Palladium One Mining (TSX-V:PDM, FRA:7N11) is exploring for platinum group elements (PGEs) at its LK Project in north-central Finland, and for nickel, copper and PGEs at its Tyko property near Marathon, Ontario.
The company is focused on LK, where surface chip samples tested recently from Haukiaho and Murtolampi, two of the project’s target areas, show promising PGE mineralization.
This week PDM came out with a maiden resource estimate at Kaukua, the most explored mineralized zone on the 2,500-hectare property.
PDM has also attracted a familiar and well-respected name to its board of directors – Dr Peter Lightfoot. Dr Lightfoot published the first comprehensive textbook on the ore deposits of the Sudbury Igneous Complex and while Chief Geologist for Inco and Vale was responsible for technical aspects of exploration programs at Voisey’s Bay, Sudbury and Thompson. I’d be remiss in not pointing out that Palladium One, with Dr Lightfoot’s appointment to the board, has appeared to have successfully book-ended a very successful summer exploration program at LK.
The LK Project has the rocks that few copper-nickel-platinum group elements (Cu-Ni-PGE) deposits can boast.
About 2.4 billion years ago, a continental rifting event created the Koillismaa Complex which hosts the LK Project and several other mafic-ultramafic intrusions containing palladium-rich Cu-Ni-PGE sulfide minerals, chromium, as well as iron-titanium-vanadium.
Continental rifting has produced some of the largest Cu-Ni-PGE (copper, nickel, platinum group elements) deposits in the world including the Duluth Complex in Minnesota, Norilsk in Russia, and China’s Jinchuan deposit.
Several of these mafic-ultramafic intrusions occur in Scandinavia, in an area known as the Fennoscandia shield. This is “elephant-deposit country.”
The Fennoscandia shield includes a number of large Cu-Ni-PGE deposits including Pechanga on Russia’s Kola peninsula, Kevitsa, Sakatti, and the Portimo Complex located 90 km to the northwest of LK.
Maiden resource estimate
Both Kaukua and Haukiaho had historical resource estimates (RE) (ie. not currently NI 43-101-compliant) done in 2013.
Palladium One’s goal is to upgrade these historical estimates to comply with NI 43-101 standards, and to find a million ounces of palladium-equivalent. Ultimately PDM aims to define >3 million ounces of palladium equivalent in open- pit resources.
This week the company published the first (maiden) NI 43-101-compliant resource on Kaukua, thereby placing Palladium One in the starting blocks of what should prove to be a very interesting run at developing an open-pit Cu-Ni-PGE mine in Finland.
The main difference between the new and historic resource is that PDM has used a conceptual open-pit mine plan with a cutoff grade of 0.3 grams per tonne palladium, versus the earlier 0.1 g/t cutoff grade. The new 22 million tonne resource therefore contains slightly less tonnage than the 2013 estimate but at a higher grade. This “pit-constrained” resource is estimated at:
About 97% of the earlier indicated resource has been incorporated into the new pit-constrained resource estimate, and 85% of the inferred. The total pit-constrained resource is currently split evenly between indicated and inferred categories.
The future mine is expected to have a relatively low strip ratio of 3:1, resulting in a low-cost, low-capital operation.
Crucially, the LK Project has had metallurgical work done on it, essentially allowing Palladium One to get a head start on this vital stage of mine development which can sink many a junior resource company.
Preliminary test work achieved a saleable concentrate grading 11.4% copper, 4.5% nickel, 7.8 g/t platinum, 36.3 g/t palladium and 4.6 g/t gold while keeping magnesium oxide at, or below 4%.
Copper recoveries were excellent with reasonable recoveries for palladium and other metals. Palladium One is confident it can boost PGE recoveries through further testing.
