Commerce Resources Corp. Announces Increased Indicated Resource for Upper Fir Tantalum and Niobium Deposit, Blue River, B.C. Based on Assay Results from 54 Additional Holes (12,949m) to End of 2010 Drilling

Highlights

  • Study results show Indicated Mineral Resources totalling 51.8 million tonnes at 192 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,490 ppm Nb2O5 and Inferred Mineral Resources totalling 8.8 million tonnes at 186 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,660 ppm Nb2O5.

  • This represents a 42% increase in the tonnage of Indicated Resources and a 37% increase in the tonnage of Inferred tonnes over the figures in the 2011 PEA.

  • Contained kilograms of tantalum increased by 40% in Indicated resources and by 23% in Inferred resources, while contained kilograms of niobium increased by 25% in Indicated resources and by 21% in Inferred resources. Over 86% of the tantalum and 84% of the niobium reside in the Indicated resource category.

  • The increased tonnage is mostly due to lowering the bulk mining method block unit value cut-off from US$52/t to US$40/t by eliminating backfill costs and, to a lesser extent, additional infill diamond drilling.

  • AMEC's "Blue River Tantalum-Niobium Project, British Columbia, Canada, NI 43-101 Technical Report on Mineral Resource Update", with an effective date 22 June, 2012 will be filed shortly for public disclosure (www.SEDAR.com) on the date of this news release.

  • With the significant milestone of this resource update successfully achieved, Commerce and AMEC will continue their work on an update of this new mineral resource estimate to incorporate 34 additional drill holes (totalling 8,715 m) of infill drilling in 2011, as well as the  results of ongoing 2012 work.

VANCOUVER, July 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - Commerce Resources Corp. (TSXv: CCE; FSE: D7H; OTCQX: CMRZF)  is pleased to announce the completion of a National Instrument (NI) 43-101 compliant Mineral Resource update that incorporates drilling results to the end of 2010 for the Upper Fir Tantalum-Niobium Deposit at Blue River, B.C.  A technical report prepared by independent consultants, AMEC Americas Limited ("AMEC") supports the findings of the Mineral Resource update and also includes summaries from a Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") study completed on the Blue River Project with an effective date of 29 September 2011 (2011 PEA- see Commerce news release dated 3-November-2011).  The results from the 2011 PEA mining studies have not changed in terms of their outcomes as their underlying assumptions remain reasonable.

AMEC constructed the updated carbonatite hosted resource model using a total of 237 holes comprising 50,395m of HQ diameter core and 12,736 samples.  Most holes were at a nominal spacing of 50m with dips typically between -60 degrees to sub-vertical.  The composite body extends more than 1,450m in a north-south direction and as much as 800m in an east-west direction. Tantalum and niobium are contained in the minerals ferrocolumbite and pyrochlore.

AMEC compared results from the 34 holes totaling 8,715m drilled in 2011 after the closure of the resource database to the updated resource model and found them to be reasonably consistent with the geology predicted by the model. The results from 2011 as well as 2012 field work currently underway will be used as a basis for a new resource estimate update currently in process under the direction of AMEC with completion targeted for early in 2013.

The 2011 PEA was developed assuming a sub-level open stoping method with no backfill and no pillar recovery using a processing rate of 7,500 tonnes per day for the Mineral Resource estimation and conceptual design of an underground mine for the Blue River Project. A mineral processing method using a standard-grind flotation process to make a concentrate of ferrocolumbite-pyrochlore was assumed for the Upper Fir material using a proposed process similar to that being used commercially at Iamgold's Niobec Mine in Quebec. The concentrate would be further processed to produce marketable separate oxides of tantalum and niobium. The proposed processes are mature and already in use industrially.

Mineral Resource Statement

The Mineral Resource update is summarized in Table 1.

