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Northwestern Ontario sees the green lithium rush

Lithium exploration activity starts to surge in Nipigon, Red Lake
Green Technology Metals' Root Project in November 2022 (Company photo)

Northwestern Ontario is becoming a popular place find new sources of lithium as the electric vehicle revolution starts to accelerate.

This region hosts a handful of established junior mining players ready to take the next step into mine production with some new players on the scene with more grassroots projects.

Hard-charging Green Technology Metals is running two simultaneous drilling programs at two properties . Since last fall, the Western Australian company has been releasing a steady flow of high-grade lithium results at its Seymour and Root Projects.

Seymour is situated at the top end of Lake Nipigon near the town of Armstrong. Root is east of Red Lake near the community of Slate Falls First Nation.

The company has 40,800 hectares of ground with multiple lithium prospects spread out across the entire region.

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At Seymour, Green Tech is babysitting an almost 10-million-tonne resource of lithium-enriched spodumene rock. Drilling continues to grow the size of the deposit. A preliminary economic assessment of what a mine could look like will come out this quarter.

At Root, the company reported a thick, high-grade hit from the first drill hole at a new target called Morrison, a kilometre away from its McCombe deposit.

“Morrison is the second largest on the Root Project that hosts multiple lithium-bearing pegmatites,” said CEO Luke Cox in a statement, “and it’s great news to receive a near-surface 10-metre-wide spodumene intercept from the very first hole.”

A resource estimate for Root comes out this quarter. Green Tech has made it known it wants to be first to market in supplying North American auto and battery manufacturers with a lithium hydroxide product.

The company signed a strategic collaboration agreement with Lithium Americas last year and was eyeballing Thunder Bay as a potential site for a lithium conversion plant.

The company also announced is opening an office in Toronto to locate its project team and to be close to Queen’s Park.

Green Tech’s success in the Red Lake area has attracted a new neighbour, Vancouver’s Lithium One Metals. 

In early February, Lithium One signed an option deal toward acquiring a potential high-grade lithium property 15 kilometres south of Green Technology’s Root Project and 70 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout.

Called the Pinto Property, the new addition brings the company's total land base of 25,950 hectares in Northern Ontario and the James Bay side of Quebec.

Lithium One has been on an acquisition spree lately, scooping up lithium properties in Ontario and Quebec. Before Christmas, the company acquired six properties near the Root Project and near Rock Tech’s Georgia Lake Project at Nipigon.

Boots will be on the ground this spring with a program of prospecting, mapping and sampling to generate some drill targets.

”Each project has been chosen for high levels of prospectivity and also proximity to existing discoveries and deposits,” said Dominic Verdejo, company CEO in a news release. “Going forward, we will utilize our strengths as multi-project explorers and roll out work programs across our portfolio, with the first activity commencing this spring.”

Frontier Lithium has one of the highest-grade lithium projects with its PAK Project, 175 kilometres north of Red Lake.

The Sudbury company released the last batch of drill results from a 2022 exploration on its Spark pegmatite deposit.

Spark is one of two deposits at PAK near the Manitoba border. The drill program’s objective was to deliver a higher degree of confidence in the mining potential of a planned open-pit mine. A pre-feasibility study is being prepared.

Like Green Tech, Frontier aims to be a North American supplier of spodumene concentrate and battery-grade lithium hydroxide for the electric vehicle and energy storage sectors. The company intends to design and build its own lithium processing operations in Northern Ontario.

In a news release, Garth Drever, Frontier’s vice-president of exploration, said Spark “continues to increase in size” with the discovery of new high-grade zones to the northwest of Spark’s main zone.

“This zone will certainly be explored during the 2023 drill program at Spark.”

Much of Frontier’s 27,000 hectares is largely unexplored, but exploration continues with two more new spodumene-bearing discoveries on the property.

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The news many in Thunder Bay are waiting for is for Avalon Advanced Materials to announce the site for a lithium refinery in the city.

The company announced last year it was making a purchase offer for an undisclosed site to process material from its Separation Rapids Project, 70 kilometres north of Kenora. The deposit has a 20-year mine life.

Near Geraldton, Toronto’s High Tide Resources is making its first foray into Ontario through an option agreement to pick up a lithium property.

Dubbed the Big Bang Project, the company made a cash-and-share deal with an unnamed vendor on a 6,267-hectare parcel of land, 15 kilometres south of Highway 11.

High Tide’s focus has been on iron ore in the Labrador Trough where it owns the Labrador West Iron Project. But the company is diversifying into copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium in Quebec. This is High Tide’s second lithium acquisition in less than a year.

Seventy kilometres to the east of Big Bang is Rock Tech Lithium’s advanced Georgia Lake property. That project is scheduled to go into mine production by the middle of 2024.

Vancouver’s Imagine Lithium received encouraging lab results from metallurgical testing of a sample from its Jackpot Lithium Project near Nipigon.

The 200-kilogram sample produced a 6 per cent lithium oxide concentrate which, according to company president JC St-Amour, bodes well for “a high recovery and elevated lithium concentrates” from the granite pegmatite dykes.

Jackpot is 40 kilometres north of Nipigon in the Georgia Lake area and close to Highway 11.

The property contains two historical resource estimates of 2 million tonnes, grading 1.09 per cent and 750,000 tonnes at 1.38 per cent lithium oxide. The company is out to confirm and verify this resource by doing its own evaluation of the resource.

In a statement, St-Amour said a 6 per cent lithium concentrate is considered the desired industry standard. He was also pleased the lab results returned a low iron content.

“Low iron is also desirable as it increases the addressable market for our product (battery, glass and ceramics markets). Given that metallurgical analysis and results are an important input in the customer engagement process, we believe this is an important step in our consideration of multiple commercial opportunities for our lithium products in tandem with continued exploration program."

The company’s 10,000-metre drilling program ended in December. More assay results come out this month.