Recapping the project so far, LK has a lot going for it, including a robust maiden resource estimate, production of a saleable concentrate, and most importantly in our eyes, massive potential for expanding the resource through further exploration. Here is CEO Derrick Weyrauch’s take on the upside:
“It’s 22 million tonnes (11Mt indicated, 11Mt inferred) in the one pit right now, obviously we need to think about next steps of engineering, a scoping study but what’s going to attract people is you’ve got that foundation,” Weyrauch told AOTH over the phone this week. “But you’ve also got east, west and south, huge potential upside. Maybe that eastern portion, of 6-7 km, you’re going to find one, two, three of these Kaukuas and there’s zero drilling been done there. And we haven’t even talked about Murtolampi to the north.
“This now is a drilling exercise to drill it out and build it up.”
Impressive exploration potential exists to add tonnes and increase grades;
Indeed LK, which is predominantly a palladium play, has tremendous upside potential. Nine exploration permit applications feature three mineralized zones: Kaukua, Murtolampi and Haukiaho. Historical exploration goes back to the 1960s.
Much of the ~25 km of Koilissmaa’s basal (base) contact was mapped and reconnaissance-drilled (81 holes/11,514m) by majority-state-owned Outokumpu for copper/ nickel and later by GTK for Cu-Ni-PGE mineralization. GTK, the Geological Survey of Finland, punched in a series of widely spaced, shallow (typically ~ 40 meters depth) drill holes that demonstrated anomalous Cu-Ni-PGE mineralization along the entire 25 km of basal contact. Therein lies the exploration opportunity, the upside.
Only about four kilometers of the 25-km basal contact has been drill-tested.
The company plans to at least double the Kaukua resource through additional exploration at Kaukua and other nearby target areas, like Murtolampi, where a recent sample showed 3.106 g/t PGE (Pt + Pd + Au), opening up the possibility of the Kaukua mineralization extending north, let alone east along strike where no drilling has been conducted.
At Haukiaho, the 2013 historic resource estimate identified 23.2 million inferred tonnes grading 0.21% copper (Cu), 0.14% nickel (Ni), 0.13 g/t platinum (Pt), 0.31 g/t palladium (Pd), and 0.10 g/t gold (Au) (0.53 g/t PGE) using a 0.1 g/t Pd cut off.
The largely unexplored area has about a 10-km strike length. While historical prospect drilling by GTK found multiple anomalous holes along the entire strike, the higher-grade shoots/ pods were not targeted and no modern induced polarization (IP) survey has been done.
Comparing the structure of the two deposits, Haukiaho is currently more extensive than Kaukua but based on the limited, widely spaced drilling, not as continuous, with discrete pods of mineralization present. Palladium One plans to start exploring the higher-grade intercepts at Haukiaho and step out from there.
Only about one kilometer of an 8-km strike length has been drilled at Kaukua, and some holes host impressively thick “fault-stacked basal units” of greater than 100m. There is also the potential for a parallel zone to the south of Kaukua.
Earlier this month the company announced it has applied to the Mining Authority of Finland for an additional 13 kilometers of “mafic-ultramafic basal (base) contact” of the Koillismaa Complex in north-central Finland.
If the reservation application is approved, PDM’s LK Project will be enlarged by 50%, or 1,174 hectares, boosting the highly prospective basal contact from 25 kilometers to 38 km, and upsizing the LK land package from 2,500 hectares to 3,700 ha. The “Lipeavarra Reservation Application” representing the additional 13 km of basal contact is roughly equidistant between the Kaukua and Haukiaho targets.
The new ground currently under application holds the potential for additional tonnage. One of the two areas, Haukiaho East, includes 7 km of basal contact on strike to the east of the historic Haukiaho resource, and covers several anomalous mineralized intercepts from historic drilling, including 12.3m of 0.23% Cu and 0.14% Ni in hole R666.
The Lipeavaara area includes 6 km of basal contact and hosts a historic Cu-Ni-PGE showing. Shallow reconnaissance diamond drilling by GTK in the late 1990s returned anomalous mineralization up to 14.52m of 0.27 g/t Pd, 0.12 g/t Pd, 0.25 % Cu, and 0.17 % Ni in hole R379.
Success on the ground has been accompanied by new blood in the boardroom.
