Tesla’s decision to source cobalt from Glencore raises concerns in the investment community about all electric vehicles

As we move towards electrification of the global transport fleet one of the biggest concerns is the sourcing of cobalt. That is because approximately 70% of the world’s cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – A country rampant with issues such as corruption, child labor and exploitation.

The recent Telsa’s decision to source cobalt from Glencore, along with others (BMW, Samsung SDI, SK Innovation, GEM Co, and Umicore) is very concerning. It means that all these companies are totally reliant on the DRC (excluding BMW who has secured Glencore’s Australian cobalt from Murrin Murrin) for cobalt. Furthermore it means that Glencore has locked in sales of about 82% of its current cobalt production, leaving very little available cobalt supply in the market.

The bigger question is: ‘When will car and battery manufacturers and western governments start to support western cobalt miners?’ Until they do that the electrification of the transport sector will be heavily reliant on the DRC and China, which represents a huge risk to the supply chain.

There are several good quality cobalt options without resorting to the DRC and China. Yes they will need financing and support, but in the long run some investment now is better than total disruption later. For investors it would also be wise to support the non-DRC cobalt miners. Firstly they are generally very cheap right now, and secondly if they can make it to production they will have multiple battery and car manufacturers lining up to secure a safe supply of cobalt. They may even pay a premium for safe cobalt supply.

The following cobalt miners do NOT source cobalt from the DRC and are worth serious investor consideration.

Producers (and country source of cobalt)

  • Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. (TYO: 5713 | OTC: SMMYY) – Sources from Philippines and Madagascar.
  • MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC (LSX: MNOD | OTC: NILSY) – Sources from Russia.
  • Vale SA (NYSE: VALE) – Sources from Canada.
  • Sherritt International Corporation (TSX: S | OTC: SHERF) – Sources from Cuba and Madagascar.
  • Conic Metals Corp. (TSXV: NKL) – Sources from Papua New Guinea.
  • Korea Resources Corporation – Sources from Madagascar.

Juniors and potentially the next cobalt producers

  • Aeon Metals Limited (ASX: AML)
  • Ardea Resources Limited (ASX: ARL | OTC: ARRRF)
  • Australian Mines Limited (ASX: AUZ | OTCQB: AMSLF)
  • Bankers Cobalt Corp. (TSXV: BANC | OTCQB: NDENF)
  • Blackstone Minerals Limited (ASX: BSX | OTC: BLSTF)
  • BlueBird Battery Metals Inc. (TSXV: BATT | OTC: BBBMF)
  • Brixton Metals Corporation (TSXV: BBB | OTCQB: BBBXF)
  • Canada Nickel Company Inc. (TSXV: CNC)
  • Canada Silver Cobalt Works Inc. (TSXV: CCW | OTCQB: CCWOF)
  • Cassini Resources Limited (ASX: CZI) – To be acquired by OZ Minerals Ltd. (ASX: OZL | OTC: OZMLF)
  • CBLT Inc. (TSXV: CBLT)
  • Clean TeQ Holdings Limited (ASX: CLQ | TSX: CLQ | OTCQX: CTEQF)
  • Cobalt Blue Holdings Limited (ASX: COB | OTC: CBBHF)
  • First Cobalt Corp. (TSXV: FCC | OTCQB: FTSSF)
  • Fortune Minerals Limited (TSX: FT | OTCQB: FTMDF)
  • Fuse Cobalt Inc. (TSXV: FUSE | OTCQB: FUSEF)
  • GME Resources Limited (ASX: GME)
  • Havilah Resources Limited (ASX: HAV)
  • Jervois Mining Limited (ASX: JRV | TSXV: JRV | OTCQB: JRVMF)
  • Leading Edge Materials Corp. (TSXV: LEM | OTCQB: LEMIF)
  • Power Group Projects Corp. (TSXV: PGP)
  • Talon Metals Corp. (TSX: TLO)

All of the above junior cobalt miners are located either in the safe jurisdictions of Canada or Australia and are featured on the InvestorChannel watchlist.

