The EV revolution is well underway as countries worldwide are implementing and mandating different protocols prioritizing greener, cleaner futures. Electric vehicles will be a vital piece in the greener future puzzle as the EV revolution continues to propagate, and we see mainstream adoption from the consumer.
In fact, statistics show that consumer demand for EVs has gone parabolic since 2010, as we have seen a 423x increase in electric cars from 2010 – 2019 globally. As we trend towards an electric future, it is crucial to remember the strategic minerals that go into making EVs possible. New lithium discoveries will be imperative in the years to come as demand continues to increase.
Currently, China dominates the world’s lithium refining and battery manufacturing market. As the demand for electric vehicles grow, it is expected that most of them will be built with Chinese batteries, and those batteries will be lithium-ion, which are also popular for cellphones and laptops because of their high energy per unit mass relative to other electrical energy storage systems. For the foreseeable future, the United States will be dependent on Chinese supply chains to produce the batteries that power America’s technologies.
In fact, driven by electric vehicle battery demand, the growth in demand for lithium compounds in China is expected to increase dramatically in the years to come.
With China solidifying itself as the dominant player in the global lithium battery market, 24km from its border, ION Energy (TSX-V:ION) is looking to become Mongolia’s emerging lithium leader in exploration and development.
The company owns the Baavhai Uul Lithium Brine Project, which represents the largest exploration licence ever granted in Mongolia.
Some results and highlights of the project to date:
- 80,000+ hectares, highly prospective for lithium brine.
- Average grade 426 ppm Lithium.
- Max grade 811 ppm Lithium.
- Low Potassium and Magnesium ratios.
- High evaporation and low precipitation endorheic basin, no outflow to external bodies of water.
With the land package being in such close proximity to China, ION has a significant advantage over South American peers as the majority of the world’s lithium processing facilities reside in China.
We invite our readers to review the company’s infographic here. As the infographic showcases, ION is guided by a world-class management team with a proven track record of success building companies in Mongolia.
The company is fully-funded to pursue an aggressive growth strategy in the months to come. In fact, this week, ION announced that exploration has officially commenced. A geophysics study has commenced, designed to progressively identify and map brine aquifers as potential targets for a series of drill tests.
It is expected that the program will be complete in four weeks. Followed by a seismic program that will span 6 weeks. Previous programs conducted at the project included surface brine sampling (2016). The results were excellent, with Target L8 returning values from 212 mg/L lithium to 811 mg/L lithium, while Target L-11 returned sample values from 311 mg/L lithium to 434 mg/L lithium from shallow samples.
With exploration now commenced, it will be extremely exciting to watch the progress made here, as this is the first time advanced modern exploration techniques will be utilized in southern Mongolia with the intention of making lithium brine discoveries.
In saying that, we recently caught up with the company’s CEO Mr. Ali Haji to give us a bit of an overview and an update on ION as it anticipated the company will be very active in the months to come.
Alex Deluce: Thank you, Mr. Haji for taking the time to provide our readers with an update on ION and an introduction to the story. First off, congratulations on the recent listing on ION.
Can you give our readers a bit of a background on the company and the Baavhai Uul Lithium Brine Project?
Thank you, Alex, and for the opportunity to share ION’s story with you and Gold Telegraph’s readers. It has been a busy month or so since ION commenced trading on the TSX-V on August 31 this year: we are excited about our listing in which we raised 2X the minimum requirement by the TSX, recent additions to the bench strength since the go-public transaction and the fully-funded exploration program that has now commenced.
In 2017, we co-founded the company on the back of the last Lithium cycle, knowing that battery metals and renewable energy would make a meaningful, real comeback. Work done in Mongolia showed Li potential in the South Gobi region and we worked with the government to issue the Baavhai Uul Lithium Brine Project for tender. To date, the licence remains the largest exploration land package ever granted to a private company. We were awarded the licence in January 2019. Our board has had a tremendous amount of mining experience internationally, 10 years of which have encompassed Mongolia; we are very familiar with the country. Understanding the vast potential of Mongolia, we felt it was relatively underexplored and well-positioned to supply the largest consumer base and battery manufacturers in the world.
