Lithium 2.0 is all about North America and some of the biggest new discoveries in the world.
While this may be against the backdrop of bad times for lithium stocks overall, it has actually created a situation in which lithium companies are significantly undervalued, yet of critical importance to our energy transition future.
That makes for the best buying opportunity in this space in years.
And the best of the best opportunities, where the risk-reward ratio is the most potentially rewarding for investors, are found in the juniors who make big discoveries, particularly in lithium-starved North America.
Canadian based EMP Metals Corp (CSE:EMPS) (OTCQB: EMPPF) has gained significant traction over the past three quarters, testing the highest lithium concentrations in a brine in Canada to-date, attracting one of the biggest names in battery metals financing, and gearing up for pilot production in the first-quarter of 2024. From here on out, the news pace is expected to be fast and intense for this first-mover lithium explorer in Canada’s high-profile Saskatchewan mining hub.
Five Reasons to Invest in EMP Metals Corp. right now:
#1 >200,000 Acres in 3 Key Project Areas in Mining-Friendly Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is one of the most important lithium hubs in North America, and in energy transition terms, it’s a vital critical minerals venue of national security urgency to both the U.S. and Canada. It’s awash with everything from lithium and graphite to nickel, cobalt, aluminum and manganese. And it’s a long-time high-producing area for uranium, potash and helium.
Despite its critical mineral abundance, Saskatchewan still has vast areas that are underexplored.
EMP Metals has over 200,000 acres here in the most advantageous area of the South Saskatchewan’s Williston Basin: The Duperow formation, which is fast becoming the flashpoint for North American battery metals.
While explorers have been descending upon two separate formations here—Duperow and Leduc—the advantage goes to the former because of its generally higher grades of lithium and shallower drilling depths, which in turn allow for operating cost advantages in the quicker to production direct lithium extraction (DLE) scenario compared to hard rock mining.
* compiled using publicly available data, company press releases and SEDAR+ filings
Duperow is a higher-margin play, and EMPS is taking full advantage of this and moving swiftly, with the latest test flows enough to push this junior player over the lithium edge.
But this isn’t the run-of-the-mill junior lithium exploration story …
Two major developments have combined very recently to make this one of the most captivating North American lithium projects of the year …
#2 One of the Highest-Grade Lithium Drills in Canadian History
EMPS has already completed its NI 43-101 Inferred Resources Assessment for its Mansur and Viewfield areas, and the results are some of the most remarkable in the lithium space.
More to the point, we’re looking at lithium concentrations that are among the highest on record in Canada.
Viewfield and Mansur tested up to 259 mg/L and 148 mg/L respectively, lithium in brine. The preliminary assessment confirmed a high-quality Inferred Resource of 1.2 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at a weighted average grade of 143 mg/L.
For both Mansur and Viewfield areas, which includes 152 sections, EMPS is looking at a total of over 1.8 million tonnes of LCE (gross).
To put these concentrations into perspective, the 259 mg/L EMPS tested at Viewfield is the highest concentration among explorers in the Leduc/Duperow Lithium area, and among the highest on record in North America.
#3 New Strategic Investor Validates Assets
The fact that this is a massive, ~200,000-acre play with an inferred resource of 1.2-million-tonne LCE testing at impressively high grades has now netted EMP Metals a new strategic investor that changes everything.
On November 1, after six months of the type of heavy-handed due diligence investors like to see, London-based Tembo Capital private equity group took a 19.9% stake in EMP Metals, gaining a seat on the board to steward their investment.
Tembo Capital invests in and supports mining companies currently in the evaluation, development and production phases, providing capital to bring discoveries into production, to expand existing production or to acquire assets.
The deal shored up EMP Metals’ accounts with $9,757,600, as well as expertise from a private equity group focused on sustainable natural resources and clean energy metals, with an impressive track record of identifying and supporting the best emerging resource companies.
This isn’t Tembo’s first big hedge on a junior battery metals explorer.
Since 2021, after raising $380 million for its third mining fund, Tembo has been increasing its mining bets in North America, eyeing critical battery metals. That same year, Tembo took a 50% stake in Cherish Metals, in partnership with U.S.-based Black Mountain Metals, to advance the Lanfranchi nickel mine in Western Australia. Tembo took a 34.6% stake in US-based copper developer Arizona Sonoran (TSX:ASCU; OTC:ASCUF), along with giant Rio Tinto, in 2022.