Table 1:  Blue River Project Estimated Mineral Resources (Effective Date 22 June, 2012), Tomasz Postolski, P.Eng, Qualified Person
Ta price
[US$/kg]
  Confidence
Category
  Tonnes   Ta2O5
[ppm]
  Nb2O5
[ppm]
  Contained
Ta2O5
[1000s of kg]
  Contained
Nb2O5
[1000s of kg]
317   Indicated   51,780,000   192   1,490   9,930   76,900
    Inferred     8,800,000   186   1,660   1,600   14,600
  1. Assumptions include US$317/kg Ta, US$46/kg Nb, 65.4% Ta2O5 recovery, 68.2% Nb2O5 recovery, US$24/tonne mining cost, US$13/tonne process and refining cost, US$3/tonne G&A cost.
  2. Mineral resources are amenable to underground mining methods and have been constrained using a "Stope Analyzer".
  3. An economic cut-off was based on the estimated operating costs assuming either the bulk or selective mining method from the PEA mine plan. The block unit value cut-off ranged from US$40/t (bulk) to US$58/t (selective).
  4. Mining losses = 0%, external dilution = 0%; planned internal dilution within the minimum stope size is included.
  5. In situ contained oxide reported.  Discrepancies in contained oxide values are due to rounding.

This Mineral Resource estimate is supported by a base case price assumption of US$317/kg Ta, which is higher than historic average prices.  The Ta and Nb metal prices assumptions are the same as those used in the 2011 PEA and are considered still reasonable based on publicly available information on the current market prices.

Table 2 shows the sensitivity of the Blue River Mineral Resources to tantalum metal price.  Sensitivities are based on a fluctuating metal price but could also represent fluctuating mining or processing costs or metallurgical recoveries or a combination of all of these factors.

Table 2: Blue River Project Sensitivity of Estimated Mineral Resources to Tantalum Price 
Ta price
[US$/kg]
Confidence
Category
Tonnes Ta2O5
[ppm]
Nb2O5
[ppm]
Contained
Ta2O5
[1000s of kg]
Contained
Nb2O5
[1000s of kg]
470 Indicated 55,050,000 189 1,430 10,430 78,750
  Inferred 9,800,000 182 1,610 1,800 15,700
381 Indicated 54,230,000 190 1,440 10,310 78,270
  Inferred 9,300,000 184 1,630 1,700 15,300
317 Indicated 51,780,000 192 1,490 9,930 76,900
  Inferred   8,800,000 186 1,660 1,600 14,600
272 Indicated 47,700,000 194 1,560 9,250 74,400
  Inferred 8,100,000 187 1,700 1,500 13,900
238 Indicated 43,170,000 196 1,650 8,440 71,270
  Inferred 7,500,000 188 1,760 1,400 13,200
  1. Ta price was varied and all other assumptions remained the same as base case.  Base case is in bold.

Since underground mining methods are envisioned, the mining recovery may vary from 65% to 85% depending on the success in which pillars can be mined on retreat and/or fill is utilized.

Resource Classification and Methodology

The Mineral Resource update is classified in accordance with the 2010 CIM Definition Standards for Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves, whose definitions are incorporated by reference into NI 43-101.

Geological interpretations were provided by Commerce to AMEC in the form of electronic three dimensional (3D) solid wireframes.  Capped drill core assays were composited down the hole to a fixed length of 2.5m respecting lithological boundaries.  Exploratory data analysis (EDA) was performed on the composites.  The coefficients of variation are low and support the use of linear grade interpolation methods such as inverse distance methods.  Blocks within the model were coded by lithology solids.  Specific gravity values were assigned by lithological unit.  Ta2O5 and Nb2O5 grades were estimated in the carbonatite using an inverse distance to the power of 3 (ID3) interpolation method.  A four-pass interpolation approach was used with each successive pass having greater search distances.  The block model grades were validated by visual inspection comparing composites to block grades on-screen, declustered global statistics checks, local biases checks using swath plots, and finally model selectivity checks.

