Supplying Lithium and Tantalum for 21st Century Markets
This Critical Elements Lithium Corporation profile is part of a paid investor education campaign.*
Critical Elements Lithium Corporation’s (TSXV:CRE,OTCQX:CRECF,FWB:F12) vision is to be a large, responsible supplier of lithium hydroxide to the emerging electric vehicle and energy storage industries. The company is well-positioned, wholly owning over 530 km² of prospective lands hosting one of the highest purity spodumene deposits globally. This deposit is in Quebec, one of the company’s premier mining investment jurisdictions. The company aspires to achieve its goals with a minimal environmental footprint by drawing electricity from Quebec’s established low-carbon power grid, and in cooperation with the Cree Nation and local First Nations communities, with whom relationships have been formalized.
The Rose lithium-tantalum deposit, one of the largest highest purity lithium deposits in the world, can supply multiple lithium markets because of its unique purity with low iron oxide and mica content. The Rose lithium-tantalum deposit has an updated NI 43-101 resource estimate that outlines an indicated resource of 31.9 million tonnes grading 1.04 percent lithium oxide equivalent or 0.93 percent lithium oxide and 148 ppm of tantalum pentoxide with an inferred resource of 2.8 million tonnes grading 0.92 percent lithium oxide equivalent or 0.82 percent lithium oxide and 145 ppm of tantalum pentoxide.
Following a positive feasibility study for spodumene mining and concentration, Critical Elements Lithium Corporation is now ready to advance to the next stage of development for Rose. The feasibility study was, in part, informed by the results of a bulk sampling and pilot plant study. The results demonstrated that the conversion of the resources from the Rose lithium-tantalum deposit into the spodumene crystalline phase is easily achievable, with lithium concentrate grades up to 6.56 percent. Extraction was achieved at high conversion rates for chemical and technical-grade spodumene, yielding 83.4 percent with a concentrate grade of 6.41 percent for Rose, and recovery averaged 81.9 percent with a concentrate grade of 6.56 percent for Rose South. The high yield confirms the low-impurity profile of the Rose ore, allowing for the production of battery-quality lithium carbonate at a competitive cost and without additional purification steps.
Most recent testing at the Rose lithium-tantalum pilot plant has resulted in the production of battery-quality lithium hydroxide. Critical Elements was able to demonstrate that its plant can achieve extraction rates of 93 percent, which is higher than the market benchmark of 70 percent to 75 percent. The plant’s overall recovery rate from spodumene to battery-quality lithium hydroxide is 80 percent, which is again higher than the market benchmark of 65 percent.
Tantalum is used in a wide variety of applications across the electronics, medicine, engineering and energy-generation industries. Since 1995, the market for tantalum has experienced average yearly growth in demand of about 8 to 12 percent. End users are facing increasing market pressure to secure conflict-free sources of tantalum, further tightening global supply.
Critical Elements Lithium Corporation is focused on developing supply for these markets at its Rose lithium-tantalum project. The unique geological properties of this deposit give it the potential to supply multiple markets, including battery-grade materials, ceramics, glass and tantalum.
Critical Elements Lithium Company Highlights
- The positive Phase 1 feasibility study shows a pre-tax NPV 8 percent of C$1.257 billion and pre-tax IRR of 48.2 percent
- Higher lithium recoveries in concentration and carbonation compared to peers
- Pilot plant testing achieved an 83 percent lithium recovery rate from the Rose lithium-tantalum project ore to battery quality lithium carbonate and 80 percent to battery quality lithium hydroxide
- No uranium or thorium contaminants in the deposit
- Low iron content
- Low mica content
Key Property: Rose Lithium-Tantalum Project
The Rose lithium-tantalum project is located in the James Bay area of Quebec, Canada, about 35 kilometres north of Nemiscau and 75 kilometres due south of Newmont Corporation’s (NYSE:NEM) Eleonore gold deposit. Excellent infrastructure is in place locally and regionally, including 100 ton capacity road access, an airport, a mining camp and a power line directly on the project property.
Rose is located in the Quebec Plan Nord designated area, where the government is fast-tracking the construction of new infrastructure, accelerating permitting and assisting with project financing. The project covers about 109 square miles of active mining titles in the northeastern part of the Archean Superior Province of the Canadian Shield craton and within the southern portion of the Middle and Lower Eastmain greenstone belt.
