Saturday 18th August 2018

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘rare earths’

Commerce Resources reaches key milestone with mixed rare earths concentrate from Quebec

July 24th, 2018

by Greg Klein | July 24, 2018

Ongoing metallurgical work at l’Université Laval has so far accomplished a number of goals while helping Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram deposit move towards pre-feasibility. Researchers found success in their primary task of validating new software for REE separation but met other goals as well.

Commerce Resources reaches key milestone with mixed rare earths concentrate from Quebec

“The rapid progress of this collaboration now includes the first-ever mixed rare earth oxide concentrate produced from Ashram deposit material,” said Commerce president Chris Grove. “This is a key milestone for the advancement of the project. This test work has demonstrated again the versatility of the Ashram deposit to be processed by a number of different flowsheet approaches.”

Laval’s team achieved bench scale production of mixed light rare earths oxide and mixed LRE/samarium, gadolinium and europium/heavy rare earths oxide.

Previous work produced over 45% rare earths oxide, among the highest-grade concentrates for RE development projects and comparing favourably with operating mines, Commerce reported. “This is a direct result of the simple rare earth and gangue mineralogy of the Ashram deposit…. This versatility in processing approaches lends itself to more cost-effective methods to be incorporated into the final flowsheet to achieve the same products and quality desired.”

Laval achieved recovery rates of 60% to 65% for several light rare earths, while modifications are anticipated to bring further improvement.

The work also validated the university’s software, as results closely matched the simulator’s predictions. Using another 1.5 tonnes of Ashram material, the lab team will conduct tests at the larger pilot scale level, comparing its results with those of the simulator and further assessing the economics of REE separation into individual rare earth oxides.

The software is intended to reduce processing delays and costs, as well as predict results for processing changes. The software might also determine process optimization that considers current REE prices.

The studies get financial support through a $365,000 grant from Quebec’s ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation.

Last month Commerce reported positive results from advanced tailings optimization tests conducted by a branch of l’Université du Québec. Additional provincial funding supports that research. The company also received government support from a $1-million investment by Ressources Québec last year.

The Commerce portfolio also includes the advanced-stage Blue River tantalum-niobium project in British Columbia and, a few kilometres from Ashram, an early-stage high-grade niobium project that’s conditionally subject to a 75% earn-in by Saville Resources TSXV:SRE.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Senkaku II

July 23rd, 2018

How might a U.S.-China trade war affect rare earths?

 

At first glance, the rare earths aspect of the U.S.-China tariffs tussle looks like small change—a proposed 10% duty on American RE imports that might cause a smallish markup on some manufactured goods and wouldn’t necessarily apply to defence uses. But all that’s part of a much bigger battle that will probably target $250 billion of Chinese exports to the U.S. China used an incomparably smaller incident in 2010 to rationalize a ruthless sequence of rare earths trade machinations. Could something like that happen again, this time with different results?

How might a U.S.-China trade war affect rare earths?

Hostilities began earlier this month as the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on approximately $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with levies on another $16 billion likely to come. China retaliated with tariffs on equal amounts of American imports.

The U.S. re-retaliated with a threatened 10% on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports in a process that would follow public consultation. The additional list includes rare earth metals along with yttrium and scandium, which are often considered REs but rate distinct categories in this case.

Last year the U.S. imported $150 million worth of 15 RE metals and compounds, up from $118 million the previous year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some 78% came directly from China, with much of the rest derived from Chinese-produced concentrates. Yttrium shows a similar story, with 71% coming directly from China and nearly all the rest from Chinese concentrates. Although lacking hard numbers for scandium, the USGS states that too comes mostly from China.

Globally, China produced over 80% of world RE supply last year, but with less than 37% of the planet’s reserves.

Rare earths plus scandium comprise two of 35 mineral categories pronounced critical to the American economy and defence by Washington last May, after Donald Trump called for a “federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” Now the same administration wants to slap those commodities with a 10% price hike.

And at risk of provoking powerful Chinese retaliation. Rare earths watchers will remember the 2010 confrontation around the disputed South China Sea islands of Senkaku. The Japanese navy arrested a Chinese fishing crew captain who had twice rammed his boat against the military vessel. Within days, China banned all rare earths exports to Japan, crippling its globally important but RE-dependent manufacturers. China also imposed heavy cutbacks and duties on exports to other countries.

While some Western manufacturers relocated to China, Western resource companies strove to develop alternative supplies. Lynas Corp’s Mount Veld project in Western Australia and Molycorp’s Mountain Pass project in California both reached production in 2013. The following year the U.S. claimed victory as the World Trade Organization ordered China to drop its export restrictions on rare earths, as well as tungsten and molybdenum.

China complied with a vengeance, flooding the world with cheap RE supply. America’s WTO victory proved Pyrrhic as a burgeoning non-Chinese supply chain failed to compete. The most salient casualty was Mountain Pass, which went on care and maintenance in 2015.

So does China have more rare earths machinations in mind, this time responding not to a minor territorial dispute but tariffs affecting $250 billion of Chinese exports?

Maybe, but different circumstances might bring a different outcome. Since the Senkaku-induced RE crisis, advanced-stage projects have developed potential mines outside China. Work has progressed on non-Chinese supply chains, working to eliminate that country’s near-monopoly on processing expertise. Most recently, the U.S. has begun an official critical minerals policy to encourage development of supplies and supply chains in domestic and allied sources.

Of course any future scenario remains speculative. But this time the West might be better prepared for China’s tactics. Any new export restrictions might spur development of the deposits that now exist outside China. Any Chinese attempts to dump cheap supply could face further, far more punishing tariffs. While some other industries might suffer in the shorter term, Western resource companies might welcome Senkaku II.

Saville Resources closes Quebec nickel-copper-cobalt acquisition, files 43-101, readies summer program

June 26th, 2018

by Greg Klein | June 26, 2018

An undrilled property with encouraging geophysical results will undergo a summer field program, now that Saville Resources TSXV:SRE has finalized its acquisition of the James Bay-region Covette project. A 1,402-line VTEM survey from 2016 outlined at least six areas of high conductivity on the 3,315-hectare property, with one zone extending southeast about 4.5 kilometres and another trending northeast. Those areas “need to be evaluated,” stated a 43-101 technical report filed this month.

Saville Resources closes Quebec nickel-copper-cobalt acquisition, files 43-101, readies summer program

A pegmatite ridge on Saville Resources’ Covette
project, which now has Phase I field work planned.

Sampling conducted last year showed 0.18% nickel, 0.09% copper and 87 ppm cobalt, but the field program wasn’t sufficient to explain the source of the VTEM anomalies, which may indicate a source at depth, the company stated.

An historic, non-43-101 sample assayed 4.7% molybdenum, 0.73% bismuth, 0.09% lead and 6 g/t silver. Another brought 1.2 g/t silver and 0.18% copper.

A Phase I field program recommended by the technical report would include detailed mapping and sampling in areas of high-conductivity, channel sampling and further geophysics. The project sits about 10 kilometres north of the all-weather Trans-Taiga road and adjacent transmission line.

Meanwhile work continues on another Quebec acquisition as Saville prepares a 43-101 technical report on the Miranna claims, located on the Eldor property that hosts Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) advanced-stage rare earths deposit. In April the companies reported assays as high as 4.3% Nb2O5 and 700 ppm Ta2O5, results in line with previous high grades. Subject to exchange approval, Saville would acquire a 75% earn-in on Miranna.

Read more about Saville Resources.

Commerce Resources president Chris Grove discusses his company’s Canadian rare earths and tantalum-niobium projects as the U.S. develops a strategy to secure supply

June 22nd, 2018

…Read more

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