The current mineral resource classification at Blue River is restricted to Indicated or Inferred based on the following:

  • Confidence limits drill hole spacing studies;
  • Concerns over analytical precision and provisional accuracy for the sample dataset from 2005 to 2009; and
  • Required metallurgical test work on the final stage of the proposed metallurgical process is still ongoing to support proof-of-concept.

AMEC assumed that the Blue River deposit would be mined utilizing self-supported, underground bulk mining methods under a conceptual scenario that considers mining and processing at a rate of 7,500 tonnes per day.  Mining and economic parameters applied were based on the 2011 PEA assumptions which are still considered reasonable by the AMEC QPs.  Since the block unit value is estimated using commodity prices expressed in US dollars, the costs and assumptions are also in US dollars.

Comparison of Mineral Resources

The Indicated Mineral Resources in the current model total 51.8 million tonnes at 192 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,490 ppm Nb2O5.  Inferred Mineral Resources total 8.8 million tonnes at 186 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,660 ppm Nb2O5.

The Indicated Mineral Resources in the model used for 2011 PEA were 36.35 million tonnes at 195 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,700 ppm Nb2O5.  Inferred Mineral Resources were 6.40 million tonnes at 199 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,890 ppm Nb2O5.

There is a considerable increase in resource tonnes of 42% for the Indicated category and 37% for the Inferred category going from the model used for the 2011 PEA to the current model.  This increase in tonnes is mostly due to (1) lowering the bulk mining method block unit value cut-off from US$52/t to US$40/t by eliminating backfill costs, and to a lesser extent (2) additional infill diamond drilling.

2011 PEA Outcomes

The PEA was prepared to define an overall proof of concept for further development of the Blue River Project. The PEA (effective date 29 September 2011) indicated that the deposit can be developed economically as an underground mine and recommended future studies to support a pre-feasibility level assessment of the project. It included geological and mineral resource modelling, preliminary mine planning, a description of metallurgical test work and process design, a summary of environmental baseline work to date, and estimates for capital and operating costs. As well it determined the economics to develop the project as an underground mine with process facility, and included an estimate of the direct cash costs to produce tantalum contained in a technical grade oxide product.  Readers are encouraged to review the entire PEA Technical Report which is available for viewing at http://www.sedar.com.  A link is also available on the Company web site at http://www.commerceresources.com.

In preparing this resource update AMEC reviewed the 2011 PEA and considers the following work and outcomes to remain reasonable as their underlying assumptions have not changed.

  • Underground mining at 7,500 tpd using bulk mining with a variation of sublevel open stoping

  • Total estimated capital cost to design and build is CAD$379M

  • Operating costs over the life of mine are estimated at CAD$38.44/t milled.

  • Cash costs of tantalum metal of CAD$24.91/kg contained in a technical grade chloride product (after credit for the niobium contribution).

  • Production estimated at 2.7M t/a of mineralized material, over 10 years.

  • Estimated Internal rate of return:  9.1% (before tax).

  • Estimated Net present value:  CAD$18.5 million at 8% discount rate (before tax).

  • Estimated Payback:  6.3 years.

  • Average diluted grade in the conceptual mine plan to the mill: 185 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,591 ppm Nb2O5.

  • Mineral processing using a standard grind-flotation procedure to produce a concentrate of ferrocolumbite-pyrochlore.

  • Metallurgical testing indicates that a mineral concentrate assaying about 30% combined Nb-Ta pentoxide with a Ta-Nb recovery of 65-70% is possible.

  • Proposed product:  High purity Ta and Nb chloride products containing 2,400 metric tonnes and 18,610 metric tonnes of the respective metals over the life of the mine and that are suitable for several markets.

  • Conceptual Mine Life:  10 years based upon the mineral resources (effective date 20 September 2011) defined using information to the end of 2009 drilling.

  • NPV Sensitivity:  The Upper Fir deposit is most sensitive to changes in exchange rate, commodity prices, and mining costs.

Results of the resource update and the PEA represent forward-looking information. The PEA is preliminary in nature and it includes Inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves, and there is no certainty that the preliminary economic assessment will be realized. Mineral resources are not mineral reserves as they do not have demonstrated economic viability.

