Monday 5th December 2016

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘niobium’

Commerce Resources announces successful close of 2016 field season

October 20th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 20, 2016

A series of hydrogeological tests concluded the 2016 field season as Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram rare earths deposit moves towards pre-feasibility. Last month the company finished the year’s definition drilling and environmental data collection on the northeastern Quebec project.

“With the three main field objectives now completed, drill core processing and sample collection for analysis are the next steps,” the company stated.

Commerce Resources announces successful close of 2016 field season

Still to come are assays from the season’s
14-hole, 2,000-metre, near-surface drill campaign.

The hydrogeological data will help evaluate sub-surface water flow and slope stability of different pit shell configurations. The environmental program included surface water and groundwater samples for baseline data collection and related studies. Last June the Quebec government granted Commerce $300,000 towards studies to optimize tailings management.

The season’s drill program sunk 14 holes totalling about 2,000 metres on the deposit’s northern, western and southern margins. While assays are pending, “initial geologic review and portable XRF data indicates significant mineralization is present over appreciable widths in several holes,” Commerce added. The goal is to expand and upgrade the project’s 2012 high-grade, near-surface resource.

The company keeps busy on a number of fronts as the project advances. Metallurgical studies have simplified Ashram’s flowsheet and shown a potential byproduct in fluorspar. Ashram’s rare earth elements mostly appear in monazite and to a lesser extent bastnasite and xenotime, minerals that dominate commercial extraction processes. Ashram’s REE distribution shows enrichment in the critical and magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium.

While rare earths remain the company’s focus, a sampling program on the same property but one kilometre from the deposit brought a “spectacular” result of 5.9% niobium pentoxide last month. Forty out of 64 samples graded above 0.5% Nb2O5, with 16 surpassing 1%. Significant tantalum, phosphate and rare earth oxide grades were also found.

In August the company closed a private placement of $551,040 and the second tranche of a short-form prospectus that totalled nearly $1.45 million.

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

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove remarks on a “spectacular” assay from the Eldor property hosting the Ashram rare earths deposit

October 18th, 2016

…Read more

Commerce Resources samples high-grade niobium outside its Ashram rare earths deposit

September 13th, 2016

by Greg Klein | September 13, 2016

A “spectacular” niobium assay has Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE enthused about an exploration target one kilometre from its Ashram rare earths deposit. A sampling program on the northern Quebec Eldor property strengthens the Miranna area’s niobium-tantalum-phosphate potential, with results up to 5.9% niobium pentoxide. But excited as the company is, work continues to focus on Ashram’s pre-feasibility studies.

“That’s the highest grade niobium sample I have ever seen on the planet,” says president Chris Grove. “I’ve never seen anything higher. This is spectacular.”

Commerce Resources samples 5.9% Nb2O5 outside its Ashram rare earths deposit

A serene-looking camp contrasts with activity
elsewhere on Commerce Resources’ Eldor property.

Of 64 samples, 40 assayed above 0.5% Nb2O5, with 16 surpassing 1%. The program also found significant grades of tantalum, phosphate and rare earth oxides. Two samples each graded above 1,000 ppm Ta2O5 and 1% Nb2O5, while several samples revealed more than 10% P2O5.

The samples also showed appreciable REE mineralization associated with the niobium, Commerce added.

The finding brings to mind the origin of Commerce, which was created around the Upper Fir project in southeastern British Columbia. The property’s Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.

Niobium’s price explosion in late 2006 sent Commerce looking for additional deposits, Grove says. That led the company to Eldor. But Ashram’s initial drill results switched the focus to rare earths.

And while Miranna now presents additional multi-commodity potential, work will continue to focus on Ashram’s pre-feas, Grove emphasizes.

The Miranna samples come from a glacial train of niobium-tantalum-phosphate mineralized boulders believed to be near their source. Some mineralized samples hold magnetite, suggesting a magnetic signature to the source. The company says a magnetic high immediately south, which appears to coincide with the train’s apex, could mark the bedrock source.

Previous mineralogical work indicates that Miranna’s niobium and tantalum mineralization is hosted by pyrochlore, the world’s dominant mineral source of niobium, Commerce stated. The pyrochlore’s coarse grains would also benefit recovery.

