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Wyoming-based and ASX-based lithium explorer Chariot Corporation (ASX:CC9) has confirmed it has kicked off its exploration campaign for the 2024 summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, going after lithium pegmatite targets – and spodumene – across its landholding portfolio.

But that easily digestible exploration story of Chariot’s (a company which boasts one of the largest lithium acreages in the US) is just the visible crest of a far larger iceberg: the USA’s urgent development of a domestic and self-sustaining lithium supply chain.

The key impetus for such a feat is that it should allow the US to decouple its own critical mineral requirements from China-based suppliers who historically – and still to this day – remain the dominant players for the global downstream processing market. Currently, you need to work with Chinese processing heavyweights to secure your own lithium supply.

For many countries, particularly the US, that relationship seems one-sided.

‘Trade wars’ underscore urgency

It remains the case Chinese-US ‘trade wars’ during the Trump years were only stepped up by Biden in recent history with tariffs now placed against EV parts and solar panels; microchips, and other technologies required for global energy transition (and modernisation of defence assets.)

In a similar case, just look to the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Qiang to Western Australia, and the reverence that diplomatic meeting received, to understand how much influence China can exert on a country.

That becomes particularly palpable should it decides to be less cooperative, which is the true nature of all ‘trade wars’ the world has seen China affected by, and use against other nations, through the COVID years.

Which brings us to lithium – the key mineral that enables the ongoing production of EVs, one day – in the minds of true believers – set to eventually overtake production of cars requiring petrol and diesel.

US lithium capacity a sovereignty keystone

Well-known as a critical mineral, the USA’s ability to mine, process, and utilise its own lithium ore feedstock into EV battery-ready grade lithium products is a key agenda on the country’s strategic radar – and one which ratifies the sovereign independence of the world’s leading economy in a changing world.

“This summer exploration program is hugely significant for the company,” Chariot Corporation Managing Director Shanthar Pathmanathan told HotCopper.

“US lithium production is going to become the next play in the lithium market. The US itself is heavily endowed with lithium and can provide its own downstream sector with ore.”

Pathmanathan is so bullish, in fact, he told HotCopper he expects the US to become of the world’s largest lithium market in a not-too-distant future.

While that remains to be seen, it’s worth noting Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) legislation – which was, in truth, a climate spending bill disguised as a cost of living relief package – included no shortage of initiatives to boost US domestic critical mineral supply and processing.

According to leading lithium commodities research firm Benchmark Minerals Intelligence (BMI), the IRA led to over US$110B of investments being made into clean energy manufacturing projects.

No shortage of battery gigafactories continue to sprout across the United States, with the infrastructural backbone of a domestic US lithium supply chain ever becoming reality.

At the forefront of this trend that Chariot Corporation stands poised to kick off its 2024 exploration campaign. BMI, on its part, expects a lithium price recovery in 2028, as the commodity cycle for the battery metal orbits back to a state where demand outpaces supply.

Summer season allows full access on-site

It’s in this context bright summer skies see the company returning to its landholdings in The Equality State, alongside the consult of two established lithium geologists – Ralph Porter and Michael Cronwright – as the hunt for on-site deposits the battery metal kicks off.

Chariot is keenly aware of the value these consultants can provide – Ralph Porter used to work for Western Australia’s Greenbushes lithium mine, the largest in the world.

“We’re being advised by global geological consultants ERM … [who are] some of the most experienced globally. Ralph used to work at the Greenbushes lithium mine, the largest on the planet, and they have advised us to take a systemic approach,” Pathmanathan explained to HotCopper.

“[Today’s news] is a signal of us escalating our exploration activities in Wyoming. The North American summer is upon us, and we already completed the Phase 1 drill program, in the midst of winter, shortly after our IPO.”

That’s no easy feat in the USA, where the northern hemisphere winter is a different story to that which is experienced in Australia. Further North in Canada, winter conditions regularly freeze soil on the surface, such that drill rigs have a hard time penetrating below.

Indicator minerals, pegmatites and spodumene

It should be noted Wyoming has a lot of mountainous geology with at least 109 mountain ranges officially noted by US government geological authorities. The same ancient forces that created the Rockys in Colorado were also active further north, shaping land which is today what we call Wyoming.

Early-stage nature of Phase 1 works at the time allowed for limited activity on-site – but only the summer season allows a full-blown, fully accessible acreage.

And what Chariot already knows to be accessible is evidence of feldspar mineralisation – an indicator mineral suggesting further lithium mineralisation could be present in the area.

The company is also preparing to drill pegmatite and spodumene targets known to be present across its landholdings.

“We were hamstrung by winter conditions [but have identified feldspar closer to Summer.] Feldspar geochemistry, globally, has been an extremely highly correlated indicator of large lithium pegmatite orebody systems,” Pathmanathan said.

“We’re looking for fractionation trends [underground] … the better the potential for mineralisation … a portable rig will allow drillers to walk out to the target.”

Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by Chariot Corporation.

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