by Greg Klein | December 12, 2016
A thorough review of historic data confirms brine flow on Voltaic Minerals’ (TSXV:VLT) Green Energy lithium project in Utah’s Paradox Basin. Analysis shows that brine flow in five oil and gas exploration wells originated from multiple sources including four of the property’s clastic units.
Already figuring prominently in a 3D model created earlier by Voltaic, clastic unit #14 was historically intercepted in three wells at an average depth of about 1,900 metres and measured 6.1 metres thick.
To follow up, Voltaic hopes to re-open historic well heads for bulk sampling, potentially confirming a lithium-bearing zone, as well as verifying brine data including flow rates, temperature and metallurgy.
Historic data reports brine carrying lithium up to 187 milligrams per litre on the 1,683-hectare property and up to 1,700 mg/l 150 metres east.
The company also continues its work with newly appointed director/project manager Thomas Currin and Enertrex Corp to develop a selective lithium extraction process that would cut time and costs, with a plan to market the process to other companies.
by Greg Klein
Cost of production and timeline to market—those are critical issues for any project in the increasingly crowded lithium space. And that’s what attracted Thomas Currin to Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT. The newly appointed director/project manager sees the company’s Green Energy project in Utah’s Paradox Basin as highly prospective for creating a selective extraction process that would address both challenges. With Currin on board, Voltaic hopes not only to develop a successful project but to market the process to other companies.
“Some people like to classify lithium as a commodity, but it’s a specialty chemical,” Currin explains. “In the specialty chemical business you don’t separate R&D and process development from manufacturing. A good specialty chemical company is one that’s been able to integrate all those applications.
“I’m a chemical engineer who’s been in the manufacturing process in the lithium field for 35 years,” he adds. “With a manufacturing process background everything is about opex and capex, and how to optimize both.”
Having managed lithium extraction projects in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., he’s worked for FMC Lithium, Li3 Energy, his own company Limtech Technologies and currently Enertrex Corp, which signed an MOU with Voltaic late last month.
As technical consultant for Enertrex he’s been working with two PhDs on selective removal of specific minerals from wastewater streams and geothermal brines. “We’ve come up with a technology that can extract lithium selectively, so we were looking for a project that could commercialize our technology. I’ve seen pretty much every lithium project in the world over the last 10 to 15 years, and what attracted me to Voltaic and the Paradox Basin are the oil and gas wells in a Basin that also has lithium salts and potassium salts.”
Located about 965 kilometres from the Tesla Motors Gigafactory and close to road, rail, power and the Intrepid Potash NYSE:IPI Cane Creek solution mine, the 1,683-hectare Green Energy property underwent oil and gas drilling during the 1960s. Historic analysis of regional drilling showed lithium in saturated brines grading 81 mg to 174 mg per litre.
“Here’s a project with historic wells, historic data, a few kilometres from a facility producing potash which is a very similar salt to lithium, and a company that realizes that time to market is critical.
“It seemed like a perfect match, the place to do process development work in parallel with resource development and demonstrate Enertrex’s lithium-specific process. If we could remove the lithium economically, we could market it to other lithium projects. The technology would be a paradigm-shifter.”
After evaluating historic data, Voltaic plans to re-perforate some of the wells and draw samples. While the company evaluates Green Energy’s resource potential, Currin will study the concentrations of lithium and impurities like magnesium, calcium and boron to develop the processing chemistry.
That’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.—Thomas Currin,
for Voltaic Minerals
“Sampling traditionally takes 20-litre amounts, but our first sample will be 20,000 litres so we can start processing it,” he explains. “Our money will be invested in developing not only a 43-101 resource but also a process by which we can be competitive.”
Call it optimistic or aggressive, Voltaic believes a property of merit could potentially offer customers a 100-kilogram sample of lithium carbonite within 14 months. Plans call for three 90-day testing phases into H2 of next year, when work would overlap with pilot-scale processing.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Currin notes.
With Limtech he developed a selective process to extract and concentrate silica from geothermal brines, which won the company a 2016 Outstanding Partnership Regional Award from the U.S. Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.
