IM Lithium News in Brief 26 August – 1 September

By Myles McCormick
Published: Tuesday, 01 September 2015

Drilling work doubled at Sonora following Tesla deal; Lithium Americas and Western Lithium shareholders give go-ahead to merger deal; Bosch acquisition moves it into Li-ion market.

UK AIM-listed Bacanora Minerals Ltd and Rare Earth Minerals Plc have completed nine holes of a planned 18-hole drilling programme at their joint venture (JV) Sonora lithium project in Mexico.

Following the announcement last week of a lithium hydroxide supply deal with Tesla Motors Plc, a second rig has been mobilised at the site to increase the speed of drilling, with the intention to complete the remaining holes this month.

The programme is designed to increase Sonora’s indicated mineral resource, which currently stands at 1.14m tonnes lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) within 95m tonnes clay, at a grade of 2,200 parts per million (ppm), while inferred resource is 6.3m tonnes LCE in 95m tonnes clay, at a grade of 2,300ppm.

Shareholders of TSX-V-listed Lithium Americas Corp. and Western Lithium USA Corp. have approved merger proposals between the two firms, at separate special meetings, strongly supporting the advice of their boards.

The companies voted by margins of 99.91% and 98.25%, respectively, to proceed with the deal, which will see Lithium Americas shareholders receive 0.789 of a Western Lithium share for each share currently held.

Separately, Lithium Americas announced the execution of a heads of agreement with South Korean technology firm, POSCO, for the commercialisation of its Cauchari-Olaroz lithium project in Jujuy Province, Argentina.

The non-binding agreement provides the companies with a framework to establish a JV company, details of which they will negotiate after completion of due diligence during Q4 2015. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) to this effect was signed in January 2015.

The agreement comes on the back of an extension by the two companies of a cooperation agreement to September 2015 which in turn followed the successful operation of POSCO’s lithium extraction demonstration plant at the Cauchari-Olaroz site.

Fellow ASX-listed Lithium Australia NL – formerly Cobre Montana NL – released a presentation outlining its method of processing lithium micas, which it calls the "forgotten ore" of the industry.

The company believes that the complex process will allow it to take advantage of the abundance of the resource with no mining cost – as feedstock can be taken as a waste product – and with a zero-energy footprint.

The company also announced positive survey results for the recently expanded tenement area at the Seabrook rare metals venture, in which it owns an 80% stake, the remainder being held by Tungsten Mining NL.

Surface mapping and geochemistry work at the site have identified lithium pegamites up to 300m in length, falling within a zone in which soil chemistry indicates high prospectivity.

ASX-listed Neometals Ltd and Mineral Resources Ltd announced that the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) has approved a planned investment by China-based Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd in their JV subsidiary Reed Industrial Minerals Pty Ltd announced in a July MoU.

The deal will give Ganfeng a 25% stake in Reed, and also provides for it to purchase 100% of the offtake from Reed’s Mt Marion spodumene mine.

Altura Mining Ltd, another ASX-listed firm, has said that it has completed the comminution phase of its feasibility study metallurgical test work programme at its flagship Pilangoora lithium project. This has provided it with necessary material for beneficiation phase metallurgical testing which it intends to complete by the end of October.

The full metallurgical test work report will then be used to complete the design of a crushing, screening and beneficiation plant at Pilgangoora, a spodumene site 100% owned by Altura. The project has a current JORC mineral resource estimate of 25.2m tonnes at a grade of 1.23% lithium oxide (Li2O).

TSX-V-listed Ashburton Ventures Inc. announced another further expansion of its sites in British Columbia, Canada, this time in the form of the acquisition of the 18 unit, 904 acre (3.66km2) Boulder property. This latest purchase brings the company’s total holding to 1,457 acres (5.9km2).

The Boulder site borders the GC West property attained by Ashburton last week and encompasses its GC lepidotite minfile showing, which comprises a coarse-grained, lepidolite-bearing, pegamite dike within a mica schist.

Michael England, president of Ashburton, said that the combined new acquisitions give the company an "exciting target to exploit". He expects work on the site to commence in the immediate future.

Moving to downstream news, Japanese electronics producer, Panasonic Corp., announced its intention to cease production of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries at its Beijing factory later this month, according to reports by Reuters.

The move comes as part of an effort by the battery producer to focus on higher-margin products such as electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

The 15-year old factory produces batteries for standard mobile phones and digital cameras, both of which are losing out in popularity to smartphones. Finnish mobile phone producer Nokia was among its customers in its early days.

Finally, German multinational engineering and electronics firm, Bosch GmbH will acquire Silicon Valley advanced battery start-up Seeo Inc, according to reports by news website Quartz.

Seeo is working to create high-energy rechargeable Li-ion batteries based on a nanostructured polymer electrolyte. It has 30 issued, exclusively licensed and pending patent applications. The move indicates part of Bosch’s plans to move into the EV market.

According to Quartz, Bosch have said that the financial specifications of the deal will not be released.