Meanwhile work continues at Ashram, where a near-surface program of 14 holes totalling 1,600 metres began last month. Metallurgical studies at a mini-pilot plant have simplified the project’s flowsheet. Busy on a number of fronts, a company priority remains producing samples to send to potential JV or offtake partners, who might then take part in the pre-feas.

“It would make sense to have a potential partner offer input on what our production scenario would be,” Grove points out. “We have a huge deposit and we can go bigger, go smaller or stay the same. So advice from a potential partner does make sense before we actually complete the pre-feas.”

Using a 1.25% cutoff, Ashram’s 2012 resource shows 1.59 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides measured, 27.67 million tonnes averaging 1.9% indicated and 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% inferred. The near-surface deposit remains open to the north and south, and at depth.

Ashram hosts REEs largely in monazite and to a lesser extent bastnasite and xenotime, minerals that dominate commercial extraction. Ashram’s distribution shows enrichment in the critical and magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Commerce Resources resumes drilling at Quebec’s Ashram rare earths deposit

August 17th, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 17, 2016

With nearly $2 million in fresh financing, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE begins another round of definition drilling on its Ashram rare earths deposit in northern Quebec. The 14-hole, 1,600-metre near-surface campaign brings the project closer to pre-feasibility, targeting the deposit’s northern, western and southern margins. Mineralization has expanded north and south since the 2012 resource estimate, remaining open in those directions.

Commerce Resources resumes drilling at Quebec’s Ashram rare earths deposit

The near-surface Ashram deposit gets another
round of drilling as pre-feasibility studies continue.

The resource defined 1.6 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides measured, 27.7 million tonnes averaging 1.9% indicated and 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% inferred. Rare earth elements are found mostly in monazite and to a lesser extent bastnasite and xenotime, minerals that dominate currently known commercial extraction processes, Commerce stated.

The distribution shows enrichment in the critical and magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium. Metallurgical studies continue to simplify the project’s flowsheet and have shown a potential fluorspar byproduct.

One of this season’s holes will test a gravity anomaly south of the deposit for a potential new zone of middle and heavy rare earth oxide enrichment. Ashram’s main zone of enrichment also features a strong gravity anomaly.

Additionally, the program includes hydrogeological and environmental work to advance the pre-feas. Work is expected to last eight to 10 weeks.

In June Quebec granted the company $300,000 towards its environmental studies. Among other announcements, Commerce reported an MOU with a Glencore Canada division which would supply sulphuric acid for metallurgical use.

Last week the company closed the second tranche of a short-form prospectus that totalled nearly $1.45 million and a private placement of $551,040.

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

Read more about Commerce Resources.

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

June 16th, 2016

by Greg Klein | June 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about Commerce Resources.

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

Renewed tensions between China and Japan recall 2010 rare earths crisis

June 9th, 2016

by Greg Klein | June 9, 2016

A territorial conflict in the East China Sea flared up again as Japan protested a Chinese warship entering disputed waters. Japan’s vice foreign minister formally objected to the Chinese ambassador on June 8, according to Reuters.

Renewed tensions between China and Japan recall 2010 rare earths crisis

China’s defence ministry defended its actions, telling the news agency, “Chinese naval ships sailing through waters our country has jurisdiction over is reasonable and legal. No other country has the right to make thoughtless remarks about this.”

The dispute concerns islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, Reuters added. Coastguard vessels from both countries enter the area regularly, but this is the first visit by a Chinese warship, the agency stated.

A September 2010 incident in the same waters set off a supply crisis for rare earths. Japan arrested a Chinese fishing captain after he twice rammed his boat against a Japanese naval vessel. China responded by cutting off rare earths exports to Japan, pushing REE prices as high as 3,000%, recalls Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE president Chris Grove.

With a rare earths project in northern Quebec and a tantalum-niobium project in British Columbia, he follows geopolitical issues affecting critical supply and demand. Grove says the recent incident reflects a larger problem of “simmering animosity towards the Japanese, which is being stoked by the Chinese government,” as well as the country’s nationalist aggression towards its other neighbours.

“Probably all Chinese governments since 1939 have been more than willing to remind their people about Japan and the Rape of Nanking. From all my time in China, I find it jaw-dropping how often the government, through their media, exhort the people of China to remember Nanking.”

Grove considers China’s 2010 actions “nothing short of brilliant, using a really small geopolitical incident to unilaterally cut off supplies of rare earth elements to Japan, and that’s the world’s second-biggest market. Japan was completely screwed. It brings to mind the tools China has at its disposal.”

