Rio Tinto Exploration Canada (RTEC) has signed a new option agreement with Midland Exploration, for 10 highly prospective lithium properties in the James Bay region, Quebec.

The properties include Mythril-Corvette, Mythril-East, Mythril-Chisaayuu, Galinee, Moria, Shire, Komo, Warp, Sulu, and Picard.

Covering a surface area of more than 1,000km², they hold a total of 2,009 claims.

Under the terms of the agreement, RTEC will initially acquire a 50% stake in the properties over five years, subject to certain conditions.

The conditions include RTEC making a $500,000 payment in cash within 45 days of the lifting of wildfire restrictions in Quebec, to start operations on the properties.

Midland said that the exploration expenditures will amount to a total of $14.5m, including a firm commitment to spend not less than $2m in the first 18 months after the lifting of restrictions.

Upon obtaining an initial 50% interest, RTEC can increase its interest in the properties to 70%, after five years from the exercise of the first option.

The second option is subject to funding an additional $50m in exploration expenditures.

RTEC will act as a project operator during the first option period and second option periods.

The signing of the agreement follows Midland’s recent identification of several new exploration targets for lithium on the properties.

The new targets include three new projects recently acquired by map designation as a result of Midland’s in-house analysis of lake bottom sediment data.

Midland and RTEC, both intend to prepare a summer exploration programme that initially includes airborne surveys and prospecting.

Their activities are subject to the easing of restrictions related to the ongoing wildfires in Quebec, the safety of employees and contractors, and local priority to local communities.

The properties are located near significant lithium deposits such as Corvette, Moblan, Adina, Whabouchi and James Bay Lithium, within the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region, Quebec.