DoD supports Perpetua's antimony project
Pentagon awards $24.8 million for for critical enviro studies Metal Tech News - December 21, 2022
Last updated 12/20/2022 at 9am
In a move to break America's dependence on China and Russia for the antimony needed for ammunition, fireproofing compounds, night vision goggles, and other military hardware, the Pentagon is providing $24.8 million to help reestablish a domestic antimony mine at Perpetua Resources Corp.'s Stibnite Gold project in Idaho.
While originally established as a gold mine, Stibnite shifted its focus to strategic metals to support the U.S. military during World War II. From 1941 to 1945, this operation produced more antimony and tungsten than any other mine in the U.S. – accounting for 90% of the antimony and 40% of the domestic tungsten produced during this wartime effort.
This Idaho mine was credited for substantially shortening the duration of World War II, saving millions of lives.
"In the opinion of the munitions board, the discovery of that tungsten at stibnite, Idaho, in 1942 shortened World War II by at least 1 year and saved the lives of a million American soldiers," according to the March 7, 1956 U.S. Senate Congressional Record.
Now, Perpetua has set out to rehabilitate areas mined during World War II and reestablish Stibnite as a modern source of gold and antimony.
"Our vision remains unchanged, which is to redevelop a world class gold deposit, provide the country with a critical mineral, and restore an abandoned brownfield site," said Perpetua Resources President and CEO Laurel Sayer. "Today, we continue to build momentum towards turning our vision into a reality."
Best US antimony potential
Perpetua's vision has the backing of the U.S. Department of Defense, which has awarded a Technology Investment Agreement of up to $24.8 million under Title III of the Defense Production Act to complete environmental and engineering studies required to gain the federal and ancillary permits to reestablish a domestic source of the antimony trisulfide essential to America's defense.
Under the funding agreement, Perpetua may request reimbursement for certain costs incurred over 24 months related to environmental baseline data monitoring, environmental and technical studies, as well as other activities related to permitting and preparing for construction at the Stibnite Gold Mine.
"The Department's DPA Investments Program is delivering on its core mission to restore domestic industrial capabilities essential to the national defense by enabling the warfighter," said Halimah Najieb-Locke, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial base resilience. "This action reinforces the Administration's goals to increase the resilience of our critical mineral supply chains while deterring adversarial aggression."
There are two reasons DoD is particularly interested in establishing a secure and domestic supply of antimony – it is essential to military readiness, and roughly 90% of the global supply of this critical metalloid is produced in China, Russia, and Tajikistan.
Pentagon considers Stibnite Gold as "the sole domestic geologic reserve of antimony that can meet Department of Defense requirements."
Seven-year federal permitting
While the Pentagon is eager for Perpetua to establish a domestic antimony mine in Idaho, the company still needs to get through the final stretch of a federal permitting process that began in 2016.
A Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Stibnite is currently in a 75-day public comment period that ends on Jan. 10.
The U.S. Forest Service, which is leading the federal permitting process for Stibnite under the National Environmental Policy Act, will consider the public input before making its final permitting determination for the proposed mine sometime around the end of 2023.
Given a positive decision by the USFS and the issuance of other required permits, it is expected that Perpetua will begin construction and expand its remediation efforts already underway in 2024 and reach commercial antimony-gold production in 2027.
"As Perpetua continues advancing our project through the permitting process, we are honored to enter this agreement to help advance our construction readiness for future development," said Sayer.
DoD says its financial support for Perpetua's environmental and engineering studies does not circumvent the need for this potential future domestic source of antimony to complete the federal permitting process. The cash, however, ensures that a future mine there has the potential to be a win-win for America's environment and military readiness.
In-depth analysis of antimony's strategic and commercial uses and a push to establish a domestic supply by Washington lawmakers can be read at Antimony at top of strategic concerns in the Critical Minerals Alliances 2022 magazine published by Data Mine North in September.