If the world wants to see a safe cobalt supply, free from the corrupt DRC issues, then the above junior cobalt miners will need to be supported. Together they can solve the problem of +70% reliance on DRC cobalt. The support that is needed is start up project funding (start up CapEx). USA, Europe, and other western governments can step in and offer low rate long term debt funding, just as what Japan did to support the start up of rare earths miner Lynas Corporation. Until this happens we will continue to be at the mercy of the DRC and Chinese supply chain.

“Cobalt is a key critical material needed in lithium-ion batteries used to make electric vehicles (EVs) – The Tesla Model 3 is by far the world’s best selling electric car”

Closing remarks

Demand for cobalt is set increase about fourfold over the 2020s decade based on my model forecast (assumes EV market share reaches 36% by 2030). This will most likely lead to severe cobalt deficits. New cobalt supply is extremely hard to bring on quickly, especially given most cobalt is produced as a by-product of copper and nickel production.

Cobalt is on the US list of critical materials for a good reason. It is needed in aerospace, jet engines (and military applications), and is a key component in lithium-ion batteries (essential for EVs and consumer electronics). Yes the EV related battery industry is reducing the cobalt per battery; however the better quality NMC, NCA, and NMCA batteries all require cobalt to keep the battery safe. Not enough cobalt and you get thermal runway (aka fire).

Just as what happened with uranium this year, and is likely to happen soon with rare earths; the US and Europe need to act now to develop a safe cobalt supply chain. If they don’t act soon then the West will be totally at the mercy of the DRC/China supply chain, which makes the West very vulnerable should trade war issues, cobalt shortages, or other supply chain issues continue as I would expect will be the case. The latest concern is that Glencore is now facing a Swiss corruption investigation related to its DRC activities. What would happen to cobalt supply if Glencore was halted in dealings with the DRC?

The world’s leading Li-ion battery supply chain expert Simon Moores (Benchmark Mineral Intelligence) appeared before the US Senate again last week warning that the US domestic supply chain build out is far too slow and that the US risks being left behind.

Let’s hope that the West finally wakes up before it is too late.




Mario Drolet Stock Notes on ZEN Graphene Solutions: Proud Canadian developer of graphene based nanomaterial products and applications…

Mario Drolet President of MI3 Communications Financières Inc. (MI3) released his Stock Notes on ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSXV: ZEN) for exclusive distribution on InvestorIntel. In this note, MI3 highlighted the following points on ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd.:

  • ZEN is an emerging graphene technology solutions company with a focus on the development of graphene-based nanomaterial products and applications. The unique Albany Graphite Project provides the company with a competitive advantage in the potential graphene market as independent labs in Japan, UK, Israel, USA and Canada have independently demonstrated that ZEN’s Albany Graphite/Naturally PureTM is an ideal precursor material which easily converts (exfoliates) to graphene, using a variety of mechanical, chemical and electrochemical methods.
  • Completed Metallurgy with strong results including 90% recovery
  • ZEN traded over 12 Million shares between $0.28 & $0.70
  • ZEN to supply Graphene Oxyde for Covid-19 research
  • Support: S2; $0.62   S1; $ 0.66  Resistance:   R1; $0.70   R2; $0.75

About ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd.

ZEN is an emerging graphene technology solutions company with a focus on the development of graphene-based nanomaterial products and applications. The unique Albany Graphite Project provides the company with a competitive advantage in the potential graphene market as independent labs in Japan, UK, Israel, USA and Canada have independently demonstrated that ZEN’s Albany Graphite/Naturally PureTM is an ideal precursor material which easily converts (exfoliates) to graphene, using a variety of mechanical, chemical and electrochemical methods.

