Defense Metals (TSX-V: DEFN)(OTC: DFMTF) CEO Craig Taylor on Continued Advancement of Flagship Wicheeda Rare Earth Element Project, British Columbia, Canada
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the CEO of Defense Metals — Mr. Craig Taylor. Craig, how have you been?
Craig Taylor: Very well, Gerardo. How are you?
Gerardo Del Real: I'm well. It's been a bit since you and I chatted. Thank you for coming back on. You've been busy. You've had a lot of news the last month to month and a half, and I wanted to provide the audience with an update. The most recent news... the two most recent pieces of news, I think are extremely material moving forward.
The first, from March the 23rd, was Defense Metals preparing a high-grade rare earth element concentrate sample for shipment to multiple potential offtake partners. Walk me through what that looks like and what it potentially sets Defense Metals up for.
Craig Taylor: This is all stemming from a relationship we have with Welsbach. We initiated a contract with them a few months ago, and they have far reaching connections in Asia, Europe, and Australia. We talked about that before. But these are some of their clients now that they've targeted that have need for concentrate in the future either for end use or smelter or processing.
And so this is going to lead us towards offtake agreements, is our hope. And they've given us just a couple; I'm expecting to see some more from them. So we have the 1,200 kilos of high-grade concentrate. And if this can lead us to an offtake agreement — that's going to be a big, big move for the company.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent! And then the latest, the most recent piece of news, was yesterday where you've retained SRK Consulting to complete a project economic scenario analysis.
Who you chose was interesting to me. And the fact that you're at this stage, again, very, very encouraging moving forward, right?
Craig Taylor: Yeah, we're really fortunate to have been able to engage SRK. They're the company that did the PEA for Mountain Pass, of course. So their expertise in neodymium and praseodymium deposits is exceptional. They've done this with them.
So they're a big company so we had to wait to engage them. And luckily, we have now, and I'm hoping we're going to have great results from them in the near future and, yeah, just prove our economic viability going forward.
Gerardo Del Real: Good, good. And for those that aren't familiar with the deposit, can you explain why it has the potential to actually be a player in this space, right? There's so many companies that, if lithium is the trend that's moving — become lithium companies. If it's gold — they become gold companies.
But this is actually something that has been in the works for quite a while now. And so can you explain to everybody kind of the upside to the deposit and why it's attractive to potential offtake partners?
Craig Taylor: Yeah, we've been working hard at this for two years derisking and developing the project from taking a bulk sample to metallurgical work with SGS labs. We had fantastic results.
And so our mine is an NdPr mine. And those are the elements used in high-strength, lightweight magnets that you're seeing all of the electric vehicles, the wind turbines, military applications. So all of the work we've done has just proven that we have a viable deposit. It's been step-by-step. We've expanded our resource. We've come out with 1,200 kilos of high-grade concentrate which we're now sending to the market for offtake agreements.
And then the PEA is going to set us apart from everyone else. I don't see any other rare earth company, or many, that are doing as much as we have in the last two years. So we've really put our nose down, done the work, and the market has obviously caught up. I mean the forecast for NdPr use — it's just exponential in the next 20 years.
Gerardo Del Real: You've done a great job derisking the project. A piece of that was the pre-pilot hydrometallurgy achieving high impurity removal. And that was with minimal rare earth element losses from the flotation concentrate. Can you explain in layman's terms, right, for the average me, what that means and why it's important?
Craig Taylor: Well, we've extracted up to 97% from concentrate, which is really as close to 100% as you can get when you're going through this process. But without that sort of extraction percentage – or without being able to extract from the concentrate – rare earth deposits just aren't viable.
SGS has done a wonderful job. They've optimized our extraction process. And that's going to move us towards doing a pilot plant with them on the hydromet side — probably within the next couple of months.
And so that now, not only will we have proven we can do a flotation extraction into a concentrate but we're going to be doing a hydromet separation into an oxide. So that's really head and shoulders above any other rare earth company out there right now. And we're just looking to, again, expand, de-risk, and take this to economic viability.
Gerardo Del Real: Fantastic. Craig, anything else to add to that?
Craig Taylor: No, stay tuned! Lots of news to come. We're going to be busy over the next six months. As I said, we'll be drilling; we'll be doing our PEA and working towards prefeasibility.
Gerardo Del Real: Looking forward to having you on more often. Thanks for taking the time today.
Craig Taylor: Great. Thank you!
Gerardo Del Real: Thanks, Craig.