Sunday 26th February 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘rare earths’

Province of Quebec invests in Commerce Resources’ Ashram rare earths project

February 17th, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 17, 2017

With potential customers waiting for rare earths concentrate samples, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE closed a $1.71-million private placement on February 17 that included $1 million from Ressources Québec. A subsidiary of the provincial government corporation Investissement Québec, Ressources Québec “focuses on projects that have good return prospects and foster Québec’s economic development,” the organization says. “Its role is complementary to private funders.”

We are excited to have the support of the Quebec government with this investment from Ressources Québec. The province of Quebec continues to prove that it is one of the most attractive jurisdictions to develop a mineral project. —Chris Grove,
president of Commerce Resources

“We are excited to have the support of the Quebec government with this investment from Ressources Québec,” Commerce president Chris Grove stated. “The province of Quebec continues to prove that it is one of the most attractive jurisdictions to develop a mineral project. We are excited to be advancing our Ashram project with this financing.”

The private placement will be used to complete the project’s pilot plant, to produce samples of REE and fluorite concentrates, and for general working capital. Among companies requesting REE samples are Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle and Blue Line.

The money comes in addition to a three-year, $300,000 environmental grant from the province to optimize tailings management.

Ashram’s high-grade, near-surface deposit benefits from relatively simple metallurgy, suggesting a potentially low-cost operation with an impressive distribution of magnet feed elements. Now moving towards pre-feas, the project reached PEA in 2012.

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

Read more about Commerce Resources.

The NASA model

February 14th, 2017

How the U.S. government might help build a rare earths supply chain

by Greg Klein

The timing seems ominous. As rival American and Chinese warships assert themselves in the disputed South China Sea, the United States Geological Survey reported 20 minerals on which the U.S. imports all of its supply. Included are rare earths—coming almost entirely from China, of course. It was a 2010 conflict in the same troubled waters between Japan and China that caused the latter country to cut off rare earths exports to its adversary. As other supply chains broke apart, REE prices went on an exponential tear. Might China do that again and, this time, are American decision-makers sufficiently concerned?

They should be, say some observers. Additionally, there also looms the possibility of a trade war sparked by U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. Yet some REEs are necessary not only for consumer electronics and clean energy, but also for military defence.

How the U.S. government might help build a rare earths supply chain

The U.S. government shows increasing concern
about relying on China for defence needs.
(F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighter photo: Boeing)

The 20 entirely foreign-dependent minerals reported by the USGS represent an increase from 19 the previous year and 11 in 1984. The list includes rare earths, scandium and yttrium as three separate categories. In February 2016 Industrial Minerals reported that the U.S. Department of Defense “identified 15 of the 17 rare earths as critical over the last five years.”

Having foreseen as far back as 2009 the possibility of China using REEs as a geopolitical strategy, Jeff Green watches the topic from a defence perspective. “I think about the tools China has to retaliate and rare earths come right to the top of the list,” he says.

Green has recently served on the U.S. House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. He’s a lawyer, a member of the U.S. Magnetic Materials Association and the REE World Advisory Board, a U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel and a former USAF missile combat crew commander. He describes his Washington firm J.A. Green & Company as “primarily a defence lobbying company that’s really interested in the nexus between national resource security and national security.”

He finds the U.S. government’s concern stronger and better informed than previously. That contrasts with events leading to what he calls the “Molycorp fiasco,” a supposed market solution to the 2010 shock and a strategy that he warned against. It went on to “burn the market to the tune of one and a half billion dollars.”

The result? “Today we’re probably in a more dire China-dependent situation than ever before.”

But Green sees hope in a Congressional bill that he anticipates being introduced within a week or so. Rep. Duncan Hunter’s proposal would help American companies develop domestic supplies of REEs and other minerals critical to defence. Assistance could come in the form of no-interest loans, Green says. Additionally the Department of Defense might pay more for American products made from American commodities, with the government reimbursing the difference between domestic and Chinese costs until American companies can compete.

It’s not a pure free market economic philosophy but one that will say: ‘If we’ve got a critical supply risk and we’ve got domestic companies that can fill that gap, then let’s invest in America to protect our national security and grow our manufacturing base.’—Jeff Green

As for the bill’s chances of success, Green’s optimistic. “You’ve got an administration that is very pro Buy American, Hire American. You’ve got a Congress that very much supports manufacturing. It will be much more pro-mining, pro-industry than we’ve seen. It’s not a pure free market economic philosophy but one that will say: ‘If we’ve got a critical supply risk and we’ve got domestic companies that can fill that gap, then let’s invest in America to protect our national security and grow our manufacturing base.’

