Tuesday 24th January 2017

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Posts tagged ‘lithium’

A 2016 retrospect

December 20th, 2016

Was it the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

by Greg Klein

Some say optimism was evident early in the year, as the trade shows and investor conferences began. Certainly as 2016 progressed, so did much of the market. Commodities, some of them anyway, picked up. In a lot of cases, so did valuations. The crystal ball of the industry’s predictionariat often seemed to shine a rosier tint. It must have been the first time in years that people actually stopped saying, “I think we’ve hit bottom.”

But it would have been a full-out bull market if every commodity emulated lithium.

By February Benchmark Mineral Intelligence reported the chemical’s greatest-ever price jump as both hydroxide and carbonate surpassed $10,000 a tonne, a 47% increase for the latter’s 2015 average. The Macquarie Group later cautioned that the Big Four of Albermarle NYSE:ALB, FMC Corp NYSE:FMC, SQM NYSE:SQM and Talison Lithium had been mining significantly below capacity and would ramp up production to protect market share.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

That they did, as new supply was about to come online from sources like Galaxy Resources’ Mount Cattlin mine in Western Australia, which began commissioning in November. The following month Orocobre TSX:ORL announced plans to double output from its Salar de Olaroz project in Argentina. Even Bolivia sent a token 9.3 tonnes to China, suggesting the mining world’s outlaw finally intends to develop its lithium deposits, estimated to be the world’s largest at 22% of global potential.

Disagreeing with naysayers like Macquarie and tracking at least 12 Li-ion megafactories being planned, built or expanded to gigawatt-hour capacity by 2020, Benchmark in December predicted further price increases for 2017.

Obviously there was no keeping the juniors out of this. Whether or not it’s a bubble destined to burst, explorers snapped up prospects, issuing news releases at an almost frantic flow that peaked in mid-summer. Acquisitions and early-stage activity often focused on the western U.S., South America’s Lithium Triangle and several Canadian locations too.

In Quebec’s James Bay region, Whabouchi was subject of a feasibility update released in April. Calling the development project “one of the richest spodumene hard rock lithium deposits in the world, both in volume and grade,” Nemaska Lithium TSX:NMX plans to ship samples from its mine and plant in Q2 2017.

A much more despairing topic was cobalt, considered by some observers to be the energy metal to watch. At press time instability menaced the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces an estimated 60% of global output. Far overshadowing supply-side concerns, however, was the threat of a humanitarian crisis triggered by president Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate on December 20.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

But the overall buoyant market mood had a practical basis in base metals, led by zinc. In June prices bounced back from the six-year lows of late last year to become “by far the best-performing LME metal,” according to Reuters. Two months later a UBS spokesperson told the news agency refiners were becoming “panicky.”

Mine closures in the face of increasing demand for galvanized steel and, later in the year, post-U.S. election expectations of massive infrastructure programs, pushed prices 80% above the previous year. They then fell closer to 70%, but remained well within levels unprecedented over the last five years. By mid-December one steelmaker told the Wall Street Journal to expect “a demand explosion.”

Lead lagged, but just for the first half of 2016. Spot prices had sunk to about 74 cents a pound in early June, when the H2 ascension began. Reaching an early December peak of about $1.08, the highest since 2013, the metal then slipped beneath the dollar mark.

Copper lay at or near five-year lows until November, when a Trump-credited surge sent the red metal over 60% higher, to about $2.54 a pound. Some industry observers doubted it would last. But columnist Andy Home dated the rally to October, when the Donald was expected to lose. Home attributed copper’s rise to automated trading: “Think the copper market equivalent of Skynet, the artificial intelligence network that takes over the world in the Terminator films.” While other markets have experienced the same phenomenon, he maintained, it’s probably the first, but not the last time for a base metal.

Was this the comeback year for commodities—or just a tease?

Nickel’s spot price started the year around a piddling $3.70 a pound. But by early December it rose to nearly $5.25. That still compared poorly with 2014 levels well above $9 and almost $10 in 2011. Nickel’s year was characterized by Indonesia’s ban on exports of unprocessed metals and widespread mine suspensions in the Philippines, up to then the world’s biggest supplier of nickel ore.

More controversial for other reasons, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte began ordering suspensions shortly after his June election. His environmental secretary Regina Lopez then exhorted miners to surpass the world’s highest environmental standards, “better than Canada, better than Australia. We must be better and I know it can be done.”

Uranium continued to present humanity with a dual benefit—a carbon-free fuel for emerging middle classes and a cautionary example for those who would predict the future. Still oblivious to optimistic forecasts, the recalcitrant metal scraped a post-Fukushima low of $18 in December before creeping to $20.25 on the 19th. The stuff fetched around $72 a pound just before the 2011 tsunami and hit $136 in 2007.

Voltaic Minerals project manager Thomas Currin discusses a selective extraction process for lithium

December 15th, 2016

…Read more

Voltaic Minerals verifies brine flow, works towards bulk sampling on Utah lithium project

December 12th, 2016

by Greg Klein | December 12, 2016

A thorough review of historic data confirms brine flow on Voltaic Minerals’ (TSXV:VLT) Green Energy lithium project in Utah’s Paradox Basin. Analysis shows that brine flow in five oil and gas exploration wells originated from multiple sources including four of the property’s clastic units.

Voltaic Minerals verifies brine flow, works towards bulk sampling on Utah lithium project

Already figuring prominently in a 3D model created earlier by Voltaic, clastic unit #14 was historically intercepted in three wells at an average depth of about 1,900 metres and measured 6.1 metres thick.

To follow up, Voltaic hopes to re-open historic well heads for bulk sampling, potentially confirming a lithium-bearing zone, as well as verifying brine data including flow rates, temperature and metallurgy.

Historic data reports brine carrying lithium up to 187 milligrams per litre on the 1,683-hectare property and up to 1,700 mg/l 150 metres east.

The company also continues its work with newly appointed director/project manager Thomas Currin and Enertrex Corp to develop a selective lithium extraction process that would cut time and costs, with a plan to market the process to other companies.

Read more about Voltaic Minerals.

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.