Back in ye olden days they told explorers, vagabonds and wayward youth to ‘Go West’ in search of a better life.

Now the catchphrase for down on their luck ASX explorers is ‘Go North’, spreading like a virus across its moose populated plains in search of today’s go-to metal, lithium.

But is much of it moose pasture?

Thanks to Twitter’s Viking Trader we have a running weekly commentary on the number of ASX explorers taking the plunge in Canada’s vast outback.

According to Viking Trader, he counted 21 greenfields projects on the ASX just one week earlier. A craze to rival the Monster Mash.

As a lithium jurisdiction Canada’s various territories pale in comparison to WA, home to around half of the world’s lithium raw material production.

It has just one operating mine, Sayona’s (ASX:SYA) North American Lithium operation in Quebec, and that previously went bust in the last downturn.

But for many explorers therein lies the opportunity. While it appears the biggest spodumene deposits in WA have already been identified and soaked up by majors or former upstarts now worth billions of dollars, Canada’s immaturity makes it a land of opportunity.

One of the most advanced projects is Critical Resources’ (ASX:CRR) Mavis Lake in Ontario, where its team led by former Altura Mining executive Alex Cheeseman has quickly drilled out a JORC 2012 compliant resource of 8Mt at 1.07% Li2O.

“Canada’s been underexplored for battery minerals and lithium in particular,” Cheeseman told Stockhead.

“Canada’s fairly well resource endowed for critical minerals but it hasn’t been a focus.

“The style and approach of Aussie companies coming in, Aussie explorers, we seem to be a lot more robust and intense in our exploration efforts versus some of the TSX companies that have sort of tried these things and done relatively small programs, maybe mining the market more than actually mining the ground.

“So that approach is delivering results for for the Aussies who are rolling in looking for critical minerals.”


A maple-flavoured boom

It’s little wonder companies want to get into Canadian lithium, as shoulder season ends, exploration ground clears of snow and sludge and the market goes haywire for anyone taking a punt in the land of the maple leaf, grizzly bear, Justin Trudeau and ice hockey.

Take Discovery Alaska (ASX:DAF), for example, which saw its share price run 66% from 3c to 5c the day it announced the acquisition of three early stage projects in the popular James Bay jurisdiction of Quebec: Mia Adjacent, Lac C and Corvette East.

Ditto for former shell Blaze Minerals (ASX:BLZ), which is sidling up next to C$450 million capped TSX.V-listed Frontier Lithium and its 50Mt PAK and Spark projects in Ontario.

The early stage nature and blatant nearology — a nearology play is the practice of pegging ground adjacent, near or even just in the general neighbourhood of a discovery in the hope it continues onto your turf — of many of these plays mean investors have the right to be sceptical.

‘Mr Lithium’ Joe Lowry, a world-renowned lithium expert known for his forthright takes on the space, raised a couple eyebrows with his comments on the outlook for Canada’s burgeoning spodumene industry at a conference in Singapore in April.

“There is a lot of lithium in Canada and a lot of projects in Canada,” he said at the time.

“I frame it this way, Canada wants to become the Australia of North America. And I hope they do.

“But Quebec likes to tout its great educated workforce and their low hydro cost.

“Quebec’s been trying to produce lithium for the last 15 years. And only this year will they reopen a mine and it’s going to be relatively small.

“So Canada has a lot of promise. But they’ve really yet to deliver.”

But Cheeseman says Canada has a lot of promise, cautioning that investors should look into the credentials of the team behind any project as well.

“Is it a team that’s got experience in hard rock lithium before?” he said.

“There’s a handful of companies like us that can say yes. And obviously having those lessons is a huge benefit to actually bringing a project online in a different jurisdiction.

“We’re very happy with Canada, it’s well regulated and a tier one jurisdiction. But you’re right, the lithium projects there have had challenges – North America, collectively lithium projects have all struggled with permitting and approvals.

“And that’s something that I think is the result of a well regulated environment, but you’ve got to know how to navigate your way through it.”


