The U.S. government has identified electric vehicles (EVs) as a vital area of growth and named lithium as a critical mineral in that growth strategy.
So much so that the White House is now throwing its weight behind the expansion of neighbouring Canada’s lithium mining sector.
As a key plank to his plans to help “green” America and boost the local job market, U.S. President Joe Biden is proposing a US$174B investment to win the global EV market race.
His plan will enable automakers to support domestic supply chains from raw materials to parts, to retooling factories to compete globally, while at the same time supporting American workers to make batteries and EVs.
The US Office Of Energy recently released a National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries, developed by the Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries. It is claimed it will help guide investments to develop a domestic lithium-battery manufacturing value chain that creates equitable clean-energy manufacturing jobs in America while helping to mitigate climate change impacts.
The blueprint lays out five critical goals and key actions to guide federal agency collaboration to secure the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness and create good-paying jobs for American workers, while supporting the Biden Administration’s decarbonization goals.
A key part of that goal is obtaining secure supplies, and while it is backing its local miners, the U.S. government is also working to help American miners and battery makers expand into Canada. This is part of a strategy to boost regional production of minerals used to make electric vehicles and counter China’s dominance.
Building the supply chain
It was recently reported that the U.S. Department of Commerce hosted a closed-door virtual meeting with miners and battery manufacturers to discuss ways to boost Canadian production of EV materials, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Tesla, Albemarle, Talon Metals, and Livent were reportedly among the more-than 30 attendees at the meeting who discussed ways Washington can assist U.S. companies expand in Canada and overcome logistical challenges, according to the documents.
The event followed on the heels of President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent commitment to work together to build an EV supply chain between the two countries.
It has been reported that Since Biden’s election, three U.S. mining companies have invested in Canada.
According to International Lithium Corp, Canada was a major lithium player in the 1950s, with a mine in Quebec providing tons of the salt, then failing as the market failed.
The company also noted that Canada has massive lithium reserves underground. But it is now well outside the list of leading global producers.
According to chemical engineer Robert Rapier writing in Forbes magazine, in 2019 the world’s top five lithium producers were:
- Australia – 52.9% of global production
- Chile – 21.5%
- China – 9.7%
- Argentina – 8.3%
- Zimbabwe – 2.1%
The U.S. ranked seventh with 1.2% of the world’s lithium production. Nevertheless, the U.S. is home to two of the world’s top-producing lithium companies: Albemarle and Livent.
However, the world is only producing a tiny fraction of its lithium reserves. Based on 2019 production levels, known global lithium reserves could last more than 200 years. According to the same article, the world’s top five lithium reserves by country in 2019 were:
- Chile – 55.5% of the world’s total
- Australia – 18.1%
- Argentina – 11.0%
- China – 6.5%
- U.S. – 4.1%
Growing interest from miners
Canada’s potential lithium riches and new market opportunities have attracted a number of new players – and they are testing many different regions.
Origen Resources Inc. (CSE: ORGN) recently acquired three additional claim blocks from a Newfoundland-based staking consortium, covering 450 hectares within the Newfoundland Lithium Belt. This brings the company’s total holdings to over 33,700 hectares in this newly identified and highly prospective lithium corridor.
President Blake Morgan said these new claims contain the key characteristics as identified in the company’s earlier acquisitions that are indicative of lithium rich pegmatites. The company has mobilized key project personnel to Newfoundland to conduct a site visit on the newly acquired claims.
“We believe that these new acquisitions may hold the key to unlocking the lithium prospectively of the area. High lithium values in till samples coupled with known pegmatites makes this an intriguing acquisition,” Mr Morgan said.
Elsewhere, Musk Metals Corp. (CSE:MUSK) recently commenced Phase Two of its exploration programme on its 100% owned Elon Lithium Project, Quebec.
The company’s Phase 1 programme identified multiple magnetic anomalies. Phase 2 exploration is focused on the interpreted intrusion, the interpreted magnetic structures, and the interpreted mafic units identified in Phase 1 by the airborne survey. Exploration at Elon will include geological mapping, trenching, and sampling with a planned Phase 3 programme to include diamond drilling and metallurgical testing of targets outlined in Phase 1 and 2.
Each of these highly prospective areas will be explored by two teams of two (a geologist and a technician per team). Extensive sampling and mapping will be done to assay boulders and outcrops, mainly focusing on pegmatite intrusions and dykes. Till sampling in the southern portion of the Elon property will also be completed to better define the location of mineralization on the property.
And it is not only American and Canadian firms which are looking to grab a piece of the action.
ASX-listed gold explorer Ardiden Limited (ASX: ADV) has sealed a joint venture agreement on its hard-rock lithium projects in north-west Ontario, after new partner Great Northern Lithium gave the nod to acquiring an 80% interest in the assets. Great Northern exercised its option to buy the stake for a staged-payment consideration to Ardiden totalling A$8.7M over the next 18 months.
Ardiden will be free-carried through to delivery of a positive definitive feasibility study or a decision to proceed to mining, whichever is the earliest.
Great Northern Lithium, which will soon be known as Green Technology Metals, hopes to list its shares on the ASX in the second half of this year.
The JV’s Ontario lithium portfolio consists of three high-grade, hard-rock spodumene projects – Seymour Lake, Root Lake and Wisa Lake – spanning a combined area of about 95km2 of fertile tenure north-west of Thunder Bay.
Seymour Lake encompasses the North Aubry and South Aubry deposits that speak for an indicated and inferred mineral resource estimate of 4.8M tonnes at an average grade of 1.25% lithium oxide.
Earlier metallurgical testwork on Seymour Lake concentrate by Ardiden returned a 99.5% standard battery-grade lithium carbonate product.