Symbol : Li
Atomic Number : 3
Lithium Oxide Density : 2.013g/cm3
Lithium is on the Critical Minerals List in the U.S., Canada and E.U. and multiple other countries. It is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element.
Lithium is a critical component of modern batteries. There are several different battery chemistries involving lithium compounds that include in different proportions cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphene, titanium or sulphur. In the 2020s Lithium-based batteries are experiencing very high demand growth owing to their use in electric vehicles and electric battery storage as well as handheld devices. Lithium salts have also for many years proved to be useful as a mood-stabilizing drug due to neurological effects of the ion in the human body. As well as their primary use in batteries, Lithium and its compounds have several other industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys used in aircraft.
Lithium is produced from either hard rock pegmatite (spodumene or lepidolite or petalite) or from salar brines (salt lakes). The two processes for extraction are drastically different with one being the traditional mining and ore processing with rare metals credits, while the other is more concentration through solar evaporation ponds followed by other processes such as membrane technology or solvent extraction. There have also been discoveries of lithium in clay hectorite.
International Lithium Corp. currently has lithium properties in Canada and Ireland. Zimbabwe has been identified as a strategic country for our future plans.
Worldwide the leading producers of lithium in 2022 were Australia, Chile, China, Argentina, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Portugal and USA. Other countries such as Bolivia, Canada, Afghanistan, Mexico, Germany, Ireland and Iran have large deposits.
The market price of 99.0% lithium carbonate, the most widely traded price benchmark, was around US$ 25,988 per metric tonne on September 8,2023. While this is well off the peak of US$ 80,000 briefly reached at the end of 2022, it still represents a large increase from US$ 10,000 in 2020 reflecting the expectation of sharply increasing demand from the battery revolution.
Symbol : Rb
Atomic Number : 37
Rubidium Oxide Density : 4.0g/cm3
Rubidium is on the U.S. Critical Minerals List. It is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. Like the other alkali metals (Lithium, Sodium, Potassium and Caesium) pure Rubidium is extremely reactive and would combust on exposure to water or oxygen. Its melting point is 39 degrees centigrade. It is therefore usually seen in compounds such as rubidium oxide or rubidium carbonate.
Rubidium is not at present used to any great extent in battery technology. If sodium-ion batteries were to take market share from lithium-ion batteries in future, for example in electric battery storage, small amounts of rubidium and caesium have been shown to improve the performance of sodium-ion batteries. Rubidium carbonate has multiple industrial uses, principally speciality glasses such as fibre optic cables, telecommunications systems including an important role in GPS systems, aircraft guidance systems, and night vision devices. There are also important uses in medical equipment, for example coronary artery disease imaging and myocardial perfusion imaging. i.e. assessing the blood flow to the muscular walls of the heart. Further uses occur in atomic clocks where rubidium like caesium is very accurate. Quantum computing makes use of rubidium. Since it is easily ionized, it might be used as a propellant in ion engines on spacecraft. It is also used in fireworks to create some of the red colours.
Broadly where caesium is used, rubidium can also be used. The most common use for caesium compounds is as caesium formate in a drilling fluid. They are also used to make special optical glass, as a catalyst promoter, in vacuum tubes and in radiation monitoring equipment.
Rubidium oxide is typically found in hard rock pegmatites, usually in lepidolite, but also in pollucite or zinnwaldite. Rubidium is an important mineral at International Lithium Corp’s Raleigh Lake pegmatite deposits in Ontario, Canada. In that location ILC has found appreciable amounts of rubidium in microcline, a feldspar which has the rubidium replacing potassium forming a Rb-microcline. The chemical composition is Rubidium Aluminium Silicate. The process for extraction can be similar to that used for caesium.
Worldwide the largest producer of rubidium has historically been Canada, while the largest reserves are believed to be in Southern Africa (eg Zimbabwe and Namibia) and Canada. There is also rubidium in USA, Russia, Afghanistan, Australia and China. There are small
concentrations in some brines, but on a much smaller scale than lithium.
The market for rubidium, as for caesium, is relatively opaque – especially in volume but also price achieved and in what quantities. Price guides can currently be found on https://www.metal.com/search?keyword=rubidium&type=price. As at September 8, 2023, the price is given there for 99%+ purity of rubidium carbonate of US$ 1,143/Kg (which equates to US$ 1,143,000 per metric tonne). By comparison the price of 99.2% purity lithium carbonate at the same time was US$ 25,988 per metric tonne. This means that rubidium carbonate at that time had a market price of 44 x the price of lithium carbonate.
The following, which is by no means comprehensive, is designed to guide readers on some of the terms used in the mining industry and specifically in ILC’s part of it.
They may avoid confusion :
What does MT mean ?
