Despite US and EU efforts to diversify important mineral supply chains, China is anticipated to increase its share of global supply of certain metals critical to expediting the energy transition. According to UBS, China will control approximately one-third of global lithium supply by 2025. Lithium prices have lately fallen, but economists expect them to rise in the medium and long term as demand for lithium in the energy transition grows. After the Lithium Triangle region in South America, the US is thought to have the world’s greatest lithium resources with Nevada, North Carolina, and California housing an estimated 4% of the world’s lithium reserves. At present, Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) Silver Peak is the only producing lithium mine in the country. However, mining companies including Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF), Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC) (NYSE:LAC), Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM), and Standard Lithium Ltd. (TSXV:SLI) (NYSE-A:SLI) are developing lithium projects in the US.
North American mineral acquisition and exploration company Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF) is focused on the development of drill-ready battery and precious metal assets. The company’s portfolio includes Jackpot Lake, a lithium project in Nevada; Nicobat, a nickel‑copper‑cobalt project in Ontario; and Lost Basin, a gold-copper project in Arizona.
On March 28, Usha announced the acquisition of the White Willow Lithium-Tantalum Property in Ontario. The 15,510 hectare project is located in proximity to other lithium projects including the Georgia Lake pegmatite field, the Seymour Lake Lithium Project and the Separation Rapids Lithium deposit, representing “a unique and timely opportunity to capitalize on the rapidly growing lithium metal and green energy markets in Canada.”
The White Willow property hosts a fertile lithium-cesium-tantalum (LCT) system containing two highly evolved LCT-pegmatite dikes, with limited exploration work showing samples as high as 0.5% lithium oxide (Li2O) and 14.64% tantalum oxide (Ta2O5) in and around the dikes.
Limited surface sampling also identified very anomalous lithium values with several samples assaying above 0.40% Li2O. There is also very anomalous tantalum and cesium at the property, with two assays showing 3.41% and 3.78% Ta2O5. The high-grade tantalite indicates the potential for higher-grade lithium to be present in adjacent zones within the LCT-system at the property.
“The rising global demand for lithium, driven by the green energy revolution and the exponential growth of electric vehicles, makes the acquisition of the White Willow Lithium-Tantalum Property an attractive investment. This acquisition promises to position the Company at the forefront of the burgeoning lithium market, offering significant growth opportunities,” said Usha Resources CEO Deepak Varshney. “The geological characteristics of the property and the historical data on mineral occurrences make it an exceptional opportunity for exploration and potential development. By making these strategic acquisitions, we are positioning Usha at the forefront of the evolving lithium market, thereby securing a foothold in the rapidly expanding green energy sector.”
“Many companies have recently staked properties in Ontario and Quebec based on map geology, but the White Willow property not only has a significant number of mapped pegmatites, it is a confirmed highly evolved LCT-system with high-grade tantalum that shows excellent potential for high-grade lithium bearing pegmatites. We are very pleased to have been able to assemble this highly prospective land package at a low cost.” Varshney added.
Usha believes the White Willow acquisition is highly complementary to its 100% owned flagship Jackpot Lake Lithium Brine Project in Nevada, where it recently tripled its land position and is undertaking its maiden drill program to define a 43-101 resource at the property.
The company recently provided an update on its progress at the Jackpot Lake Lithium Brine Property, announcing that the second hole (JP22-2) of its drill program has reached the 1,755 feet level and the exploration team has reported a high-porosity zone of sand followed by conglomerate has been identified beginning at 1,533 feet.
Usha also recently announced an increase in its previously announced non-brokered private placement. The company intends to sell up to 9,230,769 units for $0.325 each, for a total gross revenues of up to $3 million.
Lithium Companies Benefit From Strong Market
On March 2, Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC) (NYSE:LAC) announced the start of construction at its 100%-owned Thacker Pass lithium project in Humboldt County, Nevada, following receipt of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) notice to proceed. Thacker Pass intends to build 80,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of battery-quality lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) capacity in two 40,000 tpa phases. The first phase of production is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2026. The project is planned to generate 1,000 construction jobs and 500 operational jobs.
Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) announced in February that it has signed definitive agreements to restructure the parties’ MARBL lithium joint venture in Australia (MARBL) and for MinRes to invest in Albemarle conversion assets in China. Albemarle CEO Kent Masters said that the Company’s inherent strategy includes managing its worldwide portfolio to maximize growth flexibility and maintain a leadership position in a dynamic, rising market. The completion of these agreements follows the announcement in February 2022 of the signing of a non-binding letter of intent.
Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM) published fourth-quarter and full-year 2022 results in February. Fourth-quarter revenue was $219.4 million, a 5% decrease from the third quarter of 2022 and a 79% increase from the previous year’s quarter, respectively. The reported GAAP net income was $82.7 million, up from $77.6 million and $7.5 million in the preceding quarter and prior year, respectively, or 39 cents per diluted share. Adjusted EBITDA was $107.6 million, 3% lower than the previous quarter but nearly four times more than the same period last year, with adjusted earnings per diluted share of 40 cents. Higher sequential volumes were driven by continued strength in lithium market conditions and customer demand, which was slightly offset by a less favorable customer mix.
Standard Lithium Ltd. (TSXV:SLI) (NYSE-A:SLI) announced on March 20 the start of a drilling program at its South West Arkansas Lithium Project to support the upcoming Preliminary Feasibility Study. The drilling program will offer further porosity and permeability data along the whole thickness of the productive zones in the Smackover Formation, as well as optimize production-wellfield design. The drilling program includes two new locations as well as three re-entry points for plugged and abandoned (pre-existing) oil and gas wells. When a pre-existing well is re-entered, it is typically deepened to collect more data from the whole Smackover Formation thickness beneath the Project area.
Usha Resources announced a change to its share distribution record date for the spin out of Formation Metals Inc.
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