Drilling supervisor Claude Jacques at Canada Lithium Corp.'s property near Val-d'Or
The roar of pistons, it seems, is drowning out the pleas for people in this country to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by driving less. Between 1990 and 2007, the increase in emissions from private vehicles far outpaced population growth in Canada.
For the time being, the best response to confronting mounting automobile emissions is coming from advances in battery technology powering vehicles rather than changing the behaviour of the people at their wheels. The sales of hybrid cars have been growing steadily and that spells opportunity for Peter Secker.
Secker is president of Canada Lithium Corp, which is currently raising funds to finance the setup of an extraction facility at a property 60 kilometres north of Val-d’Or, Quebec. The company bought the open-pit lithium carbonate development in May 2008 from IAMGOLD, for six million shares and $350,000 in cash. This past spring, Secker stopped in Montreal to try to drum up some of the $148 million he estimates he will need to develop the site. “We are very optimistic,” says Secker, regarding the project for which prefeasibility work has been done.
The study, prepared by Montreal-based BBA Inc., estimates 2,950 tonnes per day production using conventional open pit methods with an estimated 4.26:1 stripping ratio. The initial mining plan pegs the mine life at just under 15 years, although a NI 43-101 resource estimate released in March revealed that the project has measured and indicated resources of 31.6 million tonnes grading 1.11 per cent and an additional inferred mineral resource of 38.9 million tonnes grading 1.12 per cent. Those new figures could support annual production of 40 million pounds of battery-grade lithium carbonate for at least 30 years, says Secker. The processing design proposed would rely on conventional crushing, grinding and flotation to produce spodumene and a 6.5 per cent lithium carbonate concentrate. A feasibility study is currently underway and if all goes well, the company expects commissioning to be completed by 2012.
“All the pieces add up,” says Secker. “Lithium demand is expected to be strong during the coming years. Val-d’Or would be a relatively low cost operation, in a mining friendly province, and the resource base there is impressive.”
Lithium batteries: a growing power source
Although lithium is also used in greases, glass and ceramics as well as aluminum, Secker’s main interest is in its potential in the battery market, which is growing by leaps and bounds. According to Secker, lithium contains three times the energy density of nickel hydride but only weighs about a third as much. Furthermore, lithium batteries can operate at extremely low temperatures (as low as -60 degrees C) and can last between 10 and 15 years. As a result, lithium batteries, long used in a variety of products such as cell phones, computers and power tools, are increasingly finding new things to power, including chainsaws, wheelchairs and scooters.
Secker says he anticipates the biggest source of future lithium demand could come from the car industry. Steadily growing environmental concerns, brought starkly to the fore in recent months as a result of the massive oil spill at BP’s Gulf of Mexico facility, are driving customers into more carbon-light alternatives.