‘Technology metals’ are needed now more than ever. Moving from an industrial mode of living to an electronic one may reduce our use of fossil fuels, but there are other demands that our computers and even our green energy technology make, and these essential metals are what Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp. seeks out. We spoke with Frederick Kozak, the company’s new President, to learn more about this industry and how Appia is striving to set itself apart as it answers this need.
“The global drive to convert an internal combustion engine world to an electric-powered world (to mitigate or reduce climate change) has resulted in a forecast for massive growth in electric motors,” Frederick tells us. These motors are for much more than just cars: “Uses include windmills and transportation, but there is no visible way to meet the demand growth that has been forecast. Clean renewable energy and electric vehicles will possibly be the biggest disruption of this decade.”
This is exciting news for the green movement, but what does it mean for mining exploration companies such as Appia?
“There are a number of companies exploring for rare earths; the world needs every single rare earth deposit that can be economically developed. Rare earths are not actually all that rare – but economically recoverable rare earths deposits are the issue. There are a number of producing rare earths deposits around the world, but these only satisfy current demand and cannot even come close to meeting estimated future demand.”
We’re so used to horror headlines these days that at a glance, it seems like Frederick is describing another crisis for us all to worry about, but that isn’t the case. These ‘technology metals’ are out there, but like all mined materials, they need to be found, and this creates an exciting and lucrative need for mining exploration companies who are willing to turn their hands to the task.
One of the reasons that companies such as Appia are feeling a fire under their feet from the technology industry is that currently, the rare earths industry is heavily dominated by China, almost to the point of monopoly. “China has dominated the rare earths industry for more than a decade and controls 90+% of the product supply,” Frederick tells us. “This is particularly unpalatable, as it means that rare earths/critical materials that are used in everyday life, including key military applications, are controlled by one country that is not necessarily ‘friendly’ to Western interests.” Currently, we pretty much rely on China not only for the materials needed to make our computers and smartphones, but our green energy systems and, worryingly, much of our military equipment. As we’ve all unfortunately lived through far too recently, tensions over resources can lead to military action from our governments, but thankfully, it doesn’t look like the West is planning to repeat its history. Instead, companies are simply searching to find supply of its own and to open up the rare earths market, to global benefit.
“Simply put,” Frederick explains, “Forecasted demand does not currently have sufficient supply to satisfy it.” However, that’s where exploration companies like Appia come in. “It is Appia’s goal to become a major producer of critical rare earths in North America and to become part of the supply chain being developed by Western nations to minimize the reliance on China for these materials.“
Focusing both on rare earths and uranium, the Canadian mineral exploration company is exploring in the Athabasca Basin area of northern Saskatchewan, one of the best mining jurisdictions in the world, and it owns a 100% interest in the historic uranium mining camp at Elliot Lake, Ontario. More than 300 million pounds of U3O8 have been produced and it is the only area in Canada with historic rare earths production (yttrium). These Canadian-only sites look to make the most of Canada’s ongoing rich mining potential, and to ensure that the potential it discovers remains in Canadian hands. “That said,” Frederick adds, “While resource extraction is in Canada, potential buyers could be domestic or international.”
Appia’s flagship exploration venture is a rare earths property at Alces Lake, northern Saskatchewan. It first began exploring this site in 2017, and after the results revealed by the company’s drilling, has been described as one of the world’s best rare earths prospects [NTD: as a public company, we cannot call it a deposit, but you certainly can! (we use “prospect”)]. That’s not a bad property to have in your pipeline! This particular deposit is entirely made up of monazite, a rare phosphate mineral that is an important source of thorium, cerium, and other critical rare earth elements.
Unusual for a monazite deposit, exploration identified high grade Total Rare Earth Oxide with up to 49 wt% TREO (average grades of 16.65 wt% TREO and 3.85 wt% CREO) on or near the surface of the future mine site. This vast concentration of the material being found at the surface is as uncommon as it is fortuitous for Appia. On top of this good fortune, gallium has also been identified within the monazite, which is a second valuable critical metal itself.
This site’s fortune seems to just keep on growing: “The Alces Lake project is located in Saskatchewan, where the only rare earths processing facility in Canada is currently under construction by the Saskatchewan Research Council,” Frederick told us regarding the flagship. “The first phase of the SRC facility is scheduled for start-up in early 2023. Given the proximity to Appia’s property, this is a distinct economic and competitive advantage.”
All in all, this is a property that a company would want in their portfolio, and it isn’t the only one Appia is exploring. The company is also carrying out a uranium search in the eastern Athabasca Basin area, where it has identified potential for targeting at or near-surface, high grade uranium and its associated mineral system. Again, these sites seem to be extremely well placed, all of them on properties that are near existing infrastructure. This result is partly good luck, and partly intelligent planning and investment from Appia.
Frederick Kozak only joined Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp. as its President recently, in March this year. Mid-pandemic, or at the very least, in the early months of emerging from such, he chose an interesting time to join the team! “I joined Appia from outside the company. I come from a 40-year career in the resources extraction industry as well as the capital markets, where I was a globally-recognized equities analyst as well as an industry senior executive.” As such, he had an excellent insight into which companies were the most promising and viable within the resource sectors, and Appia stood out to him. “I was attracted to Appia after being involved in the rare earths sector for a period of time. I was doing extensive research analysis and commentary on the best rare earths companies in the world and was fortunate to have the opportunity to join Appia, which I had previously identified in the top ten exploration companies globally.”
Appia is a small company, in terms of its personnel, as is always the case with exploration companies. However, the potential of its properties is huge, and yet it is this small and dedicated body of people that Frederick sees as the company’s greatest resource. ““I am a student of best practises in leadership having worked in both effective and ineffective organizations as my career advanced. Simply put, I value people, every day. In decision-making or problem-solving meetings, I listen to everyone first.”
Although Frederick came in from the outside, Appia favours internal promotion where possible, and recently saw its Alces Lake Project Manager, Nicolas Guest, be promoted up to Vice President of Exploration.
“Our people are our best asset. Great people with good leadership will be the most successful teams. Combine this with world-class assets and you have a company that should be one of the best in the world. That is my vision for Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp.”