High grade Alces Lake gallium confirmed
Adds another critical element to Saskatchewan REE project Metal Tech News – March 25, 2021
Last updated 5/22/2021 at 7:32am
A new round of analysis and testing has further confirmed amazingly high grades of gallium associated with the high-grade rare earth zones at Appia Energy Corp.'s Alces Lake property in northern Saskatchewan.
An electron microprobe study conducted by the Saskatchewan Research Council successfully demonstrated that the rare earths-enriched monazite mineral from two separate zones and trends at Alces Lake was also enriched with gallium.
Following up on the success of this initial study, Appia had select samples with high-grade rare earths from eight zones re-assayed to determine the extent of gallium mineralization across the property.
The results from this analysis of 22 samples returned gallium grades ranging from 0.035 to 0.626% gallium trioxide. Values higher than 0.01% gallium trioxide are considered high-grade.
"The gallium concentrations on the property are remarkable. Gallium was found in naturally occurring high-concentrations on the property that far-exceed current concentrations required for global production of gallium," said Appia Energy President Frederik Kozak.
By way of example, it is estimated that the ore intermittently mined over a century at Apex Mine, which was the only primary mined source of gallium and germanium in the United States before it was closed in 2011, averaged about 0.032% gallium, with locally occurring grades up to 0.148% gallium.
While a resource has yet to be calculated for the high-grade zones at Alces Lake, drill intercepts of 15.6 meters averaging 16.1% total rare earth oxides and 2.7 meters of 31% TREO indicate the project could host a resource with rare earth grades multiples above the 1.89% average for REE deposits worldwide.
Appia says the latest testing indicates gallium concentrations in the rare earth zones at Alces Lake range from 0.01 to 0.104% gallium trioxide.
The positive correlation between rare earth oxides, gallium and monazite bodes well for mining both technology metals.
"The presence of gallium in the high-grade REO system on the Alces Lake property helps distinguish the property as a potential world-class asset for high-valued critical elements required for sustainable production of advanced technological applications," said Kozak.
A semiconductor that will melt in the palm of your hand and has the ability to convert electricity directly into laser light, gallium is a critical metal that is an important ingredient in light-emitting diodes (LEDs), new generation smartphones, thin-film solar cells, and medical devices.
The advent of 5G-capable telecommunication networks is pushing up the demand for this tech metal.
"Owing to their large power-handling capabilities, high-switching frequencies, and higher voltage capabilities, GaN- (gallium nitride) based products, which historically have been used in defense applications, are used in fifth-generation (5G) networks, cable television transmission, commercial wireless infrastructure, power electronics, and satellite markets," the U.S. Geological Survey inked in its Mineral Commodities Summary 2021 report.
Gallium prices have nearly doubled over the past five months, from US$189.43 per kilogram of 99.99% gallium metal on the Shanghai Metals Market at the end of October 2020, to US$376.1/kg at the end of January.
Much like the rare earths also found at Alces Lake, gallium has been deemed a critical mineral to the United States due to a high reliance on China, which accounts for 97% of the world's gallium production, and the semiconductor's importance to telecommunications, renewable energy, high-tech, and military applications.
"Because of the likelihood of rapid growth in the areas of photovoltaics and clean energy technologies, a potential exists for bottlenecks in the gallium supply pipeline," USGS penned in a 2018 report on the 35 minerals and metals considered critical to the United States.