Monday 18th June 2018

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘rare earths’

Update: Quebec government, universities contribute to pre-feas studies for Commerce Resources’ Ashram rare earths project

June 5th, 2018

by Greg Klein | Updated June 5, 2018

With financial support from the Quebec government and academic expertise from two universities, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE announced progress on the pre-feasibility studies underway for the Ashram rare earths deposit.

On June 5 the company reported positive results from advanced tailings optimization tests conducted by le Centre Eau Terre Environnement of l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique, a branch of l’Université du Québec. Now in the second year of a three-year project, the work gets funding from les Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies and le ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles. The lab work found no serious concerns, no acid generating potential and “strong indications of no metal-leaching potential,” Commerce stated.

The positive outcome benefited from “the inherent low-sulphide and non-acidic nature of the carbonatite host rock,” said company president Chris Grove.

The program also looked at the mineralogy of an Ashram fluorspar concentrate, a potential byproduct of the deposit. Initial findings brought “very encouraging” signs that recovery of monazite grains could upgrade the purity of the fluorspar concentrate and potentially increase the overall recovery of rare earth elements into the primary rare earth concentrate, Commerce added.

The news follows a May 31 annnouncement that l’Université Laval will conduct pilot plant metallurgical tests on Ashram material in a program backed by a $365,000 grant from le ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation.

Quebec government funds metallurgical studies on Commerce Resources’ rare earths

Laval’s coat of arms: Total funding ranks
the school sixth out of Canada’s top 50
research universities.

Focusing on hydrometallurgical extraction of REEs and the use of new software to simulate their separation, the project will further develop Quebec expertise in REE separation and assess the economics of performing that work in the province. Results would help develop an alternative source of rare earths for global markets.

The work takes place as heightened awareness of critical minerals comes from an American strategy to reduce reliance on potentially unstable or unfriendly countries.

Both the hydromet process and simulator software have been tested in bench scale studies. Results brought recoveries surpassing 85% and showed positive correlation with the computer-simulated data. The current project further develops these studies at the pilot plant level.

With approximately two tonnes of Ashram material to work on, the project takes place at the SGS lab in Quebec City. The goal is to produce a high-grade concentrate, then a solution for partial separation into light, medium and heavy rare earth elements.

Beneficiaries of the project will be Quebec R&D and industry, as well as Commerce’s Ashram deposit as it progresses towards pre-feasibility. Previous government support for Ashram came from Ressources Québec, which invested $1 million in the company’s February 2017 private placement.

Looking at other critical minerals in safe jurisdictions, Commerce also holds the advanced-stage Blue River tantalum-niobium project in British Columbia, as well as an early-stage high-grade niobium prospect, conditionally subject to an earn-in by Saville Resources TSXV:SRE, on the Eldor property that hosts Ashram.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Quebec government funds metallurgical studies on Commerce Resources’ rare earths

May 31st, 2018

This story has been updated and moved here.

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

May 22nd, 2018

by Greg Klein | May 22, 2018

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

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

  • the status of recycling technologies

  • alternatives to critical minerals

  • options for accessing critical minerals from allies and partners

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

  • recommendations to streamline lease permitting and review processes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about Commerce Resources here and here.

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove sees promise in B.C. tantalum-niobium as well as Quebec rare earths

May 14th, 2018

…Read more

Proven provenance

April 20th, 2018

B.C. tantalum-niobium enhance Commerce Resources’ essential metals portfolio

by Greg Klein

Not just inadequate reserves but dubious origins threaten security of supply for strategic commodities. A prime example is niobium, a largely single-source product from CBMM in Brazil that gives one company and one country enormous potential power. Tantalum raises further concerns as it passes through shadowy supply lines that could obscure conflict sources. Both metals appear on the recent U.S. draft list of 35 critical minerals. And both appear in substantial quantities in one east-central British Columbia deposit.

