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Thomson Reuters - May 11, 2022
Workers at BHP Billiton's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, are seen in front of the open pit, in Antofagasta, northern Chile ...

Mining is probably the most vital sector to the global energy transition and the success of the much-vaunted net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 targets, but it's currently the laggard in the process…The mining industry is largely at an inflection point insofar it knows its raw materials are the building blocks of the move from fossil fuels to clean energy, but it can't seem to convince the rest of world that this is the case…The overwhelming message from miners, investors at two major mining conferences in South Africa this week is that the situation is urgent, and getting worse…The challenges do seem pressing, given the vast volumes of copper, lithium, cobalt, nickel, zinc, manganese and graphite that will be required, and the limited plans to develop new mines to produce the metals needed…These include, how to convince investors that the real action in mitigating climate change has to be at the very start of the process, namely producing raw materials, rather than at the end, namely making electric cars and things like solar panels…Once convinced, the battle then becomes to get investors to put capital into new mines, which are often located in challenging jurisdictions, and will take several years to return a profit…Even if you can get that far, the process of dealing with governments is fraught, even in developed mining countries such as Australia…There are a myriad of development and environmental approvals to be secured, and local communities to be consulted and won over, and then transport and logistical issues to be overcome…And even if you can succeed to this point, the cost of developing new mines is rising at a faster pace that the price of the commodities they produce…The question for the mining industry, and the broader energy transition, is how does mining reverse the current lack of interest and urgency…It seems likely that commodity prices will have to remain at historically high prices, while being less volatile, in order to convince those with capital that the returns are viable…Governments will have to do much more to speed up permitting and environmental approvals, and finally those with an interest in meeting the net-zero by 2050 will have to overcome their innate distaste of mining. - May 12, 2022

The global supply chain of cobalt is the most at risk among the critical materials needed for the energy transition, a recent report by market intelligence provider Project Blue shows…According to the firm’s Critical Materials Risk Index 2022, cobalt scored highly in terms of supply risk due to several reasons, the main ones being that it is extracted mostly as a by-product and that most mines and refineries are concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and China, respectively, with the bulk of the supply coming from a small number of consolidated producers…Cobalt leads the index also because its extraction is linked to ongoing social issues in Central Africa, which raises ESG concerns among battery makers as the metal plays a key role in lithium-ion batteries, aerospace, and other critical applications…The second spot, right after cobalt, is occupied by heavy rare earths such as europium and dysprosium, which are mostly refined in China with only one plant outside the Asian giant located in Malaysia. For this reason, REEs supply risk is actually higher than that of cobalt but since their economic importance and ESG risks are a little bit lower, they didn’t rank as high as the silver-grey metal…“While it’s no surprise that cobalt, rare earths, and niobium top the global list, it’s important to remember that what makes a material critical is very much subjective, and depends on your position in the value chain,” Jack Bedder, co-founder of Project Blue, said in a media statement.  

Thomson Reuters - May 11, 2022
Wheel loaders fill trucks with ore at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, U.S. January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Steve ...

The U.S. Department of Defense has asked Congress to let it fund facilities in the United Kingdom and Australia that process strategic minerals used to make electric vehicles and weapons, calling the proposal crucial to national defense…The request to alter the Cold War-era Defense Production Act (DPA) came as part of the Pentagon's recommendations to Congress for how to write the upcoming U.S. military funding bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act…Washington is trying harder to reduce America's dependence on China for lithium, rare earths and other minerals used to make a range of technologies. Existing law bars DPA funds from being used to dig new mines, but they can be used for processing equipment, feasibility studies and upgrades to existing facilities. Currently, only facilities in the United States and Canada are eligible for DPA funding…Adding Australia and the United Kingdom, the Pentagon said in the request to Congress, would "allow the U.S. government to leverage the resources of its closest allies to enrich U.S. manufacturing and industrial base capabilities and increase the nation's advantage in an environment of great competition."…The United Kingdom refines nickel and has several proposed processing facilities for lithium and rare earths. Australia has mining and processing facilities for a range of minerals, including iron ore, lithium, copper and rare earths, a group of 17 metals used to make magnets that turn electricity into motion.

KED Global - May 12, 2022
POSCO's nickel mine in Australia POSCO Group, which owns South Korea’s largest steelmaker, plans to invest 25 trillion won ($20 billion) to secure a stab

The investment is part of the steel giant’s long-term project to become the world's top EV materials player by 2030..POSCO Group, which owns South Korea’s largest steelmaker, plans to invest 25 trillion won ($20 billion) to secure a stable supply of key raw materials used in electric vehicle batteries amid a growing trend of resource nationalism worldwide…POSCO Holdings Inc., the investment holding company of the steel giant, will make the investment until 2030 in rechargeable battery projects, including purchasing stakes in battery material companies, mineral mines and related facilities throughout Asia…The huge spending plan will help POSCO build its own battery metal supply chain and reduce Korea’s heavy reliance on Chinese companies, according to the company…“China is sweeping the lithium and other battery materials market. It’s literally war,” Lee Kyung-sub, senior vice president in charge of POSCO Holdings’ secondary battery business, said in an exclusive interview with The Korea Economic Daily on Wednesday…With the investment, POSCO aims to establish facilities to produce 605,000 tons of cathode, 322,000 tons of anode and 300,000 tons of lithium a year by 2030..“This is not a wild dream. We expect battery materials to lead the Korean economy over the next decade or two just like chips, shipbuilding and chemicals did over the past two decades,” said Lee, who leads a team of 45 battery specialists at POSCO…Korea is home to leading battery makers, including LG Energy Solution Ltd., the world’s second-largest, SK On Co. and Samsung SDI Co., which heavily rely on Chinese companies for battery raw materials.

