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Tom Kool

Tom Kool

Tom majored in International Business at Amsterdam’s Higher School of Economics, he is Oilprice.com's Head of Operations

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The Rare Metal Keeping Biden and Xi Awake at Night


Shortly after Canada evicted Chinese investors from certain critical minerals assets, the U.S. Department of Defense began developing its own AI program to estimate critical mineral prices and predict supplies as it pushes to jumpstart U.S. production that is essential to long-term national and energy security. 

North America is at a critical junction, and the ground beneath Case Lake in northeastern Ontario holds the prospect of helping to secure one mineral in particular—the lack of which poses a significant security problem. 

The metal is cesium (Cs), and the Canadian company that just launched a new drilling campaign at Case Lake targeting what could end up being the world’s only new source of this rare mineral has been at the center of an East-West struggle for control of future supply. 

As Power Metals Corp (TSXV:PWM,OTC: PWRMF) drills down into Case Lake’s known lithium, tantalum and cesium deposits, it’s become a focal point of North America’s push to secure domestic supply and keep it out of dominating Chinese hands. 

Cesium is central to the United States’ goal of winning the 5G race, it plays a key role in aircraft guidance systems, oil and gas drilling, and global positioning satellites.

Cesium is the rarest and most electropositive of five naturally occurring alkali metals, but it is not mined in the United States, which is completely dependent on imports. 

And now, this critical metal is the sweetener at Power Metal’s Case Lake lithium play and it’s also the centerpiece of a supply power struggle between China one hand, and Australia and North America on the other. 

When the Canadian government in November 2022 ordered the Chinese to divest from three critical minerals mining companies, Power Metals was one of them.

That move left Power Metals in control of two key assets: a potentially high-quality lithium mine and what could end up being the only functioning cesium mine in the world that China doesn’t own.

It also saw an Australian lithium juggernaut jump into the fray to scoop up the Chinese stake, and then increase that stake three times since.

Now, Power Metals is in the middle of another drilling campaign at Case Lake, and results of assays for lithium-tantalum-cesium (LTC) are expected in the coming weeks. 

The Chinese jumped in after Power Metals stumbled on cesium while it was drilling for lithium. The Australians were quick to step in for the same reason. Others could soon be circling around this play. 

Drilling Down at the Case Lake Discovery

The Case Lake Property, in northeastern Ontario, close to the border with Quebec, consists of 585 cell claims covering some 95 square kilometers with 14 granitic domes and a pegmatite swarm of six spodumene dikes that form a mineralization trend extending for 10 kilometers. 

Power Metals (TSXV:PWM,OTC: PWRMF) is drilling 15,700 meters here between 2017 and 2022, primarily targeting lithium, and leading to a world-glass, high-grade lithium discovery of over 4% at shallow, open depths. The unexpected sweetener was a rare cesium discovery, with grades as high as 24% over good intervals—some of the highest-grade cesium found in decades, similar to Australia’s famous Sinclair Mine, according to Power Metals. 

But it wasn’t only the high-grade showings of lithium and cesium that attracted first Chinese attention, and then Australian (with a little help from a Canadian government that is very keen to keep critical metals out of Chinese hands) …

It was the anticipated cost of extraction.  

Power Metals’ Case Lake property is, unlike the average Canadian mining venue, surrounded by infrastructure in place, including cell phone signals, and it’s accessible year-round. 

It’s also exposed on the surface and running as shallow as under 50 meters deep in parts. From a cost-perspective, geology here is helping to de-risk itself. 

Those discoveries were further bolstered by another in September 2023, when Power Metals announced the discovery of new pegmatite dikes, confirming the presence of a 10-15-meter wide spodumene bearing pegmatite strike with Lithium content as high as 1.12%.

On February 29, Power Metals launched its new drill campaign at Case Lake, with plans to drill  a total of 4,000 meters to delineate and extend Lithium-Cesium-Tantalum (LCT) mineralization along the geological strike and down-dip of Case Lake’s known mineralization. 