“It’s a totally different dynamic than Washington’s seen in 40 years.”

Chris Berry agrees about the need for subsidies, among other assistance. In a research report last year the president of House Mountain Partners and editor of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal warned of the cost of not creating a supply chain outside China. In an e-mail to ResourceClips.com he notes that the “mine permitting, exploration and building process would all need to be expedited through legislation and through subsidies. This is the only way I see non-Chinese deposits being able to compete with China’s RE production costs. The good news is that as various technologies grow in importance (such as EVs) and existing processes grow as well (fluid cracking catalysts), this implies steady demand for REEs.”

While Berry considers the establishment of new supply chains “a multi-year endeavour,” he adds, “a focus on recycling or funding of materials science to minimize foreign dependence of these materials is a reasonable near-term solution to encourage supply chain development.”

As for the raw materials, Green maintains the U.S. has REE resources sufficient for defence needs, which he says are relatively small. “We’re not trying to compete globally in the automotive, magnet or catalyst markets,” he emphasizes. “We’re trying to protect our national security needs.”

Yet the Congressional bill calls for assistance to all aspects of the supply chain, he says, “whether that’s processing, refinement, separation, beneficiation, metal production, alloy production, magnet production.”

Support for supply chains would benefit other sectors, he points out. “This is the old NASA model. The government for years invested in new technologies and we’ve reaped the benefits in consumer advancements. Just look at the refining industry for petroleum products, at catalysts, phosphors in electronics, magnets for vehicles, battery materials. I think the commercial applications are terrific.

“I believe the president will kind of cheerlead this effort along,” he adds. “That’s really a game-changer. He’s going to take the traditional free trade model and turn it on its head. He’ll say the rest of the world doesn’t play by these rules so we’re going to play smarter—we’re going to treat our industries like the rest of the world treats theirs.”

U.S. increases its dependence on critical mineral imports

January 31st, 2017

by Greg Klein | January 31, 2017

U.S. increases its dependence on critical mineral imports

China stands out in a map showing major sources of non-fuel mineral
commodities of which the U.S. imported more than 50% of its supply in 2016.
(Graphic: U.S. Geological Survey)

 

Lacking any domestic sources at all, the United States imported 100% of its supply of 20 minerals last year, the USGS reports. That number increased from 19 the previous year and 11 in 1984. Included in the 2016 list were rare earths, manganese and niobium, “which are among a suite of materials often designated as ‘critical’ or ‘strategic’ because they are essential to the economy and their supply may be disrupted.”

U.S. increases its dependence on critical mineral imports

Imports of rare earth compounds and metals increased 6% over 2015, although the value dropped from $160 million to $120 million. China supplied 72% directly, with other imports coming from Estonia (7%), France (5%), Japan (5%) and other countries (11%).

But the Estonian, French and Japanese material was derived from concentrates produced in China and elsewhere, the USGS added.

American imports of tantalum increased about 40% over 2015. The USGS attributed about 37% of 2016 global production to the Democratic Republic of Congo and 32% to Rwanda. Estimates reverse those numbers for the previous year.

An alphabetical list of the 20 minerals follows, with rare earths, scandium and yttrium each comprising a separate category:

  • arsenic
  • asbestos
  • cesium
  • fluorspar
  • gallium
  • graphite
  • indium
  • manganese
  • mica
  • niobium
  • quartz crystal
  • rare earths
  • rubidium
  • scandium
  • strontium
  • tantalum
  • thallium
  • thorium
  • vanadium
  • yttrium

The report listed 50 minerals for which the U.S. imported over half of its supply. Overall China was the largest exporter, with Canada running second.

The Ashram advantage

January 30th, 2017

Commerce Resources prepares for a rare earths paradigm shift

by Greg Klein

The appeal to Western markets is obvious—an advanced, low-cost rare earths project in a friendly jurisdiction. So even before the recent military build-up in the South China Sea, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE experienced an increase in American requests for concentrate samples from its northern Quebec Ashram deposit. With the U.S. Navy now challenging Chinese territorial aggression, the confrontation seems to pit two superpowers against each other. But what does that really indicate?

It’s actually “one lonely small old Russian-built carrier against three U.S. Nimitz-class supercarriers,” Commerce president Chris Grove points out. “So when Beijing says it’s going to take off the gloves, I think they’re referring to trade.”