Around the same time as the Chinese navy’s June 8 incursion, three Russian naval vessels also sailed near the disputed islands, “raising concern in Japan of a co-ordinated show of force by Beijing and Moscow,” Reuters stated.

One day earlier the U.S. said a Chinese fighter jet confronted an American spy plane at an “unsafe, excessive speed” in international airspace over the East China Sea, the Wall Street Journal reported. It was the second encounter of its kind in a month.

The 2010 incident inspired David S. Abraham’s book The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age.

Hunter Dickinson-backed Taseko battles Chicago private equity firm

May 6th, 2016

by SmallCapPower.com | May 6, 2016

As far as proxy battles go, it doesn’t get much nastier than this. In one corner is the management of Taseko Mines TSX:TKO, which has the backing of Hunter Dickinson. In the other is Raging River Capital, the dissidents, a Chicago-based private equity and investment firm which wants to replace the current board of directors with its own slate of nominees.

Hunter Dickinson-backed Taseko battles Chicago private equity firm

Taseko’s flagship is its 75%-owned Gibraltar,
Canada’s second-largest open pit copper mine.

Taseko’s flagship asset is its 75%-owned Gibraltar copper-molybdenum mine in British Columbia, the second-largest open pit copper mine in Canada, which produced a record 142 million pounds of copper in 2015. The company also owns the Florence copper project, an advanced-staged development project in Arizona, which it acquired when it bought Curis Resources in 2014.

Interesting upside for Taseko could come from its Aley niobium project in northern British Columbia, the third-largest niobium deposit in the world, which the company purchased for $5.4 million in 2007. After the company invested $30 million into exploration and development work, it claims the project has an $860-million net present value.

Niobium is used primarily in the manufacturing of high-strength, light-weight and corrosion-resistant steel. Brazil has a dominant share (about 85%) of the world’s niobium output. Despite the fact that Aley’s grades are about one-third of those found in Brazil, it would offer up a new supply source for North American buyers, although the project’s remote access could be a problem.

Weighing on Taseko’s stock price during the past few years, in addition to falling commodities prices, has been the First Nations and Canadian government’s opposition to the company’s New Prosperity project in British Columbia, a large gold-copper porphyry deposit.

Continue reading this article on SmallCapPower.com.

92 Resources pursues lithium with NWT property acquisition

March 1st, 2016

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2016

The search for energy minerals draws 92 Resources TSXV:NTY to the Northwest Territories with a purchase agreement announced March 1. The object of desire is a 100% interest in Hidden Lake, described as highly prospective for spodumene-bearing lithium pegmatites. The 1,100-hectare property sits about 40 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, just off Highway 4.

92 Resources pursues lithium with NWT property acquisition

Electric vehicles present a bullish case for lithium-ion
batteries, but energy storage inspires even greater forecasts.

Previous work mapped and sampled the property’s LU#12 pegmatite over an exposure measuring about 10 metres by 300 metres. Historic, non-43-101 results for seven samples from surface trenches ranged between 1.37% and 3.01% lithium oxide. “The very high grades of lithium were attributed to observed concentrations of coarse-grained spodumene,” the company explained.

“Spodumene-bearing pegmatites continue to be an important supply of lithium despite the advent of low-cost production from lithium brine deposits in South America in the mid-1990s,” 92 Resources stated.

“As the demand for lithium is increasing, other pegmatite deposits around the world are gaining attention. In many lithium pegmatite districts, including the Yellowknife district, other rare and specialty metals have been recovered. Tin, beryllium, tantalum and niobium are often associated with spodumene pegmatite deposits.”

With a private placement of up to $300,000 on offer, the company hopes to get on the field as soon as weather allows. Initial work would consist of mapping and sampling the project’s known pegmatites to determine grade, mineralogy and surface dimensions.

The 100% interest would close on completing a series of payments to Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC and two of its prospecting partners. The price consists of a $5,000 deposit, two million shares on regulatory approval, $50,000 within 30 days of approval, another $35,000 and two million shares a year later, $250,000 of exploration expenditures by September 30, 2016, and another $250,000 of spending by May 31, 2017.

A 2% NSR applies, of which 92 Resources may buy half for $2 million.

As massive expansion takes place in manufacturing facilities for batteries used in power tools, consumer electronics, electric vehicles and energy storage, lithium demand has attracted highly bullish forecasts. Read more.

