Lithium exploration near a popular Yellowknife hiking spot is ramping up.
A short hike away from the Ingraham trail, Hidden Lake is a popular recreation area for Yellowknifers to hike, paddle or fish. It could also be the site of one of North America’s largest lithium deposits.
This week, Li-FT Power Ltd. announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and will begin drilling in the area at the beginning of June.
Another company, RGV Lithium, is waiting for approval to begin drilling later this year.
And last week, Australian company Loyal Lithium announced that it had acquired six mineral claims in the area, including four which have already been drilled.
Adam Ritchie, Loyal Lithium’s managing director, said there are a couple of things that make the Hidden Lake area especially attractive for exploration. The area is thought to contain spodumene, or hard rock lithium — the most valuable kind of lithium deposit.
“Not only is it high-quality, the quantities look great … we’re on a highway, and we’re very close to a developed capital city, which makes us even more excited,” he said.
“Yes, there [are] a few players that have entered the market, but there will be a lot more that are looking around for viable deposits.”
Loyal Lithium, like the other companies working in the Hidden Lake area right now, is still in the early exploration stage. Ritchie says that if they do find a viable deposit, it would likely take at least five to seven years to get a mine up and running.
Lithium exploration and mining is heating up across Canada.
The metal is a key ingredient in batteries, including electric vehicle batteries. Ritchie says that has driven up demand, and prices, over the last couple of years.
The federal government has also included lithium in its critical mineral strategy, which includes a 30 per cent critical mineral exploration tax credit.
Hunting, fishing, berry picking
Noah Johnson is the regulatory officer for the North Slave Métis Alliance (NSMA), one of the Indigenous groups with traditional territory close to Hidden Lake.
Johnson says that in the last six months, he’s seen more companies reaching out to the North Slave Métis Alliance about lithium exploration.
He says that for the North Slave Métis Alliance, lithium mining might open up economic opportunities for members especially as diamond mines in the territory begin to close. But he says there are also concerns, as Hidden Lake is an important area where many members do traditional activities.
“It’s a very popular spot for members throughout the year for land use — hunting, fishing, berry picking. And a lot of members have cabins in the area,” he said.
Johnson said that at the early exploration stage, the main concern is noise disturbance from drilling. Right now, the North Slave Métis Alliance isn’t too concerned about impacts on wildlife, but he said its something that would become a concern if a mine were to open in the area.
“NSMA is not against development, but it’s got to be a a socially and environmentally responsible development, and in particular in some of these areas like Hidden Lake,” he said.
Read the full article here