PLEASE DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE

Disclaimer: This MI3 Technical Note produced by MI³ Communications Financières is neither an offer to sell, nor the solicitation of an offer to buy any of the securities discussed therein. The information contained is prepared by MI3, emanating from sources deemed to be reliable. MI3 Communications Financières makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy, correctness or completeness of such information. MI³ Communications Financières accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss arising from the use of the information contained therein. Please take note that for compliance purposes, all directors, consultants or employees of MI3 Communications Financières are prohibited from trading the securities of the company and MI3 Communications Financières is a shareholder and do not intend to sell any shares during the distribution of this note.




Alkane to demerge Australian Strategic Materials (ASM) to unlock value of its rare earths project

Alkane Resources Ltd. (ASX: ALK | OTCQX: ALKEF) plans to soon demerge their poly-metallic and rare earths holding company Australian Strategic Materials Limited (ASM) and pursue a separate listing of ASM on the Australian Stock Exchange. ASM is the 100% owner of the very promising, long life, poly-metallic and rare earths project known as The Dubbo Project, located in NSW, Australia.

Today I look at what investors need to know and the potential of the new company.

About Australian Strategic Materials (ASM)

ASM’s three key assets include:

  • The Dubbo Project – ASM owns a 100% interest in the project which is a ‘construction ready’ poly-metallic and rare earths project with potential to become a key global supplier of specialty metals and rare earths.
  • Metals Technology Business – ASM is investing in new technologies related to the separation, purification and metallisation of oxides. ASM’s goal is to establish an independent facility that produces high-purity metals and value-added metal oxides, particularly in relation to hafnium separation from zirconium and other materials from The Dubbo Project. In 2019 ASM initiated a joint venture with South Korea’s Zirconium Technology Corporation (ZironTech) to pilot the production of hafnium and zirconium by combining their proprietary process with ZironTech’s metallisation technology. ASM has exclusive global commercialisation rights under the licence. The pilot plant is in the final stage of construction in South Korea and production is due to commence in mid-2020.
  • Toongi Pastoral Company – The Company owns 3,500 hectares of freehold and leasehold land 25kms south of Dubbo, NSW, Australia.

Highlights of ASM’s 100% owned Dubbo Project

Source

The Dubbo Project

The Dubbo Project is a large resource of zirconium, hafnium, niobium, and rare earths (including praseodymium, neodymium, and yttrium). It is the most advanced poly-metallic project of its kind outside China. The Project has an incredible estimated 70 year mine life and can be an open pit design. The Project is ready for construction with all major state and federal approvals and licences in place.

The 2013 DFS resulted in a pre-tax NPV8% of A$1.235 billion, and a pre-tax IRR of 19.3%. The Company has since proposed a two stage production start up so as to lessen the first stage CapEx from an estimated US$930 million to US$480 million.

Total Mineral Resources are 75.18Mt @ 1.89% ZrO2, 0.04% HfO2, 0.44% Nb2O5, 0.03% Ta2O5, 0.74% TREO. Total Ore Reserves are 18.90Mt @ 1.85% ZrO2, 0.04% HfO2, 0.44% Nb2O5, 0.029% Ta2O5, 0.735% TREO.

The Dubbo Project resource estimate

Next steps for ASM will include:

  • Proof of capability for commercial-scale production of hafnium and zirconium.
  • An updated FS or BFS.
  • Forming strategic customer relationships and offtake agreements.
  • Establishing the capability to process other Dubbo Project outputs, including rare earth metals, in Australia and South Korea.
  • Project financing. Export Finance Australia (EFA) recently confirmed interest in being part of the financing consortium for The Dubbo Project.