He’s also worked on selective lithium-ion exchange resins with FMC and, in his client project work, evaluated the use of several lithium-selective solvent exchange systems.
“The membrane technology for de-salinization has become much more economical, that technology has blossomed in the last 10 years, and that’s what we’re taking advantage of—existing technologies, proven systems that we can re-configure to extract the lithium from a saturated impurity stream. With all the other technologies, you have to remove all the impurities before you extract the lithium. That’s a tremendous cost.”
In addition to replacing the lengthy solar evaporation stage, the process would feature a modular design that could speed progress from pilot plant to production. With Green Energy’s existing wells, the project’s fast-track potential looks good, he maintains.
Should success be achieved there, the process could be applied to deposits with different metallurgy, making the technique marketable to other companies.
“Chilean brines are the most cost-effective sources of lithium in the world,” he says. “But there’s growing demand for sources outside South America. Our selective extraction process could help other projects compete with the Lithium Triangle.”
by Greg Klein | October 31, 2016
Moving forward with its Green Energy project, Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT plans to team up with Enertrex Corp to study lithium brine extraction and a possible global marketing program. Under an MOU announced October 31, Enertrex would determine whether its selective lithium process might be used commercially at the 1,683-hectare Utah property.
The process “replaces solar evaporation and much of the traditional chemical treatment to remove impurities such as magnesium, calcium and boron,” Voltaic stated. “A key cost driver for a successful lithium project is managing the prohibitive cost of impurity removal from a solution.”
The first of three phases would test a synthetic mixture resembling historic results collected from the property. Should that prove successful, optimization of the process would follow, as well as testing other lithium brines and feed stocks. Phase III would call for construction and demonstration of a pilot unit to test the lithium-bearing solution and determine operating costs. This step would also test brine from other sources.
The companies expect each phase to take 90 days. Should all three phases prove successful, the partners will work together to commercialize the process, with Voltaic having exclusive rights to market the procedure.
Earlier this month Voltaic announced completion of a 3D model supporting historic evidence of a brine reservoir extending over 16 square kilometres.
The Green Energy project sits 30 kilometres from rail and power.
by Greg Klein | October 14, 2016
With the first phase of work wrapped up, Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT now readies for a brine sampling program on its Green Energy lithium project in Utah. The company analyzed publicly accessible historic oil well drilling and geophysical data to create a 3D model.
Data from eight wells indicates Clastic Bed #31 ranges from 5.5 metres to 11.3 metres thick, sitting at depths of 1,830 metres to 1,982 metres. The bed consists of 9.2 metres of shale, anhydrite and dolomite and is not considered part of any oil reservoir, the company stated. “The findings are concurrent with engineering reports from the 1960s which concluded that the brine reservoir is extensive” at over 16 square kilometres.
The 1,683-hectare property on the Colorado Plateau has rail and power 30 kilometres away.
by Greg Klein | August 17, 2016
Under a memorandum of understanding announced August 17, Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT would sell a lithium property acquired by staking. Subject to approvals, Macarthur Minerals TSXV:MMS would buy the 2,300-hectare Stonewall property in Nevada for two million shares and US$50,000.
In neighbouring Utah, Voltaic began Phase I work on its Green Energy lithium project in June. Using historic drill results and estimates, the company stated it would build a 3D model to “better understand the potential lithium-bearing horizon known as Clastic Unit #31 and to identify prospective wellhead locations for re-entry or drilling of new wells.”
Records dating back to the 1950s include results of approximately 100 oil well drill holes as well as seismic data. Only three historic holes were sampled for lithium.
The program’s preliminary budget estimate comes to less than $200,000. Voltaic closed a $765,000 private placement in May.
by Greg Klein
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“There’s excitement in the air,” said Cambridge House International founder Joe Martin. That’s the mood he senses as junior explorers emerge from the downturn. And certainly optimism was evident on June 14 as more than 450 people converged on the Vancouver Commodity Forum for an afternoon of expert talks amid a showcase of two dozen companies. Keynote speakers included Martin, Chris Berry of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal, Jon Hykawy of Stormcrow Capital, John Kaiser of Kaiser Research Online and Stephan Bogner of Rockstone Research.
