By Nathan Pearson
Thursday January 12th 2012
Exploring for lithium and rare metals in some of the world’s most prolific regions, International Lithium Corp. (TSX-V: ILC) was conceived 2 years ago as a spin-out of TNR Gold Corp. (TSX-V: TNR) in a bid to take advantage of the increased investor interest in the Lithium and Rare Metals sector as well as the significant potential valuation realized through the spin out.
ILC boasts a balanced portfolio of 9 lithium brine and rare metals pegmatite properties and, with its IPO completed and a recent flow-through financing of $1 million under its belt, is now focused on advancing 3 properties in particular – the Mariana lithium brine property in Argentina, the Moose lithium/rare metals property in NWT, Canada and the Mavis Lake lithium/rare metals property in Ontario.
Despite the irrefutable potential of all the ILC properties, Q3 2011 has seen Mavis Lake come to the fore of the property pack as Q4 welcomes the completion of its 1,753 metre drill program during which 17 of its 20 holes intersected one or more intervals of pegmatite greater than 2 metres and up to 78 metres in length. If Mavis Lake is a sign of things to come at ILC, I think we can safely determine that future is looking bright for this ambitious young company.
The Mavis Lake-Fairservice property straddles a continuous pegmatite field exhibiting high-grade, well-evolved lithium and tantalum zonation as well as significant levels of cesium and rubidium. Located 15 kilometres northeast of Dryden, Ontario, the property is easily accessed via the Trans-Canada Highway and a series of logging roads. The claim blocks comprise a total of 2,624 hectares and cover several known rare metal pegmatites.
The property exhibits high-grade well-evolved lithium and tantalum zonation as well as significant levels of cesium and rubidium across multiple pegmatite bodies. It also has a historic Pre NI /s43-101 compliant resource of 500,000 tonnes of 1.0% Li2O delineated on 1 out of 10 known pegmatite bodies on the Fairservice property which consists of 6 mining leases totaling 88.4 hectares and is dominated by east trending spodumene-beryl-tantalite-type pegmatites considered to be part of the same dyke swarm as on the adjacent Mavis Lake claim block.
ILC began drilling on Mavis Lake on August 18th with an initial 1,200 metres drilled program aimed at confirming the historic lithium grades on Fairservice and testing the rare metal potential of the Mavis Lake pegmatites. By October 11th the company had completed 1,753 metre of drilling (an increase of 46% from the original 1,200 metres proposed), drilled 20 holes and collected 394 samples which have been shipped for analysis. ILC eagerly awaits the results which are expected by early December.
Of ILC’s impressive property portfolio, the Mariana lithium brine project in Argentina is arguably the most significant. Located in the mining friendly province of Salta, the Mariana project is situated on the famous South American ‘Lithium Belt’, an 800 by 300 km north-south strip centered on the junction of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile that host the vast majority of the world’s lithium resources, reserves and production. Within this belt, the Mariana lithium brine salar (salt lake) ranks as one of the more prominent features.
Salars consist of layers of evaporite minerals and sediment containing minerals dissolved in brines such as lithium, boron and potassium that remain in solution and can be readily pumped to the surface for processing. Salars are host to some of the largest known lithium resources in the world and are a prime source of global lithium production. The advantage of lithium extraction from salars versus other sources of lithium is the simplicity, rapidity and cost effectiveness of the development and production.
The Mariana project affords easy access year round by paved and dirt roads and an international Argentina-Chile railway located 20kms away will provide invaluable assistance in any potential future development of the project. The project consists of several contiguous claims with the company holding an option to acquire a 100% interest, extending over 160 squared kilometres and strategically encompassing the entire salar, a particularly significant option when compared to other lithium explorers in the area that share multiple company claim holdings within one salar.
The strategic advantage of the ability to pump unheeded from a single-owner lithium brine reservoir versus a scenario where multiple companies are competing and extracting from one brine resource (i.e. multiple straws in the same milkshake) is highly coveted and ILC finds itself in that uniquely advantageous position.
Initial sampling and hydrogeology studies have been completed on Mariana with significant lithium, boron, and potash levels reported in brines within the main body of the salar. Average grades observed from the sampling programs are 440 mg/L lithium, 12,700 mg/L Potassium and 790 mg/L Boron, with peak values on surface as high as 650 mg/L litihium. The lithium grade is comparable to initial results from other advancing projects and of special note the potassium grades are the highest reported outside of the world class producing Atacama salar in Chile. The company has performed geological modeling which indicates a strong potential for higher grades within the target sub-surface brine pools.
An initial $1 million drill program consisting of 4 – 6 holes on Mariana has commenced with hopes to expand that to 10 – 20 holes in 2012 and establish a NI 43-101 compliant Resource Estimation of the brine later in 2012.
The 3rd property falling under the ILC exploration radar is the Moose rare metals project in NWT, Canada. Located 115 kilometres southeast of Yellowknife in the Great Slave Lake area, Moose is an under-explored, past-producing property with known pegmatites open along strike and to depth. Between 1947 and 1954 the property produced 119 tonnes of lithium-bearing and 4409 tonnes of ore grading 1.69 kg tantalum. With grades such as 1.50 wt% Li2O over 7.5 metres and 8.44 wt% Li2Ograb from stockpile, the property hints at significant potential for expansion of tonnage. Bearing that in mind, ILC has a 1,000 metre drill program planned for Moose in late 2011.