“You have to be quite selective,” Tembo Capital’s CEO David Street told Northern Miner in 2021. “We look at probably hundreds of assets a year, but we’ve got a good team of people here, with three geologists, a couple of mining engineers, a metallurgist. So, we do screen a lot of things, and we’re very selective. We’re probably making, on average, two or three investments a year. We do a high level of due diligence on the companies we invest in,” Street said.
Saskatchewan, and the Duperow formation in particular, is the place to be for North American lithium, and while junior explorers are rushing to this scene, EMP Metals passed the Tembo selection, with high grades, the best lithium well drill yet in Canada and its plans to use DLE, a more environmentally sustainable method while producing lithium at faster speeds with high recovery rates.
In a further boost of confidence for investors, Karl Kottmeier and Craig Foggo, Tembo’s Investment Director since 2014, will now be joining the board of directors. Both bring over 20 years of experience in the mining industry, ranging from operations, finance and administration.
EMP Metals CEO, Rob Gamley, stated, “The fact that these successful industry participants agreed to join our Board is another significant endorsement of our Saskatchewan lithium brine projects. As we advance our PEA and pilot production plans their extensive background with mining operations, finance and capital markets will bring significant strategic guidance that is integral to the Company’s growth.”
Adding to the optimizing news flow, on November 20, EMP Metals announced a new COO for the team. Paul Schubach, P Eng. spent over ten years for $11-billion-market-cap Mosaic Potash (NYSE:MOS), working onsite at its Mosaic Potash Belle Plaine, the world’s largest potash solution mine. He brings 12 years of top-dollar diversified engineering experience to add shareholder value.
#4 The Next Big Push: Pilot Production in 2024
With all their ducks in order, one of the biggest names in battery metals, a new world-class board member and a new COO joining EMP right from a $11B market cap mining company, EMP Metals is ready to take off.
After consulting with several direct lithium extraction (DLE) service providers, in early Q4, EMP Metals selected their two preferred, with ongoing brine testing at both. They’ve also consulted with three CRC (concentration, refinement, and crystallization) providers, and are running a detailed evaluation of the preferred provider proposal.
The engineering partner has already been selected in the form of Sproule Associates Limited, with resource to be developed by multi-lateral horizontal wells of shallow depths from 1500-3000 meters.
By the first quarter of next year, EMP Metals plans to have its field pilot plant up and running and is in the process of acquiring the DLE permit, with Viewfield evaluation to continue in the first two quarters of the New Year.
At the beginning of the year, we should see EMP Metals start drilling horizontal wells to test for flow rates and pressures in multiple zones, and we expect that all the while they will continue new land acquisitions.
This is a fast-moving plan of action that all leads up to the coup de grace: A commercial pilot plant by the first quarter of 2025—just over a year from now.
EMP Metals is currently evaluating proposals for the DLE commercial plant, based on lithium concentration, impurity removal, CAPEX/OPEX costs, availability and guarantees of scale of production.
At the same time, drilling will continue with multilateral horizontal wells in the higher concentration Upper Wymark zones, continually building on EMP Metals’ high-grade hits to date.
#5 Junior Discoveries Are Key for the North American Supply Chain
On the mining scene, and particularly deep in the battery metals playing field, the speculative junior explorers have the potential to offer investors the biggest rewards, for investors with the necessary risk appetite.
In the case of EMP Metals, we’ve already got high-grade test results that break Canadian records for lithium drill holes. We’ve got a huge play in one of the most advantageous mining and metals hubs, Saskatchewan. This play is highlighted by shallower drilling depths and projects that are amenable to direct lithium extraction which offers a faster cheaper, and more sustainable process than traditional hard-rock lithium mining.
With concentrations up to 259 mg/L, the economic drivers on this one are stronger than usual for a junior play, and investor confidence is buoyed in the aftermath of the 19.9% stake acquisition by a global name in battery metals financing—Tembo Capital, which is also brining on an industry veteran to serve as a board member to help guide this project through to a successful production scenario.
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