Patriot Battery Metals (TSX-V: PMET)(OTC: PMETF) CEO Blair Way on Financing, MOU with Albemarle & Drilling at Corvette Lithium Project, Quebec


Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the president & CEO of Patriot Battery Metals — Mr. Blair Way. Blair, how are you today?

Blair Way: I'm good, Gerardo. It's been a busy week. But it's been a pretty exciting week as well. So, happy to catch up and we can talk through some questions. I'm looking forward to it.

Gerardo Del Real: Listen, let's get right into it. You and I have known each other for a bit. We always shoot straight with each other. I don't think you're any happier about the share price than I am. But I’ll tell you what I'm really happy about as a long-term sticky shareholder is the news that you actually delivered. 

So let's start with the C$109 million strategic investment. And, as important to me is the MOU with Albemarle  (NYSE: ALB). Congrats on that front, congrats on the resource, which we'll get into in a bit. But how long has Albemarle been in conversations with Patriot, and how did that come about, because I know myself and a lot of shareholders are curious about that?

Blair Way: Well, we've spoken many times about how we're a pretty friendly company, and we're happy to speak with anyone that is interested in what we have at our Corvette property. So we have been speaking with many parties, including Albemarle, for the better part of 18 months. 

Some of them have been to site; some of them didn't get to site. Some are diversified miners; some are lithium miners; some are lithium companies. So Albemarle is obviously one of them. And we have been friendly with people, also asking them to respect our desire to continue to build value for our shareholders. And we're able to fund what we need to fund.

However, as we start moving into our maiden resource and seeing the opportunity to accelerate some drilling this summer — this, of course, was prior to the fires but we can talk about that a bit later — we were looking at opportunities, and it really made sense to look at a strategic investment. It's an opportunity to bring in some solutions for the company. 

In this case, we were looking at downstream solutions. We have identified, with this resource, the largest hard rock deposit in the Americas and eighth largest in the world. Well, what are we going to do with it? Where are we going to sell it? Those are the sorts of questions that are definitely going to be asked, and we need to have the answers for it. And North America is our goal.

We don't believe shipping to China is probably a sensible solution. And by forging a relationship like this with a very significant lithium company that has extensive downstream lithium hydroxide production experience seemed like a really good fit. And we've been working with a number of parties along these lines. And Albemarle has come out in front. 

Obviously, they're based in North America; that makes a great deal of sense. They’re already selling lithium downstream to many battery manufacturers and OEMs, so to speak. So it really just seemed like a really sensible step. We're able to fund expanding, or accelerating, some of our site work; our drilling, our studies, our baseline work, our permitting work. So it really seems like a sensible step.

Gerardo Del Real: I couldn't agree more. Let's get into the actual resource. You mentioned it's the largest lithium pegmatite resource in the Americas. It's just CV5. It's what I consider a sneak peek at the potential of Corvette and what's to come. Thoughts on the resource… let's start there.

Blair Way: We're very happy with the resource. It also, I think, is worth noting that it is a very conservative resource. The reason it is conservative is because we are ASX and TSX listed. It's compliant with the NI-43 code but also is JORC compliant. 

Now, that does create a few funny overlaps with the rules. So one of those is the pit constraint. So the pit constraint under NI-43 is actually quite a bit more restrictive, or more literally interpreted, than it is for JORC. So what that means is our blocks that we put into that pit constraint end up being less. 

As a result, our resource is much more conservative. It's confined by the pit, whereas, in Australia… and again, if we're comparing apples-to-apples, if it's a JORC-only report, compared to ours, we are definitely more conservative. Again, we’re not going to make a big deal about it. It is what it is. These are the rules we have to follow. 

However, it's worth it for people to understand that, if they compare apples-to-apples with a JORC-only report, we're going to look a little bit more conservative as we continue to drill this out. We're not too worried about it; we just keep drilling. 

This is our maiden resource. It's a massive outcome. We are happy to be the largest in the Americas and number eight on the list. And if you look at the bubble charts, you can see what will happen is, as we continue to drill out, and if we do get the connectivity, we are going to be drilling CV13 this summer… we are drilling it now that drills are turning again. We're going to drill step out holes from the western end of the CV5 extension all the way and head towards CV13.

If we end up being able to connect it, that's 9.8 km of trend that we've defined. Now, the drill bit has to do it. There are no easy ways, no geophysics, no magic Star Trek machine where we can see what's laying underneath the glacial till. It's all about the drill. And we're going to drill our way all the way to CV13, as well as drilling CV13. 