PDM has been staking out new talent for its management team, and cementing existing relationships. Acting chief executive Derrick Weyrauch last week was named permanent President and CEO. Director Neil Pettigrew was promoted to VP – Exploration.
The company recently dealt a major coup to shareholders in bringing Dr. Peter Lightfoot onto the board of directors. A familiar and respected name in the industry, Dr. Lightfoot literally wrote the book on nickel-copper-precious metal ore deposits, having spent 20 years as a geologist with Inco and Vale, responsible for nickel exploration. He has been involved in project generation, evaluation and technical support in Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Finland, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Angola, South Africa and the United States.
Dr. Lightfoot frequently consults to companies exploring for magmatic nickel-cobalt-copper and precious metal ore deposits, through his company Lightfoot Geoscience Inc., but this is the first time he has agreed to sit on a board of directors. His appointment would be seen as a significant vote of confidence by any junior resource company, and was acknowledged as such by CEO Weyrauch:
“I’m thrilled that Dr. Lightfoot has joined Palladium One. Peter joining our Board of Directors is a huge vote of confidence in the quality of the LK and Tyko projects and the future growth prospects of the Company,” Weyrauch said in a news release .
Palladium One also recently welcomed Lawrence Roulston to the board. A mining industry veteran of +35 years, Roulston is well known for running the ‘Resource Opportunities’ newsletter. He currently heads WestBay Capital Advisors, consulting to junior and mid-tier companies, and holds a number of directorships including at Metalla Royalty and Streaming, Auramex Resource, Mountain Boy Minerals, Romios Gold Resources and Thunderstruck Resources.
Pettigrew is a geologist with 20 years of industry experience and has published papers on Cu-Ni-PGE mineralization and the petrogenesis of mafic-ultramafic intrusions in Exploration and Mining Geology in Series B of Transactions of the Institution of Mining and Metallugy (London) and in Precambrian Research. He has worked with several junior and major companies in gold and Cu-Ni-PGE exploration, most notably Avalon Ventures, Temex Resources, Rainy River PC Gold, Placer Dome and Goldcorp.
Weyrauch, a chartered accountant for +28 years, was a co-founder and director of Magna Mining, a private, development stage-nickel company in Ontario, and a director of Cabral Gold. He was the CFO of Andina Minerals prior to its sale.
Finland being a Northern Hemisphere country of similar climate to Canada, PDM investors can expect a number of drill holes to be sunk into the frozen ground this winter. The company plans to roll out a 6,000 to 7,000m drill program, targeting three major zones not included in the historical resource estimate: Kaukua South, Murtolampi and Haukiaho’s West Torkoaho Zone.
Geophysics and historical drilling point to significantly unexplored areas with the potential to add tonnage and increase grades. PDM will be guided by such historic intercepts as Kaukua South’s 32.95 meters at 1.05 grams per tonnes PGE; 30.15m at 0.85 g/t PGE at Murtolampi, and 30.3m at 1.00 g/t PGE at the Haukiaho West Torkoaho Zone.
Neil Pettigrew, Vice President – Exploration, commented:
“There is still a lot more work to do at Kaukua and the rest of the LK Project, significant potential exists for additional tonnage and higher-grade discoveries. The LK Project remains wide open with less than 4 km of the current ~25 km mafic-ultramafic basal contact systematically drill tested. The favourable basal contact at Kaukua remains open along-strike both to the east and west, while the deepest drill hole to date is only 420 meters long. We plan to conduct geophysics and diamond drilling on the LK Project during the 2019-2020 winter months with the goal of significantly expanding the current Mineral Resources in order to outline a large-tonnage, palladium dominant open pit mining operation. Our geological team has identified a number of high priority targets at the LK Project that we plan to explore, as we look to expand and compliment the Kaukua Deposit.”
Re-cap of 2019-2020 drilling program objectives:
The platinum group elements (PGEs) consist of six metallic elements found in the Periodic Table of the Elements: iridium (Ir), osmium (Os), palladium (Pd), platinum (Pt), rhodium (Rh) and ruthenium (Ru).
