Emerging lithium producer Core Lithium has given shareholders plenty of pre-Christmas cheer after shares in the company soared to a two-year high of 8.8¢, closing the week at 8.2¢ amid renewed investor interest in the battery minerals sector.
The Adelaide-based company (ASX: CXO) cited analyst predictions that the lithium tide was turning on the back of a post-COVID rebound in the Chinese EV market for the sudden spike in investor interest.
Core’s shares have moved from 6.3¢ to 8.2¢ this week to give the developer of the Finniss lithium project on the outskirts of Darwin a market capitalisation of $87.5 million.
In other major news:
Core remains in active discussions with additional offtake partners to add to deals with Yahua and Xinfeng, and a first European agreement with Transamine.
The company has also recently cemented its place in the European Commission’s newly formed European Raw Material Alliance (ERMA), further advancing its network in the emerging European EV market.
Lithium is not the only battery metal benefiting from the bullish sentiment around the EV market.
The price of nickel has risen about 42% since April, closing the week on the London Metals Exchange at US$15,937 per tonne.
The key battery metal has been in high demand since Elon Musk threw down the gauntlet in July for miners to produce more nickel, while Chinese steel mills continue to struggle with supply issues due to Indonesia’s export ban, imposed in January 2020.
WA nickel company St George Mining (ASX: SGQ) is systemically working over the ground at its high-grade Mt Alexander nickel-copper sulphide project near Leonora in WA’s Goldfields.
Exploration at this greenfields venture has been exciting but, at times, also tested investors’ patience.
There was an understandably good market response this week to news that St George had identified 11 new electromagnetic conductors through downhole EM surveys at Mt Alexander. The conductors will be gradually followed up with drilling in the hope of adding more nickel resources to Mt Alexander, where St George has already made four high-grade discoveries.
St George’s shares jumped 8.3% to 12.5¢ per share on the news, closing the week at 12¢.
While there is hope that president elect Joe Biden will pursue a more cordial relationship with China than his predecessor, it has become clear that the strategic imperative to break the Chinese monopoly on rare earths, another key component in electric vehicles, will continue after President Trump vacates the White House.
The US currently imports about 80% of its rare earths from China, which China has used as a key bargaining tool in the US-China trade wars and was also used in 2010 as a political weapon.
Hastings Technology Metals (ASX: HAS) is enjoying a strong end to the year, with its share price reaching 15.5¢ per share this week, just shy of a year high 16¢ per share, before closing the week at 15¢ per share.
The $180 million-valued company is busy finalising resource and design work for its world-class Yangibana neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) project in WA’s Gascoyne region. NdPr is a key ingredient in the permanent magnets used in electric vehicles, medical equipment and wind turbines.
Addressing shareholders on Monday, Hastings executive chairman Charles Lew said the company had hit and exceeded all objectives for its 2020 exploration drilling program, which was designed to deliver both grade control of the known resource and highlight the potential for extra discoveries.
Hastings wants to begin construction at Yangibana in the first half of next year.
Investors are also rewarding Northern Minerals (ASX: NTU), the only producer of heavy rare earths outside of China.
Northern Minerals shares price closed the week at 3.5¢ per share.
Northern Minerals has resumed partial production and focussed its efforts on exploration at its Browns Range rare earths project in WA’s Kimberley region as it continues with construction activities on its ore sorter system.
Northern Minerals has already demonstrated that it can produce dysprosium and terbium as a rare earths carbonate – also used in permanent magnets – at Browns Range, where it has built a pilot plant, and is working toward separating the rare earths carbonate into individual rare earth oxide products.
Separation will allow the company to unlock an alternative supply chain for rare earth oxide products, increasing the value of the product, as well as the number of potential end-customers for Northern Minerals.
News that Zenith Minerals (ASX: ZNC) had kicked off a major drill program at its Split Rocks gold exploration project in WA’s Southern Cross region excited investors, who pushed the company’s stock up from 12.5¢ to 14¢ for the week.
Zenith has spent much of this year consolidating and advancing its Queensland gold and silver, and copper-zinc exploration assets but kept investors enthused about Split Rocks, where it is testing a large-scale, gold-bearing bedrock shear zone stretching for more than 2km.
And not to be outdone, VRX Silica (ASX: VRX) is fast claiming a stake for best sharemarket performance by a junior in the second half of this year after its shares hit 27.5¢ per share – the best performance since July 2013.
VRX raised $7 million in a heavily oversubscribed placement priced at 18¢ per share just a fortnight ago, having already seen its stock rally from 9.8¢ in July.
The trigger for the VRX re-rating has been the granting of mining leases over its Arrowsmith and Muchea silica sands projects, north of Perth.
Smart investors have realised the low capital costs required for VRX to bring both projects into production, once all regulatory approvals have been received.