About the demerger

  • The demerger is subject to finalisation of outstanding regulatory matters and shareholder approval at the Alkane Resources extraordinary general meeting scheduled for 16 July 2020. ASM is currently anticipated to list shortly after on the ASX on July 30 (indicative date only).
  • Alkane Resources shareholder are to receive one share in ASM for every five Alkane Shares held (rounded down to the nearest whole number) on the demerger record date. Ineligible Foreign Shareholders are excluded.
  • Under the demerger, the Alkane and ASM entities will be separated, and no cross-holdings between companies will exist.
  • ASM will be demerged with its cash reserves of A$20 million and no bank debt.
  • All interests in the Dubbo Project and associated assets (including land and water rights), together with ASM’s investment in South Korean metals technology company RMR Tech Corporation (RMR Tech), will be 100% owned by ASM following the demerger. Note that ASM is a part-owner of RMR Tech, which is majority-owned by ZironTech.

Alkane Resources Chairman Ian Gandel stated:

“Since joining in February, ASM Managing Director, David Woodall, and the ASM team have focused on distilling the key value drivers for ASM and the Dubbo Project, and have brought new focus, momentum and opportunity to the team which is working hard to realise catalysts for the Dubbo Project and the ‘Clean Metal’ metallisation technology in South Korea. The demerger of ASM will provide investors two opportunities to grow value; in Alkane as a growing gold exploration, development and production company, and in ASM as an exciting critical materials business leveraged to the changing world economy.”

As a ‘rough’ guide as to what ASM’s market cap may end up being once listed we can look at current listed pure play Australian rare earth developer Arafura Resources (ASX: ARU) which has a market cap of A$119 million. Of course the mix and grade of critical metals and rare earths differ, so this is only a rough guide. If we value ASM based on say 10% of the 2013 DFS value of a pre-tax NPV8% of A$1.235b, then we get a rough value of A$123 million. This gives zero value to the extraction technology or the A$20 million in cash.

Closing remarks

Given the gold production success at Alkane Resources their massive Dubbo poly-metallic and rare earths Project was left in the shadow. The proposed demerger will help ASM to stand on their own and focus on getting their Project and processing up and running. For investors it should unlock value that was not recognized previously in Alkane Resources.

The Dubbo Project is development-ready, subject to financing, with the mineral deposit and surrounding land acquired, all major State and Federal approvals in place and extensive piloting and engineering completed. In term of financing the Australian Government (via EFA) has shown interest and we all know that the US government is also looking seriously at developing a safer rare earths supply chain and safely sourcing critical materials.

Investors in Alkane Resources will automatically get shares in the demerged company on a one for five basis. For new investors ASM is indicated to list on the ASX on July 30, 2020. It will be very interesting to see what value the market assigns Australian Strategic Materials and how it progresses from here.




A highly attractive ‘US based’ rare earths project awaiting funding

As discussed previously the ORE Act introduced by Senator Ted Cruz is the first step in recognizing the need for a domestic supply chain for critical materials, including rare earth elements (REE). Additionally the US Defense Department recently stated that it will seek $1.7 billion for rare earths purchases in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

One of very few companies that has a quality US based rare earths deposit is Rare Element Resources Ltd. (OTCQB: REEMF). Their flagship project is the Bear Lodge Critical Rare Earth Project in northeastern Wyoming, USA. The Project has a projected 45-year mine life with an initial 9-year high-grade zone.

Bear Lodge – A world class resource in a top tier mining district in Wyoming, USA – Location map

In 2011, the US Geological Survey determined that the Bear Lodge Project contains one of the largest disseminated rare earth deposits in North America. Extensive geological work by the Company since 2004, including drilling, geophysical and geochemical sampling and assaying, has resulted in a Measured & Indicated Resource of 18 million tons grading at 3.05% Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO) at a 1.5% cutoff grade. This includes 3.0 million tons of Measured and 15 million tons of Indicated resource. Total contained M&I Resource is estimated at over 450,000 metric tonnes of  TREO. It is worth noting that the cutoff grade is the starting point for some projects.

