Platinum, palladium, copper and nickel: critical metals for the transformative technologies which are powering Western economies. Clean Air Metals (AIR.V) is exploring two deposits, Current and Escape, near Thunder Bay which show great potential as sources for all four of these important metals.
On May 4, 2023 the company reported a new 43-101 Mineral Resource Estimate. “The Current Deposit contains an Indicated Mineral Resource of 8.2 million tonnes grading 2.7 g/t 2PGE (“Pt + Pd”), 0.33% copper and 0.22% nickel and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 1.6 million tonnes grading 1.7 g/tonne 2PGE, 0.32% copper, 0.20% nickel.
The Escape Deposit contains an Indicated Mineral Resource of 5.8 million tonnes grading 2.6 g/t 2PGE, 0.52% copper, 0.28% nickel and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 0.6 million tonnes grading 1.5 g/tonne 2PGE, 0.29% copper, 0.17% nickel.”
Having a solid MRE in hand means that Clean Air can get on with the job of proving up the economics of a mine plan. As Abraham Drost states in the release, “Work will continue to determine viability of a potentially bulk mineable, ramp accessible underground constrained mineral resource.”
It is work which the team at Clean Air is well equipped to do. The company’s chair, Jim Gallagher, is a professional mining engineer whose 35 years of experience includes having helmed the turnaround and sale of the Lac des Iles Mine. A palladium mine 60 kilometres away from the Thunder Bay North project which was sold for 1 billion dollars to Impala Platinum Holdings. Drost is a professional geoscientist with a 35-year career creating, managing and selling junior mining companies.
It’s a formidable team. Formidable enough that Clean Air attracted a 15 million dollar royalty arrangement with Triple Flag Precious Metals Corp in late 2022. The second, 5 million dollar tranche of that investment has been delivered to the Company. Which means that Clean Air can proceed with additional exploration and the work required to further derisk the Thunder Bay North Project.
As Drost points out, the need for metals like platinum, palladium, copper and nickel is being driven by the Electric Vehicle initiatives and the emergence of green-hydrogen hybrid vehicles. With governments all in on CO2 emissions reduction to fight climate change, the value of critical metals is poised to explode.
This demand acceleration for, in particular, platinum and palladium is likely to meet significant supply constraints due to the current and future electricity shortages in South Africa, the world’s dominant supplier of platinum and a significant supplier of palladium. All of a sudden having these metals in a safe jurisdiction with reliable electricity becomes very, very significant.
All of this adds up to a very positive outlook for Clean Air. Now comes the hard work. The company needs to take the new 43-101 Mineral Resource Estimate and determine “the viability of a potentially bulk mineable, ramp accessible underground constrained mineral resource”. As the company puts it in its May 4 press release, “The underground Mineral Resources at the Current and Escape Deposits will now be the focus of a renewed economic study which will include specific work completed on mining run rate, optimal sequencing of the two adjacent deposits, geotechnical analysis by Carlisle Mine Geotech and updated metallurgical recoveries.”
The next step, already underway, is to prepare the material for a 43-101 Preliminary Economic Assessment based on the new Mineral Resource Estimate. That PEA will give an initial indication as to the economics of the project. Those economics are a bit involved as they would require the construction of underground workings at each of the two deposits.
“We have to rescope the economics with the new MRE,” said Drost. “The important thing is to get it right.”
Clean Air shares, along with the rest of the junior explorers, have had a bumpy ride this past year but they seem to be heading in the right direction. With only a 14.5 million market cap there is a lot of upward potential as the company reaches its milestones. A positive PEA based on the new Mineral Resource Estimate will likely see the market take a closer look.