To compete with China

February 17th, 2016

by Greg Klein

Mineralogy’s the key to Commerce Resources’ goal of low-cost rare earths production

by Greg Klein

As Molycorp’s bankruptcy leaves Lynas Corp the sole producer outside China, Core Consultants reportedly told Mining Indaba ’16 to expect more rare earth project closures. But it’s against this background of lower prices and higher supply that Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE continues to raise money and move its Ashram deposit in northern Quebec towards pre-feasibility. Clearly something distinguishes this project, which president Chris Grove is determined to develop into a low-cost producer competitive with China. That has potential customers interested.

Mineralogy’s the key to Commerce Resources’ goal of low-cost rare earths production

Metallurgical success, high grades, a near-surface deposit,
a potential byproduct and five critical REEs have Commerce
Resources optimistic about Ashram’s potential.

The key to low costs is the deposit’s relatively simple mineralogy, Grove maintains, a crucial point that sets Ashram apart from other projects. “Rare earths can be hosted by up to about 200 different minerals and several rock types, but very few have ever been commercially processed,” he explains. “Commerce realized early that we must focus on carbonatite rocks with rare earths hosted in the minerals monazite, bastnasite and xenotime, which have proven processing. Almost no one else did that.”

But even compared to other carbonatite-hosted deposits, “our gangue material is just more amenable to separation,” he emphasizes. “With REE deposits, if your grade is 2% or 3% then the rest is waste rock or gangue, and the very composition of this gangue may mean a make-or-break situation, if you can’t economically separate the gangue from the REEs.”

But for Commerce, metallurgical studies look positive for economical separation. That’s crucial to achieving low-cost processing from a project that also features high grades, a shallow deposit and a distribution of five critical rare earth elements. As a result, several major companies have asked Commerce for concentrate samples.

In October the company announced its highest-grade concentrate so far, which Commerce said compares favourably with hard-rock operations globally. Metallurgical tests by Hazen Research in Colorado produced a concentrate of total rare earth oxides grading 48.9%, with overall recovery around 63%. Additional processing achieved 45.7% TREO with about 71% recovery. Two weeks later the team boosted recovery to 76%, maintaining a high grade of 42% TREO.

Additional flowsheet simplification came in February, when the mini-pilot plant confirmed that one of two leaching steps could be eliminated, suggesting considerable cost-cutting potential while maintaining efficiency.

Tests show another potential advantage in fluorite, which the lab is currently examining as a byproduct. “There’s a significant market for fluorite byproducts that didn’t factor into our PEA at all,” Grove points out. “So we’ll be very interested to see how this might improve our economics.”

But the next big step will be to produce concentrate samples for interested parties. Some of those companies are covered by non-disclosure agreements, Grove says. Others include BASF, Mitsubishi RtM, Innovation Metals, DKK and Solvay.

The samples might be produced by Q2 this year, which could lead to another milestone in the form of a joint venture. “There are several companies interested in creating a vertically integrated, stable supply chain not connected with China,” Grove says. Should a JV take place, the partner might fund the remaining pre-feas studies and help direct the project model.

Among possible outcomes could be a reduction in output—and therefore capex—from what was considered in a preliminary economic assessment completed in 2012 and amended last year. The study used a 10% discount rate to estimate a pre-tax net present value of $2.32 billion and a 44% pre-tax internal rate of return. Capex came to $763 million with payback in 2.25 years. Operating costs came to $7.91 per kilo of rare earth oxides in a 4,000-tpd open pit with a 25-year lifespan. Production could be subject to a combined tax rate of about 32.5%.

The study used a 2012 resource with 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

Shallow and at some points beginning at surface, the deposit remains open to the north, south and at depth, also holding expansion potential east and west. Middle and heavy rare earth oxides (MHREO) take up considerable proportions—9.8% of TREO in the measured category, 6.7% in indicated and 6% in inferred. Unique to Ashram, the company states, a zone of intense MHREO enrichment “extends from surface with significant tonnage and grade.” The deposit features a strong distribution of the critical elements neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium and yttrium.