According to the International Platinum Group Metals Association (IPA), one-quarter of all manufactured goods either contain a PGE, or a PGE played a key role in its production. That makes PGEs indispensable for industrial applications.
The chemical industry for example needs platinum or platinum-rhodium alloys to make specialty silicones and nitric oxide – the raw material in fertilizers, explosives and nitric acid. Platinum-supported catalysts are used to refine crude oil and to produce high-octane gasoline. They are also heavily applied in electronics, with PGE components utilized to increase storage capacities in computer hard disk drives, in multilayer ceramic capacitors, and hybridized integrated circuits. PGEs are needed to produce fiberglass, liquid-crystal and flat-panel displays.
Platinum and iridium’s non-corrosive qualities make them ideal for medical implants such as pacemakers, and surgical tools. Palladium, platinum and rhodium are also investment metals, bought and sold as bars, coins or ETFs.
An emerging market for platinum is in the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cells. Platinum is used to spur the chemical reaction of hydrogen with oxygen. Recognized as powering NASA’s 1969-72 moon landers, the process produces electricity and water. In the case of a fuel-cell electric vehicle, hydrogen is stored in a fuel tank before it is mixed with oxygen from the air.
Platinum and palladium are the most well-known of the PGEs due to their use in catalytic converters. These essential automobile components scrub tailpipe emissions in gas and diesel-fueled vehicles.
Palladium is an ingredient in catalytic converters for gasoline-powered cars, vans and trucks; platinum is in the catalytic converters of diesel vehicles. Autocatalyst demand accounts for three-quarters of palladium demand.
Out of 69 million tonnes of PGEs found worldwide, South Africa’s Bushveld Complex has the largest reserves of platinum and palladium – 63 million tonnes as of 2018, according to the USGS. Russia and Zimbabwe are a respective second and third.
South Africa is also by far the largest Pt and Pd producer in the world, outputting 178,000 tonnes combined last year. Canada is a significant producer of PGEs, mining and processing 17,000 tonnes of palladium and 9,500 tonnes of platinum in 2018.
Up until 1920, nearly all PGE production came from placer deposits in Russia and Colombia. PGE mining now takes place mostly in Siberia and South Africa.
The United States is heavily dependent on external sources for PGEs, importing about 90% of the PGE metals it consumes. The country gets 31% of its palladium and 44% of its platinum from South Africa; Russia supplies 28% of US palladium needs.
Platinum group metals were included among a 2018 list of 37 mineral commodities the United States considers critical to its economic security and national security. North America only has two producing platinum and palladium mines – Stillwater in Montana and North American Palladium’s Lac des Iles mine northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
South African palladium is a by-product of platinum mining, and palladium from Russia is a by-product of mined nickel. Between them, the two countries control almost 90% of the palladium market. Currently and for the foreseeable future, palladium is facing constricted supply.
According to a report from Sprott Asset Management, “Supply shortages continue to support palladium’s performance, with strong multi-year growth in palladium demand now straining a fixed supply.”
The reason has to do with structural problems in South Africa.
“Production was expected to continue decreasing as (Impala Platinum, aka Implats), the world’s third-leading PGM-mining company, by production volume, announced plans to cut 13,000 jobs over the next two years at some of its mines in South Africa,” states the US Geological Survey.
Another key factor affecting supply: Platinum mining in South Africa is frequently interrupted by labor unrest. In 2014 workers at the country’s three major producers – Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum and Implats – downed tools for five months demanding that wages be doubled. The strike was the longest and most expensive in South African history, shutting down about 40% of the world’s platinum production.
The country’s platinum mining companies are under constant pressure to contain costs, because their mines are some of the deepest and most labor-intensive in the world. High temperatures are also a serious issue. Platinum is being mined in reefs up to two kilometers deep, where rock temperatures have been measured at 70 degrees C – pushing the outer limit of 75 degrees considered safe for mining.
