Cesium - The Most Important Metal You've Never Heard Of

Oil & Gas
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Thursday, March 26, 2020 / 7:15 PM / by Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com / Header Image Credit: Global Research

The 5G revolution, American military defense, and even time itself are dependent on this one critical metal that China monopolizes and that the U.S. is desperate to get more of. 

The metal is Cesium, and it's quite possible you've never even heard of it--yet, global dominance, which depends on technological superiority, can't happen without it. 

In May 2018 Cesium was added to the list of critical minerals by the United States Department of the Interior. 

In fact, there are 16 metals in total that are absolutely critical to high-tech industries, military applications and telecommunications--and China controls the supply of every single one because it controls 96% of production. 

That includes cesium, for which China has a monopoly on stockpiles, mines aren't really producing anymore, and the United States has none, leaving North America's only hope in Canada. 

Of five cesium occurrences in Canada's Ontario province, a small-cap Canadian miner called Power Metals owns 100% of three of them (West Joe, Tot Lake and Marko). 

Time Is Running Out for This Most Strategic of Metals 

Cesium is so secretive and obscure that it's nearly impossible to track its real market price. 

It's strategic in and of itself, but its rarity makes it even more critical. 

The supreme technological war of global dominance can't be won without these metals, so whoever controls them has the upper hand. 

Cesium is described by the German Institute for Strategic Metals (ISE) as "the most electropositive of all stable elements in the periodic table", and the heaviest of the stable metals. Cesium is "extremely pyrophoric, ignites spontaneously when in contact with air, and explodes violently in water or ice at any temperature above -116 C". 

The strategic metal's applications in the healthcare industry are expected to soar as laboratories already use cesium compounds in medical imaging, cancer therapy, positron emission tomography (PET) and others. 

The latest market analysis by Technavio predicts the cesium market will grow by 1.66 thousand MT between 2020 and 2014, driven by everything from catalyst promoters, glass amplifiers, photoelectric cell components, crystals in scintillation counters, and getters in vacuum tubes. 

Much cesium demand also comes from the oil and gas industry, which uses cesium formate brines in drilling fluids to prevent blow-outs in high-temperature, over-pressurized wells. 

In terms of world dominance, the "cesium standard" is the key. This is the standard by which the accurate commercially available atomic clocks measure time, and it's vital for the data transmission infrastructure of mobile networks, GPS and the internet. 

That means it has serious defense applications as well, including in infrared detectors, optics, night vision goggles and much, much more. A cesium laser has even been invested for use in missile defense and other technological applications. 

So, imagine China being able to starve manufacturers of something like cesium, which would seriously disrupt U.S. industry and hinder the development of critical military equipment. 

That's why, finally, in December 2019, the United States and Canada agreed on a strategy to reduce the need for rare-earth metals mined or controlled by China. 

Wide Open Playing Field 

The only company in the cesium supply chain right now is Chinese, and one of the only companies on the radar for potential commercial cesium supplies in North America is Canadian junior Power Metals, which is hoping to prove that it's sitting on the world's fourth deposit of the critical metal. 

The company discovered the pegmatites at West Joe Dyke in August 2018, intersecting high-grade cesium mineralization in six drill holes when it was targeting lithium instead. 

So, the focus now is not on what has been lost to China, but the promise of new North American critical cesium. 

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But Dr. Julie Selway, a key geologist for the Ontario Geological Survey during the tantalum boom of the early 2000s, and now VP of exploration for Power Metals, says the three properties the company is drilling are likely to have similar finds as the strategically important Sinclair mine in Australia. 

"They are shipping their resource, which they say is higher than 10% cesium-oxide, and ours have some that are between 12% and 14% of cesium-oxide," Selway--one of the world's most renowned experts on pegmatites--told Oilprice.com. 

Power Metals has intersected cesium (Cs) mineralization in 6 drill holes on West Joe Dyke, with "exceptionally high-grade" Li and Ta intervals. They also found Cs mineralization in drill core in the first new dyke below Main Dyke, as well as in the drill core in Northeast Dyke. 

On February 20th, Power Metals announced its exploration plans, and will begin stripping and channel sampling on West Joe Dyke in the Q2 of this year already. That's when they'll expose, sample and assay the cesium mineralization on surface outcrops to find more cesium-bearing pegmatite dykes nearby. 

This is one big chance to one-up Beijing, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has tried to manipulate the market so critical metals such as Cesium are cheaper in China than outside the country. What this did was prompt some major manufacturers and tech industries to set up shop in China, where they could get supplies at a lower cost. 

You might not have heard of cesium before, but you will hear about it soon because North America needs its own supply if it's going to win the war for global technological dominance--and the front line of defense could end up being West Joe Dyke, and a junior explorer that not only thinks strategically, but may be sitting on one of the only deposits that China doesn't control. 

Other companies shaking up China's rare-earth dominance: 

Teck Resources (NYSE:TECK, TSX:TECK) 

Teck could be one of the best-diversified miners out there, with a broad portfolio of Copper, Zinc, Energy, Gold, Silver and Molybdenum assets. Its free cash flow and a lower volatility outlook for base metals in combination with a potential trade war breakthrough could send the stock higher in H2 of this year. 

Teck's share price stabilized last year and many investment banks now see the stock as undervalued. Low prices for Canadian crude and disappointing base metals prices weighed on Q4 earnings. 

Despite its struggles, however, Teck Resources recently received a favorable investment rating from Fitch and Moody's, and will likely benefit from its upgraded score. "Having investment grade ratings is very important to us and confirms the strong financial position of the company," said Don Lindsay, President and CEO. "We are very pleased to receive this second credit rating upgrade." 

Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ ,TSX:TRQ) 

Turqouise is a mid-cap Canadian mineral exploration and development company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its focus is on the Pacific Rim where it is in the process of developing several large mines. 

The company mines a diversified set of metals/minerals including Coal, Gold, Copper, Molybdenum, Silver, Rhenium, Uranium, Lead and Zinc. One of the fortes of Turquoise hill is its good relationship with mining giant Rio Tinto. 

Turquoise has seen its share price languish last year, and the successful development of its world-class Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia is of utmost important to the future of this miner. 

Pretium Resources (NYSE:PVG, TSX:PVG) 

This impressive Canadian company is engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of precious metal resource properties in the Americas. Pretium has an impressive portfolio and if you can catch the stock while the price is right, there could be huge opportunity for upside. Additionally, construction and engineering activities at its top location continue to advance, and commercial production is targeted for this year. 

With Pretium's variety of assets, this mining giant is a key figure in Canada's resource realm. Investors know a good thing when they see it and have definitely taken note of this company's ambitious and forward-looking drive. 

Magna International (NYSE:MGA, TSX:MG) 

Based in Aurora, Ontario, Magna is a global automotive supplier is gutsy and innovative--and definitely tuned to the obvious future--clean transportation. A great catalyst is its development of a combo electric/hydrogen vehicle--a fuel cell range-extended EV (FCREEV). It's not going to produce them (for now, at least) but plans to use the model to show off its engineering and design prowess and produce elements of the electric drivetrain and contract manufacturing. It's insightful, forward-thinking and smart value/low cost for shareholders. 

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd (NYSE:AEM, TSX:AEM) 

Canadian based gold producer, Agnico Eagle Mines is an especially noteworthy company for investors. Why? Between 1991-2010, the company paid out dividends every year. With operations in Quebec, Mexico, and Finland, the company also is taking place in exploration activities in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. 

While Agnico primarily focuses on gold, it made this list because it's a prime example of sustainability and environmental consciousness, and that means everything in a world rapidly shifting away from traditional mining. 

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