Sonic drilling is a highly effective soil penetration technique (picture source)
Today, Belmont Resources Inc. reported to be in the process of engaging an experienced lithium brine drilling contractor to start the first phase of a deep drilling program at Belmont’s Kibby Basin Property in Nevada. The property is located about 65 km north of the Clayton Valley, i.e. closer to Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory #1 near Sparks, Nevada.
A 2016 gravity survey has significantly enhanced the potential for the basin to host lithium-bearing brines in a geologic setting similar to the continental brine model ascribed to the Clayton Valley.
Drilling is expected to start as soon as possible, depending on availability of drill crews and access to the drill sites following an unusually wet winter.
A total of 4 holes over approximately 457 m length have been recommended for the phase-1 drilling program, of which 2 holes have been planned to a depth of approximately 152 m (500 foot) and the 2 other holes to be drilled to a depth of about 76 m (260 foot).
With a current market capitalization of $3 million CAD, Belmont now offers substantial appreciation potential in case the upcoming drill program turns out positive. Rockstone is looking forward to the upcoming drill program as a sampling of brine may result in the discovery of lithium with grades similar to the Clayton Valley when it started lithium production in the 1960s (estimated at >400 mg/L lithium). This would be a major achievement for Belmont, its shareholders and Nevada as a whole.
Based on the results received by the ground geophysics report and gravity survey completed in 2016, Belmont’s exploration geologist Robert Cuffney has recommended the first 4 holes of the phase-1 sonic drilling program.
The location of 3 proposed holes is near the eastern basin-bounding fault, where lithium brines are likely to well up in the structural zone, analogous to the concentration of lithium brines along the Paymaster Fault in Clayton Valley. The 4th hole is a stratigraphic hole located near the central axis of the basin, designed to test for porous basin sediments, which could serve as aquifers for lithium brines.
The decision to begin with sonic drilling was made for several reasons:
1) Continuous core yields far better geologic information than does percussion or reverse circulation (RC) samples, which in fine playa sediments tend to wash away;
2) Using core, Belmont will not have to run downhole geophysics to find the aquifers, saving time and cost;
3) Good water/brine samples can be obtained without contamination from drilling fluids/muds;
4) Sonic drilling does not require injecting water, which reduces costs for hauling and construction of large sumps;
5) Sonic drilling tends to not destabilize the hole walls through vibration as does percussion/hammer drilling.
The 3D gravity model demonstrates the potential for a massive underground brine reservoir with dimensions estimated at 4 km2 and at least 1.5 km deep. On top of all that, the chances of the water being geothermal (hot) are excellent. A 7.4 kilometer long structure is identified in Kibby Valley with characteristics interpreted to be akin to major structures bounding the south side of Clayton Valley. The gravity survey identified several significant structures that juxtapose rocks of differing densities that are most likely basin-fill sediments faulted against the basement rocks.
Figure 1: Modeled Basin Depth over Gray Shade Topography. The figure shows the basin depth or thickness of basin fill beneath the surface. The basin reaches a maximum depth approaching 4000 m with a fair amount of complexity along the basin margins. The overall “Z” shape to the basin, observed by Wright (2016), is even more pronounced in the basin model.
CBA Gravity Looking Northeast (presumably this would be the topography if the basin fill was removed; the lithium-rich brine is not only expected in the deepest part of the basin which is modelled to be beneath Belmont’s property)
According to Belmont’s Gravity Survey Interpretation Report (2016):
“The second major factor controlling the viability of a given model is assigning the correct density for basin fill. A single drill hole is located within the basin as shown in Figure . This is an oil and gas exploration hole drilled in 1969 by Monte Cristo Oil Corporation. No lithologic logs are available; however, a down-hole density log is available via the Nevada Bureau of Mines. Examination of the log suggests an overall density of 2.1 g/cc is appropriate for the basin fill. This is a typical and reasonable value for basin fill...
Also, an examination of the density log reveals the densities increase near the 1200 m depth and show a sustained average level of 2.3 g/cc to 2.4 g/cc to the bottom of the hole at 1455 m (4776’). This density is below of 2.6 g/cc estimated for the bedrock; however, it could well be indicating weathered bedrock or a basal unit in the fill material. Interestingly, the basin gravity model places the bedrock at a depth of 1200 m in the vicinity of the drill hole...
The model reveals a north – south elongated basin with a depth approaching 4000 m, which is not unusual for basins in the Walker Lane. Of note is the asymmetry in the basin’s east – west profile.
Figure  shows a section across the basin model 600 m north of the property’s north boundary. This section is typical for much of the length of the basin. The west side of the basin is typified by several smaller magnitude structures down-dropping the basin, while the east side is controlled by what appears to be one large magnitude structure. This structure is denoted in Figures  and  with a heavy dashed line. It is very prominent in the gradient (i.e. Figure 3). The basin is terminated and left laterally offset by major west-northwest structures to the north and south...
Zampirro (2003) reviewed the lithium brine geology and geometries in the Clayton Valley deposit (the 3 figures below present a collection of partial figures from his report).
