Esmeralda County, Nevada
The Columbus Basin lithium brine project was the Company’s first effort of our commodity diversification program. A large portion of this very prospective lithium brine target was acquired by our Company staking mining claims covering an area of approximately 11,200 acres (4,532 hectares), encompassing a significant portion of the target area. We have augmented our land position through the acquisition of two additional claims blocks, covering a further 3,040 acres (1,230 hectares) of mineral rights, bringing our mineral rights holdings to approximately 14,220 acres (5,754 hectares).
The Columbus Basin project is situated in western Nevada, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of the town of Tonopah, and 140 miles (227 kilometers) southeast of the city of Reno. The project is approximately 28 miles (45 kilometers) northwest of Albemarle’s Clayton Valley (Silver Peak) lithium brine mine. Access to the immediate project area is excellent, as two paved federal highways, US-6 and US-95, cross the southern and eastern parts of the project area.
The property position that comprises the Columbus Basin project is owned in its entirety by the Company. The area of the claims that were acquired from an independent third party is subject to a 1 percent Net Smelter Return royalty on any production from those properties. The remainder of the Company’s land position in the project area is free of any royalty obligations. The Company has applied for water rights in the project area and our applications have been approved by the Nevada Division of Water Resources, pending completion of two water wells and demonstrating “beneficial use” of the produced water.
The Columbus Basin project area has been the site of intermittent mineral resource exploration and small-scale production activities since the 1860s, when prospectors and miners developed several small borax mines on the Columbus Salt Marsh playa. These surface operations were of short duration and were abandoned prior to 1900, when larger and richer borax deposits were discovered at other localities in Nevada and California.
Several exploration programs for potash-rich brines were undertaken in the early 1900s in the basin by private interests and the US Geological Survey, but these efforts failed to define suitable resources.
The Columbus Salt Marsh area has seen some more recent (early 2000s) exploration for geothermal resources, but commercial opportunities have yet to be defined.
The Columbus Salt Marsh is a “closed” drainage and topographic basin that covers an area of approximately 370 square miles (960 square kilometers), and has a geologic setting that is dominated by Tertiary-age lake and basin-fill sediments. The basin is flanked on its eastern and southern sides by thick sequences of Tertiary-age mafic to dominantly felsic volcanic rocks of the Monte Cristo Range (eastern flank) and the Silver Peak Range and the Volcanic Hills/Rhyolite Ridge (southern flank). Many of the flanking felsic volcanic rocks contain anomalous levels of lithium, and may represent potential source rocks for lithium brines.
The project area covers portions of two gravity “lows” interpreted to represent deep portions of the Columbus Basin. Gravity “lows” of this type are often associated with areas of thicker basin-fill sediments and the development of favorable host rocks for lithium-enriched brines. Such geophysical features, the close proximity to potential lithium source rocks, local geothermal systems, and the presence of evaporite geological sequences within the basin-fill sediments reflect the essential characteristics that are favorable for the formation of lithium-enriched brines.
Initial reconnaissance-scale geochemical sampling by Westwater personnel yielded lithium values ranging from 70 to 170 parts per million (ppm) in near-surface brines, and 69 to 176 ppm in sediments samples, highlighting the high degree of perspectivity of the project area. These geochemical results were determined by ALS Minerals, an internationally-recognized analytical laboratory.
Since its acquisition of the project the Company has carried out a detailed grid-geochemical sampling program, retained a geophysicist who modeled gravity and magneto-telluric (MT) data to better define the subsurface geology of the basin, and drilled three combined rotary and core holes on the west side of the project area. The grid geochemical sampling program was comprised of more than 400 sediment samples, which highlighted several anomalies with values as high as 392 ppm lithium. One of the three holes that the Company drilled encountered lithium-enriched brine at a depth of approximately 150 feet (46 meters) that returned a value of 43 ppm lithium, as determined by the Company’s South Texas analytical laboratory.
A follow-up drilling program is planned for the project.