Mining Weekly - May 12, 2022
Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Wednesday announced a call for proposals for the Critical Minerals Research, ...

Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Wednesday announced a call for proposals for the Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration Programme (CMRDD)…This component of the programme would provide C$10.95-million in funding for pilot plants and projects to support the development of critical mineral value chains…The CMRDD programme will accept and fund applications that demonstrate the ability to reduce energy and carbon intensity, improve the environmental footprint of critical mineral processing, increase operational productivity and operational health and safety, and provide technological and innovative advancements in the process design of raw materials…Many critical mineral projects have unique technological and processing challenges that can hinder economically efficient production. For example, extraction technologies for most critical minerals used in clean energy technologies tend to be site-specific. Further, mineral extraction must be tailored to each deposit based on its mineralogy, requiring a mineral development strategy that is capital intensive and time consuming. This program will further the development of new technologies in order to make the mining of critical raw materials economically viable, leading the way for new downstream manufacturing opportunities for energy generation, capture and storage.

EVs & Energy Storage - May 12, 2022
Steep rises in battery raw materials prices since the start of 2021 are causing speculation over either demand destruction or delay and have led to the belief that automotive companies could move to the cheapest option for their electric vehicles.

Is LFP still the cheaper battery chemistry after record lithium price surge?...Steep rises in battery raw materials prices since the start of 2021 are causing speculation over either demand destruction or delays, and have led to the belief that automotive companies could shift preferences for their electric vehicles…The lowest-cost pack has always been lithium-iron-phosphate, or LFP. Tesla has been using LFP for its China-made entry-level models since 2021…Cobalt metal price is up 70% on year…Meanwhile, lithium prices have surged over 700% since the start of 2021, which has led to a big jump in battery pack prices…According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, Chinese battery metal costs in March were up 580.7% on year for LFP batteries on a dollar per kilogram basis, rising to nearly $36/kwh. NCM batteries were up 152.6% on over the same period to $73-78/kwh in February…"The way lithium has been priced up over the past 12 months, it is a smaller discount than you would expect [against NCM] and once you throw in performance factors it is a more difficult decision that it would have been. You might want to give away some performance for cost, but it isn't much cheaper these days," one cobalt hydroxide seller said…"There were concerns, indeed, because the cost of LFP was rising too much for the segment that it targets, which is low-cost batteries," concurred a lithium producer source…"There are no clear alternatives to nickel-intensive batteries (those containing 8 parts nickel or more) in the short- to medium-term. A return to lower-nickel NMC batteries reintroduces concerns about cobalt usage, while LFP batteries cannot yet fully match the range performance and also have relatively unfavorable low-temperature characteristics compared with nickel-intensive batteries," Alice Yu, senior analyst, S&P Global Market Intelligence…While the preferred chemistry in China is the LFP battery, it is commonly assumed that NCM will play a larger part in the EU markets – where consumers prefer cars that take them across the country or cross-continent in the fewest charges…"When looking at designing battery plants, we look at flexibility. Right now there is price parity between LFP and NCM. If LFP becomes a lot cheaper again we can maybe prioritize production, but right now we should produce NCM because it's a premium product," an automotive OEM said…A second automotive OEM echoed that comment, "LFP batteries will be there for entry level vehicles, but not adopted for premium cars"…The surging concerns about lithium, and other battery metals, becoming the limiting factor to drive EV adoption has led automakers to increasingly get involved in the upstream side of the industry. - May 11, 2022

Panasonic Holdings Corp. is being asked by Tesla Inc. to speed up the development of its next-generation 4680 batteries, said Hirokazu Umeda, chief financial officer…Anticipation had been building for the Japanese company to unveil plans to construct a new battery factory in the US, but instead, the CFO spoke at a post-results briefing about the ongoing robust demand for batteries, including the 2170 cells it supplies for Tesla’s electric vehicles…Panasonic has been scouting sites in Oklahoma and Kansas for its multibillion-dollar factory, Bloomberg News reported in March. The newly planned plant is part of its push to increase investment in EV cell production — a segment the 104-year-old Japanese electronics giant sees as critical for future growth…“We seeing continued strong demand from Tesla, for 2170 batteries, but also for faster development of the 4680.”…At its planned US factory, Panasonic is aiming to manufacture 4680 batteries, which are bigger and more powerful, people familiar with the matter have said. The Japanese company its betting that the newly-developed technology — championed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk as the key to unlocking $25,000 EVs — will open up doors to supply other automakers in addition to Tesla.  

For further information about the NICO Project and its Mineral Reserves, please refer to the Technical Report on the Feasibility Study for NICO, entitled "Technical Report on the Feasibility Study for the NICO-Gold-Cobalt-Bismuth-Copper Project, Northwest Territories, Canada", dated April 2, 2014 and prepared by Micon, which has been filed on SEDAR and is available under the Company's profile at


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