St-George’s Eco-Mining looks on the face of it to be a complex business.
But distilled down to the bare bones it is fairly simple to understand.
It has mining assets in Iceland and Canada and processing technology that could transform hard-rock lithium and ferro-nickel production.
The rest – an investment in a UK mining firm with Canadian gold assets, a 15% stake in a hydro-electric project and ownership of a crypto business – should be seen as sleepers.
In other words, they aren’t core at the moment but could have an impact on the firm’s prospects at some point.
Iceland first: St-George’s owns or has the right of first refusal over all the country’s mining tenements. That’s an amazingly strong position.
The big, near-term value kicker is Thormodsdalur gold tenement, 13 kilometres from the island’s capital, Reykjavik.
Historic exploration has unearthed grades of up to 415 grams per tonne of the precious metal, which is well and truly in bonanza territory.
Average grades have tended to be in the 30-50 grams territory, said St George’s chief executive Vilhjalmur Thor Vilhjalmsson, which is still mouth-wateringly high.
“We expect to prove up the concept that this is a multi-veined epithermal system,” added Vilhjalmsson.
This means the gold is deposited from warm waters at shallow depth, which should make it a relatively easy to mine.
But before a digger is deployed in anger, important exploration and development steps needs to be made, starting with the compilation of a maiden resource estimate.
The plan is to drill a further 18 holes on Thormodsdalur, in which it has a right to earn 41% stake, to get it to this stage.
Canada follow-on drilling
Turning to Canada, follow-on drilling from a small campaign will take place on the Julie exploration area in Quebec, which is prospective for nickel, copper and cobalt.
According to Vilhjalmsson, Julie is a look-alike of Voisey’s Bay, a giant nickel deposit in Labrador. “[Ours] is a high-grade nickel, but a very early-stage project,” he added.
Where St-George’s differs from the average small-cap mine explorer is with its ownership of a new mining technology that could, potentially, revolutionise the processing of hard rock lithium and its focus to value as much of what is mined to reduce tailings and the cost of chemicals.
The brainchild of St George’s head of research & development (R&D), Enrico Di Cesare, the ‘eco-green’ approach works by deploying what’s called a passivating agent that reduces the chemical reactivity in a metal.
The clever part is what’s left behind; a waste material pregnant with the elements found in fertiliser: sodium, magnesium and calcium.
So, as a by-product, it is a saleable commodity that mitigates the chemical costs of the process.
Neither are there the expenses associated with other more traditional methods that use many thousands of gallons of acids that must then be neutralised before disposal, which layers on the expense.
Finally, producing a lithium hydroxide presents the opportunity to use an extraction process called electrowinning, which further lowers the overheads.
“So, our costs will be lower and we will be greener,” said Di Cesare.
“You are green if you can sell your by products and do something with them. You are not green if you have to throw stuff away. That might sound overly simplistic, but that’s essentially how it is. How much greener can you get if your waste is sold as fertiliser?”
The next phase?
The next phase of development is to get the technology to the pilot plant stage, but before that, the St George’s technical team is being methodical with the bench-testing.
“Because this scales really well, I don’t have to make a giant-sized pilot plant,” Di Cesare explained.
“If it was pyro metallurgy scale up even 4 to 1 is risky but the approach of using of the shelf proven equipment suppliers allows thousands to one scale up from our pilot plant. “When we approach development we think about what’s off the shelf, what can we re-apply? Usually, then it’s how you re-package it.”
The pilot plant is likely to be built near Montreal. As mentioned earlier, the project is being developed for hard rocks, which has the potential to transform some at best marginal Canadian assets.
Low key for now
“We are keeping it low key for now,” said Di Cesare. “But I think we will be supported by the industry and all the enablers. We’ve had some positive feedback.”
Stepping back, a modest market capitalisation of just C$8mln suggests St-George’s probably isn’t being given the credit it deserves.
The technology carries a value, while the mining tenements should be easily benchmarked and there are those ‘sleeper assets’ too.
The lowly stock market rating may be an irritation for management, which is out spreading the word.
But it may also offer an opportunity for mining investors interested in something more exotic than the run-of-the-mill.
[This is not advice. Always carry your own due diligence before making an investment decision]