The Rose deposit has an updated NI 43-101 resource estimate of 31.9 million tonnes of indicated resources containing 1.04 percent lithium oxide equivalent or 0.93 percent lithium oxide and 148 ppm of tantalum pentoxide, and an inferred resource of 2.8 million tonnes grading 0.92 percent lithium oxide equivalent or 0.82 percent lithium oxide and 145 ppm of tantalum pentoxide.
In November 2017, Critical Elements announced the completion of a positive Phase 1 feasibility study for the Rose project with a pre-tax NPV at 8 percent of C$1.257 billion and a pre-tax IRR of 48.2 percent. The study is based on a conventional truck and shovel open pit operation that is expected to process 1.61 million tonnes a year in a conventional milling process with the aim of producing technical and chemical grade spodumene concentrate and a tantalite concentrate. The mine is expected to excavate a total of 26.8 million tonnes of ore of an average grade of 0.85 percent lithium oxide and 133 parts per million of tantalum pentoxide. Critical Elements Lithium Corporation has submitted their environmental and social impact study to the federal and provincial environmental agencies.
Highlights from the Phase 1 Feasibility Study include:
- After-tax NPV of C$726 million at an 8 percent discount rate
- After-tax IRR of 34.9 percent
- Price assumption of US$1,500 per tonne technical grade lithium concentrate, US$750 per tonne chemical grade lithium concentrate, US$130 per kg tantalum pentoxide
- Average annual production of 186,327 tonnes of chemical grade lithium concentrate
- Average annual production of 50,205 tonnes of technical grade lithium concentrate
- Average annual production of 429 tonnes of tantalum concentrate
- Expected mine life of 17 years
- Average operating costs of C$66.56 per tonne milled
- An estimated initial capital cost of C$341.2 million before working capital
- 100 percent equity basis for project
- Average gross margin of 63.6 percent
- Anticipated construction time to start of production of 21 months
Industry leading Primero Group recently completed the first phase of its Early Contractor Involvement agreement with the company and provided a guaranteed maximum price for the engineering, procurement and construction of the Rose project on a lump sum turnkey basis that is in line with the project’s feasibility study. Critical Elements expects Primero to complete detailed engineering over the coming months.
Excellent recoveries and battery-grade purity
Intensive metallurgical testing and flowsheet optimization work has shown that Critical Elements Lithium Corporation’s Rose lithium-tantalum project demonstrates a significant advantage over other known lithium deposits based on its ability to produce premium-purity lithium carbonate at a low cost.
During flotation testing, recoveries reached up to 91.9 percent lithium with a concentration grade of 6.43 percent lithium; recoveries averaged 90.88 percent with a concentration grade of 6.2 percent lithium.
Results from recent hydrometallurgical testing for the conversion of spodumene to lithium carbonate have shown an overall recovery rate of up to 88.4 percent with an overall purity of 99.9 percent—surpassing the requirements for battery-grade lithium carbonate. The high purity percentage is due in large part to the low impurity profile of Critical Elements Lithium Corporation’s spodumene in combination with the use of a sodium carbonate alkaline process rather than the industry-standard sulfuric acid process. The sodium carbonate alkaline process poses a much lower environmental risk and is much more successful in dissolving impurities at the leaching stage.
Pilot Plant Study Supports Proposed Large-scale Production
In late 2016, Critical Elements Lithium Corporation initiated a bulk sampling program of 50 tons of material from two different zones of the deposit, Rose and Rose South, for subsequent pilot plant testing. The results of the pilot project are expected to be used to decide the plant equipment for large-scale production.
The proposed plant design includes simple grinding and magnetic and gravity separation. Critical Elements Lithium Corporation innovates by introducing circulating fluid beds, common in many other industries, such as the aluminium industry. However, it is rare in lithium extraction, where rotary kilns are preferred. Fluid-bed calcination would cut down on energy use and modestly reduce capital costs, helping the company deliver high-quality lithium at low cost.
In April 2017, Critical Elements Lithium Corporation announced the successful completion of its pilot work with results in spodumene concentrates grading up to 6.56 percent lithium. From Rose, recovery rates averaged 83.4 percent with a concentrate grade of 6.41 percent, and from Rose South, recovery rates averaged 81.9 percent with a concentrate grade of 6.56 percent.
