Eye on Lithium: Biden looks to invoke Defence Production Act to boost flaccid US lithium production
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All your ASX lithium news for Thursday, March 31.
Word on the street is that US President Joe Biden is considering invoking the 1950 Defence Production Act to boost domestic production of battery metals like lithium.
The Act was first used by President Harry Truman to increase the production of steel during the Cold War and former President Donald Trump used it to bump up the production of face masks.
Biden even used it to expand vaccination efforts, and now he’s considering the move which would open up federal funds for the mining companies that produce lithium, nickel, graphite, cobalt and manganese.
There is only one operating lithium mine in the U.S., Albemarle’s ‘Silver Peak’ in Nevada. A bunch of ASX-listed stocks have projects in an advanced stage of development.
It’s expected the move would also bolster the country’s efforts to produce electric vehicles – and help reduce its dependence on foreign supply of oil and gas.
It comes after a bipartisan group of senators called on Biden in a letter this month to invoke the Act to accelerate the production of lithium-ion battery materials.
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A total of 65 stocks were in the green today, with 24 flatlining and 19 in the red.
The company has flagged more high-grade lithium rock chips from the ‘Ravensthorpe’ project in WA, with analysis returning results as high as 7.04% Li2O.
Hard rock lithium operations usually produce at grades of ~1% lithium.
The results come from two new areas of mineralisation, complementing known spodumene occurrences at the ‘Big’, ‘Deep Purple’ and ‘Creek’ pegmatites and “further supporting and significantly increasing the lithium prospectivity of the Eastern Pegmatite Trend”.
BNR will continue the mapping and sampling program while environmental studies required for clearing permits progress.
The 130km2 Ravensthorpe lithium Project is just 12km from Allkem’s (ASX:AKE) Mt Cattlin lithium mine.
The company has picked up the Yule River project, which expands its package of granted tenements – and those under application – in the Pilbara to 355km2.
Yule River is just 5kms from QXR’s Western Shaw project and hosts granites which have been intruded by the Spilt Rock Supersuite – which are associated with the Wodgina and Pilgangoora and Global Lithium deposits.
“Like much of the Pilbara lithium province, the project area is considerably underexplored and presents as a fantastic target,” chairman Maurice Feilich said.
“The fact that the tenement has been intruded by the Split Rock Supersuite granites is highly encouraging.
“With an extensive exploration portfolio now locked in the Pilbara region, we will now focus on deploying our funds to exploration activities with another field trip planned for next week where we will undertake rock chip and soil sampling and with these results defining our plans for a more aggressive and extensive exploration program.”
Near term miner Core says the first lithium drill assay results from new Bilatos Prospect at its Finniss project in the NT demonstrate encouraging thickness and grades, including:
Further results from the drilling are expected in the coming weeks.
Recent field mapping at the company’s Lefroy Lithium Prospect in WA has indicated a swarm of outcropping pegmatites which MXR says highlights the opportunity for the discovery of a Mt Marion style deposit, with a lithium enriched pegmatite feeder zone at depth.
Mineral Resources’ (ASX:MIN) Mt Marion lithium mine hosts 71.3Mt at 1.37% Li2O.
Plus, rock-chip sampling of outcropping pegmatites at the Larkinville tenement returned assays up to 1.49% Li2O, with elevated Rubidium (9,130ppm), Niobium (241ppm) and Tantalum (261ppm).
“With the region hosting several world-class lithium deposits and known favourable geology across the Maximus’ Spargoville tenements we believe the company is well placed to take advantage of the buoyant lithium market,” MD Tim Wither said.
Arizona Lithium is in the final sprint to development of its flagship Big Sandy lithium project in the US after receiving strong support for a $32.5m share placement.
The plan is to use the funds for the design and construction of the Big Sandy research facility, land acquisition, exploration drilling and the immediate commencement of Pre-Feasibility Study once the scoping study has concluded.
Big Sandy currently has an Indicated and Inferred Resource of 32.5 million tonnes grading 1,850 parts per million (ppm) lithium for 320,800 tonnes Li2CO3 – and its just 960km away from Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada.
Galan says the DFS and pilot plant works are progressiung at the Hombre Muerto West project in Argentina, with the DFS due for completion by the end of CY22.
Diamond drilling is underway at Pata Pila to provide key information on a potential mineral resource extension beyond the salar limits, and the mineral resource update is on track for deliver in Q3.
Plus, a recently completed Transient Electromagnetic (TEM) geophysical survey has identified potential new mineral resource zones which the company plans to drill from next quarter through the rest of the year.
The company’s brine blending program at its Salta project in Argentina continues to deliver high-grades – with the highest lithium concentrate to date of 5.3%.
Final results from the program as due in April and will help determine development options for the project.
The explorer plans to kick off drilling in May targeting growth in the Dome North Lithium Resource ahead of scoping study in the December quarter.
The drill program of up to ~9,000m is anticipated to start in mid-May, and will take up to 2.5 months to complete.
MD Tim Spencer said the drilling will be a key catalyst in the path from ‘explorer’ to ‘developer’ and anticipates the updated resource will form the basis of a scoping study that will “outline the case for a robust mining operation.”
PLS has released the scoping study for Pilgangoora which provides “preliminary support for the construction of a demonstration scale chemicals facility at Pilgangoora, producing value-added lithium phosphate salts via an innovative refining process,” the company says.
Lithium phosphate salt is the preferred product, with the company aiming to support a highly viable feedstock for a number of battery chemicals manufacturers, including the lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) battery cathode manufacturing industry, as well as lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide production.
The study also showed that using Calix Limited’s (ASX:CXL) flash calcination technology, test-work confirmed high calcination conversion rates (>95% for alpha to beta spodumene phase transformation).
Plus, the contained lithia content of the product is expected to increase from ~5.7-6.0% in spodumene concentrates to >36% in lithium phosphate salts – which PLS says would optimise offshore product logistics, reduce associated carbon emissions, and minimise waste in the destination market.
Looking forwards, Pilbara Minerals and Calix intend to move forward with negotiations to establish a Joint Venture to potentially develop a demonstration plant, with a final investment decision expected before the end of the year.
The companies will also consider the commercialisation of the Mid-Stream process technology globally.