Chasing for Kryptonite, the unknown other Lithium source.

Chasing for Kryptonite, the unknown other Lithium source.

Kryptonite is a sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide with fluorine and it a mineral that is harmful only to superheroes Well, the only one I know of that is affected by the green mineral is Superman.  The internet tells me Kryptonite has a chemistry that is similar to another REAL mineral.  That real mineral is Jadarite, which is a white, earthy monoclinic silicate mineral, whose chemical formula is LiNaSiB3O7(OH) or Na2OLi2O(SiO2)2(B2O3)3H2O.

Kryptonite and Superman (Source: Medium, Thaddeus Howze)

Jadarite is a Lithium and Boron mineral that at this moment, is only found in Serbia at a mine that is called Jadar.  Jadarite has a mineralisation style that is very different from spodumene and Brine Lithium. It is probably more in common with a Mississippi Valley Type or MVT. MVT deposits typically are in districts covering hundreds, or even thousands, of square kilometres. What this means is that it appears to be very sedimentary and has nothing to do with pegmatites nor salt lakes.

Location of the Jadar project in Serbia. (Map adapted from Jadar Lithium Limited)

I have looked at two projects that are next to Jadar, but they have been very green in nature.  The latest project that I saw is just waiting on some soil sample results to come back, sometime this month. Some of the results are looking promising.  This source of lithium is different. Hence one would want to wonder if this type of lithium geology could be replicated elsewhere.

As an exploration geologist, I would take a step further and say, what if another commodity could have a Kryptonite cousin.  Imagine if there is another form of cobalt or tungsten or nickel etc. Who would have thought that you could have found Jadarite? These thoughts are what excites me about exploration and the discovery of the unknown.

Jadarite

In December 2004, drill core from the Jadar Valley (Serbian: Јадар) in Serbia, unearth a new mineral called Jadarite. Jadar is 10 km (6.2 mi) southwest of the Cer mountain. Findings were initially located in the villages of Jarebice and Slatina and later in Draginac.

Jadarite on display at the Natural History Center in Svilajnac, Serbia. (source: Wikipedia)

Exploration geologists from Rio Tinto Exploration discovered the mineral as small rounded nodules in drill core and were unable to match it with previously known minerals. Jadarite was confirmed as a new mineral after scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the National Research Council of Canada conducted tests on it.  Chris Stanley, from the Natural History Museum, described Jadarite as being unique to mineralogy.

There are not a lot of public information on the project as you would expect with Rio Tinto being the owner of the project.  It has taken a long time to get to this stage and yet there have not been any signs of real mining.  The main issue with the project is the mineralogy as it is both lithium and Boron.  Jadar is a large project. The resource at Jadar is currently are 21 Mt of B2O3-equivalent and 2.5 Mt of Li2O-equivalent.

Discovery Story

(Source: Rio Tinto)

As I have always said, exploration is the only game in town that will deliver exponential value to shareholders.  It is exceptionally risky, but in the scheme of the value you may create, it is not a significant outlay of investment.  In repeating my rant on investments in “old production assets”, – The Golden Pineapple – Exploration or Production Projects. – I do believe that exploration, in reality, is not that risky, assuming you have the right management team.

I have taken the excerpt below from Rio Tinto as it defines what I like about exploration and is pretty much a great depiction of how Jadar was discovered.

Nenad Grubin has vivid memories of the moment he and his Serbian-based team discovered a new mineral that British scientists would later dub kryptonite (more of that curious story later).

Nenad and his fellow explorers from Rio Tinto had spent months looking for evidence of borates in the Jadar Valley, wading through creeks and examining rocky outcrops.

By September 2004 they’d found sufficient evidence of the in-demand metal to justify the expensive process of exploratory drilling.

“We had enough money to drill two holes. In the first one we found what we hoped would be there – a substantial intersection of boron mineralisation. It was a phenomenal moment,” recalls Nenad.

There were more sensations to come. In the second drill hole, they found a substance that contained both borates and what would become one of the world’s hottest metals, lithium, which is an important component of lithium ion batteries.

The discovery of a world-class deposit of borates and lithium, which was named Jadar after the Serbian valley in which it was found, was later supported through the work of a dedicated Rio Tinto project team.

 

Conclusion

When this project starts to produce, it will supply 10% of the market.  Currently, almost 100M has been spent on the project to get it to its current pre-feasibility stage.  Jadar will see lithium carbonate and boric acid produced from the mined ore.  Lithium is increasingly being used to produce batteries for electric vehicles and mobile phones, while borates are essential components for heat-resistant glass, fibreglass and smartphone screens.

Whatever the case, this is a significant discovery, and Rio Tinto has spent a lot of time and money to unravel the chemistry to create real value.  There is some negative news noting that this project will never take off, but I feel that those thoughts are unwarranted.  This project will be in production.  It’s just a matter of time.  From a geological point of view, this shows how versatile this planet of ours is and Exploration Discover Deposits.

 

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