In May 2017, Critical Elements Lithium Corporation announced the subsequent completion of its pilot work for the thermal conversion of alpha to beta spodumene followed by the conversion to battery quality lithium carbonate achieving a high-quality product of 99.9 percent purity at superior recovery rates without the need to apply additional cost-intensive purification steps.
“The high yield we achieved during extraction confirms the low-impurity profile of our ore, which is what allows us to produce battery quality lithium carbonate at a competitive cost, without additional purification steps,” Jean-Sébastien Lavallée said.
Mr. Lavallée also noted the pilot work achieved conversion rates for alpha spodumene of 97 percent or better, followed by the conversion to lithium carbonate of battery-grade quality with total recovery rates of 88.4 percent. This included modelling results done by Metso Outotec for the flotation process of spodumene, which returned recovery rates of 92 percent, well above the industry standard of 60 percent to 65 percent.
Further testing at the pilot stage was able to successfully convert spodumene concentrate into a battery-quality lithium hydroxide using a thermal leaching process, providing Critical Elements Lithium Corporation with the flexibility to meet the needs of battery and electric vehicle (EV) producers. Through the testing, Critical Elements Lithium Corporation was able to demonstrate that the pilot plant could achieve extraction rates of 93 percent, which is higher than the market benchmark of 70 percent to 75 percent. The plant’s overall recovery from spodumene to battery-grade lithium hydroxide is 80 percent, again higher than the market benchmark of 65 percent.
“These pilot plant results support the low impurity profile of our feed, which facilitates the production of battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide at competitive costs without additional purification steps,” said Mr.Lavallée. “Critical Elements Lithium Corporation is very pleased with providing the production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide for the Rose lithium-tantalum project. These test results demonstrate that the Rose lithium-tantalum project can responsibly deliver a range of EV products, including battery-quality lithium carbonate and hydroxide, to varied end-users for varying applications.”
Tantalum by-product more economical than potash
Most of the world’s supply of lithium comes from deposits with a significant potash co-product. The Rose lithium-tantalum deposit, however, possesses a unique combination of tantalum and lithium mineralization. The tantalum found in the Rose lithium-tantalum deposit gives the project additional by-product diversification and makes it one of the few economic, conflict-free, industrial-scale tantalum sources in the world.
The most recently reported metallurgical results from pilot work for tantalum at the Rose deposit show tantalite magnetic recoveries as high as 69 percent with an average of 64 percent, up significantly from the 50 percent recoveries reported in the 2011 PEA. Recent tantalum mine closures in Canada, Mozambique and Australia are creating a major shortage of supply from which Critical Elements Lithium Corporation might benefit.
Critical Elements Lithium Management Team
Jean-Sébastien Lavallée—Chief Executive Officer and Director
Mr. Jean-Sébastien Lavallée, P. Geo., has been the Chief Executive Officer of Critical Elements Lithium Corporation since 2009. From 2009 to 2017, he also served as President. Mr. Lavallée has been active in mining exploration since 1994. He was President and Chief Executive Officer of Quebec Precious Metals Corporation (TSXV:QPM) from 2012 to May 2017, and since June 2017, Mr. Lavallée has been Director and Vice President Exploration in this company. Mr. Lavallée has been on the Board of Directors of the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association “AEMQ” from 2017 to 2019, and he is also working with Consul-Teck Exploration Minière Inc., a Val-d’Or based consulting firm. Most of the firm’s mandates involve the generation and execution of projects in remote areas. Mr. Lavallée has acted as a geologist for many companies, including Eloro Resources Ltd., Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd., Noranda Minerals Inc. and Champion Minerals Inc. Having been responsible for the planning and execution of many exploration programs in recent years, Mr. Lavallée has acquired solid experience in exploration project development.
Dr. Steffen Haber—President
Dr. Haber is the President of Critical Elements Lithium Corporation since January 2017. He was President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockwood Lithium GmbH when Chemetall GmbH was legally split off in 2012. From 2011 to 2012, he was Managing Director of Chemetall and since 2007 President of Chemetall’s lithium business. Prior to joining Chemetall GmbH, Dr. Haber worked in different executive positions for Sanofi-Aventis SA and its predecessor companies in France. Dr. Haber completed his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, in 1991, and added one year as a Post-Doc at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. In 1997, Dr. Haber earned his Bachelor of Science in Management from the International School of Management in San Diego in the United States. Dr. Haber is a fellow of the International Directors Program of INSEAD.