Supply shortage

The backbone of the push into Canada is the concern of battery makers, electric vehicle producers and governments in the West that we will be unable to meet demand for lithium without opening up mines in new jurisdictions.

Lithium supply globally needs to rise a quite clearly unrealistic 42x by 2050 on International Energy Agency figures.

Most of the major pegmatites in WA have already been mapped and are on their way to development.

South America’s Lithium Triangle intersecting the borders of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia is rich in lithium endowed brines, but producers there are facing increased resource nationalism and complexity developing resources.

Without technical breakthroughs from the widespread commercialisation of direct lithium extraction, the time it takes to bring a conventional brine project to market is also a barrier to increased supply from Latin America.

Canada represents a new frontier, something resembling the Australian exploration scene almost a decade ago, when companies like Galaxy Resources (now part of Allkem (ASX:AKE)) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) were penny stocks.

With the widespread LCT pegmatite endowment in remote areas of Quebec and Ontario, it could be a solution to help address an impending global supply shortage of the key battery metal.

Spodumene projects in Australia for instance are well understood and far quicker to bring to market than brines.

The concentrate can also be processed directly into lithium hydroxide, rather than being beneficiated into a lithium carbonate salt, meaning it reduces processing steps for makers of long range nickel-rich cathode lithium ion batteries.

Canada is also an attractive jurisdiction due to the location of OEMs like Stellantis and LG in Whistler, British Columbia, and Detroit over the other side of the US border in Michigan, where carmakers will receive incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act if they use lithium sourced from a free trade aligned nation like the Canucks.

Higher demand means the potential for higher prices and Cheeseman says Critical Resources will use a “conservative” US$2700/t long term estimate for an upcoming scoping study. Current spot prices are around US$4200/t, around 6-7x the cost of producing the material in Australia, though they have been as low as US$400/t in the dark days of the 2019 downturn.

“I think the reality is the physical market’s response to date to this pricing environment has not seen a flood of material coming to market, so it means that the incumbents are going to enjoy a high pricing environment for much longer,” Cheeseman said.

“And anyone who can bring projects online in relatively short order, as in this decade, will still enjoy the very high pricing like we’re seeing now, because demand continues to grow and grow and grow year on year, and supply is not coming online at the same rate.”

Demand for materials could work to the advantage of companies who have already established resources or sit on highly prospective ground.

In what is turning into a tough market for raising capital, companies like CRR could use the promise of offtake or downstream processing partnerships to secure equity investments from larger miners or OEMs.

Green Technology Metals (ASX:GT1), owner of the Seymour project and the proponent of a downstream processing facility in Thunder Bay, demonstrated as much by securing a $20m investment from Korea’s LG in May.


Are there too many Aussie lithium stocks in Canada?

With the mad pegging and acquisition rush of Aussie lithium stocks in Canada has also come concerns it could be running too hard, too fast.

Like Australia, Canada has a large network of First Nations groups who hold traditional and economic rights over their cultural lands.

That comes with strict stakeholder engagement requirements and permitting regimes. Allkem’s James Bay development took years to receive environmental approval, and has only done so with hundreds of conditions.

There are no shortage of stories on complaints from First Nations groups that they weren’t adequately consulted or want to make their own assessments on projects on their ancestral lands.

Ontario-focused Battery Age Minerals (ASX:BM8) recently announced it would delay the start of drilling at its Falcon Lake project despite holding all statutory approvals to drill at the site in order to finalise an early exploration agreement with the Whitesand First Nation.

The group notified BM8 in early May that it was “terminating and reassessing its existing agreements with all companies and entities with potential mining, forestry or other industrial projects” in its homelands.

BM8 managing director Gerard O’Donovan, a former Pilbara Minerals executive, told Stockhead traditional owners were seeing a larger influx of pegging and exploration activity for critical minerals than before.

He also said the Whitesand First Nation initially had issues with consultation not from mining companies specifically, but with the provincial government.

“Personally and I again can’t speak on their behalf, but I think there’s been an influx generally and not just Australian companies,” he said.

