Weekly Nugget

RioTinto Strikes Lithium Pay Dirt in California

Rio Tinto (ASX: LON, NYSE: RIO) has started lithium production from waste rock at a test plant located at a borates mine in California.

The discovery of lithium was an accident. The miner was testing boron tailings for gold and found instead lithium at a concentration higher than projects under development in the United States.

Rio Tinto invested $10 million to build a pilot plant that can produce 10 tonnes a year of lithium-carbonate. Based on the trial’s results, the company will decide whether a $50-million industrial plant to produce 5,000 tonnes a year is worth it for enough lithium for 15,000 Tesla Model S batteries.

“We figured out how to chemically process nearly a century's worth of mining waste to unearth battery-grade lithium” - Rio Tinto

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Greenland Election Brings Opposition to Mining 

Greenland’s Inuit Ataqatigiit party slid into power this week after winning a parliamentary election for the second time in more than four decades. The party opposes a large rare-earth mining project.

The victory is casting doubt on the Kvanefjeld region in the south of the Arctic island which is claimed to host the world's second-largest deposit of rare-earth oxides, and the sixth-largest deposit of uranium.

The pro-mining Siumut party has been in power for most of the time since Greenland acquired home rule from Denmark in 1979. Support from Prime Minister Kim Kielsen and his governing Siumut party aided license-holder Greenland Minerals to secure preliminary approval for the project last year.

This election is sending strong signal to international mining companies seeking to exploit Greenland’s untapped mineral resources.

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HudBay Releases Mason Copper Project PEA, Nevada

A preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on Hudbay Minerals’ (TSX, NYSE: HBM) Mason porphyry copper project in Nevada outlines a large-scale open pit operation that could become the third-largest copper mine in the U.S which could double the Toronto-based company's copper production. 

The PEA outlines 20 years of mining and seven years of stockpile processing at a 120,000 tonnes per day. A copper sulphide plant would produce copper and molybdenum concentrates, similar to their Constancia mine in Peru.

Over its first 10 years of full production, Mason could produce approximately 140,000 tonnes of copper a year; life-of-mine cash costs are estimated at $1.61 per copper lb. With an initial capital cost estimate of $2.1 billion, the project after-tax net present value estimate is pegged at $945 million with $3.1 per lb. copper.

A January 2021 resource estimate for the project outlined 2.2 billion measured and indicated tonnes grading 0.29% copper, 67 g/t molybdenum, 0.029 g/t gold and 0.73 g/t silver. Inferred resources add 237 million tonnes at 0.24% copper, 78 g/t molybdenum, 0.033 g/t gold and 0.73 g/t silver.

In 2017, Hudbay made a $2-million investment in Mason Resources. By October 2018, Hudbay had entered into an agreement to acquire the remaining 86% of the issued and outstanding common shares of Mason Resources for approximately $15 million. 

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Osisko Hits High Grade Gold and Releases PEAs for Windfall, Quebec

On April 8th, Osisko Mining (OSK:TSX) released new high-grade results from its ongoing drill program at its Windfall gold project located in the Abitibi greenstone belt, Quebec.

Selected high-grade intercepts include 369 g/t Au over 3.5 metres and 155 g/t Au over 3.0 metres, 155 g/t Au over 3.0 metres and 45.7 g/t Au over 2.1 metres, 129 g/t Au over 3.2 metres, 144 g/t Au over 2.5 metres in and 123 g/t Au over 2.4 metres.

Osisko Chief Executive Officer John Burzynski commented in a press release:

“Once again the drilling in the Lynx area delivers both inside and outside of the February 2021 MRE blocks. Further, expansion drilling in the Triple Lynx corridor continues to provide strong targets for growth as demonstrated by Hole OSK-W-20-2371-W1, one of our top results today. As we noted in our April 7, 2021 PEA update, ongoing drilling is showing great potential to see further increases in the already strong economic base case of the Windfall deposit.”

The PEA for Windfall outlines a production estimate of 300 000 oz/y over the first seven full years of production. All-in sustaining costs will average $610/oz and the project has a capital expenditure estimate of C$544-million.

The Windfall maiden resource estimate from February 2021 comprises 521,000 tonnes at 11.3 g/t Au for 189,000 ounces of gold in the measured mineral resource category, 5,502,000 tonnes at 9.4 g/t Au for 1,668,000 ounces of gold in the indicated mineral resource category and 16,401,000 tonnes at 8.0 g/t Au for 4,244,000 ounces in the inferred mineral resource category.

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