“We are very excited to be back at Case Lake and look forward to a successful launch of our winter 2024 exploration program. We believe in the exploration upside at Case Lake, one of the few projects in the world that contain Cesium mineralization in Pollucite and look forward to drill test the high priority exploration targets our team have been able to identify,” Power Metals Chairman Johnathan More, said in a press release

“The current drilling has identified coarse spodumene mineralization between 2cm - 10cm grain size, these zones displayed between 6% - 15 % spodumene mineralization that occur in a series of stacked pegmatites at Main Zone,” the company said

Last week, drilling moved to West Joe at Case Lake to test mineralization extensions to the high-grade cesium mineralization found during the 2017-2022 drilling. 

The news flow for Power Metals is expected to pick up pace now, with new acquisitions keeping pace and first results from the new drilling campaign expected towards the end of April. 

On the acquisition side, Power Metals on March 19 staked the Pelletier Project, with 337 mineral claims over a total surface area of 7,000 hectares in northeast Ontario. Pelletier, another lithium – cesium – tantalum play, has seen previous work done the Ontario Geological Survey, showing evolved granitic pegmatites with anomalous rubidium, cesium, and the potassium to rubidium ratio. 

New Drill Campaign with Australian Lithium Giant on Board

In 2022, when Canada forced the Chinese to divest its stake in Power Metals, Australia’s Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1) was quick to grab Chinese mining giant Sinomine Resource Group’s 5.7% stake, and then raise it twice. Today, Winsome owns 19.59% and has a seat on the board, lending Australian lithium and cesium expertise at a critical time.  

This is war, and it’s very territorial. 

Global technological dominance is at stake here. The U.S. cannot win the 5G race without cesium, nor can it manufacture aircraft guidance systems or global positioning satellites—all key elements that define geopolitics and the global balance of power. 

Against this backdrop, Case Lake becomes a highly strategic asset. Cesium is an elite and rare critical metal, and there are only three cesium mines in the world. Australia's Sinclair cesium mine extracted its last cesium in 2019. The Tanco mine in Manitoba, Canada, shut down after a collapse in 2015. The Bikita mine in Zimbabwe was depleted in 2018. That leaves Power Metals (TSXV:PWM,OTC: PWRMF) with potentially the only new cesium mine in the world. The Chinese know it. The Australians know it. By the end of April when the next results come in from the 2024 drilling campaign, everyone will know it. 

Other companies to keep an eye on:

BHP Group's (NYSE:BHP) expansive operations encompass a diverse range of mining assets. In Australia, the company operates major iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which account for a significant portion of global iron ore production. BHP also has copper, coal, and nickel operations in Australia, as well as substantial energy assets, including oil and gas fields. In North and South America, the company has copper and iron ore mines in Chile, Peru, and Colombia, as well as coal operations in the United States. BHP's global reach and diversified portfolio of commodities allow it to meet the demands of customers around the world and contribute to the global supply of essential resources.

BHP Group is committed to operating in a responsible and sustainable manner. The company recognizes the importance of environmental protection and has implemented various initiatives to reduce its environmental impact. BHP has set ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and has invested in technologies to improve water usage efficiency. The company also works closely with local communities to minimize the social and environmental impacts of its operations. BHP's commitment to sustainability has been recognized by various organizations, including the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which has ranked BHP as a global leader in sustainability for several consecutive years.

BHP Group's focus on sustainability is not only beneficial for the environment but also aligns with growing consumer and investor demand for ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products. By prioritizing sustainability, BHP is positioning itself as a leader in the mining industry and demonstrating its commitment to long-term value creation for its stakeholders. The company's commitment to sustainability is a key differentiator and a source of competitive advantage in an industry that is increasingly focused on environmental and social responsibility.