“If you look at the region where we are, there’s ASX-listed companies, there’s London Stock Exchange listed companies, AIM listed companies, CSE companies and because there’s such a stimulus and push to generate the production of mining and critical minerals it has essentially created a pseudo gold rush in the area.

“Which has possibly been a bit overwhelming for some of these groups when they’ve been dealing with (only) a few explorers for many years.”

O’Donovan said groups like Whitesand, who may have had multiple different agreements on different terms, were after consistency and space to breathe.

“We’ve had continued discussions even up until this morning and we’re now negotiating an agreement with them to finalise and commence our works,” he said.

“I think we guided the market a few weeks ago that it would take a number of weeks to do it and we’re tracking in accordance with that guidance, things are looking pretty good with the discussions we’ve had but obviously we need to finalise it and nothing is set in stone until you sign on the dotted line.

“To me personally I understand the importance of good First Nations relationships and showing respect.

“That’s the key word, showing respect to the groups on whose land you are working. They have been there for many, many years, we’re coming in and I want to ensure — and I’ve written this — that we develop a strong relationship that we move forward on such that their community can be prosperous as well as the companies that are coming in to work in the area.”

Cheeseman said it was important lithium explorers, some of them moving into the region for the first time, know having a presence on the ground and being respectful were key to making a project successful.

“We have five First Nations groups that we have to work with given the areas that we’re operating in, but to date we’ve had over 200 drill pads permitted, they’ve signed off on all of them,” he said.

“They reach out and ask for a briefing, we’re working through exploration MoUs at the moment.

“I think genuine engagement and genuine collaboration will benefit those companies that take that approach.

“If (companies) come in all guns blazing, and try and steamroll their way through, I don’t think that’s going to resonate very well at all.”

There’s a “hell of a lot more history and connection” attached to the land for traditional owners, BM8’s O’Donovan said.

“We need to respect that and if we demonstrate that then they show the respect back to the companies.”

So who’s who in the zoo?

The number of enclosures is growing by the week, so buckle up, because this is going to be a hell of a list:



Just one company can count itself as a producer in Canada — Sayona Mining (ASX:SYA), which operates the North American Lithium operation in Quebec with 25% JV owner and offtake partner Piedmont Lithium (ASX:PLL).

It is expected to produce xxxxxxt of spodumene this year. But Sayona recently tapped the market for $200 million in a surprise raising which could see it accelerate the development of a lithium carbonate plant at the NAL site (50% finished by the mine’s previous owners before they went bust).

The funds could also see SYA accelerate the development of the 60% owned Moblan mine in the James Bay region, home to the vast bulk of Canada’s lithium explorers. SYA wants to be in production there by 2027 and will be egged on by the Quebecois government given it holds the other 40%.

James Bay is also the name of Allkem’s proposed mine in the region, which combined with the nearby Whabouchi project it will pick up in its merger with Livent — 50% owner of Whabouchi operator Nemaska Lithium — is looking to produce around 55,000tpa of lithium carbonate equivalent from the site.

Patriot Battery Metals (ASX:PMT) has big name cred with former Pilbara Minerals boss Ken Brinsden on board as non-executive chairman.

Since floating over to the ASX from a single-listing on the TSX, the dual-listed player has caught the eye to become the largest market capped stock

The prize is its Corvette discovery, a bullseye for nearologists in the James Bay region of Quebec, where stonker hits like 122.6 m at 1.89% Li2O (including a portion at over 5% Li2O) announced last month have investors and stalking majors taking notice. Multi-billion dollar lithium miners Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) and PLS are thought to be on the PMT register. A highly anticipated maiden resource is due this year.

Also in the advanced project class count the aforementioned Critical (8Mt at 1.07% Li2O) and GT1 (14.4Mt at 1.03% Li2O), along with Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1).

Winsome, which was able to raise $60 million earlier this year with the help of Canada’s Flow Through Share Scheme, is targeting a maiden resource this year and production by 2026 or 2027 on the back of five high grade and near surface discoveries including the Adina and Cancet prospects near Corvette.


