As the world races to secure more lithium supply, the world’s largest producer Chile is looking to boost investments into its rich resources. Economy Minister Nicolas Grau announced that Chile’s long-awaited lithium strategy will be released in April to attract big investment in the second part of the decade. Grau said the national lithium company is just one part of the concept and will require a qualified quorum bill, which may take longer. Given the metal’s geopolitical importance, the proposal promotes decentralization “so that other countries feel there’s space for everyone,” adding that it was a serious concern. Only Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) and SQM (NYSE:SQM) are mining lithium from Chile’s massive reserves. The United States has also been making an effort to boost its domestic lithium supply. At present, Albemarle is currently the only lithium producer in the US, however Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF), Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC), and Standard Lithium (TSXV:SLI) (NYSE-A:SLI) are exploring lithium properties across the nation.
Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF) is a mineral exploration and acquisition business based in North America. Its primary goal is to identify drill-ready battery and precious metal prospects. The portfolio comprises the company’s flagship Jackpot Lake lithium brine project in Nevada, the Lost Basin gold-copper project in Arizona, the White Willow lithium-tantalum property and the recently acquired Nym property in Ontario.
On April 19, Usha provided an update on its ongoing catalysts for growth and a recap of the company’s progress in 2022. Some of the highlights include a 220% increase in market cap since the beginning of 2022 to just under C$15M today, the upcoming 20% share dividend through the spin-out of the Nicobat Nickel Project, and a strong balance sheet with working capital of $3.1 million. The company also recently announced the highest drill results to date at its Jackpot Lake lithium brine project and is presently undertaking a fully permitted and funded drill program with the goal of delivering a 43-101 resource estimate.
The 1,801-foot-deep drill hole JP22-02 produced the highest lithium grades ever found in Jackport Lake history and in recent drilling, with shallow soils in the top 500 feet averaging 33445 ppm lithium, nearly twice as much as the average concentration over time of 175 ppm, and reaching a high of 820 ppm, almost four times as much as the average concentration and twice as much as the previously reported high concentration of 550 ppm. These results compare very favourably with the reported average of 100 ppm for the Esmeralda formation, one of the potential sources of the lithium enrichment for the brines present in Clayton Valley which hosts Albemarle’s Silver Peak lithium brine mine, the only producing lithium operation in the United States.
The JP22-02 core assay results indicate that Jackpot Lake may hold higher-grade intervals at deeper depths and that lithium-rich sediments in the upper basin may theoretically concentrate and enrich a brine over time.
Usha Resources also highlighted its recently acquired hard-rock lithium projects. White Willow is an advanced grassroots asset that hosts a fertile lithium-cesium-tantalum system containing coarse-grained tantalite crystallization similar to the North Aubrey pegmatite at Green Technology Metals’ (GT1) Seymour Lake project, where GT1 has identified a 9.9-million-tonne resource at 1.04% Li2O. Nym Lake, the company’s second pegmatite acquisition, is host to at least 119 pegmatites that are on trend with the system identified at White Willow, giving Usha nearly 200 pegmatites to explore that may be related to the identified LCT-system.
Recent Developments Among Lithium Miners
Following Liontown Resources’ March 28, 2023 ASX announcement, Albemarle (NYSE:ALB) acknowledged receipt of the information and confirmed that it has made a non-binding proposal to acquire all of the company’s outstanding shares in cash for A$2.50 or US$1.66 per share, valuing Liontown at A$5.2 or US$3.4 billion on an enterprise basis. According to Albemarle, the per-share consideration offers a large premium for Liontown stockholders as well as a considerable premium over comparable benchmarks.
In conjunction with Endeavour Atacama, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (NYSE:SQM) has launched a new initiative called “SQM Lithium Ventures Corporate Acceleration Program.” The companies are looking for entrepreneurs from Chile and throughout the world who can bring new solutions to the lithium industry’s issues. SQM Lithium Ventures, a first-of-its-kind program in the country, was launched at the end of 2022 with the goal of accelerating entrepreneurship at various stages in the Antofagasta Region, Chile, and the world. The program’s goal is to discover and promote innovative lithium-related technologies and developments.
Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC) (NYSE:LAC) reported in March that building has begun at its 100%-owned Thacker Pass lithium project in Humboldt County, Nevada, after receipt of a notice to proceed from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Thacker Pass plans to produce 80,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) in two 40,000-tonne-per-year (tpa) phases. A total of 500 operating jobs and 1,000 construction positions will be generated as part of the first stage of production, which is expected to start in the second half of 2026.
On March 28, Standard Lithium (TSXV:SLI) (NYSE-A:SLI) announced that it has sampled the highest certified lithium grade brine in North America, with a grade of 634 mg/L lithium, as part of its substantial resource expansion operation in the East Texas Smackover region. According to the company’s experience, a higher grade of lithium frequently results in lower overall costs. The quality of lithium in brine used for Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) has a significant impact on both capital expenditures and operating costs linked to the extraction process.
Usha Resources is currently drilling its second hole in its maiden drill program at Jackpot Lake, with the goal of defining a 43-101 resource.
Featured Image MegaPixl @ Tomas111
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