Under the terms of the Master Services Agreement and as a part of the DFS, Samuel is, among other things, conducting studies that address the Coosa Project’s location, raw materials, product quality, infrastructure and other preliminary assessments, which will provide cost estimates for Phases I and II of the Coosa Project, identifying long-lead items and providing detailed specifications for these items to be ordered, as well as preparing designs and drawings for the detailed engineering phase prior to construction.
The DFS is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2021. Westwater plans to utilize the DFS as a basis for engaging financial institutions and to start the construction of the plant, which is anticipated to begin around the end of 2021. Completion of Phase I is planned for the end of 2022, with production anticipated in 2023.
Vanadium Target Identification
In late November 2018, Westwater announced the discovery of significant concentration of vanadium mineralization at several locations, hosted in the graphitic schists at the Coosa Project. Westwater subsequently commenced the first of a four-phase exploration program designed to determine the extent, character and quality of the vanadium mineralization at the Coosa Project. As announced by the Company on February 19, 2019, the first phase demonstrated widespread positive values for vanadium that extended beyond the Coosa graphite deposit, as defined in the 2015 Preliminary Economic Assessment for the Coosa Project.
The second phase of this project began in April 2021. Scope for this effort includes drilling various targets to expand our knowledge of the geology, examining the core and/or cuttings for mineral constituents, and adding to our geologic model. In addition, vanadium mineralization is expected to be evaluated using extractive metallurgy techniques to ascertain any economic potential.
Graphite and Vanadium Listed as Critical Materials
On February 24, 2021, the President signed an Executive Order that seeks to provide for more resilient supply chains to revitalize and rebuild domestic manufacturing capacity and maintain America’s competitive edge in research and development. Graphite and vanadium are specifically named as critical minerals in which the U.S. is heavily dependent on China for its supply.
The President’s declaration asks the Secretary of Energy, as part of larger study involving several branches of the U.S. government, to submit a report within 100 days identifying risks to the supply chain for high-capacity batteries including those that power electric vehicles. This effort could be important to Westwater’s plans to develop its battery graphite business in the United States. The new order builds upon the prior Administration’s Executive Order issued on September 30, 2020 related to critical minerals.
The U.S. is 100% dependent on imports for battery-grade graphite, which is currently the primary anode material in the Lithium-Ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops, electric vehicles, and store power generated from intermittent renewable energy sources. Westwater intends to develop the Coosa Graphite Project to supply natural flake graphite for beneficiation into battery-grade graphite for all types of batteries.
Further details on the Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains can be found at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/02/24/executive-order-on-americas-supply-chains/.
Westwater will work to support the efforts by the relevant agencies in the U.S. government and will ensure that they remain aware of the importance of battery-grade graphite, its importance to the nation’s security, and how the Coosa Graphite Project fits into the critical minerals-equation.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and our Actions to Ensure Safety
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The pandemic spread outside of China during the first quarter of 2020 and has impacted businesses and economies throughout the world. In the U.S., many state and local governments have, based on local conditions, either recommended or mandated actions to slow the transmission of COVID-19. These measures range from limitations on crowd size to mandatory orders for non-