Advanced Canadian lithium explorers share prices today:




This group of companies have historical assays with proven lithium intercepts and tend to be floating around the same sort of regions as the advanced explorers and miners.

Cygnus Metals (ASX:CY5) counts former Bellevue Gold MD Steve Parsons as one of its main shareholders, Bellevue’s former chair Ray Shorrocks as chairman and current chair Kevin Tomlinson as a director and former Mincor boss David Southam as its MD.

The star-studded explorer reported high grade assays from its Pontax project in the James bay region of Quebec this year, and also picked up the secondary Auclair project in a move that saw Canada’s Osisko lift its stake.

Surrounded within 100km by Sayona’ Abitibi Hub, Allkem’s James Bay, Nemaska’s Whabouchi, Rose and Moblan, it expects to deliver a maiden resource estimate in mid-2023.

10km along strike from GT1’s Seymour project in Ontario, Battery Age Minerals is just waiting for the aforementioned support of traditional owners to begin drilling at its 4280 hectare Falcon Lake project near Thunder Bay.

The project has previous spodumene results of 24.4m at 1.43% Li2O from 10.9m, including 9.0m at 1.95% Li2O.

Glencore-backed Leeuwin Metals (ASX:LM1) owns the Jenpeg project in Manitoba, where historic intercepts include lithium values of 20.59m at 1.23% Li2O from just 29.87m, 8.29m at 1.13% Li2O from 31.69m and 15.12m at 1.4% Li2O from 73.6m, the latter two from the same hole.

It was also recently granted an exploration licence called, wait for it, Spodumene Island. Hopefully not just a name and not actually a peninsula. Jenpeg is located in the same Territory as the Tanco mine, a primary caesium and tantalum operations which counts as one of just two lithium producers in Canada.

Burley Minerals (ASX:BUR) is the last company in this group. Having recently raised $4.5m from investors to pursue lithium prospects at its Chubb project 25km north of the mining town of Val d’Or in Quebec, the site has been subject to drilling by Burley since early April where visual spodumene bearing pegmatite intercepts have been identified.

Close to Sayona’s NAL and Authier projects, drilling by previous owner Newfoundland Discovery Corp between 2017 and 2022 identified a string of lithium oxide intercepts up to 1.57% Li2O over multiple parallel dykes extending along a strike of 560m and a corridor width of 240m.


Next Tier Canadian lithium explorers share prices today:




And now we get to the far more speculative end of the market, where juniors are streaming in on greenfields ground largely untouched by previous lithium drilling.

While there were only a handful of Aussie players in the Canadian lithium scene 12 months ago, now as many as 30 are kicking the tyres at pegmatite projects in the country.

If you’re looking to play a thematic, you’re as spoiled for choice as a kid in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.



Over in the James Bay region, where there are now more Aussies than Bondi Beach, Euro battery metals explorer and 2021 meme stock Kuniko (ASX:KNI) has picked up three projects including ground at Nemaska South around 35km south of the Whabouchi project.

Recharge Metals (ASX:REC) is also in the district, having recently acquired the Express Lithium Project 12km south of the James Bay project from DG Resource Management, the same vendor who sold Corvette to Patriot Battery Metals. They also traded the Llama project 40km from Winsome and 120km from PMT to Intra Energy Corporation (ASX:IEC) and the Ceiling project to Rubix Resources (ASX:RB6) (also vended by the well known name of Kitara Investments aka Tolga Kumova).

30km north of Winsome’s Adina-Cancet is Cosmos Exploration’s (ASX:C1X) recently picked up Lasalle Project, where it holds a 75% stake, alongside its Corvette Far East project close to PMT’s CV5 discovery.

With 540km2 of ground near Nemaska and Rose is Mark Connelly chaired Omnia Metals Group (ASX:OM1), which owns the Lac des Montagnes project.

Metals Australia (ASX:MLS), unconstrained by its nomenclature, also has tenements in and around PMT, as does Cazaly Resources (ASX:CAZ), which last week announced a binding agreement to acquire the Sundown project containing over 200 pegmatite outcrops over 510 mining claims triangulated by James Bay, Whabouchi and Corvette.