Commerce Resources prepares for a rare earths paradigm shift

That brings to mind the Senkaku incident, a much smaller 2010 confrontation in the same region that prompted China to cut off rare earths exports to Japan, sending global supply chains into turmoil and prices soaring. A possible Senkaku redux is one of a number of aspects to a global paradigm shift that Grove sees coming, to the benefit of Western industry in general and Ashram in particular.

The U.S. might easily outgun China, but China produces about 90% of the world’s rare earths. They’re essential to several defence needs, “a fact that really drives certain people in the U.S. absolutely apoplectic,” says Grove.

While Westerners have struggled to compete with China on costs, prices mean little to the U.S. Department of Defense, which last year began putting money behind potential domestic processors, Grove says. That support complements a multi-faceted advantage that the West is gaining over China, he explains. The latter country struggles with rising labour costs and the need to finally address its environmental woes. Meanwhile Western countries offset their labour costs with technological innovation and maintain the world’s highest environmental standards.

Even putting aside defence, demand for rare earths continues to grow with another global development. The international commitment to address climate change through clean energy, exemplified by the Paris Agreement, increases rare earths demand for numerous applications ranging from EVs to wind turbines.

In a research report last year, Chris Berry noted that “REE usage continues to grow at a pace well above global GDP growth with demand CAGRs growing anywhere from 4% to 8%, with permanent magnet demand forecast to lead this charge to 2020.”

Commerce Resources prepares for a rare earths paradigm shift

Ashram has undergone another 9,200 metres since
its resource estimate, often hitting even higher grades.

Clearly there’s a market for non-Chinese sources. And Grove sees Ashram uniquely positioned to help serve that market. Certainly others have failed but, he emphasizes, they lacked Ashram’s benefits of mineralogy, metallurgy, grade and jurisdiction—all of which add up to lower costs.

The project reached PEA in 2012, with an amended PEA in 2015. Since then the company’s been busy on multiple fronts as it advances towards pre-feasibility.

Ashram’s advantage begins with its relatively simple mineralogy, with carbonatite host rock and rare earths within the minerals monazite, bastnasite and xenotime, which dominate commercial REE processing.

Pilot plant metallurgical tests have quadrupled the PEA’s concentrate grade, producing 41% total rare earth oxides and 43% TREO, both at 71% recovery. That puts the grade well within the range of commercial producers and does so through a single-leach process that simplifies the flowsheet.

Requests for concentrate samples have come from Solvay, Mitsubishi, Treibacher, BASF, DKK, Albemarle and Blue Line, among others covered by non-disclosure agreements.

Metallurgy has also found a potential fluorspar byproduct, offering an advantage to both revenue and opex. Grove credits Glencore Canada’s interest in fluorspar with the willingness of its NorFalco Sales division to supply Commerce with sulphuric acid on highly favourable terms.

Proud as he is of Ashram’s high-grade, near-surface resource, Grove anticipates an even more impressive upgrade. The current estimate uses 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

Commerce has since drilled another 9,200 metres, mostly infill but always with some stepout holes as well. “In all those drill programs, we always hit mineralized material in the stepouts, we always encountered less waste rock at surface than was modelled in the resource and we always hit zones that were higher than the average grade,” he says.

Ashram’s magnet feed distribution also has Grove enthused. Overall, the deposit ranks with the largest producers for praseodymium, neodymium, terbium and dysprosium. Ashram’s medium-to-heavy REO resource, moreover, surpasses the producers for those elements. And, as Grove points out, those are critical elements. Efforts to find substitutes for magnet REEs have failed.

Companies with higher operating costs are probably praying for higher prices. Commerce Resources doesn’t need them. We still have a margin at today’s prices.—Chris Grove

Benefiting both Ashram’s opex and the environment would be wind energy, currently being studied for the project. Commerce’s environmental commitment as well as its community outreach have been recognized by the e3 Plus Award for social responsibility from l’Association de l’exploration minière du Québec.

The company has also received a $300,000 provincial grant to optimize tailings management, funding that shows Quebec’s commitment to mining as well as the environment. Grove calls the province “a fantastic jurisdiction,” one that invests directly in companies through Ressources Québec and makes tangible progress on the visionary Plan Nord infrastructure program.

Following a private placement of up to $2.5 million offered last month, Grove looks forward to a number of near-term milestones. Still to come are final assays from last year’s drilling. The agenda also calls for completing the pilot plant and filling requests for REE and fluorspar concentrate samples. The samples, Grove suggests, could spur interest in a JV or offtake agreement.

The Commerce quest for rare metals hasn’t been confined to rare earths. Last September sampling on the company’s property about a kilometre from Ashram found “spectacular” results up to 5.9% niobium pentoxide, described by Grove as “approximately double the grade of the largest and longest-running niobium producer’s head grade, CBMM’s Araxa deposit in Brazil.”