The Baavhai Uul Lithium Brine Project is located in the arid Gobi Desert, with high evaporation rates and low precipitation rates, 250 days of sunshine and high winds; considered optimal for the extraction of lithium brine. Early results show an average lithium grade of 426 ppm and a maximum grade of 811 ppm Lithium.
ION Energy not only has the largest land exploration licence granted in country, but the only lithium brine exploration licence ever granted in Mongolia – we have ‘first mover’ advantage in a market that has yet to be fully-discovered.
Alex Deluce: With the company having a strong cash position on its balance sheet ($3.8 million dollars) – what types of exploration programs does the company have planned for the remainder of the year?
ION has begun our CSAMT testing, to be followed up with a Seismic program in October, to ensure that we’re taking a targeted and strategic approach to our auger-led exploration efforts. The company acquired a truck mounted Auger Rig capable of drilling down to 20m in August of 2019 that aligns well with early work indicating the aquifer is 20m or so below surface. We expect to mobilize before the end of 2020, and will provide updates on the exploration program to our investors, and Gold Telegraph’s readers on a regular basis.
Alex Deluce: Can you touch on the importance of where the company is situated geographically and China’s role in the EV revolution?
Our Baavhai Uul Lithium Brine Project is located favorably, a mere 24 kilometers from the Chinese border. China consumes more than half of the world’s lithium supply and produces almost 3 quarters of all Li batteries in the market today. Not to mention, China refines close to four fifths of the world’s Li for battery use. While China is nearby, one must not discount the other markets in the region: Taiwan, Japan, Korea and now, India, Germany and the US.
The close proximity to these markets is a huge win over the producers and explorers in the Li triangle. Many remain unaware about China’s dominance in the market, I encourage readers to look up Tianqi, Ganfeng as well as an LFP (Lithium ferro phosphate) battery producer, who happens to be the largest battery manufacturer in the world, by the name of CATL. China has the global edge in the lithium/battery supply-chain with the greatest number of mega and giga-factories within its borders – and ION is poised to be part of that burgeoning local Asian supply-chain.
Alex Deluce: Alongside yourself, the company has a very strong management team with years of experience operating in Mongolia. Can you speak on your recent additions to your advisory board?
The recent additions to our advisory board, are a great testament to ION’s promise in the lithium brine exploration sector. Don Hains is widely regarded as a global lithium expert, with more than 30 years of experience in exploration and development. More specifically to ION Energy’s efforts, Don authored the guidelines for best practices in lithium brine resources for the OSC as it relates to NI 43-101.
The ION team is equally excited about Paul Fornazzari joining our group as an advisor. Paul has a particular expertise in lithium mining over the last two decades, starting with acting as counsel to, and becoming the inaugural Chair of the first lithium brine company listed in Canada, Lithium Americas (LAC) and being a director of Neo Lithium (NEO) as well. With this level of professional expertise and credibility from pioneers and well respected individuals in the lithium sector, ION has strengthened its bench strength and brought validation to the team’s strategy.
Alex Deluce: The group has historically been involved in companies that have created extremely favourable outcomes for investors. Can you highlight some of the success the company’s leadership team was a part of?
Indeed, Alex. Our Chairman, Matthew Wood, is a mineral resource explorer and developer, and has held numerous executive positions in the mining industry. He founded Hunnu Coal in 2010 and IPO’d on the ASX for $20m in 2011 and exited for A$500m to Banpu of Thailand in 2012. A strong result for Mongolia and our Mongolian shareholders. Matt was also paramount in the sale of Avanco resources in Brazil, a company he co-founded, to OZ minerals in 2018 for $440m.
Bataa Tumur-Ochir, one of our Mongolian Directors, is a Mongolian national and serves as CEO and Director of Steppe Gold TSX:STGO. Steppe Gold is a commercial gold producer in Mongolia that I advised, hence my foray in to Mongolia, with high margin production. Steppe recently received a strategic investment from Eric Sprott and was the first company in Mongolia to receive an investment from the Sovereign Wealth fund of Mongolia. Batta also serves as an advisor to the Mongolian Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry.
Our other Mongolian Director, Enkhtuvshin Khishigsuren, is highly accredited for having discovered the Olon Ovoot multimillion ounce gold discovery, in Mongolia.
Alex Deluce: Thank you very much, Ali, for giving our readers a glimpse into the company’s exciting emerging development. We will follow up in about a month for another update.
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