There are significant infrastructure constraints, too. South Africa has limited processing capacity and water is a constant concern. In the summer of 2018, Cape Town came dangerously close to running out of water and was only saved from “Day Zero” by stringent restrictions on water usage.
Power in South Africa is notoriously unreliable – blackouts are frequent. In 2008 the country’s electricity grid nearly collapsed due to a shortage of coal for power stations and system faults. Eskom, the main utility, ordered all mining operations to evacuate underground staff and to stop mining for five days, then cut electricity supply across South Africa to minimum levels; the mining industry uses about 15% of Eskom’s output. The stoppage, affecting roughly a quarter of generating capacity, cost the industry billions in lost output.
In February, Reuters reported that Eskom imposed the worst power cuts in years on homes and businesses, as the utility grappled with another crisis within its crumbling power infrastructure.
Due to its use in autocatalysts, a major driver of palladium demand is the health of the auto industry. 2018 was the seventh year in a row that palladium was in deficit because of strong vehicle sales, globally.
Demand for palladium has also surged since 2016 with the movement away from more polluting diesel-fueled vehicles. As drivers shift from diesel to gas-powered cars or hybrids, the market for palladium used in gasoline engines has buoyed the price.
The “diesel-gate” scandal at Volkswagen put tailpipe emissions on the radar of policy makers especially given that the rigging of diesel cars to fraudulently meet emissions came amid reports of the dangers of air pollution.
A 2017 study in the journal Nature found that emissions from diesel vehicles which exceeded certification limits were associated with about 38,000 premature deaths. The following year, a German court ruled that smog-belching vehicles will be banned from the centers of Stuttgart and Dusseldorf.
Concerns over air pollution led the EU to set a target of cutting emissions by at least 40% by 2030, from 1990 levels. According to Euractiv, the mayors of 10 European capitals are urging a switch to zero-emissions vehicles within the next 20 years – something the British Columbia government has pledged to happen by 2040 according to a new climate plan.
China, whose major cities are often cloaked in a thick fog of air pollution, has also begun to implement tougher vehicle emissions standards.
Palladium’s role in electrification
A recent Reuters article reports it won’t be until the middle of the next decade before electric vehicles overtake their gas and diesel-powered predecessors, noting that EVs only accounted for around 1.5% of the 86 million cars sold last year.
In other words, we shouldn’t write the epitaph of the internal combustion engine (ICE) just yet.
Not only is palladium demanded for ICE vehicles fueled by tighter emission standards, hybrids (gas + electric) also use palladium in their catalytic converters.
Consider this: most electric cars, as noted above, have a hybrid component to them. Only BEVs are pure-electric vehicles with no combustion engine. That makes hybrids a natural bridge between a conventional vehicle and an EV – not a bad thing considering that motorists still have a hard time grappling with the “range anxiety” associated with a pure EV, not to mention the logistics of finding a charging station and the high sticker prices.
An executive at Russian nickel and palladium miner Norilsk Nickel PJSC said recently that the combined use of palladium in hybrid and plug-in hybrid/rechargeable vehicles is set to triple this year compared to 2016. A 2018 report by JP Morgan Chase & Co. predicts hybrids are expected to grow from 3% of global marketshare to 23% by 2025.
Another expert predicts ICEs to be with us until at least 2030, due to the continued popularity of gas-electric hybrids requiring them. Dr. Rahul Mital, technical specialist for diesel after-treatment at General Motors, forecasts that more than 85% of new passenger cars sold in 2030 “are expected to have internal combustion engines with [catalytic] converters,” because all-electric cars won’t sell as strongly as hybrid vehicles using both technologies, Bullion Vault reported.
In 2017 palladium raced past $1,700 an ounce for the first time since 2001.
Palladium has more than doubled over the last three years (+124%) and ran up 18% in 2018. That compares to declines in spot gold, platinum and silver last year. Scaling an uncharted $1,600 per ounce in March, palladium is up 53% from a year ago.
Palladium futures topped $1,600 an ounce on Thursday.
Production is expected to trail consumption by 545,000 ounces this year.