So we love what we've been able to come up with; 109 million tonnes at 1.42% Li2O. The grade is great, and it's a fantastic outcome. And there's more to come. It's just the start. People are able to see the sections. I think they can probably glean from that that it's a single continuous pegmatite. In fact, we could even call it a pegmatube! Even though that's not a word, it's kind of a fun word to think of.

It is a tube of pegmatite… so what we have is a continuous pegmatite body, which makes up 93% of that 109 million tonnes. What that means is that it pinches and swells, as we expected, as it moves from the surface down to depth as well as in the lateral extent from the east and to the west. But it is up to 100 - 110 meters thick at its thickest. So it is pretty substantial. It's still open at each end; that, in its own right, is pretty significant. We still have lots more prospectivity as we continue to drill to the east and to the west. 

The other thing that's noteworthy in that is the sensitivity analysis. So at 0.4% [Li2O cut-off] or 109 million tonnes, if we change it to 1.4%, or 46 million, or almost 50 million tonnes, at 2% [Li2O cut-off], that's an amazing result. The pit constraining makes that look quite good in the sense that, at 50 million tonnes, or at 2%, that's getting up into some world-class comparables to the likes of Greenbushes and so forth.

The other thing that's also noteworthy, if you go to 0.1%, it's 123 million tonnes at 1.28% [Li2O]. So it's still a great grade. Now, if we took some of those pit constraints off of that number at 0.1%, it would increase quite significantly. But under NI-43, we're not allowed to do that. So that is what it is. 

However, it is worth people keeping that in mind because often we're going to be compared to some of our Australian peers that are only ASX listed, and their resource is going to be a little bit different. But still, we couldn't be happier with the results. We just keep drilling; we keep defining this thing. It's just onward and upwards. This is the first resource of many to come off of the Corvette property.

Gerardo Del Real: You had an online presentation recently. I know from feedback I received… and look, I attended as well, and, frankly, I walked away with some questions. It's part of why I reached out today.

One of the things I did — I'm a simple guy, I like to pride myself on just being a simple person that does simple things — I reached out on Twitter, and I asked people if they had any questions. And I got some really good ones. 

And there were a couple of Twitter handles that I have to credit for a few of the questions that'll come up here in a little bit: @YellowLabLife — Yellow Lab Life Capital, the koala guy — asked some phenomenal questions. And @Pete_Panda also had excellent questions. 

Blair Way: Yeah, I follow his work.

Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. Pete's work has been fantastic. It's kind of, in part, how I got to some of my resource estimations. But one of the questions was, are you able to say what the unconstrained resource would've been? And the follow up to that is how many meters or holes would it take to upgrade that tonnage?

Blair Way: That first question, no, we're not. As much as we'd like to, we're not. Because you know I would be talking about it if I was allowed to. So I have to be very careful in that respect. It's a pretty decent number. But it's the NI-43 rules, and we are bound by that restriction. 

So as much as I'd like to talk more about it, people can look at some of the other models that are floating around. And those numbers, look, they're using the same data we are, and I've seen, I think, four or five models that people have built from the data that we've provided on the website. And the majority of those models are pretty much bang on. It just depends on the restrictions that you put in. 

If you look in our press releaseI think it's right after the sections; it's Figure 13 — you can see where it shows the pegmatite body and it shows the pit constraint and the block model within the pit shell. So it's quite significant.

And then, the other thing that's worth noting is the cutoff parameters that are almost at the end of the JORC table. So that's very definitive. It's not just a cutoff grade, it's a whole bunch of economic parameters that are not necessarily specific to our project or ones that are benchmarked. So benchmarking provides a very conservative overview for these parameters. 

The other thing, of course, if you look at the pit wall angles, they're 45 degrees. Now, the reason they're 45 degrees is because, at this early stage, there's no geotech. With no geotech, you can't be confident from a QP point of view; you have to assume that it's not competent. But we know the pegmatite and the amphibolite are very competent.

So when it actually comes to designing a pit shell under, say, a pre-feasibility study, that pitch will look considerably different and will also have considerably different parameters around it. So again, we're not complaining about it… this is just the rule book that we have to work with. 

