Rose lithium-tantalum (Li-Ta) mine is a planned open-pit lithium-tantalum project in northern Québec’s administration region in Canada. The project is owned by Critical Elements Lithium Corporation.

The lithium-tantalum mine will produce technical grade spodumene concentrate for the glass and ceramics industry, chemical grade spodumene concentrate for batteries, and tantalite concentrate.

The company has already received all main environmental authorisations to move forward with the project.

The results of a new feasibility study on the Rose Lithium-Tantalum project were announced in June 2022.

As per the study, Rose project will produce 173,317 tonnes of chemical grade 5.5% spodumene concentrate, 51,369 tonnes of technical grade 6.0% spodumene concentrate and 441 tonnes of tantalum concentrate per year.

During the first quarter of 2023, the front-end engineering design (FEED) and value engineering studies for the process plant and ancillary infrastructure were completed.

Initial preparation work for the mine is expected to begin by the end of 2023, subject to receipt of financing and building permits.

The mine life is expected to be 19 years. The initial capital cost is estimated to be $357m and sustaining capital of $126m over the life of mine.

Location and site details

The project is located in the administration region of northern Québec, on Eeyou Istchee James Bay territory.

The site is in Category III land on the Traditional Lands of the Eastmain Community around 40km north of Nemaska’s Cree village.

The project has 473 active mining titles covering an area of more than 24,654hectares.

History of the Rose Li-Ta Project

Before 2005, most of the historical work conducted at the site comprised regional surveys by the Government of Québec or a few mining companies. This included geological surveys, technical evaluation and airborne geophysical surveys among others.

The exploration led to the identification of four showings- two of which (Rose and Pivert) were subsequently further examined.

De Beers Canada carried out an airborne geophysical survey of the site in 2005.

Cambior performed geochemistry, technical evaluation, and airborne geophysical surveys in 2006 and Dios Exploration, Sirios Resources, Iamgold, MRN and UQAC conducted geochemistry, geology, ground and airborne geophysics, and compilation in 2007. Similar surveys were carried out in 2008 and 2009.

In November 2010, First Gold (now Critical Elements Lithium Corporation) announced the closing of a transaction to increase its interest in the Pivert-Rose Project from 85% to 100%.

Geology, Mineralisation and Mineral Resource Estimate

In terms of geology, the Rose project is situated at the north-east end of the Archean Lake Superior Province of the Canadian Shield.

Located in the southern part of the Middle and Lower Eastmain Greenstone Belt (MLEGB), the property is mostly underlain by intrusive lithologies which are mainly syntectonic.

The type of rocks present in the property are gabbros, pyroxenites and diorites cutting through its geology. The other rock types present are dacite, gneiss, quartzite, and conglomerate.

The mineralisation of the property consists of rare element Lithium-Cesium-Tantalum (LCT)-type pegmatites with molybdenum occurrences. The Rose and Pivert exhibit lithium and rare-element mineralisation in pegmatites.

The ore body is comparatively flat and is located close to the surface.

According to the latest Mineral Resources estimate for the Rose Lithium-Tantalum Project, it has an indicated mineral resource estimate of 31.5Mt grading 0.91% lithium oxide (Li2O) and 148 parts per million (ppm) tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) and Inferred Mineral Resources of 2.7Mt grading 0.77% Li2O and 141ppm Ta2O5.

During the Feasibility Study, a Mineral Reserve Estimate for 17 mineralised zones was also prepared with an effective date of May 2022.

The project is estimated to contain 26.8Mt of probable reserves grading 0.87% Li2O and 138ppm of Ta2O5.

Mining and ore processing

The Rose Lithium-Tantalum Project is expected to employ a conventional truck and shovel open-pit approach to mine the probable mineral reserves.

According to the feasibility report, the property will mine around 219.6Mt of material over the life of mine. This will include 26.3Mt of ore, 182.4Mt of waste, and 10.9Mt of overburden for an average stripping ratio of 7.35:1.

The mining production rate will be between 11 and 16Mt of rock material annually, and may decrease towards the end of the mine life.

