Resource World Magazine Feature: Rocky Mountain Rare Metal Belt


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Resource World Magazine Feature: Rocky Mountain Rare Metal Belt

  1. 1. British Columbia rare earths and rare metals staking rush underway by Ellsworth Dickson R are earths and rare metals are not often covered by the mainstream media, Left to right, Roman Mendoza, Mining Specialist, AMEC, John Gorham, Project Manager for Commerce Resources, and Scott Ansell, Project Manager for Preliminary Environmental and because you can’t actually see Assessment, at the Upper Fir tantalum-niobium project near Blue River, British Columbia. Photo them, most people are totally unaware of the courtesy Commerce Resources Corp. importance they play in our daily lives – and how important they will be in the future. aircraft, cruise missiles and smart bombs automotive and aeronautical components. Seventeen different metals comprise the rare (dysprosium, neodymium, praseodymium, The exploration and mining of tanta- earths (Nos.57-71 in the Periodic Table) that samarium, terbium). lum is complicated by the fact that some often occur, all together, in the same mineral In this article, we will only be looking of it is mined in the Democratic Republic deposit – see sidebar for list. Rare earths are at tantalum and niobium, although there of Congo (DRC) under coercion and by used to make semiconductors, very power- are other elements that are considered to forced labour, the profits of which are ful magnets for wind turbines, computer be rare metals such as germanium, gallium, used to buy weapons. Responsible buy- hard drives, electric vehicles, speakers, etc. tellurium, beryllium, lithium and indium. ers avoid buying tantalum from DRC, and (neodymium), energy efficient light bulbs Tantalum is essential for cell phones with Australia’s Wodgina Mine closed, (cerium, lanthanum, europium), mantles (tiny capacitors), computers, data storage, which supplied 30% of the world’s tanta- for camping lanterns (yttrium), to name just digital cameras, flat screen televisions, lum, supplies are becoming scarce. Indeed, a few. Blackberries as well as iPods, DVDs aerospace (jet engines), energy, chemi- London’s Metal Bulletin has reported that and cell phones utilize rare earths. They are cal production and medicine to name a offers for tantalum scrap have reached as crucial for military purposes as well. They few. Niobium is used to make super alloys high as US $330/kg, more the double of are utilized in the manufacture of lasers for steel structures such as bridges and the price at the start of the year. (europium, terbium, yttrium), unmanned buildings, oil and gas pipelines as well as Recently, there occurred a ‘game-chang- 6 AUGUST 2010
  2. 2. Map courtesy of Commerce Resources Corp. ing’ event whereby the largest buyer of DRC transaction most likely took place because Regarding rare earths, as well-respected tantalum material apparently balked at a of the impending and now-passed Financial market analyst James Dines has pointed out shipment from the DRC and instead bought Reform bill in the US which carries with it that a three-megawatt wind turbine contains a significant amount of tantalum from the a SEC reporting requirement to prove that over 700 lbs of neodymium, most of which Brazilian producer CI Fluminense, at a pre- no US company is sourcing materials from a is mined in China, and a Toyota Prius uses mium to the western contract price. This conflict country such as the DRC. about 65 lbs of neodymium in its drive AUGUST 2010 7
  3. 3. motor as well as lanthanum in its rechargeable battery. Given the fact that the world is in a race to go green, it is obvious that a great deal of rare earths will be needed in the near future. There’s just one problem. China controls about 97% of the world’s supply and production of rare earths and, due to their own quickly developing society and related infrastructure, they have been cutting back on exports. Bloomberg recently reported that China has cut its rare earths export quota by 72% with shipments capped at 7,976 tonnes, down from 28,417 tonnes for the same period a year ago. That’s why mineral explorers are actively seeking rare earths deposits located just about anywhere that’s prospective for these valuable metals. In recent months, a rare earths and rare metals staking rush has been developing in what has been dubbed the Rocky Mountain Rare Metal Belt that runs from southeast to northwest British Columbia, literally over a dis- tance covering the entire province. BC rare metal deposits are present in a variety of geological settings with many known deposits associated with a belt of Devonian alkaline intrusions of syenite to carbonatite composition. The belt has been known to host rare earths and rare metals for many years; however, for the reasons noted above, the Rocky Mountain Rare Metal Belt has recently been seeing intense exploration activity. This exploration activity is encouraged by Chris Graaf’s Spectrum Mining Corp. discovery at its Wicheeda Creek Project in October 2009 where drill- Laura Rapp, left, Dahrouge Geological, and Leila Tate, Sage ing returned a 48.64-metre interval averaging 3.55% rare earth elements Environmental, exploring the Commerce Resources Upper (REEs), and other encouraging assays. Fir tantalum-niobium project. Photo courtesy Commerce Resources Corp. David Hodge, President of Commerce Resources Corp. [CCE-TSXV], Rare Metals in British Columbia and Quebec, Canada TSXv:CCE FSE:D7H | 8 AUGUST 2010