Lithium Americas (NYSE:LAC) is a lithium mining company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. The company was founded in 2007 and has since become a major player in the global lithium market. Lithium is a key component in the production of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and other electronic devices, and demand for lithium is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Lithium Americas has a number of projects in development, including the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, which is one of the largest known lithium deposits in the world.

Lithium Americas is well-positioned in the global lithium market. The company has a number of promising projects in development, and it has recently secured significant investments and partnerships. Lithium Americas is well-positioned to benefit from the growing demand for lithium and could be a major supplier to the EV industry in the coming years.

Despite its strong position, Lithium Americas faces some challenges. These include the need to secure funding for its projects and the risk of delays in permitting and construction. The company also faces competition from other lithium producers, such as Albemarle and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM). However, Lithium Americas is well-positioned to overcome these challenges and become a major player in the global lithium market.

Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) is a global specialty chemicals company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company operates in three segments: Lithium, Bromine Specialties, and Catalysts. Albemarle is the world's largest producer of lithium, a key component in electric vehicle batteries. The company also produces a variety of other specialty chemicals, including bromine, catalysts, and pharmaceuticals.

Albemarle was founded in 1887 as the Albemarle Paper Manufacturing Company. The company initially produced paper and pulp, but it diversified into other chemicals in the 1960s. In 1994, Albemarle merged with Ethyl Corporation, a producer of specialty chemicals. The combined company was renamed Albemarle Corporation.

In recent years, Albemarle has benefited from the growing demand for lithium-ion batteries. The company has invested heavily in expanding its lithium production capacity. In 2021, Albemarle announced plans to invest $500 million in a new lithium hydroxide plant in North Carolina. The plant is expected to be operational in 2025. Albemarle is also exploring other opportunities to expand its lithium business, including potential acquisitions.

Piedmont Lithium Limited (NASDAQ:PLL) is an Australian lithium mining company focused on developing its flagship asset, the Piedmont Lithium Project in North Carolina, United States. The Piedmont Lithium Project is a spodumene-rich lithium deposit that is expected to produce 30,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year once operational. The company is also developing the Carolina Tin-Lithium Project in North Carolina, which is home to one of the largest undeveloped hard rock lithium deposits in the United States.

Piedmont Lithium has made significant progress in recent years. In 2021, the company completed a pre-feasibility study for the Piedmont Lithium Project, which confirmed the project's economic viability. The company also secured a $75 million investment from Koch Industries, which is one of the largest private companies in the United States. This investment will help Piedmont Lithium to advance the development of its projects. In 2022, the company announced that it had entered into a partnership with LG Chem, a global leader in battery manufacturing. This partnership will help Piedmont Lithium to secure long-term offtake agreements for its lithium products.

Piedmont Lithium is well-positioned to benefit from the growing demand for lithium. Lithium is a key component of batteries used in electric vehicles and other electronic devices. The demand for lithium is expected to grow significantly in the coming years as the world transitions to a clean energy economy. Piedmont Lithium is one of the few companies that is developing lithium projects in the United States, which is a major advantage. The company is also well-funded and has a strong management team. Piedmont Lithium is a promising company with the potential to become a major player in the global lithium market.

MP Materials Corp. (NYSE:MP) is a publicly traded company headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company's Mountain Pass mine in California is the only fully integrated rare earth mining and processing facility in the United States. This gives MP Materials a significant competitive advantage and enables it to provide customers with a reliable and secure supply of rare earth materials.

MP Materials produces rare earth oxides and metals, which are essential components in a wide range of applications, including electric vehicles, smartphones, and renewable energy technologies. The company is a vertically integrated producer, meaning it controls all stages of the production process, from mining to refining to manufacturing. This allows MP Materials to ensure the quality and consistency of its products and to meet the specific needs of its customers.

In recent years, MP Materials has made significant investments in its Mountain Pass mine and processing facilities. The company has also expanded its product portfolio and entered into strategic partnerships with leading technology companies. These developments have positioned MP Materials as a global leader in the rare earth industry. The company is well-positioned to benefit from the growing demand for rare earth materials, driven by the transition to a clean energy economy. MP Materials is a leading supplier of rare earth materials to the global technology industry.