In the scientific world for at least the last 50 years, the term M has usually stood for million. For example MB = Megabyte, Megapixel means million pixels. Megatonne for a nuclear weapon is a million tonnes equivalent of TNT and is written MT. Similarly m stands for one thousandth, e.g. millimetre is one thousandth of a metre and so on. Not so in the mining industry. One metric tonne is a thousand kilograms but carries the symbol MT or sometimes mT. So if we announce a resource of, say, 5,000,000 MT at 1% of lithium oxide, we in fact mean that we have 5,000,000 metric tonnes with 50,000 tonnes of lithium oxide inside.
Why do we not do the maths ?
Quite simply there are regulatory constraints. If, purely by way of example, we say that we have 5,000,000 metric tonnes of spodumene with 1% lithium oxide content, i.e. 50,000 MT and if the lithium oxide price is USD65,000 per MT, then we could clearly go on to say that we have USD 3,250,000,000 of lithium oxide. This is however highly discouraged by IIROC and other regulators, possibly because it might create expectations about the value of the lithium deposit or the company so, when we don’t do it, please understand why not. It is not like having a kilogram of gold in a bank vault, as there is a high capital and operating cost of refining and processing. Of course when we get to the PEA stage or the Feasibility Study stage then we can show NPV calculations, which also take the cost of extraction into account.
Updip and Downdip
Underground formations usually are not parallel to the surface of the ground. The term "dip" denotes the incline or slope of the formation. Updip means located up the slope, and downdip means located down the slope.
Sometimes we or any other company deliberately don’t drill vertically but drill at an angle to the true depth of a deposit. This helps to show how far the deposit goes on for horizontally, but needs to be adjusted (by multiplying by the sine of the angle) to avoid exaggerating the depth of the deposit.
What is a Gabbro
Gabbro is a coarse-grained, mafic intrusive igneous rock formed from the slow cooling of magnesium-rich and iron-rich magma into a mass deep beneath the Earth's surface. Slow-cooling, coarse-grained gabbro is chemically equivalent to rapid-cooling, fine-grained basalt.
What is Mafic
The adjective mafic refers to a group of dark coloured rocks (magmatic, either intrusive or extrusive) having a chemical composition rich in iron and magnesium and relatively poor in silicon.
What is PPM
This stands for parts per million. It is important to understand that this is in mass not volume. So if we had 10,000 ppm Li2O this would be 1% by mass of lithium oxide.
It makes a big difference as, for example, the density of lithium oxide is 2.01, whereas the density of gold is 19.3 so the volume of gold would be much less than than that of lithium for the same . We use mass here technically, not weight, because mass would not change in lower or higher gravity environments like the moon or a meteorite whereas weight would. On earth the terms can be used interchangeably.
What is LCE ?
This stands for Lithium Carbonate Equivalent. Lithium itself is a highly reactive metal and so what trades is typically lithium carbonate Li2CO3 or lithium hydroxide LiOH. These have different densities from lithium oxide in hard rock or lithium chloride in brine, so an adjustment factor has to be used. The density of lithium oxide Li2O is 2.01 g/cm3 and that of Li2CO3 is 2.11 g/cm3, and LiOH is 2.54g/cm3. So using the adjustment factor, 50,000 tonnes Li2O equivalent is equivalent to 50,000 x 2.11/2.01 = 52,488 tonnes of Li2CO3.
What is LCT
This stands for Lithium Caesium Tantalum pegmatites
What is a NSR
This is a regularly used type of royalty, and NSR means Net Smelter Royalty. Broadly speaking a 1% NSR is calculated as 1% of the gross value of what is sold minus 1% of the ongoing operating costs to produce it (but excluding the capital or interest costs to build the smelter).
What is a Pegmatite
Pegmatite is a coarse-grained intrusive igneous rock formed from magma that crystallised below the Earth's crust. This broadly is the type of rock that contains mineral deposits such as spodumene, lepidolite or petalite that contain the lithium. Not all pegmatites contain lithium, and pegmatites can also be a source of other minerals such as tin, beryl, and tantalum.
What is PGE
Nothing to do with pegmatite ! It stands for Platinum Group Elements, meaning platinum, palladium, iridium, osmium, rhodium and ruthenium. ILC currently has no position in these elements.
What is a Pluton
This is a geological formation. Plutons are bulbous masses that commonly develop beneath strings of volcanoes. Batholiths may contain hundreds of plutons
PV or NPV
This stands for present value or net present value, looking at all forecast cash inflows and outflows. This number tends to be presented as one number but in reality it is highly sensitive to the input assumptions into the model, specifically :
a) The lithium price or commodity price
b) The inflation rate used for the commodity price and for costs
c) The output per annum and the life of mine
d) The discount rate used