The brines are contained in several layers located along the south margin of Clayton Valley adjacent to the Cross Central and Paymaster Canyon faults, which form the south edge of the valley.Furthermore, the aquifers are controlled by porous layers dipping to the south into the structures and, in the case of the marginal gravel aquifer, ponded by the structures. Clearly, dipping of porous basin sediments toward a major basin bounding structure is geometry conducive to brine containment.
A similar geometry is suggested by the basin model and associated structural interpretation for the Kibby Basin. Of course, the model neither predicts the dip of basin sediments nor if the sediments contain lithium brines. Nevertheless, the basin geometry is sufficiently similar to the Clayton Valley deposit as to deserve additional exploration effort. At Kibby Basin the large structure along the east side of the basin would be analogous to the Cross Central and Paymaster Canyon faults in Clayton Valley.
As Kibby Basin was pulled apart, one could imagine blocks of basin fill being rotated to the east as the large east bounding structure accommodated the majority of the extension. Other structures and structural intersections bounding the main Kibby Basin should also be considered as possible targets for brine concentrations. Indeed, Zampirro (2003) notes structural intersections may have controlled brine concentration in Clayton Valley.
As noted by Wright (2016), blocks of young basalt (QTb) are likely located within the basin fill and could well serve as traps or barriers to basin brine lateral movement. This type of brine trap is certainly unusual but should receive some consideration.”
Lithium mining company wants changes in bill
By Adella Harding (Free Press Correspondent) for Elko Daily Free Press on February 21, 2017
The owner of the only mining operation in the United States producing lithium carbonate wants alterations to Nevada’s proposed bill on lithium exploration.
Albemarle Corp., owner of the Silver Peak Mine in Esmeralda County, reported it was working with the Nevada Division of Minerals and state engineer to develop alternative language to AB 52 that protects the alkaline playa, encourages lithium exploration and “protects Albemarle’s current site and operations.”
Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Richard Perry confirmed the division is working with Albemarle on the bill, which is proposed for action in the current legislative session.
The operation owned by Albemarle pulls lithium brine from saltwater aquifers using extraction wells. According to the company, the Nevada Division of Water Resources has permitted Albemarle to extract 20,000 acre-feet a year from Clayton Valley Basin.
“Our evaporation process works in perfect confluence with our senior water rights because it maintains a balance between our extraction rate and the rate of the basin discharge,” the company said.
The minerals division proposed the bill to make it easier for companies to explore for lithium, which is seeing an increased demand, especially for rechargeable batteries for electric cars and cellphones.
“The reason we did this, we received numerous calls last year from lithium exploration companies on how to explore” in Nevada, and “they had an interest in streamlining the process,” Perry explained earlier.
Albemarle recognizes that Nevada’s goal of increasing exploration and production of lithium carbonate would mean reaching beyond what Silver Peak could produce.
“However, as Albemarle’s site in Silver Peak is the only operating lithium mine in the country, we believe the state should be thoughtful in developing any changes to current law that may adversely impact the state’s only lithium producer,” the company’s statement on AB 52 says.
“Fundamentally, we believe current water law manages both exploration and operating aspects of lithium extraction. We have complied with those rules and have successfully operated under the currently regulatory regime for over 50 years.
“As such we oppose efforts that would diminish or otherwise damage our resources in the Clayton Valley. As the holder of virtually all the senior water rights in the Clayton Valley, we oppose AB 52 as currently drafted because it does not recognize the importance of state water law for extracting lithium that is dissolved in groundwater, which is very different from hard rock mining.
“It does not protect Albemarle’s senior water rights, as required by Nevada law. It also does not recognize that fully allocated basins such as the Clayton Valley cannot accommodate anyone wanting to access the aquifer without water permits.”
The bill would create an exemption to state water law to allow exploration entities to sample brine from boreholes and sample and pump-test from an exploration well.
“If passed, it could lead to degradation of the delicate playa from over-drilling into the aquifer and extracting brine by too many parties,” Albemarle wrote.
Belmont Resources Inc.
Suite 600 - 625 Howe Street
Vancouver, BC, V6C2T6 Canada
Phone: +1 604 683 6648
Shares Issued & Outstanding: 35,400,953
Canadian Symbol (TSX.V): BEA
Current Price: $0.07 CAD (02/22/2017)
Market Capitalization: $3 million CAD
German Symbol / WKN (Frankfurt): L3L1 / A1JNZE
Current Price: €0.04 EUR (02/23/2017)
Market Capitalization: €1 million EUR
Report #4: “The perfect lithium basin?”
Report #3: “Prominent gravity low identified on Kibby Basin Lithium Brine Property in Nevada”
Report #2: “Dark clouds over Clayton Valley and green lights for Belmonts Kibby Basin Project”
Report #1: “Early Report on Belmont Resources”
Disclaimer: Please read the full disclaimer within the full research report as a PDF (here) as fundamental risks and conflicts of interest exist.