing potash which is a very similar salt to lithium, and a company that realizes that time to market is critical.

“It seemed like a perfect match, the place to do process development work in parallel with resource development and demonstrate Enertrex’s lithium-specific process. If we could remove the lithium economically, we could market it to other lithium projects. The technology would be a paradigm-shifter.”

After evaluating historic data, Voltaic plans to re-perforate some of the wells and draw samples. While the company evaluates Green Energy’s resource potential, Currin will study the concentrations of lithium and impurities like magnesium, calcium and boron to develop the processing chemistry.

That’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.—Thomas Currin,
director/project manager
for Voltaic Minerals

“Sampling traditionally takes 20-litre amounts, but our first sample will be 20,000 litres so we can start processing it,” he explains. “Our money will be invested in developing not only a 43-101 resource but also a process by which we can be competitive.”

Call it optimistic or aggressive, Voltaic believes a property of merit could potentially offer customers a 100-kilogram sample of lithium carbonite within 14 months. Plans call for three 90-day testing phases into H2 of next year, when work would overlap with pilot-scale processing.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Currin notes.

With Limtech he developed a selective process to extract and concentrate silica from geothermal brines, which won the company a 2016 Outstanding Partnership Regional Award from the U.S. Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.

He’s also worked on selective lithium-ion exchange resins with FMC and, in his client project work, evaluated the use of several lithium-selective solvent exchange systems.

“The membrane technology for de-salinization has become much more economical, that technology has blossomed in the last 10 years, and that’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.”

In addition to replacing the lengthy solar evaporation stage, the process would feature a modular design that could speed progress from pilot plant to production. With Green Energy’s existing wells, the project’s fast-track potential looks good, he maintains.

Should success be achieved there, the process could be applied to deposits with different metallurgy, making the technique marketable to other companies.

“Chilean brines are the most cost-effective sources of lithium in the world,” he says. “But there’s growing demand for sources outside South America. Our selective extraction process could help other projects compete with the Lithium Triangle.”

92 Resources reports NWT lithium of 1.58% Li2O over 8.78 metres with 31 ppm Ta2O5

November 28th, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 28, 2016

92 Resources reports NWT lithium

Six known pegmatites with impressive strike lengths
offer considerable potential, the company states.

A second and final batch of lithium assays from Hidden Lake’s summer program once again “exceeded our expectations,” 92 Resources TSXV:NTY stated November 28. The company now reports that 101 out of 223 channel samples from three pegmatites on the Northwest Territories project graded over 1% Li2O, with 59 surpassing 1.5%. Tantalum was found too, with some highlights from this batch showing:

HL3 pegmatite

  • 1.58% Li2O and 31 ppm Ta2O5 over 8.78 metres
  • (including 1.78% Li2O and 31 ppm Ta2O5 over 6.93 metres)

HL1

  • 1.26% Li2O and 27 ppm Ta2O5 over 8.72 metres

HL4

  • 1.71% Li2O and 33 ppm Ta2O5 over 5.78 metres

Of 10 grab samples taken during regional prospecting, one graded 1.86% Li2O. As reported earlier this month, two more pegmatites have been found on the property, bringing the total to six so far. “With exposed strike lengths of 350 to 800 metres, the potential for significant concentrations of spodumene pegmatites remains very high,” said president/CEO Adrian Lamoureux.

Located along Highway 4, 40 kilometres east of Yellowknife, the 1,567-hectare property lies within the Yellowknife lithium pegmatite belt.

In September the company closed its acquisition of the Pontax lithium property in northern Quebec, where historic satellite imagery and government mapping have shown pegmatite outcrops.

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.

Drilling confirms 3D model at Far Resources’ Manitoba lithium project

November 17th, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 17, 2016

With Phase I now complete, Far Resources CSE:FAT says all seven holes of the 1,142-metre campaign intersected spodumene-bearing pegmatite on the Zoro property in central Manitoba. Assays are pending but the program confirms a 3D model of dyke #1 compiled from historic drilling data and more recent field work, the company reported November 17.

Drilling confirms 3D model at Far Resources’ Manitoba lithium project

Chip samples taken last summer from historic
trenches assayed between 1.46% and 6.35% Li2O.

“We are pleased that the first drill program on the property for 60 years has confirmed our geological model and interpretation,” said president/CEO Keith Anderson. “This will allow us to plan and optimize further drilling with confidence as we expand on the Phase I program.”

The 3,000-hectare property hosts seven known spodumene-bearing dykes. In July the company released assays from chip samples collected that summer from three historic trenches, with results ranging from 1.46% to 6.35% Li2O.

