Lithium Developers Moving Forward on Domestic Projects Despite Pushback from Opponents

Energy Metals News – Despite already receiving government approval, and commencing construction on a new lithium mine, the Thacker Pass project of Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC) continues to run into opposition from environmentalists. The latest attempt to thwart the project is coming from a group threatening to sue over small snail species living near the Nevada mine site. On the other side of the planet, a $4.2 billion acquisition of Liontown Resources by lithium giant Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) was recently stifled by billionaire investor Gina Rinehart. As new threats to new lithium supply developments arise, other lithium projects are providing optimism ahead of upcoming rising demand and supply issues in North America. Among those projects gaining steam are those of Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTC:USHAF), Patriot Battery Metals Inc. (TSXV:PMET) (OTC:PMETF) and Piedmont Lithium Inc. (NASDAQ:PLL).

Vancouver-based Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTC:USHAF) recently expanded upon its flagship White Willow Lithium Pegmatite Project, by identifying ten key drill targets across a trend with a potential strike length of over 25km open at both ends. Now the company has announced it has commenced a Phase Three program to build upon these targets, after completing 5 weeks of fieldwork, expanding the lithium-cesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatite trend on the property. The new program will include another six weeks of field work, with two teams involved.

“We are thrilled with the findings from the initial programs at White Willow and are very excited to continue to build on our success,” said Deepak Varshney, CEO of Usha Resources. “As seen at Patriot Battery Metals’ Corvette Project, which has over 20 kilometres of trend, lithium pegmatite swarms occur in clusters, each of which has the potential to become a deposit.”

After putting together data from 618 samples, Usha Resources has delineated 10 high-priority drill targets for its planned maiden drill program.

“We now have 10 primary target areas across our 25 kilometre plus trend that include two highly evolved LCT pegmatite swarms at Bingo and Maple Leaf,” added Varshney. “With significant ground remaining between Bingo and Maple Leaf for further exploration and follow-up, we intend on maximizing the remaining time in the field season before commencing preparations for maiden winter drill program. The findings thus far strongly validate our belief that Willow is a flagship asset where Ontario’s next major lithium discovery will occur.”

A September update at the aforementioned Corvette Property of Patriot Battery Metals Inc. (TSXV:PMET) (OTC:PMETF) also saw an extension of strike length to 4.35km at the CV5 Spodumene Pegmatite portion. Multiple drill holes returned continuous core-length spodumene pegmatite intersections exceeding 30m, and up to 56.8m.

Earlier in the month, Patriot filed an NI 43-101 Technical Report on the CV5 Mineral Resource Estimate, that followed upon the company’s June announcement that the CV5 is the largest lithium pegmatite resource in the Americas.

“This maiden mineral resource estimate at CV5 is the culmination of an aggressive 20-month drill campaign that kicked off with our discovery hole in fall 2021, and is nothing less than a team effort to get us here,” said Darren L. Smith, Company Vice President of Exploration for Patriot Battery Metals. “This first resource has firmly established CV5 as a Tier 1 spodumene pegmatite asset, already ranking as the largest lithium pegmatite resource in the Americas, as well as in the top 10 resources globally.”

One of the newest producers in the Canadian lithium space is Australia’s Piedmont Lithium Inc. (NASDAQ:PLL), which recently restarted commercial spodumene concentrate production at their North American Lithium (NAL) project in Quebec with partners Sayona Mining.

Now Piedmont is looking to expand its Canadian footprint, having recently announced an intention to acquire 19.9% equity interest in the newly-formed Vinland Lithium and the right to earn up to 62.5% equity interest in Vinland’s Killick Lithium Project in Newfoundland.

“The Killick Lithium Project comprises a vast land package in an attractive jurisdiction,” said Patrick Brindle, Chief Operating Officer for Piedmont Lithium. “Our team has visited the site on multiple occasions and conducted extensive due diligence. Early exploration results are favorable, and the Project’s location is advantageous in terms of infrastructure and logistics.”

According to Brindle, the partnership supports Piedmont’s strategy to grow its hard rock lithium resource base with a focus on large targets in attractive locations and furthers the company’s plans to be a major producer of lithium hydroxide for the North American market.

“The Vinland Lithium exploration team is highly experienced and will manage all aspects of the exploration program,” said Brindle. “While we help fund exploration activities at Killick Lithium, our projects and operations teams remain focused on the ongoing development of our core portfolio, including the producing North American Lithium mine in Quebec and our planned operations in Ghana, Tennessee, and North Carolina.”

One lithium deal that was recently struck down was that of the proposed $4.2 billion takeover of Liontown Resources by Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB), after the arrival of Australia’s richest woman, mining tycoon Gina Rinehart entering the scene. She successfully built up her own 19.9% stake in Liontown making her the largest single shareholder, and gave her enough clout to potentially block a vote on the deal.

Albemarle has now advised that it has withdrawn its indicative proposal, and that it will not be proceeding with its proposed acquisition,” said Liontown in a statement. According to the statement, the withdrawal “was due to the growing complexities associated with executing the transaction.”

Albemarle’s leadership echoed and validated the sentiment, stating complexity as one of the reasons the deal didn’t move forward.

“Our engagement with the Liontown team has been meaningful and productive,” said Kent Masters, CEO of Albemarle. “We appreciate the level of cooperation we have received, and we thank the entire team for their efforts.”

Currently, Albermarle’s Silver Peak Lithium Mine in Nevada is the only producing lithium operation in the United States. That’s soon set to change, as of Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC) is moving forward with its Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in the same state, despite ongoing pushback from environmentalist groups and aboriginal communities. According to the company, Thacker Pass contains the largest known Measured and Indicated (M&I) Resource in the USA.

Soon Lithium Americas will be split into two leading lithium companies, with its operations in Argentina in one company, and the ongoing progress of Thacker Pass in the other—which will keep the same symbols.

In July 2022, Lithium Americas inaugurated its 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art Lithium Technical Development Center (LiTDC) in Reno, Nevada, where they’ve been producing battery-quality lithium carbonate samples from Thacker Pass ore. The company has announced that it already has planned for the mine’s closure well before construction started, in order to keep up with reclamation standards.

Now Reuters is reporting that Lithium Americas is in talks with the US Department of Energy to secure more than $1 billion loan for the Thacker Pass project. Lithium Americas had raised its budget for the first phase of the Thacker Pass project to $2.27 billion, from $1.06 billion, reflecting changes to its production plans.

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