Commerce also holds the Blue River project in southeastern British Columbia. The property’s Upper Fir tantalum-niobium deposit reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.

But Commerce remains very much focused on Ashram. Whether events in the South China Sea send RE prices soaring, Grove sees possible increases coming from producers boosting revenues. But, he emphasizes, Ashram doesn’t need higher prices. “Companies with higher operating costs are probably praying for higher prices,” he says. “Commerce Resources doesn’t need them. We still have a margin at today’s prices.”

Canadian International Minerals reconsiders niobium potential of B.C. REE project

January 26th, 2017

by Greg Klein | January 26, 2017

Canadian International Minerals reconsiders niobium potential of B.C. REE project

A rare earths property in British Columbia’s Rocky Mountain rare metal belt gains new attention as Canadian International Minerals TSXV:CIN takes another look at previous assays. An 11-hole program on the Wicheeda alkaline-carbonatite project in 2011 targeted rare earths but the company didn’t consider the niobium results to be material info. On January 26, however, CIN released niobium assays from four 2011 holes, with highlights showing:

Hole CA-11-010

  • 0.188% Nb2O5 over 16.06 metres, starting at 171.8 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 0.27% over 6.3 metres)
  • (which includes 0.731% over 0.98 metres)

CA-11-014

  • 0.156% over 24.43 metres, starting at 173.23 metres
  • (including 0.217% over 9.57 metres)
  • (which includes 0.337% over 3.9 metres)

  • 0.226% over 37.6 metres, starting at 232.98 metres
  • (including 0.297% over 18.27 metres)
  • (which includes 0.321% over 8.48 metres)
  • (which includes 0.632% Nb2O5 and 158 ppm tantalum over 2.2 metres)

True widths weren’t available.

Formerly called the Carbo project, Wicheeda showed RE results in the range of 0.2% to 0.5% total rare earth oxides in most of the 11 holes sunk during 2011. The previous year’s campaign found significant RE mineralization in all nine holes, with one intercept hitting 1.43% TREO over 37.3 metres.

Adjacent to CIN’s Wicheeda, Spectrum Mining’s Wicheeda project holds an inferred 11.3 million tonnes averaging 2.5% TREO.

CIN noted two niobium deposits hosted in the Rocky Mountain rare metal belt. The Upper Fir deposit on Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Blue River project holds an indicated 48.41 million tonnes averaging 0.161% Nb2O5 and 197 ppm Ta2O5. Located about 330 kilometres southeast of Wicheeda, Upper Fir also holds an inferred 5.4 million tonnes averaging 0.176% Nb2O5 and 191 ppm Ta2O5.

About 240 kilometres northwest of Wicheeda, Taseko Mines TSX:TKO brought the Aley project to pre-feas in 2014 with proven and probable reserves of 83.8 million tonnes averaging 0.5% Nb2O5.

CIN stated it “continues to re-evaluate the exploration targets for the Wicheeda project and will be investigating a number of partnership avenues in the coming weeks.”

In November the company released sample results from a due diligence program on its proposed Tisova acquisition, a former copper-polymetallic mine in the Czech Republic.

Arctic Star looks to B.C. for rare metals and rare earths

January 17th, 2017

by Greg Klein | January 17, 2017

A previously acquired property gets new attention as Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD applies for a drill permit to search for niobium, tantalum and rare earth elements in central British Columbia.

Arctic Star looks to B.C. for rare metals and rare earths

Field work during 2010 on the 2,825-hectare CAP project found 481 to 981 parts per million niobium, 1,125 to 3,191 ppm zirconium, over 100 ppm lanthanum, over 100 ppm cerium and over 50 ppm neodymium. Two historic, non-43-101 samples returned strongly anomalous results of 0.13% and 0.1% rare earth elements, the company stated.

A circular magnetic anomaly of about three to five kilometres’ diameter could indicate a carbonatite or similar intrusion at depth, Arctic Star added. “Carbonatite-related deposits are a major host for rare metals, such as niobium and tantalum, and rare earth elements.”

Located about 80 kilometres from Prince George, CAP can be reached by logging roads during the summer and helicopter year-round.

In December the company closed a second tranche of financings totalling $1.47 million, including $300,000 of flow-through earmarked for CAP.

In November Arctic Star announced a JV with Margaret Lake Diamonds TSXV:DIA on their newly compiled Diagras property in the Northwest Territories’ diamondiferous Lac de Gras region.