One other thing that's worth noting in the press release is Figure 15. And people, I think, probably aren't necessarily catching on as to how significant those figures are where it shows the block model with a greater than 3% and then a block model with greater than 2%. So greater than 3%; everyone's familiar with the Nova Zone; the high-grade. And then, you look at the greater than 2%, and, obviously, the Nova Zone really stands out. 

But what's interesting is, if you look to the west, there's a significant amount of high-grade material to the west. That is actually pretty important because, what it means is, look, the Nova zone is great but we're seeing that high-grade material scattered throughout a large part of the drilling that we've done. So you can see it thins out a little bit in the middle but then it starts to climb back up again. 

So as we start heading west, it could do that a number of times. We just don't know. And does the pegmatite go thicker… does it go thinner? We know we have something at CV13, and that's what we're drilling a large part of this summer as we take CV13 to its first resource. 

This sort of information is very helpful for us as we continue to drill to the east and to the west. And we can be quite open to what is potentially there. And it really, again, always comes back to what we always talk about, Gerardo, is we just have to drill this thing. And of course, with our strategic investment, we are able to facilitate that drilling and accelerate it to some degree as well.

Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk about how aggressive you want to be. And obviously, this summer, a lot of how aggressive you could be was Mother Nature dependent. But you have over C$150 to C$160 million in the till. You have more coming in from warrants.

You have the green light to drill. The drills are turning. How aggressive do you want to be, and how aggressive are you being right now? How many drills are actually turning, and where are those?

Blair Way: So right now, I think we've got probably two to three rigs drilling. We had one helicopter so that helps us get started. But I believe a second helicopter will be coming in this weekend. We don't know for sure until the thing shows up but that's the commitment they're making… so that's good news. 

Having two helicopters means we can truly get at it. With one, it's more about moving people. But when you're moving the rigs around, it ties up the helicopter for quite a few hours. So we do have a rig where we are putting a rig on the barge. We have two barges. So the goal is that we'll have two rigs on barges so they can work the eastern end of CV5, doing some infill in that gap that we missed this winter where the ice wasn't formed.

Then, if you look in the model again, the block model, or the pit shell, has cut off the eastern end of the discovery simply because we haven't been able to put the shallower holes that can define whether it does continue to surface. We believe it does. But right now, it's just open to surface. So we'll be drilling that.

Plus, we'll be stepping to the east up the lake to see how far CV5; does it carry on all of the way to CV4 or beyond? We'll also be using those rigs to do some of the infill holes where it's difficult to get to, either with the ice or otherwise. So we do have a mixture of infill and extension. 

This summer will be more about extension than infill and, of course, drilling at CV13. So right now, we have a rig at CV13; we have a rig extending to the west from the western end of CV5. The third rig, I think, is planned for going on the barge, and we are ramping up.

Now, in order to expand to a more aggressive drill program, it's not about just throwing more rigs on the ground. It's a domino effect, and you end up reaching a bit of a critical mass. So for instance, if we go from, say, we have six rigs this summer, and we want to go to ten — that's more drill crew; that's more helicopters. It's more geologists to log the core; it's a bigger core shed to process the core. 

So all of these things are what we're working on now, now that we sort of have the opportunity with this financing to fine tune that plan. We have been working at it in the background but we can't pull any triggers until we have this closing. Now, it was just announced that it's closed, so now we sort of pull the brakes off.

Part of that is the 80-man camp that we're building. So we have to build the 80-man camp and then immediately expand it to 120 so we have the capacity for personnel. Right now, we've been working with about a 60 to 80-man capacity at the Mirage Camp. 

But the challenge for that, last winter, was that we couldn’t use the helicopters as much in the winter because of daylight time. So a lot of the drill crews were traveling by road, which is an hour and a half each way. Now, that created travel time that each rig needed three people. With our camp closer to CV5, we can go back to two crews. So instead of three crews per rig, we can have two crews per rig, which means bed efficiency, I guess, if you want to call it that.

So by having less people per rig in your rotational shifts, it allows us to have more rigs. But, of course, with more rigs, we need more geologists. We need a core shack that can process the core. Otherwise, it just backs up. And there's no point drilling like mad men and then you have this big backlog of core. 

So it is a whole bunch of moving parts. But one of the things we are looking at to help with some of these moving parts is, of course, our winter road is great in the wintertime. It allows us to drive right to site, and it takes the dependency off of the helicopter and reduces our costs; all those good things. And it also gives us a lot more reliability in respect to being able to get our crew changes done efficiently and not have any standby. So what we are actually working on is taking the winter road and turning it into an all-weather road.