That brings additional interest to Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE, best-known for its Ashram rare earths deposit in northern Quebec. While that project moves towards pre-feasibility, the company’s Blue River property in B.C. offers advantageous resources, metallurgy, infrastructure and economics for the rare metals age, says company president Chris Grove.

Industry has noticed, evident in the inquiries he’s received from end-users.

“We’re very excited about the new interest in Blue River,” he says. “Companies are looking at the provenance of these commodities and the new executive order signed by President Trump focuses on the origin of these critical commodities, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity to be seen for Blue River.”

The property’s Upper Fir deposit boasts a resource effective February 2015 based on 271 holes totalling 59,100 metres:

  • indicated: 48.41 million tonnes averaging 197 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,610 ppm Nb2O5 for 9,560 tonnes Ta2O5 and 77,810 tonnes Nb2O5

  • inferred: 5.4 million tonnes averaging 191 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,760 ppm Nb2O5 for 1,000 tonnes Ta2O5 and 9,600 tonnes Nb2O5

At this stage, processing looks good. Tantalum and niobium “occur within the minerals pyrochlore and ferrocolumbite and are amenable to conventional flotation and proven refining processes with estimated recoveries of 65% to 70%,” the 43-101 stated. “The industrial processes proposed for the production of high-quality tantalum and niobium products from the concentrates have not been tested using material from the Blue River project but are known processes that are not expected to be difficult to develop for the project.”

Tantalum and niobium enhance Commerce Resources’ essential metals portfolio

Those qualities alone encourage optimism for production costs, Grove points out. But a more recent development suggests even greater potential savings to both capex and opex. In February the company announced successful processing through a patented method called the Krupin Process. That followed months of work on a 1,300-kilogram sample of Blue River material at the Estonian lab of Alexander Krupin. An expert in tantalum and niobium recovery, his CV shows more than 35 years’ experience, including over 15 years processing high-grade concentrates of those two metals.

But it took another expert to confirm the results. To that end Commerce dispatched chairperson Axel Hoppe to Krupin’s lab. Formerly president of the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center and a senior manager at H.C. Starck, a global producer of tantalum and niobium products, Hoppe “confirmed a very significant new development in processing that should save significantly on costs,” Grove says.

As a result, Commerce is now working on a definitive agreement to incorporate the Krupin Process at Blue River and also acquire worldwide rights to the method.

Covering 105,373 hectares, the property sits about 250 highway kilometres north of Kamloops, with access from another four klicks of gravel road. CN rail tracks and a parallel high-voltage transmission line cross the property’s western side, while a 20 MW run-of-river hydro plant operates adjacent to Blue River.

With niobium in a location like that, Blue River has attracted “huge interest from the steel sector,” Grove says. As electronics manufacturers take a closer look at some of the Democratic Republic of Congo mines that supply their cobalt, tantalum’s due for similar scrutiny, he adds.

Meanwhile, highly impressive niobium-tantalum assays from Commerce’s Quebec property have spawned an early-stage exploration project. Samples have graded as high as 4.24%, 4.3% and even 5.93% Nb2O5, as well as 1,040 ppm, 1,060 ppm and 1,220 ppm Ta2O5. The exceptional grades prompted Saville Resources TSXV:SRE to sign a 75% earn-in for the Niobium Claim Group on the Eldor property that also hosts Commerce’s advanced-stage Ashram rare earths deposit. Saville now has a 43-101 technical report underway. Dependent on TSXV approval of the deal and subsequent funding, the company plans drilling this year.

Interestingly it was Saville president Mike Hodge who staked the Blue River claims, after Dahrouge Geological Consulting brought the property to the attention of Commerce. Now a former Dahrouge geologist currently with the B.C. Geological Survey plans a public site visit to Blue River. Alexei Rukhlov will co-lead the June 22-24 field trip, an event open to participants of Resources for Future Generations 2018. Click here for more info.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Read more about Saville Resources.

Critical Materials Institute director Alex King discusses rare earths expertise in the U.S.