The pit design is based on single benching with 10m bench heights and the final design will be based on selected optimised pit shell and geotechnical parameters. There will be haulage ramp access to all benches, while the final bench which will be dug using a temporary ramp.

The mining plan includes four phases.

An open pit mining schedule estimates a life of mine (LOM) of approximately 19 years, including 19 months of pre-production, more than 16 years of production and another five months to process stockpiles.

For storing waste, two stockpiles have been designed.

The mining and production fleet will consist of one backhoe excavator, one electric front shovel, one wheel loader, 14 haul trucks, two rotary drills, one DTH drill, two bulldozers, one wheel dozer, two graders, one auxiliary excavator, one auxiliary wheel loader and two water trucks.

Around 220 people, excluding contractors, will be employed at the peak of mining operations.

The ore will be processed by the spodumene plant, located near the mine. It will be designed to process 4,900 tonnes per day.

The Run of Mine (ROM) will be transported to the crushing plant and the ore will be crushed in three stages to a P80 12.7mm by jaw crusher, secondary cone crusher, and tertiary cone crusher.

The crushed ore will be stored under a storage dome and will be grounded in a ball mill to P80 220µm grind size.

Then, it will be transported to the magnetic separation circuit to recover tantalum grading 2.0% Ta2O5 from the flotation feed.

The recovered tantalite will be thickened, filtered, dried to 1% moisture in a rotary dryer, and stored in a tantalite silo where it will be packed in 1tonne bags.

From the magnetic separation circuit, the non-magnetic material will be de-slimed before mica flotation.

The flotation circuit consists of mica flotation, attrition scrubbing, and spodumene flotation.

In the flotation circuit, mica concentrates, slimes from scrubbing, and spodumene scavenger tailings, will be thickened and filtered in a vacuum disc filter. This will produce tailings with a 15% moisture content for dry stacking.

The tailings will be transported to the waste rock facility, while the spodumene flotation concentrate will be thickened and then filtered and dried to 5% moisture in a rotary dryer.

The dried spodumene concentrate will be stored in a silo, and will be shipped in bulk loads.

Rose Li-Ta Project infrastructure

Rose Lithium-Tantalum Project is accessible from Nemaska’s Cree community through Eastmain-1 road. The closest airport to the project is in Nemaska.

The infrastructure includes waste rock and dry tailings co-deposit stockpile including a toe berm for dry tailings retention and dripping water filtration.

Other key facilities will include ore stockpile and industrial pad; surface water management ponds; pumping stations; explosive and cap magazine storage; LNG storage and distribution system; diesel  and gasoline storage and distribution systems; truck shop; warehouse; administrative building; and a spodumene process plant with a capacity of 1,610,000 tonnes per year among others.

Power supply

The project is expected to have a power demand of about 13,486kW (15,615kVA) and up to 20MVA in reserve. This is accepted by state-owned energy utility Hydro-Québec.

Two 15 MVA (20 MVA with one ventilation stage) electrical transformers (315 to 25 kV) are expected to be installed to meet power requirements of the mine.

Two 15MW transformers will operate simultaneously to supply power to the site and processing plant.

The power lines of up to 15.5km are planned for the project.

Contractors involved

The Rose Lithium-Tantalum Project Feasibility Study technical report, effective June 2022, was prepared by WSP Canada. WSP was responsible for preparing project infrastructure, environmental study, financial modelling, and report integration. InnovExplo and Bumigeme were also involved in preparing the technical report.

SGS Canada conducted tests between 2013 and 2015 to improve lithium and tantalum recoveries. The testing, inspection and certification company also designed a conceptual design flowsheet in 2015, and conducted a pilot plant programme on two samples from the Rose project in early 2017.

Cantor Fitzgerald Canada was hired by Critical Elements Lithium as the financial advisor for advancing the project.

Primero completed the first phase of its Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) agreement with Critical Elements Lithium and provided a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) of the Rose Lithium-Tantalum project on a lump-sum turnkey basis.

Secor conducted a location study for the carbonate processing plant of the project.

Genivar won the contract to conduct an environmental study and a feasibility study for the surface installations. Ambuck Associates was involved with mine design, while AMEC led a tailings facility study.