So this fall, the goal is that we may be able to, or we believe we'll be able to, use the all-weather road during the time when we normally stop drilling. So we normally stop drilling around mid to late-October because of the fog. And helicopters can't fly every day… so it's really unreliable. It results in standby and the problems that that creates. 

By having the all-weather road, we won't have helicopters to move the rigs. But as I mentioned earlier, we have two rigs on a barge so those barges can go in the normal non-drilling time, and we can start doing some infill drilling with the barges for CV5. 

We also have a couple of rigs on skids that are near CV5 as well. So we're still fine tuning this but, conceptually, what we can do is, during this period of typically non-drilling, we can actually use two barge-mounted rigs, two skid-mounted rigs, and possibly add a couple more.

And we're working on that to basically do some infill during a time that we normally don't have drilling. And then, segue back into when we get to after Christmas time and first week in January, you get back on the ground, start doing not only the infill drilling but adding rigs because we're then a fully snow road. 

Our ability to move around between CV13 and CV5, we can have a trail, or a snow road, to CV13 so it reduces our dependency on the helicopters. The helicopters will still be used for moving rigs around. We are looking at track-mounted rigs maybe around CV13 to just, again, increase our efficiency and have less dependency on helicopters. 

Helicopters cost a lot, and the more we can use more traditional methods to move the rig… when you move a rig with a helicopter, you move it in pieces so that just takes time. And when we're moving the rig on a skid or on the barge, it’s much more efficient. So there are some real opportunities. I know that's a long-winded answer to the question but we are looking at how we can manage up to ten rigs. 

And I'm not saying for sure that's where we're going to get to. We are defining what we need to do. And can we get it done in this short summer season that we have? Can we get the road upgraded? Can we get the camp to 120 people? Can we get a core shack set up so that we can accommodate that extra flow-through of core? 

So all of these things are being answered. And I'll have the answers over the coming weeks. And by the time we get to September, we can talk more clearly about how the plan is going to play out over the next 6 to 12 months.

Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. As far as exploration drilling, are there specific targets that you're itching to get to?

Blair Way: People might've noticed in our presentation that we put up on the website that we've gone back to some of our old-school photos just to remind people because we noticed that there's a real focus on CV5. And all of the new investors come in and they aren't really probably aware that all of these different targets — CV8, CV12, CV9, CV10, CV13 — are spodumene pegmatite clusters. They're not just pegmatite. 

We've already gone down, we've sampled, we've done channel sampling. We know there's pegmatite there, and there are some pretty significant lithium numbers coming out of them. So they need to be drilled. It's a good problem to have. We have a lot of targets and not enough time. 

So we will be drilling CV13 and targeting a maiden resource for that for Q2 2024. Now, the reason it's pushed out to 2024 is because of this fire break where, basically, the fire bans have resulted in probably missing the better part of eight weeks.

Now, possibly the labs, because they're not backlogged, maybe they can process some of the samples faster. I'm not going to count on that until we know for sure. But maybe we get lucky and some of those results are coming through a bit quicker. But we're saying Q2 2024 for now. 

We're going to drill around the CV8 clusters and, again, tie those together. The CV12, same thing. Ideally, then we look at connecting CV8 and CV12. CV9 is probably one of our favorites.

And there is a picture on page five of our website presentation where it shows four of us standing on an outcrop (it probably doesn't until you expand the picture on your screen) and, in the background to the right, is a helicopter. It too is sitting on the CV9 pegmatite spodumene outcrop. And then, to the left of the tail in the background of the picture is another much larger outcrop, which is also part of CV9.

So it's quite a significant cluster of spodumene pegmatite. So that's probably our next favorite. Well, it always has been after CV13 but it's just a timing thing. So CV9 is probably going to get the next drill rig after CV13. So as we ramp up to our five rigs this summer, one of them will definitely be working on some of these other targets. But it is a lot of ground to cover. 

This is only 25 km of the 50 km of strike length. We still have our field program where the guys are going to be peeling back the moss, doing channel sampling, getting the assays, and drill targeting.

So who knows? We might find another CV13 to the east or to the west. There's still a ton of work. And that exploration program, as far as the field work, is also articulated in our presentation. It's on slide 19 where it just shows, as red blobs, the areas where we haven't had any field work yet. 