Rare Element Resources Ltd. (TSX:RES) is a Canadian exploration and development company focused on rare earth elements (REEs). The company's flagship project is the Bear Lodge project in Wyoming, which contains one of the largest undeveloped REE deposits in the world. The Bear Lodge project has the potential to produce a variety of REEs, including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium. These REEs are critical to the production of clean energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.


In addition to the Bear Lodge project, REE is also developing the Separation Rapids project in Ontario. The Separation Rapids project contains niobium and REEs. Niobium is a metal that is used in the production of steel and superalloys. The Separation Rapids project has the potential to produce a significant amount of niobium, as well as REEs. REE is committed to sustainable and responsible mining practices. The company has developed a comprehensive environmental management plan for the Bear Lodge project that includes measures to protect water quality, air quality, and wildlife. REE is also working with local communities to ensure that the Bear Lodge project benefits the region.

REE has made significant progress on the Bear Lodge project. The company has completed a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for the project, which outlined the potential for a large-scale, long-life mining operation. REE is currently working on a feasibility study for the project, which is expected to be completed in 2023. The company is also working to secure the necessary permits and approvals for the project. REE is well-positioned to become a leading producer of REEs to meet the growing demand for these materials in clean energy and technology applications.practices and has implemented a number of measures to minimize the environmental impact of its operations.

Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. (TSX:AVL) is a Canadian company that has made significant contributions to the development and manufacturing of specialty materials for various industries. The company specializes in functional materials like conductive inks and adhesives, as well as specialty chemicals such as phosphors and battery materials. Avalon Advanced Materials has established itself as a global leader in producing high-purity metals and alloys used in electronics, aerospace, and biomedical devices.

Avalon Advanced Materials has been focusing on expanding its portfolio of materials for the energy storage industry. The company is actively involved in the development of materials for lithium-ion batteries and solid-state batteries, which are critical components of electric vehicles and renewable energy systems. Avalon's commitment to innovation has resulted in the successful creation of advanced materials that enhance the performance and efficiency of energy storage solutions.

In addition to its core business, Avalon Advanced Materials has also ventured into other areas of materials science. The company has developed specialty coatings for the automotive and construction industries, providing enhanced protection against corrosion and wear. Avalon's expertise in materials engineering has enabled it to create innovative solutions that address specific challenges faced by various sectors, contributing to technological advancements and industrial progress.

First Quantum Minerals Ltd (TSX:FM) is a Canadian-based mining and metals company with a focus on copper, nickel, gold, and zinc production. The company operates mines and projects in various countries, including Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Finland, Spain, Turkey, Argentina, and Peru.

First Quantum Minerals is a significant player in the global mining industry, with a track record of successful exploration, development, and operation of mining projects. The company's operations contribute to the economic development of the countries in which it operates, creating jobs and generating tax revenue. First Quantum Minerals also maintains a strong commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable practices, implementing various initiatives to minimize the environmental impact of its operations.

The company's focus on copper, nickel, gold, and zinc production is driven by the increasing global demand for these metals. Copper is a vital component in electrical and electronic products, while nickel is used in the production of stainless steel and other alloys. Gold is a precious metal with a long history of use in jewelry and as a store of value, and zinc is used in a wide range of applications, including galvanizing steel, producing batteries, and manufacturing rubber. First Quantum Minerals' production of these metals plays a crucial role in meeting the global demand for these essential materials.

Allkem Limited (TSX:AKE) is an Australian mining company that was formed in 1993. The company primarily focuses on the production and exploration of lithium, a critical mineral used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Allkem operates several lithium mines and projects in Australia, Argentina, and Canada, with a significant presence in the Salar de Atacama, one of the world's richest lithium brine deposits.