End Products and Base Case Metal Pricing

The processes proposed for the Blue River Project will produce 99.9% pure tantalum and niobium oxides, generally known as technical grade oxide products. These products are generally sold under contract and the prices are typically kept confidential between buyer and seller to preserve competitive advantages.

Tantalum

Tantalum is commonly quoted as two separate products:

  • Ta2O5 in tantalite concentrate: a non-refined, tantalum-bearing concentrate of variable composition and trace element content; and
  • Tantalum metal scrap (99.9% pure Ta): this form of tantalum product receives a premium price in the market relative to tantalite concentrate.

Over the five years from 2005 to 2010 tantalite concentrate prices ranged from US$75/kg contained Ta2O5 to US$100/kg contained Ta2O5 (US$35/lb to US$45/lb).  In the same period tantalum metal scrap prices ranged from US$110/kg Ta to US$180/kg Ta metal (US$50/lb to US$80/lb).

In 2010, prices rose dramatically in response to changing market conditions including reduced production, increased concerns about conflict-tantalum production in Africa, depletion of known strategic stockpiles, and curtailed exports from China.  In mid-October 2010 the price for Ta2O5 in tantalite concentrate was US$195/kg and for tantalum metal scrap was US$280/kg.

The higher price for tantalum metal scrap compared to the price for Ta2O5 in concentrate is considered a proxy to the added value Commerce should recognize by refining the Blue River concentrate to high purity Ta2O5.

In AMEC's opinion, the base case price for tantalum (US$317/kg) is reasonable for constraining mineral resources based on recent market conditions, but notes it is significantly higher than historical prices.  There is a risk that using current price assumptions may not reflect the long term price of Ta and Nb, particularly in the present volatile market conditions.

Niobium

Niobium generally trades as Nb metal or ferroalloy and the price has remained relatively constant at US$44.08/kg (US$20/lb) Nb over the last several years.  A base case price of US$46/kg Nb (US$21/lb) metal was assumed for the resource update.

AMEC's Comment on Resource Update Price Assumptions

The tantalum price assumption used in the 2011 PEA is based on 4th quarter 2010 information. The tantalum price moved significantly higher through 2011.  AMEC has checked publicly available tantalum and niobium metal prices as at May 2012 and found the Ta and Nb prices used for both the current Mineral Resource estimate and the 2011 PEA remain as reasonable assumptions, which are US$317/kg tantalum metal and US$46/kg niobium metal in an oxide product.

Comments of Commerce President

"We are again extremely pleased with the results of this study which represents a major milestone in the progress to develop the Upper Fir.   The expanded resource reported today is further confirmation of Commerce's belief that we are in the process of building a very important long-term source of conflict free and ethical tantalum which could potentially supply 10% of the current world's market for the long term." said Dave Hodge, Commerce's President. "Results of the additional drilling completed in 2011 and our ongoing field work in 2012 are being compiled now, and we will be eagerly awaiting the results of AMEC's next resource update which will be based on all work to the end of the 2012 field season.  All indications are that we will be able to enhance even further the quality of the resource."

"Of necessity, the resource estimate upon which the resource update was completed was based on an assumed long term pricing which may prove to be conservative. Recent developments in global tantalum and niobium markets provide indication of substantially higher prices than those used to define the resource.  For example, information available through Asian Metals provides early June 2012 pricing (CAD=0.9825 US) for average grade Nb205 (99.5%) of $US59-61/kg, and for average grade Ta205 (99.95% min) of $US483/kg. Such prices may provide an opportunity for the ongoing resource update to the end of 2011 to be based on higher, though still conservative, pricing. We believe there will be significant near-term upside for investors who believe that projected trends for increased prices will continue."

