What will drive future demand for rare earth elements?
The global demand for rare earth elements (REE’s) continues to increase on an annualized basis, and electric vehicles are a significant part of that, along with wind turbines. As the world continues to face the realities of climate change - which should arguably be called a climate crisis now - the world will continue along the trajectory of replacing dependency on fossil fuels over to a greater reliance on renewables and clean and green energy, and the REE’s are an essential factor in this drive to improve the environment.
What make Monazite such an appealing mineral to possess?
Monazite is the most attractive REE mineral because monazite hosted sources typically have a higher percentage of the four rare earth elements that are essential for permanent magnet manufacture. That is specifically the case in terms of our Ashram Rare Earth Elements/Fluorspar deposit, because in our enriched zone we have very high proportion of neodymium and praseodymium (21-24+% of the total REO) which we will be mining for a significant portion of the initial 25 year mine-life.
What are the components necessary for an attractive rare earths project?
Unlike gold, copper, or nickel, grade is not the most important thing when going into production for REE’s. The type of REE mineralization is the key. Ashram averages just below 2% with significant tonnage in the current defined resource, which is broken down into 1.6 million mt measured at 1.77% REO, 27.7 million mt indicated at 1.90% REO, and 219.8 million mt inferred at 1.57% REO. That is a huge deposit, with a very attractive grade that is monazite dominant.
What are the near term goals for Commerce Resources?
Top of our list right now is the completion of the production of the samples requested by industry majors. We are looking at the completion of these samples this fall, and the delivery following. We then hope that one of those companies will find it attractive to enter into a project level investment with us on the basis of those samples, proving that we can produce a commercially marketable and viable REE concentrate sample. This would be a rare earth carbonate concentrate, that would not have any of the thorium that naturally exists in our deposit. We are in the process of stripping that out as part of the flowsheet development being completed by Hazen Research in Colorado. As for radioactive elements, we were very fortunate that we do not have any significant uranium in the deposit. There is several times more uranium in a typical granite countertop than there is in Ashram. There is a very low level of thorium at Ashram, which is common to the mineral monazite; however, its removal is well understood and the storage of it is well-regulated and safe. The amount of thorium is Ashram monazite is actually significantly less than that typically found in monazite derived from heavy mineral sand operations.
Why should rare earth elements investors put their money on Commerce?
Commerce owns 100% of the Ashram Rare Earth Elements/Fluorspar deposit, which is the largest defined monazite dominant resource in North America. There are heavy mineral sand operations throughout North America, and throughout the world, where monazite may be recovered as a by-product to zircon or rutile, but Ashram is the largest defined hardrock monazite deposit in North America. Ashram is a rock type called ‘carbonatite’ which speaks to size and grade, but it also speaks to the ease of processing and lower processing costs.
There are laterites that are monazite dominant, but typically the laterites are weathered carbonatites, and the weathering process which is naturally occurring over hundreds of millions of years changes the carbonatite into something that is more challenging and costly to process. The only laterite hosted REE project that has been successfully commercialized is Lynas in Australia, and arguably they might not have gotten into production were it not for the now US$400 million invested by the Japanese government into them. There will be a few winners in the REE sector because there are so few REE projects globally that have the right fundamentals. The Ashram has all of the essential fundamentals to go into production for rare earth elements.