Lithium is present in JP22-1 at a grade of up to 300 ppm within ten samples collected from shallow surface soils (<442 ft). Geologists are particularly encouraged by the fact that a sandy conglomerate zone with higher porosity was encountered at the bottom of the basin. It could serve as a pumpable zone because of its permeability. The overlying zones of salt crystallization extend to a depth of 496 meters, including sections with up to 90% crystallization. Static water begins at a depth of about 44 meters. The total water column is estimated to be greater than 481 meters.
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Evaporite crystallization indicates environments conducive to brine formation. However, robust measurements for lithium grades are not yet available. First, the hole must be cleared of drilling mud. Then the clean hole is examined section by section for lithium using special measuring equipment. First measured values, which could later also be used for a resource calculation, are only expected in the coming weeks.
Pumpable zone at the bottom of the closed basin
Reaching the sandy conglomerate zone was a high priority as the overlying fluids can drain into this pumpable zone. The geological setting is very similar to conditions at Albemarle's Silver Peak Mine as well as Albermarle's neighbor Pure Energy (247,000 t LCE, Resource). Pure Energy Minerals also documents a sand conglomerate zone in their project that contains a large volume of brine with high lithium grades. Schlumberger New Energy, meanwhile, is the operator of the project and is developing a lithium direct extraction pilot plant there.
Deepak Varshney, CEO of Usha Resources commented, "We are very pleased with the results of our maiden drilling program. Shallow basins with the characteristics of Jackpot are rare and it is very exciting that we have been able to confirm our thesis for the project with the first well. Brine projects can come on production much faster than their hard rock counterparts, and the identification of strongly crystallized core overlying permeable pumpable sands and conglomerates shows that Jackpot has potential."
Figure 1: Drill core from JP22-1. Reaching this sand-conglomerate zone near the bottom of the sedimentary basin was a high priority. Thanks to its porosity within the aquifer, it could serve as a pumpable zone into which the overlying fluids are forced through a salt layer.
Figure 2: Model of completed basin (11.3 km²) showing theoretical location of well JP22-0. Water column pressures on evaporites and illustrated in relation to expected deposition in a geologic setting such as Clayton Valley.
The Company has permitted 2,700 meters over six holes and has commenced an initial drill program with the objective of defining a 43-101 resource. The project target was originally identified from geophysical studies and 129 core samples collected by the USGS with an average lithium value of 175 ppm and a maximum value of 550 ppm. The current average grade for the Albemarle project is approximately 121 ppm.
Conclusion: The Canadian stock market is currently experiencing a real run on lithium hard rock projects. At times, even the staking of a new lithium pegmatite is causing euphoria. With the shining examples of Patriot Battery Metals (TSXV: PMET) or Li-Power (TSXV: LIFT) in mind, investors tend to ignore the fact that many of the projects in the far north are seasonal and that it will take years before an initial resource is identified there, if at all. In terms of resource definition, lithium brine projects have a clear advantage. For a project like Usha Resources' Jackpot Lake project in Nevada, as little as two drill holes could be enough for an initial inferred resource. The reason lithium brine projects are struggling at the moment is that it has not been decided which lithium direct extraction (DLE) technology will prevail. Yet new technology development is rightly in full swing because the promise of DLE is a minimal footprint compared to conventional mining. Usha is working toward its first resource estimate. First, lithium grades from the completed drill hole must be measured. Lithium is present in JP22-1 at a grade of up to 300 ppm within ten samples collected from shallow surface soils (<442 ft). After one more drill hole, a resource can likely be calculated - possibly as early as the first half of 2023. By then, at the latest, Jackpot Lake is likely to become the preferred target for ambitious DLE technology companies. Where else could they better put their technology on display than in the heart of Nevada? Usha will likely be able to choose its partner while massive investment incentives in the USA beckon in the background. Given these opportunities, investors will wonder if Usha's current market value of CAD 11 million is appropriate. We look forward to the market's response.
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