Property

The Blue River Project is located near the village of Blue River, which is approximately 250 km north of the city of Kamloops and approximately 90 km south of the town of Valemount. The Project comprises 105,373 hectares (1,000 km2) of mineral claims. Power transmission lines, rail, and paved and gravel roads are all adjacent to, or within the property boundaries. Transalta Corp.'s 18 MW Bone Creek run-of-river hydroelectricity project near the project was commissioned in June 2011.

NI 43-101 Disclosure

The following Qualified Persons for the report are AMEC employees, based out of Vancouver:  Mr. Albert Chong, Principal Geologist, P.Geo.; Mr. Tomasz Postolski, Senior Geostatistician, P.Eng.;  Mr. Ramon Mendoza Reyes, Principal Mining Engineer, P.Eng.; Mr. Tony Lipiec, Principal Metallurgical Engineer, P.Eng., and Mr. Behrang Omidvar; Financial Analyst, P.Eng.  All of the Qualified Persons have read and approved the contents of this news release that are extracted or summarized from the "Blue River Tantalum-Niobium Project, British Columbia, Canada, NI 43-101 Technical Report on Mineral Resource Update" with an effective date of 22 June, 2012.

Ms. Jenna Hardy, M.Sc., P.Geo., Commerce Resources Corp., is a Qualified Person as defined by National Instrument 43-101, read and approved the disclosure of the technical information in this news release with respect to the exploration.  A Technical Report compliant with National Instrument 43-101 standards summarizing the Mineral Resource Update will be filed on SEDAR (www.sedar.com) within 45 days.

About Commerce Resources Corp.

Commerce Resources Corp. is an exploration and development company with a particular focus on tantalum, niobium and rare metal deposits with potential for economic grades and large tonnages. The Company is specifically focused on the development of its Upper Fir Tantalum and Niobium Deposit in British Columbia and is also exploring its Eldor Rare Earth Element Project in northern Quebec.

On Behalf of the Board of Directors

COMMERCE RESOURCES CORP.

"David Hodge"

David Hodge
President and Director
Tel: 604 484 2700
TF: 866.484.2700
Email: info@commerceresources.com
Web: http://www.commerceresources.com

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release 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 press release include that we will have positive cash flow for a potential 7,500 tonnes per day underground operation at the Upper Fir property with cash costs of CAD$24.91 per kilogram of tantalum metal; that we will have opportunities for optimization in the geology and mining areas and enhance the quality of the resource; that prices for our potential products are conservatively estimated and may trend upwards; that our property has Indicated Mineral Resources totalling 51.8 million tonnes at 192 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,490 ppm Nb2O5.  Inferred Mineral Resources total 8.8 million tonnes at 186 ppm Ta2O5 and 1,660 ppm Nb2O5; that total estimated capital cost to design and build a mine is CAD$379M and other assumptions listed will be accurate;  that operating costs over the life of mine are estimated at CAD$38.44/t milled; and the projected method of mining and its results will be accurate.  These forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management and its consultants at the date the information is disseminated.  They 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 changing costs for mining and processing and their impact on the cut off value established; increased capital costs;  changing forecasts of mine production rates; the timing and content of upcoming work programs; geological interpretations based on drilling that may change with more detailed information; potential process methods and mineral recoveries assumption based on limited test work and by comparison to what are considered analogous deposits that with further test work may not be comparable; the availability of labour, equipment and markets for the products produced; market pricing for the products produced; and despite the current expected viability of the project, conditions changing such that the minerals on our property cannot be economically mined, or that the required permits to build and operate the envisaged mine can be obtained. The forward-looking information contained herein is given as of the date hereof and the Company assumes no responsibility to update or revise such information to reflect new events or circumstances, except as required by law.

For a description of the data verification procedures, analytical and testing procedures and a description of the identification of any known legal, political, environmental, or other risks that could materially affect the potential development of the mineral resources, see "Blue River Ta-Nb Project NI 43-101 Technical Report on Preliminary Economic Assessment", by AMEC with effective date 29-September-2011 that is filed on SEDAR.

SOURCE Commerce Resources Corp.



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