April 18th, 2018

…Read more

Saville Resources and Commerce Resources announce 4.3% niobium, 700 ppm tantalum from northern Quebec

April 12th, 2018

by Greg Klein | April 12, 2018

While preparations continue for this year’s drill program, additional high-grade niobium-tantalum sample assays have arrived from northern Quebec’s Niobium Claim Group. On April 12 Saville Resources TSXV:SRE and Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE reported grades as high as 4.3% Nb2O5 and 700 ppm Ta2O5 from the new project, situated on the latter company’s Eldor property. Saville has signed a 75% earn-in agreement on the claim group, which sits a few kilometres from Ashram, one of the Western world’s most advanced rare earths deposits. Commerce has that project advancing towards pre-feasibility.

Saville Resources and Commerce Resources announce 4.3% niobium, 700 ppm tantalum from northern Quebec

High grades from last fall’s sampling program have Saville
and Commerce looking forward to an upcoming drill campaign.

The results fall in line with previous high grades from the project’s Miranna area of 4.24% and an especially impressive 5.93% Nb2O5. Previous tantalum assays from Miranna have reached as high as 1,220 ppm, 1,060 ppm and 1,040 ppm Ta2O5.

The Northwest area gave up the richest sample, which reached 16.1% Nb2O5 and 7,540 ppm Ta2O5.

Collected by Commerce last year from the Miranna area, the most recent results show:

  • 4.3% Nb2O5, 240 ppm Ta2O5 and 13.4% P2O5

  • 2.75% Nb2O5, 130 ppm Ta2O5 and 7.6% P2O5

  • 2.24% Nb2O5, 290 ppm Ta2O5 and 11.6% P2O5

  • 0.69% Nb2O5, 350 ppm Ta2O5 and 8.8% P2O5

  • 0.75% Nb2O5, 660 ppm Ta2O5 and 14.2% P2O5

  • 1.18% Nb2O5, 590 ppm Ta2O5 and 13.1% P2O5

  • 1.16% Nb2O5, 700 ppm Ta2O5 and 0.65% P2O5

Miranna forms one of three prospective areas, along with the Northwest and Southeast areas. Miranna features a strongly mineralized boulder train which, a geophysical anomaly called the Miranna target suggests, might have its source partly on the property. The data indicates several overlapping boulder trains might also be present, with one possible source in the Southeast area.

Additional work shows the primary host mineral to be pyrochlore, the dominant source mineral for processing niobium and tantalum.

The upcoming drill program will focus on the Miranna target, as well as testing the Northwest and Southeast areas. Contingent on TSXV approval of Saville’s earn-in, the companies plan to file a 43-101 technical report on the project.

Earlier this month Saville closed the second tranche of a private placement totalling $289,700.

In addition to Ashram, Commerce 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 Saville Resources.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Can’t live without them

March 23rd, 2018

The U.S. Critical Materials Institute develops new technologies for crucial commodities

by Greg Klein

A rare earths supply chain outside China? It exists in the United States and Alex King has proof on his desk in the form of neodymium-iron-boron magnets, an all-American achievement from mine to finished product. But the Critical Materials Institute director says it’s up to manufacturers to take this pilot project to an industry-wide scale. Meanwhile the CMI looks back on its first five years of successful research while preparing future projects to help supply the stuff of modern life.

The U.S. Critical Materials Institute develops new technologies and strategies for crucial commodities

Alex King: “There’s a lot of steps in rebuilding that supply chain.
Our role as researchers is to demonstrate it can be done.
We’ve done that.” (Photo: Colorado School of Mines)

The CMI’s genesis came in the wake of crisis. China’s 2010 ban on rare earths exports to Japan abruptly destroyed non-Chinese supply chains. As other countries began developing their own deposits, China changed tactics to flood the market with relatively cheap output.

Since then the country has held the rest of the world dependent, producing upwards of 90% of global production for these metals considered essential to energy, defence and the overall economy.