  4. 4. RARE EARTHS had already seen considerable success with the country and just in the last few days have Lanthanum ......................................... La the Blue River Tantalum-Niobium Project increased those cutbacks which will further Cerium ...............................................Ce in southeast BC when he realized how cause price increases throughout the rare Praseodymium ....................................Pr under-explored the belt was and how much earths and rare metals spectrum. However, Neodymium ........................................Nd potential for discoveries remained untapped what is more important to our industry is the Promethium ......................................Pm in the Devonian alkaline intrusions of syenite considerably increased anxiety in the Western Samarium .........................................Sm to carbonatite rocks that make up the belt. World over the future supply of a whole vari- Europium ............................................ Eu Consequently, through a 50/50 joint venture ety of rare earths and rare metals.” Gadolinium .........................................Gd between his Zimtu Capital Corp. [ZC-TSXV] James Dines underscored Hodge’s com- Terbium .............................................. Tb and Cazador Resources Ltd./Cathro ment when he noted that Toyota is financing Dysprosium ........................................Dy Resources Corp. , he staked a great deal of the development of the early-stage Dong Po Holmium .............................................Ho ground which the J/V has been farming out rare earth deposit in Vietnam. However, it is Erbium ................................................Er Thulium ............................................. Tm to exploration companies. The J/V properties expected it will take three to seven years to Ytterbium ........................................... Yb were selected through careful screening of bring the mine into production, develop an Lutetium ............................................. Lu regional geochemical survey stream sediment extractive metallurgy and build a refinery. Yttrium ................................................. Y databases available from the BC Geological Survey and Geoscience BC. Based on a data- THE PROJECTS base of 43,250 samples, the selected targets Alix Resources Corp. [AIX-TSXV; RARE METALS represent some of the best heavy and light 37N-Frankfurt] has acquired a block of rare earth elements geochemical anomalies in claims totalling approximately 450 hectares Tantalum ..............................................Ta the province. which host a historic BC Minfile Rare Earth Niobium...............................................Nb In an interview, Hodge told Resource World, Oxide (REO) occurrence. BC Minfile reports “The Chinese have been cutting back on the that “a sample of chips taken at random amount of rare earths they are letting out of across a 1-metre section returned… 2.04% Connecting Opportunity and You / FSE: ZCT1 / TSX-V: ZC AUGUST 2010 9
  5. 5. REO”. Alix acquired a second claim block [CIN-CNSX] is earning a 75% interest and 19,568,000 lbs of contained Ta2O5 and covering 2,100 hectares contiguous to and from Commerce Resources Corp. in the Nb2O5, respectively). Inferred resources adjoining ground recently acquired by Carbo Rare Earth Element Project located at the same 175 g/t Ta2O5 cut-off include International Montoro Resources and one approximately 80 km northeast of Prince 16,494,000 tonnes of 213 g/t Ta2O5 and kilometre from Spectrum Mining’s rare George. CIN has engaged Aeroquest Ltd. 1,222 g/t Nb2O5 (7,746,000 and 44,436,000 earth discovery. These claims are located to fly a close-spaced AeroTEM III radio- lbs of contained Ta2O5 and Nb2O5, respec- approximately 80 km northeast of Prince metric-magnetic survey over the Carbo tively). (Stone & Selway, 2010). George and are northeast of Spectrum’s property. Field crews are continuing a geo- A Preliminary Economic Assessment Main Showing. logical mapping and soil sampling program (PEA), or scoping study, for the Upper Bolero Resources Corp. [BRU-TSXV; that began in 2009. A permit applica- Fir tantalum-niobium deposit, under the U7N1-Frankfurt] reports multiple scintil- tion for