Mr. Eric Zaunscherb is a Canadian geologist with over 32 years and six cycles of experience as a mining analyst. He most recently served as Managing Director, Research – Metals & Mining Analyst at Canaccord Genuity where he co-ordinated the firm’s global mining equity research team. He has enjoyed working in Toronto, Vancouver and London, experiencing best practices in Capital Markets at several leading firms and conducting hundreds of exploration, development and mining project site visits globally. He embraces new technologies and industry initiatives in diversity and socially responsible investing, ensuring that local communities receive lasting benefits from mineral resource development.
Marcus Brune—VP Finance
Dr. Brune was Chief Financial Officer of Rockwood Lithium from 2011 until the acquisition by Albemarle in 2015. He left Albemarle in 2016 once the lithium business was successfully integrated into Albemarle‘s organizational structure. Prior to joining Rockwood Lithium, Dr. Brune had worked in different executive positions in corporate finance and M&A for Rockwood Holdings and its predecessor companies since 2004. Prior to that, he was with McKinsey as a strategy consultant for organizational development and management. Dr. Brune completed his doctorate in material sciences at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, after earning a physics degree.
Nathalie Laurin—Secretary and Chief Financial Officer
Mrs. Nathalie Laurin has over 30 years of experience in administration and accounting. The experience gained through working in various roles with increasing responsibilities, primarily in the natural resources sector, has given her a solid mastery of finance and project management. Since 2006, she has acted as corporate secretary and/or chief financial officer for several companies, most notably mineral exploration companies, including Critical Elements Lithium Corporation, Delta Resources Limited, MPV Exploration Inc., Quebec Precious Metals Corporation and BlackRock Metals.
Mr. Jean-Raymond Lavallée has more than 30 years of experience in mining exploration, as contractor, consultant and manager for several mining companies, such as Louvem, Soquem, James-Bay Development Corporation, Sullivan Consolidated, Cache Explorations Inc., Parquet Resources, Dumont Nickel Corporation, Westminer Canada Ltd, Baribec Management Inc., Exploration Ojibway Inc. and others. He was also controller for Mines Expert Inc. during the construction of the Doyon Mine. Mr. Lavallee is currently president of Consul-Teck Exploration, a consulting firm of Val-d’Or founded in 2003 that specializes in mining exploration in northern areas.
Mr. Marc Simpson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Vanadian Energy Corp. Mr. Simpson has worked in the mining and exploration industry for over 23 years, working for junior, mid-tier and senior mining companies on projects both in Canada and worldwide, including Bema Gold (sold to Kinross for C$3.5 billion in 2007), B2Gold and Echo Bay Mines. Mr. Simpson has been involved in exploration and mining projects from grass roots exploration through to mine development and production. Mr. Simpson obtained his B.Sc. in Geology from the University of Manitoba and is a member of Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia and Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba.
Matthew Lauriston Starnes—Director
Mr. Matthew Lauriston Starnes is a lawyer with over 22 years of experience. Mr. Starnes is currently a Peerpoint lawyer with Allen & Overy in Tokyo specializing in mining law. Prior to this, he was legal counsel in Sumitomo Corporation’s Mineral Resources Division in Tokyo, Japan. Among other things, he was responsible for legal aspects of Sumitomo’s investment in the Sierra Gorda copper project in Chile and was also part of the team for the Ambatovy project in Madagascar. Prior to joining Sumitomo, he also was the General Counsel and Deputy CEO for the Ambatovy project. Mr. Starnes has also practiced as a corporate lawyer with major law firms in Montreal.
Charles B. Main—Director
Mr. Main brings over 30 years of experience in the mining and finance industries, having most recently served as Executive Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer of Yamana Gold Inc. from August 2003 to March 2017. He is currently an Independent Director and Chair of the Audit Committee with Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd. Mr. Main is a Chartered Professional Accountant and began his career with 10 years at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Mr. Main has also held positions that include Director of Corporate Development with Newmont Capital Corporation, Vice President of Normandy Mining Limited and Outokumpu Mines Ltd. and Vice President, Finance of TVX Gold Inc. Mr. Main holds a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University.
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