That scenario prompted U.S. Congress to create the CMI in 2013, as one of four Department of Energy innovation hubs. Involving four national laboratories, seven universities, about a dozen corporations and roughly 350 researchers, the interdisciplinary group gets US$25 million a year and “a considerable amount of freedom” to pursue its mandate, King says.

The CMI channels all that into four areas. One is to develop technologies that help make new mines viable. The second, “in direct conflict with the first,” is to find alternative materials. Efficient use of commodities comprises the third focus, through improvements in manufacturing, recycling and re-use.

“Those three areas are supported by a fourth, which is a kind of cross-cutting research focus extending across a wide range of areas including quantum physics, chemistry, environmental impact studies and, last but certainly not least, economics—what’s the economic impact of the work we do, what’s its potential, where are the economically most impactful areas for our researchers to address,” King relates.

With 30 to 35 individual projects underway at any time, CMI successes include the Nd-Fe-B batteries. They began with ore from Mountain Pass, the California mine whose 2015 shutdown set back Western rare earths aspirations.

The U.S. Critical Materials Institute develops new technologies and strategies for crucial commodities

Nevertheless “that ore was separated into individual rare earth oxides in a pilot scale facility in Idaho National Lab,” explains King. “The separated rare earth oxides were reduced to master alloys at a company called Infinium in the Boston area. The master alloys were brought to the Ames Lab here at Iowa State University and fabricated into magnets. So all the skills are here in the U.S. We know how to do it. I have the magnets on my desk as proof.”

But, he asks, “can we do that on an industrial scale? That depends on companies picking up and taking ownership of some of these processes.”

In part, that would require the manufacturers who use the magnets to leave Asia. “Whether it’s an electric motor, a hard disk drive, the speakers in your phone or whatever, all that’s done in Asia,” King points out. “And that means it is most advantageous to make the magnets in Asia.”

America does have existing potential domestic demand, however. The U.S. remains a world leader in manufacturing loudspeakers and is a significant builder of industrial motors. Those two sectors might welcome a reliable rare earths supply chain.

“There’s a lot of steps in rebuilding that supply chain. Our role as researchers is to demonstrate it can be done. We’ve done that.”

Among other accomplishments over its first five years, the CMI found alternatives to both europium and terbium in efficient lighting, developed a number of improvements in the viability of rare earths mining and created much more efficient RE separation.

“We also developed a new use for cerium, which is an over-produced rare earth that is a burden on mining,” King says. “We have an aluminum-cerium alloy that is now in production and has actually entered the commercial marketplace and is being sold. Generating use for cerium should generate additional cash flow for some of the traditional forms of rare earths mining.”

Getting back to magnets, “we also invented a way of making them that is much more efficient, greatly reduces sensitive materials like neodymium and dysprosium, and makes electric devices like motors and generators much more efficient.”

All these materials have multiple uses. It’s not like they don’t have interest in the Pentagon and other places.—Alex King

Future projects will focus less on rare earths but more on lithium. The CMI will also tackle several others from the draft list of 35 critical minerals the U.S. released in February: cobalt, manganese, gallium, indium, tellurium, platinum group metals, vanadium and graphite. “These are the ones where we feel we can make the most impact.”

While the emphasis remains on energy minerals, “all these materials have multiple uses. It’s not like they don’t have interest in the Pentagon and other places.”

But the list is hardly permanent, while the challenges will continue. “We’ve learned a huge amount over the last five years about how the market responds when a material becomes critical,” he recalls. “And that knowledge is incredibly valuable because we anticipate there will be increasing incidences of materials going critical. Technology’s moving so fast and demand is shifting so fast that supply will have a hard time keeping up. That will cause short-term supply shortfalls or even excesses. What we need to do is capture the wisdom that has been won in the rare earths crisis and recovery, and be ready to apply that as other materials go critical in the future.”

Alex King speaks at Argus Specialty Metals Week, held in Henderson, Nevada, from April 16 to 18. For a 15% discount on registration, enter code RARE2018.