Allkem's operations span the entire lithium value chain, from exploration to production and refining. The company has a strong track record of successful exploration and development, having discovered and developed several major lithium deposits. Allkem's portfolio includes the Olaroz lithium brine project in Argentina, the James Bay lithium project in Canada, and the Mt Cattlin spodumene mine in Australia. These operations are expected to contribute significantly to the global supply of lithium in the coming years.

Allkem's work is important because of the critical role that lithium plays in the clean energy transition. Lithium is a key component in EV batteries, which are essential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. As the world shifts towards sustainable transportation, the demand for lithium is expected to soar. Allkem's operations will contribute to meeting this demand by providing a reliable and sustainable supply of lithium to battery manufacturers.

Teck Resources Limited (TSX:TECK) is a diversified mining company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. It is one of the world's largest producers of zinc and copper and also produces other commodities such as coal, lead, and silver. Teck operates mines and processing facilities in Canada, the United States, Chile, and Peru.

Teck's zinc operations are located in Canada, the United States, and Peru. The company is the world's second-largest producer of zinc, with a production capacity of over 800,000 tonnes per year. Teck's zinc is used in a variety of applications, including galvanized steel, batteries, and chemicals.

Teck's operations are also significant for their contribution to the global supply of battery metals. Zinc is a key component of many types of batteries, including lead-acid batteries and nickel-zinc batteries. Teck's zinc production is therefore essential for the growing demand for batteries in electric vehicles and other applications.

By. Tom Kool


This publication contains forward-looking information which is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Forward looking statements in this publication include that the Canadian mining sector will continue to protect its supply of critical minerals without involvement of China; that cesium and other metals will remain as critical minerals will continue as a national security issue for Western countries; that access to rare metals, and in particular cesium, will be essential to gaining technical superiority; that cesium and other rare earth metals will continue to be a critical for use in various technologies, including the 5G cellular and wireless technologies; that cesium will continue to be a critical mineral and considered as matter of national security for Western countries; that Power Metals Corp. (the “Company”) and its all-Western investors will be in control of the only cesium mine that China does not own; that the Company’s properties will be able to commercially produce cesium, lithium, tantalum and other critical minerals; that the Company will be able to finance and operationally establish mines on its properties to viably and commercially extract the critical minerals; that Australian shareholders and investors in the Company will provide development and other expertise to assist the Company; that Winsome Resources will continue to own a significant stake in the Company; that the Company’s property will one day have one of the only potential mines producing cesium; that the Company can finance ongoing operations and development; that the Company can achieve its business plans and objectives as anticipated. These forward-looking statements are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking information.  Risks that could change or prevent these statements from coming to fruition include the development of alternative technologies that do not require the use of metals and resources currently considered as critical; that other resources are utilized in future in favour of rare earth metals such as cesium; that alternative technologies utilize other resources or that cesium, lithium, and tantalum are not utilized; that other companies discover resources of cesium and other battery metals that are more favorable or more easily developed into commercial production that the Company’s property; that the Company’s properties are unable to produce commercial amounts of cesium, lithium, tantalum or other critical metals; that the Company will be unable to finance or operationally establish mines on its properties for commercial extraction of any critical minerals; that the Company’s Australian investors will not be able to provide development and other expertise to meaningful assist the Company; that Winsome Resources may for various reasons divest its stake in the Company in future; that the Company’s properties may fail to develop mines producing cesium; that the Company may be unable to finance its ongoing operations and development; that the business of the Company may be unsuccessful for various reasons. The forward-looking information contained herein is given as of the date hereof and we assume no responsibility to update or revise such information to reflect new events or circumstances, except as required by law. 

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  • Andy McLean on April 03 2024 said:
    Been doing a lot of research on this cesium topic recently, something I didn’t know much about until I came across the topic on chats and such. This could well be the jewel in the crown for mining companies who actually find it. It ‘s so rare yet could be so valuable that it may well kick start a major boom in mining circles. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this in the months and years ahead.

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