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This Upstart Could Upend the Multi-Billion Dollar Boron Oligopoly

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has called hydrogen-powered cars "mind-bogglingly stupid," a criticism that iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest stems from Musk’s fear of the technology, adding that Musk’s view is fitting for someone that "pedals a battery technology as green when it runs on fossil fuel."

Forrest doesn’t see a future in Lithium-ion-powered electric vehicles and has put his money where his mouth is, betting on making his Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the fourth biggest iron ore importer in the world, a clean energy giant with hydrogen vehicles as a focal point.

Indeed, Li-ion EVs are much further advanced and less expensive compared to their hydrogen-powered counterparts, but that is the "now" of the green vehicle industry. New technology using a combination of hydrogen and boron could be a serious threat to Li-ion that allows hydrogen to close the gap at lighting speed.

Hydrogen and boron are both readily available and Cambridge University research suggests a combination of a single gram of hydrogen-boron fuel could potentially power a car for a stunning 80,000 miles.

Forget about range anxiety. Forget about tens of billions of dollars of re-charging station infrastructure.

"The boron market is already ripe for disruption and if hydrogen-boron fuel cells become a reality underscored by the brilliant work of Gérard Mourou, Donna Strickland and others, decades of rising demand will be cemented," said said Tim Daniels, CEO of Erin Ventures Inc. (TSX-Venture:EV) in a phone conversation with “It’s a truly exciting time for what is generally an overlooked market opportunity.”

Daniels was referring to hydrogen-boron fusion with the Chirped Pulse Amplification laser that won Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. Applications abound for the technology from vehicles to less expensive, radiation-free nuclear reactors.

Boron is an irreplaceable mineral today used in everything from healthcare to fertilizer to fighter jets (and Li-ion powered EVs as it so happens). Supply is an oligopoly with Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO) and Turkey state-owned Eti Mine Works controlling about $4.0 billion of the $4.9 billion market today.

Daniels and Erin Ventures are ready to change that dynamic. Erin controls the Piskanja boron project in Serbia, one of only three high-grade world-class boron projects that exist today. Located south of Belgrade, Serbia in a historic mining region, Piskanja has all the requisite infrastructure, including paved roads, rail, power, seasoned miners, water, etc.

A NI 43-101 report amended in February 2019 shows the project hosts an indicated mineral resource of 7.8 million tonnes (averaging 31% B2O3 (boron trioxide)) and an inferred resource of 3.4 million tonnes (averaging 28.6% B2O3).

Projections are for several decades long mine life, according to the companies historic PEA authored by SRK in September 2014, with potential to generate well in excess of $100 million per year in revenue. That’s billions of dollars in revenue that is expected to be accompanied by high margins with cost per tonne sold estimated at approximately $166 (compared to estimates by Statista for $762/tonne boric acid in the coming years).

Erin is moving the project forward as Serbia looks to enter a post-covid economy, bringing on a partner to expedite the process and shoulder some of the financial burden. On April 13, the company announced they are finalizing an agreement for the joint development of Erin’s Piskanja boron project with Temas Resource Corp. (CSE:TMAS) (OTCQB:TMASF) wherein Temas has the opportunity to earn a 50% equity interest in Balkan Gold, the unit of Erin holding the Piskanja license, by spending 10.5 million euro (US$12.85 million) on development at Piskanja over the course of 36 months.

A lot can happen in three years with respect to the hydrogen-boron fuel cell market, developments that could align just perfectly with exploration work at Piskanja. Advancing the project to better demonstrate the economics and resources should get the attention of not just investors, but majors in the space looking to carve away some of the oligopoly’s market.