What have been the main milestones achieved by ION Energy since listing publicly on the TSX-V?
Since then, our major achievements included listing publicly on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, as well as adding some of the leading names in the lithium space to our team. We started exploration shortly after going public, conducting a micro-seismic and geophysics program on our Baavhai Uul flagship project in October 2020, obtaining results that allowed us to dictate where drilling would start. In November 2020, the government of Mongolia instituted its first lockdown since the pandemic began which delayed field work. However, we used this hiatus to look at acquisitions in-country for additional licenses and to ensure that we were upgraded to the OTCQB.
In February 2021, we were looking to raise C$3 million in a bought deal financing co-led by PI Financial and Stifel GMP. In less than eight hours, we had demand for C$10 million, but decided to take C$5 million with a C$750,000 over-allotment option to bring in C$5.75 million at C$0.50 per unit with a C$0.70 warrant. The demand was exhilarating, but we had to play the balancing act to ensure that we maintained shareholder value without dilution. Once the deal closed in March, our team was able to fulfill our shareholder commitment to pursue an aggressive growth strategy.
Can you outline ION Energy’s exploration work?
Drilling at Baavhai Uul commenced in May, with the primary objective of determining exactly where the aquifers were below surface. The collection of core samples and sediments have been completed and submitted to SGS Laboratories for assaying results. Importantly, the drilling proved the hypothesis that brines do in fact exist at Baavhai Uul. The next exploration steps are to use additional hydrogeological and auger sampling to pull up brines from specific depths to arrive at an average grade and reach an early resource indication.
We also acquired the Urgakh Naran license. The project covers approximately 20,000 hectares, situated in the arid and infrastructure-rich region of the South Gobi Desert. Urgakh Naran is highly prospective for lithium brine, and a fast-tracked drilling and geophysics exploration program commenced in September 2021.
How does ION Energy’s position next to the Chinese border benefit the company?
China today has 75% of the world’s giga-factories, which means they are producing the vast majority of batteries that are used worldwide. Meanwhile, Chinese automotive manufacturers are selling more EVs per capita than anywhere else in the world. Our macro view is that we will see continued and significant lithium demand from the Chinese market in the near term, which will increase substantially in the mid to long term as the EV movement gathers pace. ION Energy is looking to bring on a resource in Asia which will allow Asian manufacturers to obtain the necessary lithium for battery manufacturing within their own continent, as opposed to importing from Australia or Latam.
Can you elaborate on how you intend to advance the project in 2022?
We expect sampling at both Baavhai Uul and Urgakh Naran to be completed by Q1 2022 to reach an early indication that will give a clear understanding of what the resource might be. We will also engage with strategic partners, allowing them to potentially have a toe-hold in the organization where we will leverage their strengths to better understand the profile of our assets.
Looking ahead, how could a producing lithium brine operation become a reality in Mongolia?
For lithium brine production to become a reality in Mongolia, government support is paramount. Mongolia today is a net importer of just about everything, and what better way to get the country on the map than collaborating with academia to develop batteries in-country that can be exported and add to the GDP? We are working with each of these stakeholders to ensure that the end product of the ION Energy story is an advantage to the Mongolian economy and its shift from fossil fuels to a cleaner energy transition.