Now, we have flown over them. We know there's pegmatite there. We've stopped down and identified that there certainly is spodumene there. But we haven't done the field work. We haven't done the mapping and the channel sampling. And channel sampling is a way to fully test any sort of outcrops.

If you're just doing rock chips, there's a real bias. It's very hard. So when the geologists are picking away at it with a rock pick, you end up going for whatever you can get off, which is not truly representative. So maybe you can knock off a piece of spodumene, and that's great. It means there's spodumene there. But how representative is it for that particular outcrop? 

So channel samples are the way to go. You basically have an angle grinder with a diamond blade on it, and you cut a channel, and then you chip it out with a chisel. And it's almost like a horizontal drill hole. 

And people who have read our press release in detail will see that channel samples have been included as part of the information that's gone into that resource. So channel samples are a fantastic way to really understand what we have.

Gerardo Del Real: You mentioned a resource estimate in Q2 of 2024 on CV5. 

Blair Way: CV13.

Gerardo Del Real: CV13, I'm sorry. As far as a pre-feasibility study goes, are you looking to work both of those in there?

Blair Way: There's a possibility. We haven't decided a hard no. But right now, we're not. But obviously, as we're drilling CV13, there's a good chance that that may well be pulled into that PFS. We certainly haven't ruled it out. But we haven't decided yes as of yet. So obviously, part of a PFS trade-off. And this is one of those things you do as part of a PFS is you do a trade-off as to what ground. 

And then, of course, if you do include it, it's quite an extent. It's 9.8 km instead of 3.7 km because you’ve got to include the ground in between CV5 and CV13 even if it's just part of your area of impact when you're doing baseline work and all of that sort of data to feed into your EIS if you are using CV13. So there are things that we have to trade off on there. But certainly, it's not ruled out at this stage.

Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. As far as Albemarle goes, why nine months? One of the more interesting things to me was how specific that timeline was for a potential partnership and consideration of advancing the project forward in a more material way. Is there a specific reason why y'all settled on nine months?

Blair Way: Well, it was really just a negotiation. For us, nine months is almost a lifetime if you look where we were 12 months ago and what's happened. So for a large company like Albemarle, obviously, a longer time was more desirable. So we came up with a compromise. And we also have the ability to extend, and that's just keeping things open. If everything’s going well… it'll be extended. 

But the nine months is really just a function of the maturity of our company versus the maturity of Albemarle. Albemarle is a US$24 billion company. So they're pretty significant. And for them, the timing was less important. For us, because of where we are in our stage of a company, nine months is quite a long time for us. 

So everything is going well; it's all great. But if for some reason it wasn't, you just want to have those options there. We're certainly very optimistic that this is going to be a great relationship. We've already been building this relationship for almost 18 months now, and we've been able to work through this process to get to where we are. 

And obviously, there are some compromises on both sides to pull it together. But the fact is we were able to work together and come up with a solution that was suitable for both parties. And that's what's great about being able to work with companies that you connect with and that have similar cultures. And we're really looking forward to working with them and working through this whole lithium hydroxide integration with the Corvette property. 

We've always said, and you and I have spoken many times, my background is mining… I've done mineral processing but I haven't done chemical plants. I'm not a chemical engineer. I don't wear a white lab coat to work. These are very specialist skills, and it's hard. And there are lots of good examples of people thinking and hoping that they could figure it out and not doing it. 

And in fact, there's not one example yet of anyone achieving that. So I'm very cognizant of those challenges. I've been involved with things that many people think are easy, like nickel laterites or zinc refineries. And all of those things are a lot harder than people realize, and that's when you're working with people that have been doing it for decades. 

So we see the benefit of partnering and working with experts in the field. Just as what we have with the Corvette property is something pretty significant and a long-term solution for the supply chain, the battery material supply chain, in North America and even in Europe.

We're seeing some changes in Europe that are actually pushing the battery manufacturers to Canada. We're seeing Northvolt, we're seeing Volkswagen Group talking about setting up manufacturing capabilities in Quebec. And the reason for that, or certainly a contributor to that, is you're looking at some rules changing in Europe, which is suggesting that lithium hydroxide is not going to be that easy to transport around. 

So batteries may be the thing that you're going to have to transport to Germany for the OEMs there. So for us to be part of that supply chain to North America and to Europe, and to have this alignment and partnership with such a knowledgeable and skilled company as Albemarle in the lithium space, again, it just makes sense. And the nine months is just the start.

