The boom in electric vehicle manufacturing has translated into a lively subsector of junior explorers scouring the world for new deposits of lithium, cobalt, graphite and other minerals suited for use in emerging technologies. Here are seven such juniors.
AVALON ADVANCED MATERIALS
Don Bubar-led Avalon Advanced Materials (TSX: AVL; US-OTC: AVLNF) has been best known over the past decade for its Nechalacho rare earth element project near Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. But with the rare earths market cooling, Avalon has shifted gears and refocused on its Separation Rapids hard-rock lithium deposit 70 km north of Kenora in northwestern Ontario.
First discovered and drilled out by Avalon two decades ago, Separation Rapids’ measured and indicated resource stands at 8 million tonnes grading 1.29% Li2O, 39% total feldspar, 0.006% Ta2O5, 0.021% Cs2O and 0.352% Rb2O. Another 1.6 million tonnes at similar grades lie in the inferred category.
Avalon completed a preliminary economic assessment at Separation Rapids in September 2016 that looked at producing high-quality lithium hydroxide from Avalon’s concentrates of the lithium mineral petalite using an “innovative hydrometallurgical technique” that it developed in the late 1990s, and optimized in 2016.
Avalon recently infill-drilled 1,500 metres in five holes, and is aiming to build a $25-million, demonstration-scale processing plant at an old industrial site near Kenora, funded in part by potential customers for Avalon’s lithium products.
In June Avalon raised $510,000 by privately placing 3.4 million flow-through shares at 15¢ apiece, and secured $500,000 from the Ontario government under the Northern Innovation Program of the government’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. to help with metallurgical processing studies and scale-up of the pilot plant. In March, Avalon also raised $2.5 million in a preferred share financing.
ARGENTINA LITHIUM & ENERGY
Vancouver-based Argentina Lithium & Energy (TSXV: LIT; US-OTC: PNXLF) is led by president and CEO Nikolaos Cacos and is focused on its Arizaro lithium project in northwestern Argentina’s Salta province, in the rich “Lithium Triangle” that encompasses areas of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, and accounts for half of the world’s lithium production. The company describes the “hyper-arid” Salar de Arizaro as the largest in Argentina and the third-largest in the Lithium Triangle.
Argentina Lithium has an option to acquire a 100% interest in the 205 sq. km Arizaro property, located in the central portion of the Salar de Arizaro at an elevation of 3,600 metres and near several rail lines.
To acquire the property, the company must pay $6 million in stages, spend $4.2 million on project expenses over four years and issue 2.5 million shares.
In May, Argentina Lithium completed a vertical-electric-sounding geophysical survey that it says found conductive and semi-conductive zones interpreted as geologic units at depth that are saturated with high-density — and potentially lithium-bearing — brines.
Next, the company intends to drill three or four holes up to 400 metres deep to test the new targets.
Fortune Minerals (TSX: FT; US-OTC: FTMDF) has been working away for many years developing its vertically integrated NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project, comprised of a proposed mine and mill in the Northwest Territories that would produce a bulk concentrate for shipment to a refinery the company would build in Saskatchewan.
Fortune describes NICO as “one of the world’s few near-term primary cobalt assets positioned to meet the growing demand for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries” needed for electric vehicles and stationary power-storage units.
Renewed interest in the cobalt sector fuelled by surging demand for high-performance rechargeable batteries has been a tonic to Fortune’s share price, which has doubled to 20¢ in the past six months and touched a two-and-a-half-year high of 31.5¢ in February.
In June Fortune appointed mining engineer Glen Koropchuk to the positions of technical director and chief operating officer to lead development of the NICO project. Koropchuck spent 27 years in the Anglo American group of companies, most recently as chief operating officer of De Beers Canada, where his expertise in northern mine building should help Fortune’s upcoming work in the Northwest Territories.
Fortune is completing baseline environmental work at the NICO site in the Northwest Territories, and building and improving roads and lay-down areas before the arrival of supplies during the next winter road season.
