General Base Metals
Monumental Minerals (TSX-V: MNRL) Director & Lead Geologist Kris Raffle on Advancing the Flagship Jemi Heavy Rare Earth Element (HREE) Project in Coahuila State, Mexico
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is director for Monumental Minerals — Mr. Kris Raffle. Kris, how are you?
Kris Raffle: I'm doing great. It's a sunny day in Vancouver — believe it or not!
Gerardo Del Real: I am happy for you… let's hope that continues! Listen, you are on the board of a few companies that I follow. And when I spoke to Max [Sali] about Monumental Minerals — and he said that he had a very prospective and advanced and permitted heavy rare earth project in Mexico — my eyes perked up a little bit because you don't see, or at least I haven't seen, very many of those.
And I want to get into the Jemi project. It's a heavy rare earth project in Coahuila, Mexico, which is near the Texas border. It's near me actually. And I want to get into the heavies and why it's important that the project is endowed in those.
But before we get into that, I would love for you to maybe just give everyone a brief primer on your background and the experience you have in the sector.
Kris Raffle: Yeah, in terms of rare earths, obviously, they're topical right now. There's no doubt that there's been upward moves in pricing on some of the rare earths due to electric vehicles and green technologies.
As a principal of mineral exploration consulting company, APEX Geoscience, we see a lot of lithium and uranium and rare earth projects coming through our door.
And certainly, you mentioned some of the other companies that I'm a director on; Defense Metals with their Wicheeda Project; we're in PEA studies right now looking to put out a PEA at some point. So that's a carbonatite deposit in northern British Columbia, and we've been working on that for about three years.
So this definitely leads with Monumental into looking at something a little bit different. We're looking at heavier rare earths and in Mexico, obviously, so a bit of a different exploration area and different deposit-type as well.
Gerardo Del Real: Now, can you explain for the audience that may not be familiar with the difference between the light rare earths and the heavy rare earths… why it's significant that you're exploring for the heavies, right?
I mean, if you're familiar with the space — and I've been following rare earths for over 13, 14 years — it's pretty simple and straightforward. But for someone that may be new to the critical metals story and specifically a rare earths story — can you tell people the difference?
Kris Raffle: Yeah, effectively, these rare earths — it really comes down to the deposits you're looking at — the light rare earths (the cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium on the left end of the periodic table), those are typically associated with your carbonatite-type deposits, which is what the majority of commercial rare earths production is in the world, in China, and elsewhere.
As we move to the right on the periodic table, we get into the heavier rare earths: terbium, dysprosium, and so forth on downwards. The pricing profile starts to increase on a lot of those rare earths, and dysprosium and terbium in particular. Just as neodymium and praseodymium are being highly sought after, those as well, basically for electric vehicles and magnet-making for electric vehicles.
But what we see is that the concentrations of those heavier rare earths, they get lower, and, as a result, the ones that are highly sought — the pricing is very attractive. It's quite a bit higher than things like neodymium and cerium; lanthanum, certainly.
Gerardo Del Real: Terbium and dysprosium, specifically, are two of the heavy rare earth occurrences on the Jemi Project, correct?
Kris Raffle: Exactly. And we have a whole suite of the remaining heavies and some of the other associated elements; yttrium, niobium, zirconium. These really bear a signature of an alkaline-intrusion-related rare earth deposit.
So that's what really drew us to Jemi and, certainly, where we see the exploration potential. And that's why we acquired the project or have opted the project.
Gerardo Del Real: What comes next in terms of exploration and developing, or outlining, I should say, the potential for this project, right?
Kris Raffle: It's definitely at an early stage. And I think the first thing is, definitely, we want to finalize the acquisition and get moving on this project and get down there and have a look at this.
One of the easiest and early-stage things that we can look at is airborne radiometric surveys. Those can be very successful at delineating areas of mineralization. It works very well at Wicheeda and for most outcropping rare earth deposits. So that's something we want to do right away to prioritize and really hone into certain areas.
And we've got a fairly large land package of this Laramide-age intrusion that's intruding these sedimentary rocks, and we just want to really key in on the areas. There's a couple of showings that we have right now so we have a really good idea of where it's prospective in terms of the geology and what we're looking after. But certainly, with radiometrics — I think that's probably the way to go.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent! Tight share structure; just under 23.1 million shares outstanding. I believe there's 460,000 broker warrants at C$0.20; 2 million stock options at C$0.38. And Discovery Silver, I believe, owns 9.9%. Is that accurate, Kris?
Kris Raffle: That's right. We're really happy to be working with Discovery Silver and have their support on this because they have a strong presence in Mexico. And certainly, getting up and running and working on this project is going to be assisted by their help.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. Kris, I'm looking forward to seeing this develop. I know it's a newer story. I'm very familiar with Coahuila State, Mexico, where the project is. Infrastructure; tell me a bit about that.
Kris Raffle: In terms of the project location, we're only about 30 miles just south of the Texas border in terms of access… so we can fly into Texas and be on the project in a day. It's in a fairly remote region but it is road accessible and, certainly, the terrain there is not unreasonable. So we can get in there and we can work year-round there.
I think that's one of the great things. With Arctic or northern Canadian deposits, we have a very limited exploration season. But in Mexico, you can certainly work year-round… and we definitely want to take advantage of that.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent! You described the asset as near-term, drill-ready. Is that something that you see happening here in Q1 of 2022 or maybe even before so?
Kris Raffle: I think we can be drill-ready in 2022. I'm not so sure about Q1. But I think it really just depends on how things go here and just the timing of all the bits and pieces of the puzzle here.
But yeah, as I said, I think an airborne survey has a real potential to move this thing forward quite rapidly, and we can prioritize from there. But really, it's going to start with getting on the ground and looking at the extent of some of these alkaline rocks that seem to be the principal host of the heavy rare earths here.
Gerardo Del Real: Excellent! Kris, thanks for coming on. Early, early, early story… new story to the rare earths space. I like the jurisdiction; I love the metal endowment. And I'm looking forward to seeing some of the exploration results as you develop this thing.
Kris Raffle: Perfect!
Gerardo Del Real: Awesome. Thanks for coming on, Kris. Appreciate your time.
Kris Raffle: Okay, you're welcome. Thank you.Click here to see more from Monumental Minerals