Lithium, not surprisingly, stood out as a commodity of interest. While cautioning against over-enthusiasm for the exploration rush, Berry and Hykawy each affirmed the need for juniors to find new sources of the metal. Cobalt and scandium featured prominently too, as did other commodities including what Kaiser called “the weird metals”—lesser known stuff that’s vital to our lives but threatened with security of supply.
Kaiser also noted he was addressing a crowd larger than his last PDAC audience, another indication that “we’ve turned the corner.”
Attendees also met and mingled with company reps. Potential investors learned about a wide gamut of projects aspiring to meet a growing demand for necessities, conveniences and luxuries.
Presented by Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC, the forum’s success will make it an annual event, said company president Dave Hodge. Berry emceed the conference, holding the unenviable task of “making sure Dave stays well-behaved.”
Read interviews with keynote speakers:
Meet the companies
Most companies were core holdings of Zimtu, a prospect generator that connects explorers with properties and also shares management, technical and financing expertise. Zimtu offers investors participation in a range of commodities and companies, including some at the pre-IPO stage.
After sampling high-grade lithium on its Hidden Lake project in the Northwest Territories earlier this month, 92 Resources TSXV:NTY plans to return in mid-July for a program of mapping, exposing spodumene-bearing pegmatite dykes, and channel sampling. The company closed the final tranche of a private placement totalling $318,836 in April. Hidden Lake’s located near Highway 4, about 40 kilometres from Yellowknife and within the Yellowknife Pegmatite Belt.
With one of the Athabasca Basin’s largest and most prospective exploration portfolios, ALX Uranium TSXV:AL has a number of projects competing for flagship status. Among them is Hook-Carter, which covers extensions of three known conductive trends, one of them hosting the sensational discoveries of Fission Uranium TSX:FCU and NexGen Energy TSXV:NXE. ALX’s strategic partnership with Holystone Energy allows that company to invest up to $750,000 in ALX and retain the right to maintain its ownership level for three years. ALX closed a private placement first tranche of $255,000 last month, amid this year’s busy news flow from a number of the company’s active projects.
Arctic Star Exploration TSXV:ADD boasts one of northern Canada’s largest 100%-held diamond exploration portfolios. Among the properties are the drill-ready Stein project in Nunavut and others in the Lac de Gras region that’s the world’s third-largest diamond producer by value. North Arrow Minerals TSXV:NAR holds an option to earn up to 55% of Arctic Star’s Redemption property.
Aurvista Gold TSXV:AVA considers its Douay property one of Quebec’s largest and last undeveloped gold projects. The Abitibi property has resources totalling 238,400 ounces of gold indicated and 2.75 million ounces inferred. Now, with $1.1 million raised last month, the company hopes to increase those numbers through a summer program including 4,000 metres of drilling. Douay’s 2014 PEA used a 5% discount rate to forecast a post-tax NPV of $16.6 million and a post-tax IRR of 40%.
Looking for lithium in Nevada, Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA now has a geophysics crew en route to its Kibby Basin property, which the company believes could potentially host lithium-bearing brines in a similar geological setting to the Clayton Valley, about 65 kilometres south. Results from the gravity survey will help identify targets for direct push drilling and sampling.
A mineral perhaps overlooked in the effort to supply green technologies, zeolite has several environmental applications. Canadian Zeolite TSXV:CNZ holds two projects in southern British Columbia, Sun Group and Bromley Creek, the latter an active quarrying operation.
With a high-grade, near-surface rare earths deposit hosted in minerals that have proven processing, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE takes its Ashram project in Quebec towards pre-feasibility. The relatively straightforward mineralogy contributes to steady progress in metallurgical studies. Commerce also holds southeastern B.C.’s Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit, which reached PEA in 2011 and a resource update in 2013.
Permitted for construction following a 2014 PEA, Copper North Mining’s (TSXV:COL) Carmacks copper-gold-silver project now undergoes revised PEA studies. The agenda calls for improved economics by creating a new leach and development plan for the south-central Yukon property. In central B.C. the company holds the Thor exploration property, 20 kilometres south of the historic Kemess mine.