It is also in discussions with PwC Corporate Finance Canada regarding possible project financing.
Vancouver-based MGX Minerals (CSE: XMG; US-OTC: MGXMF) describes itself as a “developer of lithium, magnesium and silicon projects using innovative processes to supply the new energy economy.”
Led by chairman Marc Bruner and president and CEO Jared Lazerson, MGX has an intriguing suite of assets that include lithium properties in Alberta and Utah, as well as silicon and magnesium properties in the Rockies of British Columbia.
MGX has just completed a 1,000-litre-per-day petrolithium extraction and water treatment system with partner PurLucid Treatment Solutions that is now operational. MGX says the system will be used for large-scale testing of bulk-water samples from MGX’s petrolithium projects, including Sturgeon Lake, Alta., and Paradox Basin, Utah, as well as customers and partners before deployment of commercial systems.
MGX also says it is “building North America’s next magnesium oxide mine” in the Driftwood Creek mining district 164 km north of Cranbrook, B.C., where it is carrying out a preliminary economic assessment of an 8-million-tonne measured and indicated resource grading 43.31% MgO.
In mid-June, MGX raised $3.3 million by privately placing 3.3 million flow-through units at $1 apiece. Each units comprises a flow-through share and a full warrant to buy another share at $1.15 within two years.
Toronto-based NextSource Materials (TSX: NEXT; US-OTC: NSRC) is the rebranded name of well-known graphite developer Energizer Resources, which has been steadily bringing to production its wholly owned Molo graphite project in southern Madagascar, 160 km by road southeast of the country’s administrative capital and port city of Toliara.
The company completed a feasibility study of Molo in February 2015 and updated it in February 2017.
NextSource says the work vaulted Molo into the ranks of “one of the largest and highest-quality flake graphite deposits in the world,” with a total combined graphite resource of 141 million tonnes at 6.13% total graphitic carbon, and a reserve-level core of 22.4 million tonnes at 7.02% total graphitic carbon.
NextSource envisions a first phase of mining at Molo that would consist of a processing plant with a feed rate of 240,000 tonnes per annum and an annual production rate of 15,000 tonnes of finished flake graphite concentrate at purities of up to 98% total graphitic carbon.
This would make Molo one of the world’s top-five largest graphite producers.
Waldo Perez-led Neo Lithium (TSXV: NLC; US-OTC: NTTHF) is another junior active in South America’s Lithium Triangle. Its Tres Quebradas (or 3Q) lithium brine project in Argentina’s Catamarca province cover 350 sq. km and hosts a newly calculated measured and indicated resource of 714,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent at an average grade of 716 mg lithium per litre, plus an inferred resource of 1.34 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent at an average grade of 713 mg lithium per litre.
Neo Lithium says the “low magnesium and sulphate content of the resource are consistent with prior samplings and drilling results, and could make the brine favourable for future processing.”
Nova Scotia’s Groundwater Insight calculated the maiden resource for Neo Lithium.
Neo Lithium points to four advantageous characteristics of the 3Q project: it is one of the highest-grade lithium brine projects in the world; it has the lowest impurity content of any known salar; its salar footprint is large, at over 150 sq. km; and it is 100% owned and fully permitted.
Vancouver-based Sienna Resources (TSXV: SIE) has its Clayton Valley Deep Basin lithium brine project in Nevada, acquired by staking in May 2016 at a cost of $23,600.
The property is located between lithium projects by Pure Energy Minerals and Lithium X Energy, and Sienna says it represents the deepest sections of the only lithium brine basin with a producing operation in North America — Albemarle’s Silver Peak lithium mine.
In July 2016 Sienna hired GeoXplor to oversee an initial work program on the property that could start soon, according to a May 2017 filing by Sienna.
As at March 31, 2017, Sienna had a working capital deficiency of $1.5 million, cash of $8,200, and an “accumulated deficit” of $20.6 million since inception.