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US offers $1.8B loan for antimony mine

Metal Tech News - April 8, 2024

Perpetua Resources receives Stibnite Gold Mine debt financing letter of interest from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) has extended an offer to loan Perpetua Resources Corp. $1.8 billion to fund the development of a mine at Stibnite Gold, which would round out an all-of-government effort to establish the historic project in Idaho as a future domestic source of antimony critical to America's economic and national security.

"We are pleased to extend this Letter of Interest in support of the proposed capital funding plan by Perpetua Resources Idaho Inc. for the Stibnite-Gold Project," the export credit agency for the U.S. government penned in a letter to Perpetua. "Based on the preliminary information submitted regarding expected U.S. exports and U.S. jobs supported by this project, EXIM may be able to consider potential financing of up to $1,800,000,000.00 of the project's costs with a repayment tenor of 15 years under EXIM's Make More in America initiative."

The antimony to be produced as a byproduct of gold at Stibnite is of strategic interest to the U.S. Department of Defense, which has invested $59.4 million to help advance the Idaho mine project to the start of construction.

The proposed EXIM loan would provide the funding to build the antimony-gold mine that the Pentagon has backed through the engineering and permitting phases.

"We are seeing a whole of government approach to bring antimony production home," said Perpetua Resources President and CEO Jon Cherry. "From EXIM's potential financing of up to $1.8 billion to the multiple Department of Defense's multi-million-dollar awards to Perpetua, there is a profound recognition that we need domestic antimony production now."

Strategic and critical antimony

The urgent need to establish a domestic supply of antimony is due to both the strategic importance and push to de-risk supplies of this semi-metal critical to both military and consumer products.

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Antimony is a metalloid critical to America's economic well-being and national security.

Military uses of this critical metalloid include fireproofing compounds to protect soldiers, night vision goggles, laser sighting systems, and hardened lead alloys used in various munitions.

The same unique properties that make antimony of strategic importance to military hardware are critical to many consumer goods.

Antimony's fireproofing properties can be found everywhere, from baby nurseries to industrial work sites; its optical qualities are used in binoculars and smartphone screens; and antimony-lead alloys improve the plate strength and charging characteristics of the lead-acid batteries that have started internal combustion engine vehicles for more than a century.

Antimony is also emerging as a primary ingredient in liquid-metal batteries that can store electricity at the grid scale, a key enabler to the transition to intermittent renewable energy sources.

Despite its criticality to military, civilian, and emerging green energy applications, no antimony is currently being mined in the U.S. Instead, American manufacturers must depend on imports from oft-adversarial nations for 82% of their supply, with the balance coming from recycling.

China, Russia, and Tajikistan accounted for nearly 90% of the global supply of antimony in 2023, according to the latest data from Statista Research.

Make More (antimony) in America

The critical significance of antimony and America's dependence on imports from countries like China and Russia makes Stibnite Gold a prime candidate for funding under EXIM's "Make More in America" initiative, a tool established to improve the resiliency of U.S. supply chains and level the playing field for American companies competing in overseas markets.

In addition, Stibnite Gold is likely also eligible for special considerations under EXIM's "China and Transformational Exports Program," which offers reduced fees and extended repayment periods for projects that must compete with companies backed by Chinese government subsidies.

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The Stibnite antimony mine project in Idaho may be eligible for two Export-Import Bank of the United States initiatives that were established to improve the resiliency of U.S. supply chains and level the playing field for American companies contending with competition funded by China.

Upon receipt of a formal financing application from Perpetua, which is expected to be submitted later this year, EXIM will conduct the due diligence necessary to determine if Stibnite Gold meets all the requirements for a final loan commitment.

Loan eligibility requirements include the completion of federal permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act, which is expected by the end of the year.

"The EXIM debt funding could fund a substantial portion of the estimated costs to build the Stibnite Gold Project," said Cherry.

A 2020 feasibility study estimated that it would cost roughly $1.66 billion to build the Stibnite Gold Mine. Inflation over the past four years, however, has likely pushed the development price tag higher.

Once in production, the mine proposed to be developed at Stibnite Gold is expected to produce roughly 35% of America's antimony needs, based on how much of this metalloid was used in the U.S. during 2022.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.

 

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