Thursday, 17 January 2013

Rock Tech Lithium sets sights on critical lithium and graphite development in 2013

Rock Tech Lithium (CVE:RCK) has much to look forward to this year, as the company hopes to bring an NI 43-101 compliant maiden resource to its Lochaber graphite property in Quebec, as well as release a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Georgia Lake lithium asset in Ontario. 
The Canadian junior is looking to benefit from the development of two metals critical for industrial production. 
“We have a unique scenario in that we have two very good projects that can provide graphite for the battery industry, as well as lithium,” says CEO Afzaal Pirzada. 
Indeed, contingent on raising more capital, the company’s main focus is to move these projects forward as soon as possible. 
Late last year, Rock Tech spent the bulk of its resources on the Lochaber graphite property, which Pirzada explains was the result of raising “flow through” capital in 2011 that was required to be spent in Quebec by the end of 2012. 
The company recently released additional drill results from Lochaber, which comprised the remaining four holes that were part of a 3,000 metre drill program announced in October. The first round of drilling exceeded its expectations, returning grades of more than 4% graphite over wide intersections. 
Notable holes from the latest results included PB-12-10, which intersected 47.82 metres of graphitic carbon (Cg) at various depths, with grades ranging from 1.07% to 4.24% Cg, including 13.12 metres at 4.24% Cg, 11 metres at 2.62% Cg, and 14 metres at 3.61% Cg.
The junior mineral explorer has also completed the bulk of its second round of drilling at Lochaber, after encouraging assays from the initial round prompted a decision to drill another 4,500 metres in early December. 
Pirzada says the company has also simultaneously collected core samples and shipped them to the lab for metallurgical analysis, with results expected in conjunction with the planned NI 43-101 report. 
The assay results from the 4,500 metre program are expected throughout the course of the first quarter, Rock Tech’s CEO says, with visual observations so far “quite consistent” with the drill results it has already. 
Still, the company's geophysical surveys and drill programs have focused only on the Plumbago area of the property, which includes just four of the 32 claims Rock Tech originally optioned – meaning there is plenty of room for further upside. 
Rock Tech said in September that surface samples taken from the Kelly, McLaren and Burke areas of the property returned even higher grades than Plumbago, particularly Burke – which returned graphite results up to 22% and remains the company’s next priority.
Further exploration, however, will require the company to raise additional funds, with Rock Tech “now in preliminary discussions” with brokers and other potential investors regarding its financing options. 
Lochaber spans over 19 square kilometres northeast of Gatineau, Quebec, and is considered prospective for large flake, crystalline graphite - the most actively pursued type and associated with next-generation technologies. The company says that numerous flake graphite occurrences on the property are some of the oldest graphite showings in Canada, having been discovered in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Graphite prices have almost tripled since 2005, and increased demand is expected to continue, with the companies that are positioned to take advantage of this market anticipated to succeed,” says Pirzada.
The CEO is bullish on the graphite market, which he says “looks very promising because of both new and traditional applications.” 
Indeed, as the graphite market bubble grows, so does investor interest and scrutiny of a mining sector bedeviled historically by supply/demand cycles, aided and abetted by China’s overwhelming market influence.
The United States, Europe and China regard graphite as a critical material for future industrial growth. Global markets know this fact and the response has been an explosion of interest, investment and growth in new graphite mine development.
As an allotrope - or different physical form - of carbon, graphite is a good conductor of electricity and heat with a temperature resistance above 3,500 degrees Celsius - the same temperature as the outer atmosphere of the sun.
Unlike other metals, when heated, it does not expand. The metal, like its sibling diamond, is one of the strongest and hardest materials in the natural world and is used in a wide range of products.
Applications range from refractories, brake linings and steel-making uses, to lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells - what is known in the industry as "twin avenues of demand" from both today's and tomorrow's uses. The need for graphite in lithium-ion batteries is projected to grow dramatically, with these batteries found in several electronic devices, such as electric vehicles. 
And with demand for graphite anticipated to rise, companies are looking to source the metal elsewhere than China – which accounts for some 80% of global graphite supply. 
But aside from graphite, Canadian exploration company Rock Tech is also poised to benefit from the demand for lithium-ion batteries with its Georgia Lake lithium project in the Thunder Bay Mining District of Northwest Ontario. Development of Georgia Lake is also a core focus for the Canadian junior, having released an updated resource estimate on the property last year. 
The estimate, based on its field program, phase 1 and 2 exploration results and historical exploration data, is comprised of 3,190,000 tonnes at 1.10% lithium oxide (Li2O) in the indicated category and 6,310,000 tonnes at 1.00% Li2O in the inferred category. 
Mineralization at Georgia Lake also dates back to the 1950s, and was subjected to a staking rush and hefty exploration work by various operators until 1958. 
Drill programs completed in the first quarter of 2010 and second quarter of 2011 at Georgia Lake confirmed historic drilling results, says Rock Tech, and even indicated the potential for rare metals such as rubidium, cesium, niobium and beryllium.
The property also boasts “excellent infrastructure”, attests the company, as it is accessible via paved provincial highway, and gravel roads right up to the project area. Power and water are also readily available, with a labour force in place as the town of Beardmore sits just 20 kilometres away. 
Rock Tech is hoping to move this project forward as well, with the next step being the PEA report.  With the increasing trend of consolidation in the lithium space providing some vindication of hard-rock lithium projects, Pirzada is optimistic about the prospects for the project.
“We’d like to have both the NI 43-101 resource at Lochaber and the Georgia Lake PEA report accomplished by the first half of this year, subject to raising additional funds,” Pirzada concludes. 

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