Gerardo Del Real: With the sneak peak resource at CV5, have you and Albemarle, or have either of you had discussions about the hydroxide facility? And in a perfect world, what would be ideal as far as capacity?

Blair Way: Certainly the scale is similar to what they're already doing so it would be at least a starter at 50,000 tonnes per annum and with the intention to expand to 100,000. 

That's a template for what we see at Kemerton and Western Australia. And most of the other plants you're seeing built are all along that scale; ultimately targeting a sizable hydroxide plant at around 100,000 tonnes per annum. But certainly starting out at 50 [thousand tonnes per annum] with the intent that it would be doubled to 100 [thousand tonnes per annum].

Gerardo Del Real: I'm usually not as off-the-cuff as I'm about to be… but I saw a few dumbass comments about underground mining and how deep some parts of the deposit were. 

I'm going to ask you one time — and this is the last time I’ll acknowledge comments from that group because they've clearly been wrong about a lot of things; y'all know who you are — any thoughts on the depth of the deposit and the challenges to mining what you've uncovered thus far while being clear that there's a lot to uncover, right?

Blair Way: Well maybe, Gerardo, they're just looking at the printout in portrait or on its side because it's not 3.7 km deep; it's 3.7 km long! It's only 300 meters deep. What do you consider an open pit; 300 meters is not that big a deal. 

Look, we don't know where it extends to depth. And definitely, from an underground mining point of view, there may well be a point in time when it makes sense but, right now, we're laterally extending it. Why would we consider underground mining when we have this nice, long, contiguous pegmatite body that we can just sort of pick away at to the east and to the west and extend and build tonnes at shallow depth? 

Maybe 10 or 20 years from now, when the geologists are really well-funded and they can actually figure out where the feeders are, maybe you go after that with an underground mine. You're seeing it at Greenbushes. There's talk of underground mining there after how many years… 20 years? Well, that mine has been there for almost 100 years.

So it's not to say underground is not a possibility in the future. But given the cost for development of an underground mine versus development for an open pit, and, yes, there's a lake at one end but at the other end, there is not; at CV13, there is not. The whole connection between CV5 and CV13, there is not water there as well. Permitting a lake to be drained to access a deposit is a normal process. If you don't have to do it, that's great. But if you have to, it's also achievable. 

I'm not sure why we would be considering an underground mine for 300 meters. You know what it is… it's because we put in that model that shows the Eiffel Tower and the CN Tower standing up… maybe they thought it's that deep and not that long because it's just to show the scale. I don't know. It's not that deep right now, Gerardo. It's only 325 meters deep so I don't think underground makes any sense at this point.

Gerardo Del Real: No, I absolutely agree; I had to ask. You mentioned two to three rigs turning now. How quick before you ramp up to the five that you're hoping for here this summer? And obviously, I'm hoping for ten by year-end if all goes well. But let's stick to the conservative estimate and talk about the five rigs. How quickly do we get that?

Blair Way: Well, we're only probably a week away from being at five rigs. A big part of that, of course, is we also are working away at building the camps. We need to get that camp in place, which allows us to have more rigs. The camp is key; beds close to site. 

Already, as I said, we have six rigs onsite. One of them is more for a spare rig because sometimes one is out of commission for maintenance and things like that so we were generally running five rigs. But we're probably a week, maybe a week and a half away, from the five rigs being all turning at the same time. 

So that's where we'll be, certainly, for August. And then, we'll see how things go as we move forward with resourcing it with people and equipment and the camp and the road and all of that sort of stuff as we go into September.

Gerardo Del Real: Excellent. As far as assays go, when do you anticipate a consistent news flow of those? And then, I will let you go, Blair, because you've been more than generous with your time with us today.

Blair Way: Yeah, I can't answer that. I always give the standard answer… again, I have to be very careful because I seem to be taken literally. 

When the lab processes it — we have to process it to get it to the lab — then, it gets trucked to the lab. Then, the lab receives it. Then, the lab processes it and usually lumps some of it together. And then, they submit the results to us, and it may not all come on the same day. 

So we will collect some of those results, and then we assemble them, we process them, and then prepare a press release. So in reality, it may only take the labs a month or maybe a bit more than a month to process.