a minimum 1,000-metre diamond supervision of AMEC, is under way. The lometer anomalies have been identified drill program has been submitted to BC study is expected to be completed in Q4. on the northeast portion of its carbonatite Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Fieldwork is under way and a 10,000-metre syndicate rare earth claim group 80 km Resources. The Carbo claims straddle and (30-40 hole) definition drilling program northeast of Prince George. The anomalies directly adjoin Spectrum’s discovery prop- is planned to determine geological rela- are within two km of Spectrum Mining’s erty, with the currently reported drilling tionships and upgrade the classification Wicheeda REE discovery. being about two km from a Carbo car- of resources. Results from the 2009 drill Soil and silt sampling on Bolero’s bonatite showing which hosts analogous program (22 holes; 5,587 metres) are pend- Carbonatite Syndicate claim group has mineralization. ing and are expected to be included in the been effective at generating significant Exploration work conducted by block model which forms the basis of the local and regional REE geochemical targets Commerce in 2006 sampled outcrops con- ongoing PEA. worthy of more exploration. The samples taining up to 0.46% total rare earth oxides Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. [EPL- originated from tightly spaced grids to the plus yttrium (TREO+Y). A reconnaissance TSXV] holds the Ice River property located immediate northeast of Spectrum Mining’s program in 2009 by CIN included 17 rock, within the Golden Mining Division 45 km discovery area, while additional silt samples 43 silt and 57 soil samples. Analyses of east of Golden, BC within the headwaters were also collected from drainages through- soil samples included one exceeding the of Moose Creek. The company has farmed out the northern half of the Bolero’s claims. detection limit of 10,000 ppm (greater than out a 75% interest to Waterloo Resources Concentrations of cerium and lanthanum 1%) cerium and values up to 509 ppm Ltd. [WAT-TSXV]. Field work by Eagle assayed up to 631 parts per million (ppm) gadolinium, indicating the presence of Plains began in 2005 and included recon- and 377 ppm respectively, with 20 samples heavy REEs. Rock samples from previously naissance rock geochemical sampling and showing total rare earth contents above known mineralized carbonatite averaged prospecting of talus and outcrops in the 1,000 ppm. Pathfinder elements such as nio- 0.40% TREO+Y. cirques and valleys. A two-person field bium and barium also show distinct elevated A new carbonatite was discovered west crew spent five days exploring alpine and concentrations against background. of and parallel to the known mineraliza- sub-alpine areas north and east of the east- Mackevoy Geosciences has conducted tion. It is within an open-ended cerium soil west ridge trend connecting Buttress Peak exploration on 24 of Bolero’s 57 claims geochemical anomaly with values up to 217 on the west to Manganese Mountain on including visual reconnaissance work and ppm cerium. Mineralized outcrop at this the east, as well as the north-south ridge sampling on many of the satellite anomalies. locality contained 0.36% TREO+Y plus 50.1 trend connecting Manganese Mountain Mackevoy recorded multiple scintillometer ppm gadolinum, again indicating the pres- on the south with Zinc Mountain and anomalies on the NE claim group and has ence of heavy rare earth elements (HREEs). Sentry Peak to the north. Traverses on begun further exploration in those areas. Commerce Resources Corp. is an the property area successfully located or A total of 70 line-km of magnetometer and exploration and development company verified the mineral potential for the semi- 90 line-km of scintillometer data have been with a focus on tantalum, niobium and precious gemstone sodalite, dimension collected to date. Mackevoy has established rare metal deposits, in particular, its Blue stone (syenite, and alkaline mafic intrusive a new base camp to the south of Spectrum River Project. The Upper Fir deposit is rock), and industrial or rare metals includ- Mining’s Fluorite southern claim group and located in the Kamloops Mining Division ing titanium, niobium, zirconium and a will continue to define potential drill targets of British Columbia, about 10 km north variety of REEs. The 2005-2008 explora- for Bolero’s upcoming drill program. Bolero of the town of Blue River. The Upper Fir tion program demonstrated that there are has the largest contiguous land package sur- deposit contains indicated resources of a number of anomalous geochemical values rounding Spectrum’s Wicheeda rare earth 7,384,000 tonnes grading 217 grams Ta2O5/ of niobium, zirconium, barium as well as discovery, spanning over some 56,000 acres. tonne (tantalum) and Nb2O5 (niobium) cerium and other REEs. In addition to the Canadian Industrial Minerals Inc. grades of 1,202 grams/tonne (3,533,000 Waterloo Showing area, two other areas 10 AUGUST 2010
