By Esme Whitehouse
Featured Image: Trans-Canada Highway near Thunder Bay in Ontario Canada.
Plato Gold Corp. (TSXV: PGC, FRA: 4Y7) is a junior Canadian exploration company that focusses on exploring precious and strategic metal properties in established mining jurisdictions around the world. They currently hold 1 project in Argentina and 3 in Ontario, including their high-potential Good Hope Niobium project.
I spoke to Anthony Cohen (President) while he was quarantined in Canada about the potential at Good Hope and their metallurgical test results. The 4208ha project area is located on the north coast of Lake Superior, in Ontario near the mining town of Marathon and the Thunder Bay mining district (Figure 1). It is therefore well connected to infrastructure via the trans-Canada Highway, Canadian Pacific national rail line, and two deep water ports. This bodes well for future exploration and any other possible development of the project.
During exploration for kimberlite-hosted diamonds in 2010, Dr. Rudy Wahl unexpectedly discovered 1.63wt% Nb at surface in carbonatite-hosted pyrochlore (the mineral hosting the Nb, don’t worry I had to google it too). Since this date, the company has carried out diamond drilling, trenching, sampling, radiometric surveys (particularly good for such mineralisation) and their most recent, metallurgical and mineralogical study.
As of yet Good Hope is not a 43-101 compliant deposit and so the aim of their (hopefully) upcoming drill program is to drill test existing Nb anomalies and perform some infill drilling to gather enough data to delineate a deposit. Their current geological model suggests that the high-grade source of the identified Niobium mineralisation is central to their property in the Prairie Lake carbonatite complex. Identifying this as the source will require some strategic winter drilling on a frozen swamp, so we have to wait a minute for any results.
Recent metallurgical testing of a small but representative sample has proven that conventional gravity separation and flotation processing can be used for the Nb extraction, and that apatite and zircon can be extracted as bonus minerals. The value of bonus minerals is to partially or wholly offset processing costs.
Now you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering where niobium has its place it the global market as its applications are largely under appreciated by gen pop. Niobium can be used in steel making to improve the quality and reduce the weight. It also has applications in quantum computing, specialised technology such as the hadron collider, and lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.
It has been designated as a critical metal by the USA and the EU, and as such diversification of Nb supply chains is required. Currently, ~90% of production is in Brazil. This, and its use in ‘green’ technology, indicates Nb demand may be set to increase.
Niobium is currently only mined in 3 places around the world however, owing to the scarcity of economic deposits and so while the long-term price is up and demand might increase, production potential is not. This, together with its superior infrastructure, represents the huge significance of the Good Hope project.
Aside from having potential to fulfil demand, the Good Hope project has several other key elements that speak to its significance. Carbonatites can be associated with high levels of radioactivity, but those at Good Hope have low concentrations of U and Th and is therefore safer and more economic to mine. Also, concentrations of P2O5 (<20.6wt%) suggest phosphate may be produced as a by-product. Anthony also highlighted to me the potential for rare earth elements to be hosted in the Nb, as is often associated with carbonatites, which will be assessed when their exploration budget allows. Finally, it is possible Good Hope is amenable to open pit mining, reducing operating costs relative to other Nb mines.
The team working on the Good Hope project includes Dr. Rudy Wahl, who won the Bill Dennis Prospector of the Year Award (PDAC, 2020) and Dr Roger Michell, an expert on carbonatites. Their QP John Fox has over 40 years of experience in metallurgy around the world. In short, it is in great hands.
As an aside, projects such as Good Hope reflect the desire of the UK, US, and Canada to diversify the REE supply chain away from China, where it cannot be used as political leverage.
All information above was obtained from Plato Gold’s website and material contained within, the links below and personal communications with Anthony Cohen (President and Director).
Cover image: https://j-source.ca/article/study-news-poverty-thunder-bay/