And then, we probably take, counting the processing with the core after drilling and counting the processing of the data after receiving it, it probably takes it closer to eight weeks, maybe even 10. And if there's a Christmas holiday in there… we're not going to release over Christmas, for example. 

So answering the question, I'm not sure yet because the labs, I'm hoping, because they're not that backlogged, that maybe it'll be a little quicker. But I'm not going to say that because then I'll be crucified, if for some reason, they're not. So my expectation is, if we've started drilling now, we might get some assays, what's that, we're in August, say, September, so maybe by Halloween we should have some assays to talk about.

I hope sooner but I don't want to get crucified again for it because it seems to be something some people seem to think they know how to do it better. But it actually is a complex process putting this together, and we are reporting and accountable under a number of rules, ASX and TSX, so we have to make sure we get it right every time. 

No one's going to be really appreciating if we try and jam something out quickly and then have to do a retraction because we made a mistake or some sort of rule was overlooked. So it's a process, and they will be released when they're released. And we release them as soon as we can, subject to what else is going on.

Gerardo Del Real: Last one, I promise. In regard to the C$109 million from Albemarle, you had a quote in the press release that mentioned that the funds would allow you to more aggressively advance the Corvette property through drilling, permitting, study work, and more. Can you touch on the next several months worth of catalysts and what that and more could imply?

Blair Way: Sure. Certainly, when we say that, obviously, the drilling is one of the key things… but also, a big part of it is advancing things like baseline study work. That feeds into the EIS, which is part of the project permitting. 

So project permitting is certainly an important process for us to be able to get to the point of being able to construct and into production. So we're targeting our project description, which is a commencement of the permitting process, or a trigger of the starting of permitting. And that is both with the federal and provincial government that it does include also the lake in that description and the impacts. So that's the start of the permitting process. We intend to get that in by the end of this year.

That then kicks off that permitting process, which is about two and a half years. So part of that permitting process is having the baseline environmental data in place. That's one of the things we're doing right now. We did it this past winter. We've obviously had a stop during the summer fires but we're back on the ground again this weekend with the baseline work. That's an important part of what we have to do. 

We're working towards a PFS for the end of Q2 next year. That also feeds into the process of the permitting to take us then from PFS to feasibility study and, of course, the drilling that supports that. The goal is that we'll be permitted for construction by 2027 and commissioning and operating in 2028.

The other milestone, of course, is the CV13 drilling we already talked about and the resource targeted for Q2 2024. In addition to that, there's the work that we'll be doing with Albemarle. And, of course, this is just fresh off-the-press so we don't have specific timelines as to what we're able to share as we progress through that. 

Some of it will be confidential as it's really trade-offs and things like that that don't need to be in the public space while we're doing it. But certainly the catalysts are drilling and getting more drills and becoming more efficient with our utilization of helicopters so that we can basically produce more core and process more core and get it to the labs. 

Gerardo Del Real: Catalysts… what comes next… the drilling?

Blair Way: Drilling is ultimately going to be what delivers the growth that we expect to see but also de-risking the main project and the PFS development work at CV5 and moving it forward and de-risking it through the permitting process… and we'll be able to provide updates as we work through the project permitting as well. The drilling will continue for many, many, many months into years as we continue to drill the many targets that we have and then look at the potential connectivity. 

Ultimately, what lays ahead of us — even in the targets that we've mapped out between CV8, CV9, CV10, CV12, and CV13 and all the way to CV5, that's a 20 km trend — if there is connectivity there that's demonstrated by the drilling, or even if some of these are connected, it's going to be pretty significant beyond what we've identified already.

Gerardo Del Real: I assume you're still having many friendly conversations with many, many major chemical and mining companies.

Blair Way: Absolutely. We're always very friendly and willing to share. Clearly, with us working with Albemarle, we have some commitments there that we'll fulfill. But at the same time, we're not restricted from talking to people, and we are in a good position right now. 

We're well-funded. We'll get back to work on the ground now that the fires are over. We'll be working with Albemarle, and we will have site visits and the like. And there may well be some friendlies coming through. But we're in a good place right now. We’ll just continue with the work and the drilling and the derisking of the CV5 project.

Gerardo Del Real: Blair, thanks for your time. Appreciate it… keep at it!

Blair Way: Thanks, Gerardo. Always great to catch up!

Gerardo Del Real: Cheers.

Click here to see more from Patriot Battery Metals Inc.