  6. 6. with niobium, zirconium hafnium and Chuchinka property, ground geophysics is mineralization in the range of 20-30 mil- REE mineralization have undergone pre- planned as well as sampling. lion tonnes. Assays for 18 of Cominco’s liminary surface exploration and warrant Paget Minerals Corp. [PGS-TSXV] has 20 holes had intersections of greater than further work. acquired the Mt. Bisson rare earth prop- 8 metres in length and averaged 0.75% The 2009 soil geochemical sampling erty from Pembrook Mining Corp., a Nb205 program was designed to test known 9,096-hectare claim group located 50 km Following the acquisition, Taseko extensions of Nb and REE mineralized northwest of Mackenzie in central BC. The explored the Aley deposit to update dyke swarms visible in alpine areas that claims cover the Wolverine REE pegma- Cominco’s work. Taseko is not currently project, beneath overburden, lower in the tite field within high-grade metamorphic working on this project but expects to Moose Creek Valley. A cluster of approxi- rocks of the Omineca Belt. Exploration resume exploration work in the future. mately 40 soil samples along three contour by Chevron Minerals and others in the Zimtu Capital Corp. has a 50/50 joint lines are anomalous to very anomalous 1980s discovered REE mineralization venture with independent prospector David in REE’s (La, Ce, Y) and barium, with at several occurrences, including the Laura Javorsky who recently reported 2.5% REEs additional spotty anomalies in Nb and 1 and 2 and Ursa showings. Pembrook in a stream sample on the 1,250-hectare molybdenum. Fourteen of 40 soil samples completed an airborne survey in 2006 and Cerium Mountain property about 50 km were above the upper detection limit followed up with a ground exploration pro- southwest of Revelstoke. By press time, (>2,000 ppm) for the REE – Ce. The soil gram including sampling and mapping in he will be back on the property searching anomaly is consistent over a 600 m x 600 2007. This year, company geologists have for the source of the REE-bearing stream m area and represents a prime target for been rock and silt sampling and geological sediment sample. n further evaluation. mapping in order to define drill targets. The 2010 work program at the Ice River Paget has also acquired the Xeno rare property will include detailed prospect- earth property from Pembrook Mining ing/mapping and soil/rock sampling at the comprising 857 hectares in northern BC. base of Buttress Peak, as follow-up to very Multiple zones of carbonatites and diatreme encouraging anomalous REE and Nb soil breccia complexes outcrop over two km by geochemistry results from 2009. 50-300 metres. Rock samples assayed total Electric Metals Inc. [EMI.A-TSXV] has REE grades returning between anomalous staked a 5,500-hectare land package – the and 2.2% with 0.3% yttrium. Sibley Creek Project – that is highly pro- Spectrum Mining Corp. (private) has spective for REEs mineralization in the completed 11 diamond drill holes total- Monashee Mountains of southeast BC. The ing 1,835 metres on the Main Zone at the project is located approximately 80 km Wicheeda property in 2009. All 11 drill north of Revelstoke and contains part of holes intersected significant rare earth the Perry River and Mount Grace carbon- mineralization, of which the best drill atite formation. intercepts were a 48.64-metre interval that International Montoro Resources returned 3.55% REE, a 72.0-metre interval Inc. [IMT-TSXV] has granted an option that returned 2.92% REE, and a 144-metre agreement for Electric Metals Inc. to earn interval that returned 2.20% REE in three a 75% interest in Montoro’s Chuchinka separate holes. Spectrum has announced property in north-central BC. The that extensive work will be undertaken 2,268-hectare Chuchinka property is this year including continued drilling and contiguous with the Wicheeda claims of mapping of the Main Zone as well as to Spectrum Mining. Drilling on Spectrum further test two separate cerium-niobium Mining’s Wicheeda property suggests that anomalies within the carbonatite-syenite mineralization remains open in all direc- breccia complex north of the Main Zone. tions, including to the north of Wicheeda In 2007, Taseko Mines Ltd. [TKO-TSX; where the Chuchinka property is located. NYSE Amex] acquired the Aley Niobium Int’l Montoro and Electric Metals plan to Project located about 120 km north get together with other nearby companies of Mackenzie. Discovered in 1980 by (Commerce, Bolero-Canadian. Industrial Cominco, from 1983-1986 approximately Minerals) to fly an airborne geophysi- 10,000 feet of diamond drilling was com- cal survey of the claim areas. For the pleted in 20 holes, outlining near surface AUGUST 2010 11
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