Billionaire Elon Musk has created a buzz with his plans for a US$5bn Tesla Gigafactory in the desert of Nevada that will eventually churn out 500,000 lithium ion batteries a year.
A huge undertaking, the economic impact will be felt locally as thousands of new jobs are created.
But there is also a national and internationally dimension to this story too.
For the giant production facility will require 15,000 tonnes of lithium a year to for the batteries that power Tesla’s electric vehicles.
US supply of the silver-white metal stands at 38,000 tons. Globally around 184,500 tonnes are produced with 90% of output controlled by just four companies.
The element is used in the power units for tablets, phones and laptops as well as electric cars.
So no wonder then that demand is expected to jump to 260,000 tonnes by 2020, with minerals consultancy Roskill Information Services predicting the figure will be closer to 290,000.
On those numbers and looking at the current supply curve, we are nearing a phase of acute shortages in the lithium market.
It has three shots at the target:
- A lithium land assembly in Clayton Valley, Nevada
- Lithium mineral claims in San Bernardino, California
- And a jumbo graphite property in Slocan Valley, British Columbia
According to the US Geological Survey the area is “the best-known deposit in the world” for lithium and is currently home to the only producing brine operation in the States, the Silver Peak Mine.
Noram has acquired and staked 888 mineral claims, comprising around 27.75 square miles (17,380 acres) in the Clayton Valley.
Other companies that have Clayton Valley staked claims are Lithium X, Pure Energy and Lithium Americas Corp.
At the end of last year, Noram’s subsidiary, Green Energy Resources, kicked off its 55-hole drilling program on the Clayton Valley North project.
Noram said the first tranche of money (C$127,500) from Alba Minerals Ltd (LON:ALBA) to pay for a 50% share of Green Energy Resources had been received and therefore the drilling crew has swung into action.
In March, 2017, Noram and Alba Minerals said they had been encouraged by drilling results at Clayton.
Hector Lode Project
The company owns 116 lithium mineral claims over 2,320 acres situated in the Mojave Desert of Southern California.
They are 35 miles southeast of the city of Barstow in San Bernardino County, an area with a history of mining for bentonite clays.
There are references in literature from 1930s and late ‘50s that show the hector clays yielded lithium in reasonably significant quantities.
Jumbo Flake Graphite Project
It is located in the Slocan mining division of south-east British Columbia and consists of 26 mineral tenures totalling 60 square miles.
Initial metallurgical testing by SGS Lakefield of a 10kg sample produced the following results:
- A head grade of 3.81% high-purity flake graphite
- 45.5% of the graphite tested was classified as large flake, battery grade
- Average grade of 96.0% carbon purity – a very high grade early stage result
It should be noted that large flake graphite of high carbon purity is highly sought after by the battery industry.
It commands up to US$20,000 a tonne versus US$900 for small flake.
Graphite is also the source material for graphene, the new wonder material.
“Having both lithium and graphite resources places Noram at a considerable advantage in the lithium-ion battery sector,” said Noram in a presentation.