ILC’s property portfolio consists of a number of highly prospective rare metals’ hard-rock pegmatite projects that have been painstakingly selected by ILC’s technical experts under stringent guidelines. The key outstanding characteristics shared by all the rare metals’ projects are their underexplored nature, excellent accessibility, under-analyzed rare metals’ history, initial high confidence level that additional exploration will add project value and ultimately the potential to develop the projects to address the global technological growth in demand for the rare metals’ suite of elements.
Recognizing the extremely high caliber of this property portfolio, ILC has caught the eye of an Asian-based strategic investor. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd., a leading China-based multi-product lithium manufacturer, has committed to a strategic investment consisting of an initial 9.9-per-cent equity stake in ILC.
"The involvement of a strategic investor from the outset has been the goal that we have diligently worked towards since first announcing the spin-out of ILC," states Gary Schellenberg, CEO – TNR Gold Corp. "The strategic investor not only offers significant support in our future endeavors but attest to the credibility of ILC’s management, technical group and ultimately our projects’ potential."
Although the spin-out has really grown wings and begun to fly in recent months, we mustn’t forget that without TNR, there would be no ILC. Owning 29% of ILC, TNR is a diversified international metals exploration company based on a tried and true ̔Lead Project Generatorʼ business model. This model depends on the continuous identification and acquisition of new prospective projects and selective advancement of existing core projects, all supported by effective property joint ventures to preserve Company resources. International Lithium Corp. is a result as well as an application of this business model.
TNR through its 18 year longstanding operations office in Argentina has facilitated the bulk of TNRʼs current properties with a primary gold and copper focus. Alternately, TNR has advanced an Alaskan gold project of note; the Shotgun property. The property reports a non-NI 43-101 historical gold resource and is located in the Kuskowim gold belt in southern Alaska, a district host to more than 40 million oz of Au.
Recently the Company has branched out by acquiring two underexplored rare earth element (“REE”) properties, the Big Beaverhouse comprising one of the largest carbonatite complexes in Ontario at 5 by 5 kms in scale and the Seabrook property hosting one of the most southern carbonatite complexes in Ontario.
Up until two years ago, the niche lithium market has gone largely unnoticed despite growing steadily at a CAGR of 6.5% over the last 20 years. With demand for LCE (Lithium Carbonate Equivalent) of 105,000 MT/year in 2011 and conservative projection of demand reaching 100,000 MT of lithium just for batteries in vehicles and an overall demand of over 300,000 MT LCE by 2025, the future for the specialty mineral appears promising. It’s should come as no surprise that smart investors and household names such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Magna International, LG, and more have all staked their claims on various lithium brines in South America over the last 24 months.
With stable market price of LCE ranging from $4,500 - $6,000 a MT and major producers such as SQM reporting healthy margins, lithium extraction from salt lakes (brines) in Argentina and Chile appear to be a very lucrative business model especially given the prospects of lithium in coming years.
ILC and TNR Management
ILC and TNR boast a highly experienced and varied management team. Standing as CEO is Gary Schellenberg, B.Sc. (Geology). Mr. Schellenberg has been managing and financing public and private resource based companies for 20 years with several successful ventures including Winspear Resources which was purchased by De Beers in 2001 at over $300 million. He brings a wealth of experience to his role as steward for both enterprises.
Chief Operating Officer is Michael Sieb, B.Sc., MBA, who brings 22 years of strong corporate growth and project management experience in international mining and exploration. Prior to joining TNR, he was president of Brilliant Mining Ltd. which was named to the TSX50 "Top 10 Mining Companies on the TSX: V" for two consecutive years during his tenure. Mr. Sieb is recognized as a committed executive with an exceptional array of skills essential for operating and developing a premier mining company. Michael will be assuming the primary role of President of International Lithium Corp. upon listing.
Non-Executive Chairman, Kirill Klip, is also 100% behind the company and proves it with money-on-the-line by holding a significant share position in the company (over 20% of outstanding shares) that demonstrates his confidence in not only TNR Gold and ILC’s projects but their management team. From his previous track records of managing billion dollar businesses and successful ventures spanning telecommunications, transportations and other resource companies, Mr. Klip is known to select companies that deliver superior long term value.
Amongst the other members of the board are Paul Chung, B. Sc. (Geology) MBA, Jerry Bella (CGA), Roberto Lara, John Harrop, P. Geo., Jerry Huang MBA, Thomas Currin and Dr. Frederick W. Breaks.
ILC has adopted an approach of initial aggressive project advancement in a bid to provide a significant potential value increase over a short period of time. With management and insiders holding more than 50% interest in the company, ILC is bolstered by huge internal support enabling it to apply and advance this approach to the utmost of its abilities. Add to that the credibility and the technical support that the involvement of a strategic investor like Jiangxi Ganfeng brings to the table, and the options really are endless for ILC. At a share price of $0.12 as of morning on Friday 4th ILC has firmly established itself at an attractive price point for staged advancement and targeted growth.
Follow the company’s progress at www.internationallithium.com