We’ve been hitting higher grades, we’ve been hitting lower overburden than what was modelled in the PEA. We’ve been hitting higher levels of the middle and heavy rare earths, which is also to our benefit.—Chris Grove, president of Commerce Resources

Infill drilling over the last two years has Grove looking forward to an upgraded resource estimate. “We’ve been hitting higher grades, we’ve been hitting lower overburden than what was modelled in the PEA,” he says. “We’ve been hitting higher levels of the middle and heavy rare earths, which is also to our benefit. When we were drilling to find areas to locate dykes, we kept on hitting material.”

Part of Commerce’s 190-square-kilometre Eldor property, Ashram sits about 130 kilometres south of the community of Kuujjuaq. Quebec’s Société du Plan Nord has expressed interest in building a road that could connect Kuujjuaq with the railhead at Schefferville. If built, the road could potentially go by Ashram. Failing that, pre-feas studies are considering a road north to a possible docking facility, taking a shorter route than envisioned by the PEA.

Recognized as a mining-friendly jurisdiction, the province has offered Commerce tax incentives to keep its proposed hydro-metallurgical facility within Quebec, Grove says.

Community relations are good, he adds, and ongoing communication remains a priority. The company has hosted meetings and site visits for the Inuit and the Naskapi First Nation. In October Commerce won the e3 Plus Award for responsible exploration from l’Association de l’exploration minière du Québec at Xplor 2015 in Montreal.

In southeastern British Columbia Commerce also holds the Blue River project, where the Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013. Grove sees JV potential as manufacturers become increasingly concerned about ethical sources of supply.

“The majority of tantalum produced now is probably produced by conflict means,” he says. “I know of no one who has gone far enough upstream to be able to determine that the actual production of these minerals is conflict-free. There’s no independent verification that stands up to scrutiny.”

Getting back to rare earths, Grove says companies outside China aren’t the only ones worried about future supply. “When we went there in 2012, we met with all but one of the major producers and processors of rare earth elements. They met with us because they all had concerns about their future supply.”

Determined to compete with China on costs, Grove believes Ashram’s mineralogy and metallurgy will prove his point even as other projects fail.

Commerce Resources sees cost cuts for high-grade rare earth concentrates

February 9th, 2016

by Greg Klein | February 9, 2016

A simplified flowsheet has reduced the number of steps to process rare earths from Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram deposit in Quebec. Announced February 9, the results point to lowered costs while maintaining efficiency. Metallurgical tests continue to advance the project towards pre-feasibility.

Commerce Resources sees cost cuts for high-grade rare earth concentrates

Project manager Darren Smith onsite in northern Quebec.

Last year’s pilot plant tests used a double-leach process that achieved over 99% stage recovery with complete carbonate removal. But the results also suggested the process could be simplified by using only a single leach. That’s now been confirmed, as the single-leach mini-pilot plant achieved similar efficiency with fewer stages while operating at a larger scale.

“For the single-leach pilot, both batch and continuous methods were tested, using flotation concentrate produced from piloting as feed, with a total throughput of approximately 50 kilograms and 11 kilograms respectively,” the company stated. “Stage recovery exceeded 98% for both methods and is expected to exceed 99% after a minor operational adjustment is incorporated.”

Leach residues went through magnetic separation to confirm the residue quality, producing high-grade mineral concentrates. The batch method produced 41% total rare earth oxides at 71% recovery, while the continuous method reached 43% TREO at 71% recovery. Tests also indicated overall recoveries might surpass those of the double-leach process. Follow-up tests will further evaluate that finding.

The validation of the single-leach process at the pilot scale is an advancement that allows for basic cost reductions as fewer process steps are now required, and fewer reagents are now consumed, while process efficiency is maintained.—Chris Grove, president of Commerce Resources

“The validation of the single-leach process at the pilot scale is an advancement that allows for basic cost reductions as fewer process steps are now required, and fewer reagents are now consumed, while process efficiency is maintained,” commented president Chris Grove.

Ashram’s flowsheet includes three stages of processing “to produce among the highest-grade mineral concentrates in the rare earth development space,” Commerce stated. The company intends to follow last year’s work on the flotation and HCl leach stages with a magnetic separation pilot plant and further downstream processing this year.

Pre-feas work has also included infill drilling for a resource update, with high-grade, near-surface assays. A new infrastructure model, meanwhile, points to further potential cost reductions. In October Commerce won an award for responsible exploration from l’Association de l’exploration minière du Québec. Last month the company closed the second tranche of a private placement that totalled $1.97 million.

Commerce also holds the Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, with a 2011 preliminary economic assessment.