U.S. releases draft list of 35 critical minerals, seeks public comment

February 21st, 2018

by Greg Klein | February 21, 2018

The world’s largest economy and strongest military has taken another step to mitigate some surprising vulnerabilities. On February 16 the U.S. Department of the Interior released a draft list of 35 minerals deemed critical to American well-being. The move follows December’s presidential executive order calling for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” In response the U.S. Geological Survey compiled the new list, which now awaits input from the public. Americans have until March 19 to respond.

U.S. releases draft list of 35 critical minerals, seeks public comment

“The work of the USGS is at the heart of our nation’s mission to reduce our vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals,” commented the DOI’s Tim Petty. “Any shortage of these resources constitutes a strategic vulnerability for the security and prosperity of the United States.”

The list defines “critical” as “a non-fuel mineral or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States, the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption, and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.”

Among them are “aluminum—used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals—used for catalytic agents; rare earth elements—used in batteries and electronics; tin—used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium—overwhelmingly used as a white pigment or as a metal alloy.”

Just one day before Donald Trump issued the order, the USGS released a nearly 900-page report, the first thorough examination of the subject since 1973, detailing 23 critical minerals. All 23 made the new list, with 12 newcomers including scandium, uranium and tungsten. Rare earths come under a single category of 17 elements. The list can be seen here, with links to USGS reports on each mineral.

Speaking with ResourceClips.com days after the president’s order, Jeff Green called it the country’s “most substantive development in critical mineral policy in 20 years.” The U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel, former USAF commander and Washington defence lobbyist added that a new critical minerals policy would largely benefit American companies and supply chains. But he pointed out that Trump “also said that international co-operation and partnerships with our strongest allies will be really important.”

See the USGS draft list of 35 critical minerals.

Read more about the U.S. critical minerals initiative.

Tantalum-niobium recovery tests prompt Commerce Resources to negotiate world rights to process

February 20th, 2018

by Greg Klein | February 20, 2018

Best known for the advanced-stage Ashram rare earths deposit in Quebec, Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) rare metals interests also include the Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia. Now a proprietary processing method has brought successful results, leading the company to work on a definitive agreement to acquire global rights to the process.

Tantalum-niobium recovery tests prompt Commerce Resources to negotiate world rights to process

Upper Fir reached the PEA level in 2011
and a resource update in 2013.

Named after Alexander Krupin, an expert with 35 years’ experience in tantalum and niobium recovery, the method was applied to a 1,300-kilogram sample shipped to Krupin’s Estonia facility last year. A visit by Commerce chairperson Axel Hoppe, another internationally recognized expert in tantalum and niobium, verified the Krupin Method’s success. As a result, the parties now have a definitive agreement under negotiation.

Part of Commerce’s Blue River property, Upper Fir reached PEA in 2011. A 2013 resource update used a tantalum price of $381 per kilogram for an estimated:

  • indicated: 48.41 million tonnes averaging 197 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,610 ppm Nb2O5 for 9,560 tonnes Ta2O5 and 77,810 tonnes Nb2O5

  • inferred: 5.4 million tonnes averaging 191 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,760 ppm Nb2O5 for 1,000 tonnes Ta2O5 and 9,600 tonnes Nb2O5

Adjacent to a 20-MW run-of-river electricity project, the 105,373-hectare property has road, rail and power lines.

More niobium-tantalum potential, this time early-stage, has been identified on Commerce’s Eldor property in northern Quebec, which hosts the Ashram rare earths deposit. Last month the company announced that Saville Resources TSXV:SRE had taken on a 75% earn-in to work the property’s niobium claims, where an exceptional sample assay of 5.9% Nb2O5 sparked additional attention in the property.

Ashram remains Commerce’s focus, however, as one of the most advanced REE projects outside China moves towards pre-feasibility. In December the company announced new research that could further streamline the project’s metallurgy, already benefitting from host minerals that are well understood and amenable to conventional processing.

Read more about Commerce Resources.