The site has easy access and within a short trucking distance there is an industrial park with a railway, utilities and large unused land. This is an advantage unlike a number of potential opportunities in the space which are located in remote locations with challenging logistics. The one challenge is that the deposit is in the Black Hills National Forest but with the current administration and the desire to establish a domestic source this should not be an impediment to permitting. As indicated on their website “the US Forest Service is preparing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the site, the draft of which was completed in January 2016 and is now suspended. The Company completed its applications for two key permits/licenses with a goal of receiving them at the same time as the final record of decision, the decision document for the EIS, which is currently on hold until markets support resumption of the process.”

The project’s most valuable end-products are Neodymium and Praseodymium (Nd/Pr) oxide which would account for over 80% of total potential revenues. It has some Terbium and Dysprosium (Tb/Dy) (approx. 0.5%) which with Nd/Pr would produce 95% of the project’s potential revenues.

In February, 2020, President and CEO of Rare Element Resources, Randall J. Scott, stated:

“We are very encouraged by the pilot plant results using our proprietary technology to produce a thorium-free Nd/Pr oxide. This product is key to unlocking the supply chain for rare earth magnet production in the U.S. Our ability to produce this product is timely given the current interest and associated funding initiatives of U.S. governmental agencies. The Company recognizes the critical nature of the products produced from the Bear Lodge pilot plant and we will continue to work closely with those who can enhance our trajectory to full production.”

The October 2014 PFS resulted in a post-tax NPV10% of US$330 million and a post-tax IRR of 29%. Even better was that the upfront CapEx came in at a very low US$290 million with only a 2.9 year payback period. All very impressive numbers for a 45 year life project. The Company sees potential for further cost reductions helped by their proprietary technology, additional by-products. If they choose to take a modular approach to development then this could cut PFS initial capital costs by 50-60%.

The Company also stated:

“The attractive location is a key factor in the Project’s low capital costs. Its proximity to a major interstate highway and a transcontinental rail line, as well as the availability of low-cost power, natural gas and water, means infra-structure development costs will be low. Additionally, local communities will be an excellent source of skilled personnel as residents of the area are experienced in natural resource development and operations.”

Rare Element Resources has developed a proprietary RE recovery/processing technology. The technology has delivered a 99.999% pure, thorium-free TREO powder that has then been separated into heavy and light rare earth fractions in a single step. Optimization work continues with a focus on reducing costs and further separating the fractions into products attractive to potential end-users. This work was done with Umwelt-und Ingenieurtechnik GmbH Dresden, Germany (“UIT”), an affiliate of Synchron. Synchron, is a division of General Atomics, a leading US contractor to the defense department. Synchron owns 49% of Rare Element Resources after exercising its option to purchase company shares in October last year

Construction of the Bear Lodge Project is expected to take 12-16 months after receipt of the necessary permits (EIS on hold awaiting financing), completion of a positive Feasibility Study, and securing project financing.

Closing remarks

Rare Element Resources has a highly attractive ‘US based’ rare earths project, with excellent economics, including a low upfront CapEx of $290 million. All that is needed is some funding. Given the recent new high priority towards rare earths, and particularly US rare earths deposits, one would think that Rare Elements Resources’ fairly advanced stage Bear Lodge Project would stand an excellent chance of achieving funding. It is certainly in the national interest.

The current market cap of Rare Elements Resources is just US$84 million. Analysts see plenty of upside ahead with a price target of $2.90 which compares favorably to the current price of $0.812/share.




CBLT offers investors early stage exposure to a very large number of cobalt and precious metals projects in Canada

One of the biggest trends in 2020 is the US moving to secure supply of critical materials such as the battery materials, including the hardest of all to source, cobalt. Combine this with the benefits of safe haven assets such as silver and gold, and you get a perfect combination of safety and growth. One Canadian company has built a large portfolio of Canadian located assets with a focus on cobalt as well as precious metals such as gold, silver, nickel, copper, and PGMs. Even better the Company is still trading at a fraction of its future potential value, assuming it succeeds in the long run.

That company is CBLT Inc. (TSXV: CBLT).

