IM Lithium News in Brief 24 – 30 June

By Laura Syrett
Published: Tuesday, 30 June 2015

REM takes stake in Czech lithium project as Cobre Montana JVs with European Metals; MIT develop new semisolid Li-ion battery.

UK AIM-listed Rare Earth Minerals Plc (REM) has acquired a 6.65% interest in the Cinovec lithium deposit in the Czech Republic, via a direct purchase of the equivalent share capital in ASX-listed European Metals Holdings Ltd, which owns 100% of the project’s exploration rights.

The Cinovec lithium-tin project is a hard rock deposit based on zinnwaldite, a lithium mica mineral, located 100km northwest of the Czech capital, Prague, close to the border with Germany, and is an historic producer of tin.

According to a European Metals ASX announcement on 25 June, the site has a conceptual inferred resource of 5.5m tonnes lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) and an exploration target of 350-450m tonnes at 0.39-0.47% Li2O, using a 0.1% Li cut-off, although further exploration is required to confirm a resource.

European Metals is also in the process of formalising a joint venture (JV) with fellow ASX-listed lithium developer, Cobre Montana NL, focusing on processing technology designed to recover lithium from Cinovec.

REM acquired the interest at a cost of £200,000 ($314,550*) via a placement of new ordinary shares by European Metals.

"This investment is a strategic acquisition, which provides REM [with] exposure to a significant lithium deposit in the European Union," said David Lenigas, REM’s chairman.

REM also has a 16.41% interest in UK-based Bacanora Minerals Ltd, which is developing the Sonora lithium project in Mexico and a 3.05% interest in US-based Western Lithium Corp., which operates the King’s Valley lithium project in Nevada, as well as rare earths interests in Greenland and Australia.

The company reported an operating loss of £3.17m for the full year 2014, compared with a loss of £770,000 in 2013 – a drop which REM attributed to a non-cash charge associated with share-based payments to directors, staff and consultants during the year.

Bacanora Minerals has filed its latest NI 43-101 report on the La Ventana, El Sauz and Fleur concessions at the Sonora lithium project in Mexico, which are 70% owned by Bacanora.

The indicated resource for the concessions stands at 95m tonnes, grading at 2,200 parts per million (ppm) lithium, or 1.14m tonnes contained LCE. A further 500m tonnes at 2,300ppm lithium for 6.3m tonnes LCE is contained in the inferred portion of the resource.

A further 300-350m tonnes grading at 1,500-2,500ppm lithium for 2.5-4.6m tonnes LCE is contained within a conceptual target at the project, which may be included in the resource pending further exploration.

Western Lithium has signed a subscription agreement for a non-brokered private placement with an affiliate of Thai oil products producer, Bangchak Petroleum Public Co. Ltd, for initial gross proceeds of $5m, which will be funded in two tranches.

The initial tranche of $1.5m will be funded pursuant to the issue of around 2.7m subscription receipts at a price of Canadian dollar (C$) 0.70 ($0.56), that will each be convertible to one common share in the company on satisfying the Toronto Stock Exchange’s listing requirements.

The second tranche of $3.5m will be funded pursuant to the issue of 6.24m subscription receipts on the same terms, plus the completion of trial runs for the production of high purity lithium carbonate at Western’s demonstration plant in Germany in the second half of this year.

Subject to board approval, Bangchak has a co-investment right to increase its equity ownership position in Western Lithium to 19.9% during the next development stages of Western’s King’s Valley project.

TSX-V-listed Rodinia Lithium Inc. has entered into agreements to satisfy outstanding debt obligations totalling $1.685m through the issuance of just under 133m common shares at a deemed price of $0.05/share.

The conversion price represents a 400% premium to the company’s last closing share price of $0.01/share and a 267% premium to the 30 day volume weighted average price of $0.0136/share.

Rodinia’s debt consists of fees incurred for various services provided in connection to its Salar de Diablillos property in Salta, Argentina and general and administrative services. The project has an inferred in-situ brine resource of 4.96m tonnes LCE, 19.84m tonnes potash and 6.19m tonnes boric acid, according to a 2011 NI 43-101 report on the site.

Upon completion of the shares for debt settlement, which is subject to TSX-V approval, one of its creditors, Forbes & Manhattan Inc., will hold just under 21m shares in Rodinia, representing a 12.5% interest in the company.

Australia-based Orocobre Ltd has raised Australian dollar (A$) 32.3m ($24.8m) through a placement of 17m shares at a price of A$1.90/share to existing and new, domestic and international shareholders.

The proceeds of the raising will be used principally to fund Orocobre’s Olaroz lithium facility JV company, Sales de Jujuy SA, in Argentina. The ownership structure of the JV requires Orocobre to contribute 75% of the funding for its operation.

Some of the cash will cover costs associated with the ramp up of production at Olaroz, which is progressing more slowly than expected due to equipment limitations and earlier operational issues.

These issues have now been rectified, but the delays have impacted Orocobre’s working capital position. The company expects the purification circuit at Olaroz to be completed within three-to-four months and that the facility will achieve its nameplate run rate of 1,450 tpm in Q4.

In technology news, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a spinoff company called 24M have come up with a new way of making lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which the developers say could slash the cost of the technology while improving the performance of the batteries and make them easier to recycle.

According to MIT, the new manufacturing process replaces a two decade old method to make what the researchers call a "semisolid flow battery", where the electrodes are suspensions of tiny particles pumped in a liquid through various compartments of the battery.

Having the electrode in suspended particle form rather than solid slabs reduces the path length for the charged particles as they move through the battery, making it possible to use thicker electrodes which simplifies production and lowers costs, MIT said.

Yet-Ming Chiang, Kyocera professor of ceramics at MIT, said that the simpler manufacturing approach used by the team makes batteries that are flexible and resistant to damage, compared to conventional Li-ion batteries with brittle electrodes that can crack under stress.

MIT and 24M are initially focusing on grid scale installations, used to smooth out power supply and provide backup for renewable energy sources, but Chiang said that the technology is also well suited to electric vehicles (EVs).

Korea’s Samsung Electronics has developed a technology which it claims can double the capacity of Li-ion batteries using a silicon carbide-free graphene coating, in a breakthrough that could bring significant advantages for mobile devices and EVs.

A team of researchers at Samsung "grew" a protective graphene layer over the silicon particles in the battery anode, without forming silicon carbide. The ability of graphene layers to slide past one another accommodates the volume expansion of silicon during the charge and discharge cycle of the battery.

Industry observers believe the technology may be available for commercial applications within two or three years.

Finally, Li-ion battery developer Tanaris Power Holdings Inc. has formed an advisory board to advise on the company’s business plan, assist in strategic acquisitions and help secure new customers.

Nevada-based Tanaris, which earlier this year changed its name from Recursos Montana SA, designs and sells Li-ion energy systems mostly to industrial vehicles, such as airport ground support and material handling equipment.

*Conversions made June 2015