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by Greg Klein | May 20, 2016
With money in place and 100% ownership confirmed, Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT prepares to explore for lithium on its Green Energy property in Utah. On May 20 the company announced it finalized the acquisition, one day after reporting its private placement raised a total of $765,000.
Past work on the 1,683-hectare property has included around 20 oil exploration wells, five of which show analytical data for lithium which occurs “in an over-saturated brine (40% minerals, 60% water) and was discovered during oil exploration when drill wells intercepted Bed #31 of the Paradox Formation,” according to Voltaic.
Bed #31 “is not part of any oil reservoir,” the company added. “Engineering reports from the 1960s conclude that the brine reservoir is extensive [over 25 square kilometres] and is recharged from fresh inflows as indicated by well pressure measurements, drawdown tests and oxygen-deuterium isotopes.”
Historic, non-43-101 data for Green Energy shows 15 million barrels of brine containing 96,000 tons of sodium, 158,000 tons of potassium (302,400 tons of potassium chloride), 5,750 tons of lithium (30,535 tons of lithium carbonate), 157,000 tons of calcium and 147,000 tons of magnesium (576,450 tons of magnesium chloride).
Voltaic has yet to verify the info, which the company doesn’t consider a resource. Voltaic plans to review well logs, conduct chemical analysis and reprocess seismic data to evaluate reservoir potential.
Lithium continues to stand out as an exceptionally high-performing commodity, with Industrial Minerals reporting a Q1 price increase of 30%. Growing battery demand for electric vehicles, as well as consumer electronics and energy storage, presents an optimistic scenario for the potential of energy minerals.
by Greg Klein | April 26, 2016
Umbral Energy CSE:UMB looks to Utah for lithium following an acquisition agreement with Zimtu Capital TSXV:ZC for the Tule Valley project. Tule Valley bears similarities to Nevada’s lithium-rich Clayton Valley “as they are both closed basin and have similar horst and graben structures,” according to Umbral’s April 26 announcement. “The Tule Valley project requires further exploration, including geophysics and drilling, to evaluate potential for a mass brine deposit.”
The deal calls for Umbral to pay Zimtu $10,000 and 1.5 million shares on signing, another $20,000 within two months, $30,000 within three months, and $100,000 and 1.5 million shares within a year. A 2% NSR applies, half of which Umbral may buy for $1 million.
“Lithium has gone from a steady, but relatively obscure commodity to being in extremely high demand this year,” said Umbral president Jag Bal. “For an example of this rising demand, one only needs to point to Tesla’s new battery Gigafactory, which will need 15,000 tons of lithium carbonate a year just to get started.”
At Tesla’s Model 3 premiere earlier this month, CEO Elon Musk pronounced the Gigafactory “already operational.” Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Simon Moores estimates at least 12 lithium-ion battery plants are being planned, constructed or expanded to gigawatt-hour capacity by 2020.
Umbral has a three-stage program for the 1,940-hectare property under consideration, which could include soil and surface sampling along with groundwater analysis, a high-resolution gravity survey and data compilation to select drill targets.
Zimtu works with its prospecting partners to connect companies with projects and provide advisory services.
by Greg Klein | April 14, 2016
Voltaic Minerals TSXV:VLT made its trading debut April 14 with a new emphasis on lithium. The move follows a restructuring of Prima Diamond and a 5:1 share rollback. The company will initially focus on the Green Energy lithium project in Utah.
The 1,683-hectare property comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 15 million barrels of brine containing 96,000 tons of sodium, 158,000 tons of potassium (302,400 tons of potassium chloride), 5,750 tons of lithium (30,535 tons of lithium carbonate), 157,000 tons of calcium and 147,000 tons of magnesium (576,450 tons of magnesium chloride).
With the Tesla Motors/Panasonic Gigafactory already beginning production in Nevada, electric vehicles are overtaking consumer electronics as lithium’s primary market. Forecasts suggest even greater demand from energy storage.
In February Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Simon Moores reported that “the price of lithium carbonate so far in 2016 is 47% higher than last year’s average and the industry is experiencing some of the widest price ranges ever seen.”