Lithium is much in demand these days - for electric car batteries
The Paradox Basin in Utah is well-known in the resources sector as a prolific producer of oil and gas and of potash. Countless oil and gas companies are down there, and have been since 1948, when the area was first opened up and ignited Utah’s transformation into the one of USA’s most significant oil producing states.
Besides oil and gas, there are other minerals to be had at Paradox too. Intrepid Potash (NYSE:IPI) has been operating a potash mine to the south east of Salt Lake City for some years and, not far from that, a newcomer to the scene has plans to take mineral extraction from the Paradox one step further.
Over 4,000 acres in Paradox Basin...
Voltaic Minerals Corp. (CVE:VLT; OTC:VTCCF; FSE:2P61) holds over 4,000 acres of claims in the Paradox Basin and is well advanced with low-cost plans to explore for, and potentially extract, lithium from brines associated with the potash bed horizons.
The company’s Green Energy Lithium Brine Project is located in Grand County, Utah on ground that has already been extensively worked over by oil and gas teams. That gives Voltaic two advantages. The first is the sizeable amount of detailed drill-logging data that has been compiled over the years. The second is the existence of wells on the property, providing a much more economic and time efficient means to carry out exploration and sampling work programs.
The brine was first discovered in the 1960s when over-pressurized oil exploration wells encountered blowouts upon drilling. Historic fluid analysis returned lithium quantities ranging from 81 to 174 milligram per litre in saturated minerals brines. In addition, Well No.1 Long Canyon which is located 800 metres off the Green Energy Project border, returned 500 mg/L lithium from the same zone of interest that Voltaic plans to sample.
Voltaic’s task now is to convert known historic mineralisation at the Green Energy Lithium Brine Project into an economic proposition. To that end the company is about to get to work on the ground in Utah with a plan to procuring a bulk sample from a shut-in 7.5 inch well-head.
Chief executive Darryl Jones explains: “Working with our oil and gas partners in accessing one of the existing well-heads, we will use oil and gas techniques to perforate the zone of interest and sample the Green Energy Project,” he says.
“All the historic oil and gas analysis shows that we’re going to get a brine flow out of this,” added Jones.
Sampling program to yield flow rates...
Ideally, the sampling program will yield flow rates that provide the company with a 20,000 litre sample (into 5,000 gallon frack tanks). The company also aims to take beaker samples approximate intervals of 1,000 litres, providing 20 representative samples for further analysis of mineral content, porosity and permeability.
“The key things,” says Jones, “is to confirm that the Green Energy Project brine zone of interest flows, is pressurised, is at temperature and is of high grade. With those results to be confirmed, we are very excited and optimistic of the outcomes given the results of extensive historic analysis data. It should be added that the historic oil and gas exploration showed an eight barrel per day kick of fluid. We will also carry out dedicated flow data, and internally we’ll be receiving very detailed reports of which we aim to utilize in providing periodic market updates.”
Following sampling, the next step will be to create product. Jones already has the acquisition of a small demonstration plant in his sights, with larger scale production likely to follow through a pilot plant that’s expected to cost between C$5M and C$7.5M.
Already, there’s customer interest in what the company will produce. “We have a couple of Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with end-users who are very interested in either an intermediate or an end product,” says Jones.
There’s no rush to do deals though. As it stands, a recent C$900,000 fundraise should take the company all the way through to the end of this year.
Indeed, Jones estimates that between now and the third quarter of 2018 when resource definition is expected to commence the company has forecast approximately C$2.5M. Included in the forecast is allowance for the production of customer qualification samples, by which time the future of the Green Energy Lithium Project will be much clearer. Given Voltaic’s current market capitalisation there is an excellent opportunity for upside as the projected milestones are met.