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Closing the Gap: How North America Could Lead in Domestic Lithium Supply by 2030
News provided byUSA News Group
Sep 19, 2023, 12:45 PM ET
FN Media Group Presents USA News Group News Commentary
VANCOUVER, BC, Sept. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- USA News Group During a panel led by leaders from the lithium and battery space at the Battery Show North America expressed optimism that North America's domestic lithium supply gap can be eliminated. Acknowledging that just a decade ago, 75% of the world's lithium came from China, Chile, and Australia, moderator James Frith of Volta Energy Technologies predicted that "By 2030" those countries' share of all supply will be less than 50%—thanks to a rapidly advancing EV market, and geopolitical and supply-efficiency pushes for more North American-based lithium supply. Among the ongoing lithium projects on the continent that are making significant advances are those from Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF), E3 Lithium Limited (TSXV: ETL) (OTCQX: EEMMF), Allkem Limited (TSX: AKE) (OTCPK: OROCF), Livent Corporation (NYSE: LTHM), and Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE: LAC) (TSX: LAC).
Based in Vancouver, Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF), which has holdings in both Nevada and Ontario, recently provided a significant update on its White Willow Lithium Pegmatite Project. Situated 170km west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the project has revealed ten principal drill targets across a 25km stretch, based on 837 collected samples. With 219 assays still pending, initial results have shown up to 0.5% Li2O, 1,730 ppm cesium, 120,000 ppm tantalum, and 3,540 ppm rubidium.
"We are thrilled with the findings from the initial programs at White Willow," said Deepak Varshney, CEO of Usha Resources. "As seen at Patriot Battery Metals' Corvette Project, which has over 20 kilometres of trend, lithium pegmatite swarms occur in clusters, each of which has the potential to become a deposit. The findings thus far strongly validate our belief that Willow is a flagship asset where Ontario's next major lithium discovery will occur."
After acquiring the White Willow project in March 2023, USHA hit the ground running. Completing five weeks of fieldwork and gathering data on 618 samples, the company is set to begin drilling at each of the 10 target pegmatites in its inaugural drill program, slated for Q1 2024.
White Willow has quickly risen in prominence within USHA's esteemed North American portfolio, becoming the company's primary hard rock lithium asset. This addition has strengthened USHA's dual-focused strategy to become a major lithium producer in the future. The other cornerstone in this strategy is the Jackpot Lake Lithium Brine Project in Nevada, where drilling commenced and preparations for a new 43-101 resource estimate began as of June 2023.
"The work to-date has demonstrated that Jackpot contains the right system for a major lithium discovery and by exploring to a depth of 2,000 feet, we aim to gather a more comprehensive understanding of the mineral potential within our project area, further enhancing the overall resource estimation and project feasibility of Jackpot Lake," said Varshney.
Since USHA's revelation in early August 2023, White Willow has been capturing significant attention. The discovery of a second lithium-cesium-tantalum pegmatite cluster effectively tripled the original strike length to over 25km, making headlines in the process.
"We are thrilled with the findings from the initial programs at White Willow," said Deepak Varshney. "As seen at Patriot Battery Metals' Corvette Project, which has over 20 kilometres of trend, lithium pegmatite swarms occur in clusters, each of which has the potential to become a deposit."
Another Canadian asset that's being developed is that of E3 Lithium Limited (TSXV:ETL) (OTC:EEMMF), which followed up its announcement of commencing operations at Alberta's first direct lithium extraction (DLE) field pilot plant by providing an overview of its strategic assets over the provincial border in Saskatchewan.
While there is still plenty of attention going towards the ambitious Alberta DLE plant (the first of its kind in the province), now the company is building up even more anticipation on its neighbouring assets comprised of approximately 258 sections or 66,800 hectares of fully-owned mineral permits in southeast Saskatchewan. While E3 Lithium continues to prioritize the development of its Clearwater Project in Alberta, their Saskatchewan land position gives the company another strategic asset to unlock and maximize value from.
"Securing mineral permits in Saskatchewan has enabled E3 Lithium to hold a central land position in a new and developing lithium region," said Chris Doornbos, President and CEO of E3 Lithium. "Our focus will remain on our world-class core assets in Alberta as we actively pursue value for our Saskatchewan asset."
Across the country in Quebec, Allkem Limited (TSX:AKE) (OTC:OROCF) recently boasted an updated resource at its James Bay Lithium Project to 110.2 Mt at 1.30% Li2O, representing a whopping increase of 173% in the process. Now as the Canadian winter approaches, Allkem is setting forth on a significant campaign of infill and extensional drilling to test for along-strike and down-dip extensions of the pegmatite dykes beyond the area.
"James Bay is now one of the largest spodumene lithium assets and clearly has the potential to grow even further as the boundaries of mineralisation are tested through an additional drilling program commencing later in the year," said Martin Perez de Solay, Managing Director and CEO of Allkem. "The size and grade of this resource is amongst the best in the world and will underpin Allkem plans for future production and processing of lithium in Québec."
The update on James Bay came just 9 days after lithium-giant partners Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM) shared in an update on who will be in charge of the proposed merger company post-completion of the deal.
"Today's announcement is a significant milestone as Livent and Allkem seek to combine our teams and collective strengths to create a leading lithium company," said Livent President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Graves.
Ahead of the deal, Livent has its own Quebec-based lithium project in development, the Whabouchi spodumene mine aka Nemaska Lithium, of which the company is a 50% shareholder and operating partner. The company is working to deliver upon an order of up0 to 13,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide per year over 11 years to Ford.
Meanwhile in the USA in the same state as USHA's Jackpot Lake property, Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC) is swiftly advancing its Thacker Pass project towards production to becoming the country's next producing mine in Nevada.
Now that a new lithium discovery resulting from a US volcano nearby is being touted as potentially the biggest lithium deposit ever found, Nevada has re-captured the attention of the market. Composed of the unusual claystone mineral illite, new in situ analysis reveals that there could be 1.3-2.4% lithium in the volcanic crater–that's almost double the lithium present in the main lithium-bearing clay mineral, magnesium smectite, which is more common than illite.
"Previous research assumed that the illite was everywhere at depth in the caldera," said Thomas Benson, a geologist at Lithium Americas, whose team that proposed that a layer of illite around 40m thick was formed in the lake sediments by a hot brine.
As per Benson's team's assertions, the fluid moved upwards along fractures formed as volcanic activity restarted, transforming smectite into illite in the southern part of the crater, Thacker Pass, resulting in a claystone rich in lithium. Now Benson and his team are viewing the lithium-rich claystone at Thacker Pass as 'unique' amongst volcanic sedimentary deposits.
Lithium Americas expects to begin mining in 2026, which will be after the completion of a split between its North and South American assets into two leading lithium companies.
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