The Snow Lake-region property can be accessed via highway and helicopter, or by boat, road and ATV. Local infrastructure also includes hydro lines five kilometres south and rail another 25 kilometres.

Far Resources also holds an option on the Winston property in New Mexico, which hosts two past-producing gold-silver mines. In October the company offered a private placement of up to $200,000.

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.

92 Resources reports NWT lithium and tantalum channel samples, plans winter drilling

November 8th, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 8, 2016

The first batch of assays from initial channel sampling on the Hidden Lake lithium project “exceeded our expectations,” 92 Resources TSXV:NTY reported November 8. The summer program focused on the LU D12 pegmatite, as well as three newly discovered pegmatites on the property 40 kilometres east of Yellowknife.

92 Resources reports NWT lithium and tantalum channel samples, plans winter drilling

Of 85 samples from 15 channels, 52 graded more than 1% Li2O, including 34 that surpassed 1.5%. The best result showed 1.53% Li2O and 64 ppm Ta2O5 over 11.58 metres, including 1.9% Li2O and 52 ppm Ta2O5 over 9.02 metres.

Tantalum averaged 88 ppm, peaking at 596 ppm. Tantalum grades will be verified through an additional analytical technique, the company added.

Sampling targeted LU D12 over an intermittent strike of about 275 metres. Still to come are assays for another 223 samples, which include the HL1, HL3 and HL4 pegmatites, “where spodumene has been visually identified,” the company stated. 92 Resources also reported finding at least two new pegmatites south of LU D12.

The company has permitting underway for a winter 2017 drill program. The 1,567-hectare Hidden Lake sits within the Yellowknife lithium pegmatite belt along Highway 4.

Although Hidden Lake remains the company’s flagship, in September 92 Resources closed the acquisition of Quebec’s Pontax lithium property, where historic satellite imagery and government mapping have shown pegmatite outcrops.

Far Resources has rig en route to Manitoba lithium property

November 1st, 2016

by Greg Klein | November 1, 2016

With a Phase I program of 1,200 metres about to begin, Far Resources CSE:FAT hopes to confirm historic results at its Zoro lithium project in central Manitoba’s Snow Lake camp. Primary focus will be pegmatite dyke #1, one of the property’s at least seven spodumene-bearing dykes, the company stated.

Far Resources has rig en route to Manitoba lithium property

Historic drilling and recent chip samples have
Far Resources optimistic about its Zoro lithium project.

Far Resources optioned an initial 515 hectares in April. In August the company signed another 100% option on adjacent and contiguous claims that expanded the property to about 3,000 hectares.

The initial acquisition includes the Principal dyke, which has an historic, non-43-101 estimate from 1956 of 1.8 million tonnes averaging 1.4% Li2O to a depth of 305 metres.

In July the company reported assays from the more recently acquired turf. With modern analytical techniques, new chip samples taken from historic trenches on three dykes surpassed historic results in most cases. The seven new assays ranged from 1.46% to 6.35% Li2O.

Zoro can be reached by a combination of paved highway and helicopter, or by boat, road and ATV. Hydro lines pass five kilometres south and rail another 25 kilometres.

Last month Far Resources offered a private placement of up to $200,000.

Voltaic Minerals signs MOU for lithium brine extraction tests and marketing program

October 31st, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 31, 2016

Moving forward with its Green Energy project, Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT plans to team up with Enertrex Corp to study lithium brine extraction and a possible global marketing program. Under an MOU announced October 31, Enertrex would determine whether its selective lithium process might be used commercially at the 1,683-hectare Utah property.

Voltaic Minerals signs MOU for lithium brine extraction tests and marketing program

The process “replaces solar evaporation and much of the traditional chemical treatment to remove impurities such as magnesium, calcium and boron,” Voltaic stated. “A key cost driver for a successful lithium project is managing the prohibitive cost of impurity removal from a solution.”

The first of three phases would test a synthetic mixture resembling historic results collected from the property. Should that prove successful, optimization of the process would follow, as well as testing other lithium brines and feed stocks. Phase III would call for construction and demonstration of a pilot unit to test the lithium-bearing solution and determine operating costs. This step would also test brine from other sources.

The companies expect each phase to take 90 days. Should all three phases prove successful, the partners will work together to commercialize the process, with Voltaic having exclusive rights to market the procedure.

Earlier this month Voltaic announced completion of a 3D model supporting historic evidence of a brine reservoir extending over 16 square kilometres.

The Green Energy project sits 30 kilometres from rail and power.

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.

Stormcrow Capital president Jon Hykawy discusses lithium deposits and battery metals

October 24th, 2016

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