Rare earths and critical minerals explorer Megado Minerals (ASX:MEG) boasts the Cyclone project in the James Bay region, where the aforementioned Discovery Alaska has also moved in. And also playing nearologist to Winsome and PMT is $14m capped Resource Base (ASX:RBX) with its Wali and Ernst Lake projects.

Also around Quebec are Fin Resources (ASX:FIN), Pure Resources (ASX:PR1), Coolabah Metals (ASX:CBH) and Forrestania Resources (ASX:FRS).


Quebec explorers share prices today:




Chaired by former Tianqi Australia boss Phil Thick with former IGO executive Matt Gauci on board as executive director, Patriot Lithium (ASX:PAT) is one of the best credentialed ASX lithium explorers in North America.

While it listed with the aim of exploring for spodumene in the USA, in March PAT picked up four new projects in Ontario, increasing its landholding in the territory’s north west by 830km2 to 1164km2 of lithium prospective ground, near Frontier’s tier-1 PAK project (Gorman) and CRR’s Mavis Lake (Dryden).

Balkan Mining and Minerals (ASX:BMM), which has Sandfire’s former chief Karl Simich on its board, has a grab bag of Canadian projects. They include the prospective Gorge and Tango projects in the Thunder Bay region of Ontario as well as ground around Corvette.

Sultan Resources (ASX:SLZ) last month completed the acquisition of two projects from Canadian vendors XS Minerals called Kember and Ruddy in Ontario, down the road from Frontier’s Spark deposit.

“The Company now holds 100% of tenure with the correct host geology in a region which is emerging as a globally significant lithium exploration address,” chairman Jeremy King said after finalising the deal, which covers almost 40km2 of lithium exploration tenure.

“We look forward to finalising our exploration strategy for these projects, and getting boots on the ground and will keep the market updated in this respect.”

Also in Ontario are Blaze Minerals, Equinox Resources (ASX:EQN), Midas Minerals (ASX:MM1), which also recently announced an earn in to a spodumene project outside Yellowknife City in Northwest Territories, Cohiba Minerals (ASX:CHK) and Bastion Minerals (ASX:BMO).


Ontario explorers share prices today:




$20 million capped Koba Resources (ASX:KOB) owns the Whitlock project down the road from the Tanco mine, which has an ultra high grade lithium reserve of 7.3Mt at 2.76% Li2O.

Pegmatites have been mapped across its three claim groups but only three holes have ever been drilled for lithium on the 195km2 project. It also has he JB1 project 12km from Rose in the James Bay region of Quebec.


Northwest Territories

A little off the beaten track Loyal Lithium (ASX:LLI), which also owns the Scotty project in Nevada, picked ip a controlling stake in the Hidden Lake project in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in April.

A JV with PMT, drilling in 2018 targeted four spod rich pegs to a depth of 30-50m, with all 10 drill holes hitting high grade spod of up to 1.81% Li2O.



Many Peaks Gold (ASX:MPG) in January announced it had been granted six mineral licences over a 151km2 land position in LCT pegmatite bearing ground in Newfoundland.

It says the Aska project is located in terrane with similar age intrusions to major lithium deposits in the Avalonia belt in Ireland and the Piedmont and Kings Mountain deposits in the eastern United States.


Nova Scotia

Manhattan Corporation (ASX:MHC), known for its uranium and gold exploration exploits in February became the largest lithium tenement holder in Nova Scotia.

Its 1200km2 Chebogue project, where MHC recently started exploration, is along strike from Champlain Mineral Venture’s Brazil Lake project, which includes 555,000t of indicated resources at 1.3% Li2) and 381,000t of inferred at 1.48% Li2O, and sits south of the former East Kempville tin mine.


Manitoba, NWT, Nova Scotia & Newfoundland explorers share prices today:


At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Green Technology Metals, Sultan Resources, Burley Minerals, Fin Resources, Leeuwin Metals, Many Peaks Gold, Patriot Lithium, Recharge Metals, are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.