CBLT Inc. is a project generator with a focus on quality cobalt projects, ideally associated with valuable by-products such as base (Ni, Cu) or precious metals (Au, Au, PGMs), in safe jurisdictions such as Canada. The Company prioritizes shareholders interests by minimizing stock dilution by bringing in cash from M&A deal flow and JV deals. CBLT is a believer in building up new ethical sources of cobalt that will be in high demand as the EV boom accelerates in future years. The Company prefers projects with poly-metallic potential or at least cobalt and some precious metals.

CBLT Inc.’s has numerous projects and JVs in Canada.

CBLT’s Copper Prince Project is their flagship project located within Falconbridge Township, in the Sudbury Mining District of Ontario, Canada. The Property is comprised of sixteen contiguous patented mining claims totaling 256 ha and has Cu-Ni-PGM and gold occurrences. Sample 616311 found 54.3g/t Au and 5,020 ppm (0.502%) Co. Other grab samples included sample 616313 that returned 12.8 g/t Au, 0.47% Co, and sample 616318 that returned 4.31 g/t Au, 0.44% Co.

CBLT’s Chilton Cobalt Project is in the Grenville Subprovince in Quebec and contains two areas with large nickel-copper-cobalt-chromium findings. CBLT is currently in the permitting process for excavation and a maiden drill program.

CBLT Inc.’s projects

Location map of some of CBLT Inc’s Ontario Canada projects

Source

In 2018 CBLT sold the Bloom Lake Property to Winmar Resources Ltd (ASX: WFE) in a deal that saw CBLT retain a 10% management fee, as well as 16 million shares in Winmar. Winmar’s shares are currently suspended as they seek approval to buy half of a cobalt processing facility in the DRC. Bloom Lake assay results have confirmed high-grade copper-cobalt mineralization with anomalous gold and nickel. The most notable was Sample 853028, taken south of the No. 1 audit, which assayed 6.84% cobalt, 0.422 g/t gold, 0.58% copper and 1.56% nickel.

On June 1, 2020 CBLT Inc. announced that they have sold their 56% joint venture share in Northshore Gold for cash and equity to Omni Commerce Corp. The total consideration payable to CBLT in respect of the transaction is $1,450,000 consisting of: Cash consideration of $350,000 and stock consideration of $1,100,000 payable by the issuance of post-consolidation common shares in Omni’s capital on closing.

Closing remarks

There is little doubt that as the EV revolution accelerates the world will need more cobalt, especially from safe countries such as Canada.

Investing into CBLT Inc. gives investors exposure to a very large number of Canadian cobalt and other valuable metals (gold, silver, nickel, copper, PGMs) exploration projects, as well as equity exposure to several other explorers that have bought projects from CBLT, such as Winmar and Omni.

Due to management’s focus to avoid stock dilution by successful deal flow, CBLT Inc. has a small share register of just 70.24 million shares outstanding. The current market cap is just C$2.1 million. This means that investors that are willing to invest early and show some patience have the potential to be highly rewarded for taking the risk of an early stage smaller cap mining stock. One to watch.




Jack Lifton and Pini Althaus on USA Rare Earth’s mine to magnet strategy

“You have formally announced a mine to magnet strategy. In the rare earths business, we have seen this before, in the round one of the rare earths boom in around 2011 or 2012. A company no longer in existence called Great Western Minerals announced a mine to magnet strategy. Then Molycorp announced a mine to market strategy. Neither of those companies ever achieved anything like that and neither of them advanced to where you have advanced which is the separation of the heavy and light rare earths. I would like to know if you are planning a vertically integrated company which would be not only mining and refining but producing metals and alloys and fabricated magnets” Asked Jack Lifton, critical materials expert and Technology Metals Show host, in an interview with Pini Althaus, CEO and Director of USA Rare Earth LLC.

Pini replied, “The difference here is between announcing strategy verses implementing strategy and we have been very careful to annouce things as they actually take form and become a reality.”

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