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

Ever deeper, ever higher

October 11th, 2016

China takes on three mining frontiers, but not without competition

by Greg Klein

This is the first of a two-part feature. See Part 2.

Nearly a century before laggard Europeans got around to their Age of Exploration, Chinese merchant vessels had been travelling at least as far as eastern Africa, returning with vast shiploads of treasure. The voyages ended abruptly in 1433, for reasons debated by historians, and rulers ordered a massive merchant fleet destroyed. That largely left the New World to Westerners, evidently not a policy China intends to repeat. Now the country plans the conquest of three new frontiers: “deep underground, deep sky and deep sea.”

Such are the goals of Three Deep, a five-year plan announced last month by the country’s Ministry of Land and Resources. China’s funding R&D that would take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land and at sea, while exploring from outer space as well. But formidable as they are, the three frontiers aren’t completely uncharted. The expansionist, resource-hungry regime will have competition.

China takes on three mining frontiers, but not without competition

By 2020 the country wants the ability to mine land-based deposits that begin two kilometres in depth, find minerals at three kilometres, and identify oil and gas at 6.5 to 10 kilometres, the South China Morning Post reported October 5. China intends to develop underground communities too, although those details were even more scarce.

China also plans technology for undersea mineral exploration and mining, working towards the ability to send a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to 11 kilometres’ depth by 2020, the paper added. That’s slightly beyond the deepest known point of any seabed. The country has already sent an ROV seven kilometres deep in the Pacific. In the Indian Ocean, Chinese have been studying seabed mining technology on a 10,000-square-kilometre area south of Madagascar, the SCMP stated.

Going from the depths to the heavens, China wants 27 satellites in orbit by 2020 to conduct surveys and research, partly on terrestrial mineral potential. The country also has expressed ambitions for moon and Mars landings, and for sending its citizens into space. A Chinese competitor to SpaceX, One Space Technology, plans its first commercial rocket launch in 2018.

SpaceX, of course, retains its Elon Musk confidence even after the Falcon 9 rocket blew up prior to take-off last month, destroying a $300-million communications satellite. Having received NASA contracts to ferry people and cargo to the International Space Station, Musk continues to talk about sending colonists to Mars. He’s already sent some lithium stocks to the moon.

Probably among the more credible companies talking about mining the heavens are Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries. Both develop technology for NAFTA and both have signed MOUs with Luxembourg that would help finance mineral exploration and mining of near-Earth asteroids. The Grand Duchy, a global leader in satellite communications, has announced its willingness to invest in extra-terrestrial mining to become a world leader in other worlds. The country also plans to create a legal framework for its outer space endeavours, after the U.S. passed legislation giving Americans the right to keep any extra-terrestrial commodities they extract.

Deep Space says it will launch its Prospector X experimental asteroid explorer “in the near future.” By the first half of the next decade, Planetary expects to begin small-scale extraction of asteroid water for its oxygen and hydrogen.

Already a nine-year veteran of the main asteroid belt, NASA’s Dawn craft now orbits the dwarf planet Ceres after having studied the proto-planet Vesta. Last month the space agency’s NASA OSIRIS-REx set off for the asteroid Bennu, with arrival expected in 2018 and return in 2023.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has been to that neighbourhood and back after its Hayabusa craft delivered asteroid samples in 2010.

Last month the European Space Agency ended the 12-year, eight-billion-kilometre odyssey of its Rosetta craft, which spent the last two years studying a comet. In a joint project with Russia’s Roscosmos, the ESA expects to land a capsule on Mars on October 19 to search for signs of previous life.

Russia’s moon exploration program sees potential for minerals delivered by asteroid impact. “In the next few years, all scheduled moon flights will focus on its southern polar region, where low-temperature reservoirs of rare earths, as well as unknown volatile substances, have been detected,” Industrial Minerals quoted Vladislav Shevchenko of Moscow State University. Given higher commodity prices, mining could be viable, he added.

Boeing NYSE:BA recently matched Musk’s big talk as CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke about sending holidayers to orbiting tourist traps prior to linking up with the Red Planet. “I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Bloomberg quoted him last week. As a NASA contractor Boeing competes with SpaceX on its own and through the United Launch Alliance, a JV with Lockheed Martin NYSE:LMT.

This is the first of a two-part feature. See Part 2.

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

September 13th, 2016

by Greg Klein | September 13, 2016

An exceptional 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. “This is spectacular,” says president Chris Grove. But excited as the company is, work continues to focus on Ashram’s pre-feasibility studies.

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.