Among the factors in favor of palladium are a 3.6% forecasted rise in autocatalyst demand, driven by tighter emissions standards, and increased market share for gasoline vehicles in Europe.
In the near future, palladium is likely to see a major surge in demand due to a widespread recall by Fiat Chrysler. In March FCA issued a voluntary recall of nearly 900,000 gasoline-fueled vehicles, due to defective catalytic converters. The recall is expected to create a need for another 77,000 ounces of palladium, thereby putting upward pressure on prices.
“The demand could be impactful on this market, and if nothing else could hold these prices at these levels, which we haven’t had ever before,” according to Peter Thomas, senior vice president at Chicago-based metals broker ZanerGroup, quoted in Automotive News.
Considering that platinum group elements occur as a mixture in catalytic converters (more palladium is used in gas autocatalysts and more platinum in diesel autocatalysts) some have suggested that platinum could be substituted for palladium if palladium prices continue to trade significantly higher than platinum prices. The World Platinum Investment Council reportedly “believes platinum will be considered as a serious substitute for palladium in ICE vehicles,” according to a brief by Platts.
The problem however is one of supply. Both metals are looking at long-term structural supply deficits even though investment interest in platinum has piqued recently due to the negative interest rate environment globally (in the first half of 2019, an unprecedented 855,000 ounces of investment demand was driven by 720,000 ounces of Pt that flowed into ETFs).
WPIC notes that, in a ten million ounce palladium market, there will be a shortfall of 800,000 ounces this year, and over 1 million ounces shortfall expected in 2020.
Low platinum prices are keeping a lid on production in South Africa, such that “Without incentive-driven price growth, new supply coming on-stream seems unlikely or delayed,” according to Justin Froneman, chief financial officer for the US at gold and platinum-group miner Sibanye-Stillwater, as reported by Bullion Vault.
The incentive price? 20-25% higher than platinum trades at currently. Without that price increase, no new production is expected from the Western Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex which represents more than 70% of South African supply.
The Sibanye-Stillwater CFO forecasts South Africa’s primary platinum production will drop to 3.9 million ounces in 2025, down more than 25% from the 5.3Moz produced in the peak year of 2006.
“Platinum is likely to remain in marginal surplus for the remainder of this decade,” Bullion Vault quotes Froneman at the London Bullion Market Association’s annual conference in Boston, “before reverting to increasing deficits as primary production from South Africa contracts.”
Palladium One is developing the LK Project at the perfect time for the palladium market which is expected to remain in deficit for several years. Tighter emissions regulations requiring less-polluting gasoline and hybrid vehicles will keep demand healthy but supplying all those new catalytic converters with palladium will be a challenge for the industry considering problems with South African mines.
Palladium One has demonstrated a very strong starting point in developing LK into a palladium-rich polymetallic mine in Finland.
It’s still early days as far as going mining, but we think we have demonstrated the LK Project has major upside that no doubt drew big mining names like Peter Lightfoot and Lawrence Roulston to its board of directors.
We see miles and miles of blue-sky potential. Previous operators have only scratched the surface of what could be an immense PGE-rich deposit (or group of deposits) on the scale of a Suhanko or Duluth Complex.
The two deposits, Kaukua and Haukiaho, are both open in all directions.
The new pit-constrained resource at Kaukua, containing an indicated 635,000 PdEq ounces and 526,000 Pd_Eq ounces inferred, is higher grade than the historical resource estimate, and comes with an attractive 3:1 strip ratio.
Previous drill results look good, and our musings of large-scale tonnage worthy of an open-pit, are backed by recent chip samples collected about 2 km from the Haukiaho resource.
If approved, and we see no reason why it wouldn’t be, PDM’s application for more ground – another 13 km of basal contact smack dab between LK’s two deposits – is more confirmation of a project, and stock, with lots of room for growth.
Palladium One Mining Inc
TSX-V:PDM Cdn$0.07 2019.09.11
Shares Outstanding 43,702,350m
Market cap Cdn$3.05m
Richard (Rick) Mills
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