Lithium is an important component in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries. According to the Canadian government, lithium demand is expected to climb 500% by 2050 due to increased domestic battery manufacturing and a more forward-thinking transportation ecology. After trading at record highs in 2022, the price of lithium is projected to vary this year but remain supportive of new projects, at least in the short term, according to analysts. Stellantis (NYSE:STLA) CEO Carlos Tavares recently said he believes there might not be enough raw materials on the planet to satisfy EV demand. North American lithium production provides for less than 2% of current world consumption. In this environment, some countries risk crucial minerals becoming a bottleneck rather than an enabler in the energy transition phase. As a result, the US and Canada have prioritized the development of a supply chain for lithium and other important minerals. The anticipated supply shortage for lithium could lead to higher prices for the metal for a longer period of time and benefit companies like Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF), Standard Lithium (TSXV:SLI) (NYSE-A:SLI), Sayona Mining Limited (OTCQB:SYAXF), and Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO).
Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF) is a mineral exploration and acquisition company in North America. Its main goal is to find drill-ready battery and precious metal opportunities. The company’s portfolio includes its flagship Jackpot Lake lithium brine project in Nevada. the Lost Basin gold-copper project in Arizona, the Nicobat nickel-copper-cobalt project in Ontario and most recently, the White Willow lithium-tantalum project in Ontario.
On April 4, Usha Resources announced the acquisition of its second hard-rock lithium asset, the Nym Property, which is located in the Thunder Bay Mining Division near Atikokan, Ontario.
The Nym property is contiguous with Usha’s recently acquired hard-rock lithium property, the White Willow Lithium-Tantalum Project in Ontario and expands the existing 712 claim block to a total of 720 claims, adding 170 hectares to the 15,510 hectares already optioned. The property is located near other lithium projects such as the Separation Rapids Lithium Deposit, the Georgia Lake Pegmatite Field, and the Seymour Lake Lithium Project, where Green Technology Metals has identified a 9.9 Mt resource at 1.04% lithium oxide (Li2O).
The White Willow property features a fertile lithium-cesium-tantalum (LCT) system with two well developed LCT-pegmatite dikes, with limited exploration work revealing samples with concentrations as high as 0.5% Li2O and 14.64% tantalum oxide (Ta2O5) in and around the dikes. Very high lithium concentrations were discovered by surface sampling, some of which tested at or above 0.40% Li2O. Tantalum and cesium are also abundant on the property, with two samples suggesting 3.41% and 3.78% Ta2O5. The existence of high-grade tantalite signals the presence of higher-grade lithium in surrounding LCT-system zones.
Like White Willow, the newly acquired Nym Property is under explored, with just three of 119 mapped pegmatites reported. However, previous drilling has identified pegmatite intersections up to 40 meters thick, suggesting highly fractioned LCT-pegmatites that bear spodumene and other LCT-minerals.
Both of these recent acquisitions are complementary to Usha Resources‘ 100%-owned Jackpot Lake Lithium Brine Project in Nevada, where it has recently tripled its land position and is progressing with its maiden drill program to produce a 43-101 resource.
According to a recent update from the company on its operations at the Jackpot Lake Lithium Brine Project, the exploration team discovered a high-porosity zone of sand followed by conglomerate commencing at 1,533 feet. The drill program’s second hole (JP22-2) has reached 1,755 feet.
Mining Companies Are Investing in New Projects
Stellantis N.V. (NYSE:STLA) announced on March 22 that it will invest more than €130 million in Germany’s Eisenach Assembly Plant, which produces the Opel Grandland compact SUV, to add manufacturing of the BEV replacement vehicle, which will be constructed on the all-new STLA Medium platform. The new BEV will go into production in the second half of 2024. The addition of a BEV to Eisenach’s output supports Opel’s audacious promise to a fully electrified model range in Europe by 2028. The current generation of the Opel Grandland offers plug-in hybrid models. To meet consumer demand for BEVs, Stellantis will spend more than €30 billion on electrification and software through 2025.
Standard Lithium (TSXV:SLI) (NYSE American:SLI) announced on March 28 that, to the best of its knowledge, 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 operations in the East Texas Smackover region. According to Standard Lithium‘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.
On March 30, Piedmont Lithium Inc. and Sayona Mining Ltd (OTCQB:SYAXF) announced the successful restart of commercial spodumene concentrate production at the two companies’ co-owned North American Lithium (NAL) project in Quebec. The only significant source of fresh spodumene production anticipated in North America for the next two years is NAL’s $US80 million restart, which was completed on schedule and within budget. Sayona intends to start shipping commercially in the third quarter of 2023, when it will be able to produce 226,000 metric tonnes annually. One of three projects of Sayona Quebec, a partnership between Sayona (75%) and Piedmont (25%), is NAL. By the end of 2023, Sayona anticipates four shipments from NAL totaling up to 120,000 metric tonnes, serving significant battery and electric vehicle producers including LG Chem and Tesla.
Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) and First Quantum Minerals have agreed to form a joint venture to advance the development of Peru’s La Granja copper project, one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper resources. La Granja is a complex ore body in Cajamarca, Northern Peru, with the potential to be a major, long-life operation and a published Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource totaling 4.32 billion tonnes at 0.51% copper. To move the project forward, the joint venture will pool Rio Tinto and First Quantum Minerals’ experience, expertise, and resources. Subject to regulatory approvals, the transaction is anticipated to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2023. First Quantum will then operate the La Granja project as the majority owner, with the initial focus being on completing the feasibility study.
Usha Resources just closed a non-brokered private placement of 9,230,769 units at $0.325 each, bringing in a total of $3 million in gross proceeds.
Featured Image MegaPixl @ Luftklick
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