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Dart brings global miner into east coast lithium play

In a strong show of validation, Dart Mining has teamed up with world-leading lithium miner and producer Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A, via its wholly owned subsidiary SQM Australia in an earn-in agreement for its Dorchap lithium project in north-east Victoria.

The deal offers SQM a right for up to 70 per cent of Dorchap through a staged earn-in of $12 million in exploration expenditure over the next six years at the project that contains Victoria’s first recorded pegmatites.

The staged earn-in features three periods. During the first period SQM may earn its base stake of 30 per cent by sole funding exploration expenditure to the tune of $3m for the next three years.

After a successful first round, SQM may elect to sole fund another $9 million in aggregate over two further periods totalling three years to earn a further 40 per cent interest.

The possibility of a joint venture agreement will be on the table after the initial stake has been successfully earned.

The partnership comes just over a month after Dart announced mineralogical analysis of rock-chip samples collected across its project confirmed the site’s primary mineralisation style as spodumene — the predominantly pursued lithium-bearing mineral.

Notably, the tests revealed pegmatites hosted up to 14.5 per cent spodumene across an interval of 10m.

The collaboration with SQM brings world-class technical and operation expertise to a very worthy exploration target.

The Chilean producer is listed on the NYSE with a market cap of US$25 billion and is one of the largest fish in the pond when it comes to lithium production. As an Australian explorer with a market cap of less than $10 million catching the giant’s eye was no small feat for Dart.

In stark comparison, Australia’s premier lithium moguls Mineral Resources and Pilbara Minerals have market caps of $9.3 billion and $7.7 billion, respectively.

Notably, SQM holds a 50 per cent stake in WA’s tier 1 Mt Holland lithium project in a joint venture with Wesfarmers in addition to a similar lithium-focused earn-in agreement with ASX-listed Kalamazoo Resources.

Dart first identified the lithium prospectivity of the region in 2016 by assaying historically unanalysed samples from the Dorchap Range, returning results up to 1.57 per cent lithium oxide and marking the first recorded lithium pegmatites in Victoria.

Limited by the dense vegetation throughout the project, Dart plunged a few holes off the roadside in 2019 and returned a peak grade of 2m at 1.158 per cent lithium oxide from a shallow 10m downhole.

In 2021, through a combination of light detection and ranging, or ‘LiDAR’ surveying techniques and sampling the explorer was able to delineate a 20km by 12km zone of strongly fractionated pegmatites bearing enriched lithium, caesium, tantalum, beryllium and tin mineralisation.

Encouraging results from the sampling included a trio of 10m-long rock chips going as high as 1.38 per cent lithium oxide, a 1m interval going 838 parts per million caesium oxide and 0.46 per cent tin oxide and a grab sample running nearly 10 per cent tin oxide.

In the coming months, Dart intends to put its foot down and accelerate exploration activities on the project, with further rock-chip sampling of outcrops and historical gold workings along with additional drilling of highly prospective roadside pegmatite dykes.

Given the strong ongoing demand for lithium amid the adoption of green technology, the company expects the growth of the global lithium market to continue, at least in the medium term.

Time will tell how clear Dart’s crystal ball is. For now, price reporting agency Benchmark Minerals Intelligence confirms its lithium price index continues to move sideways, fluctuating only a third of a per cent over the past month.

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@wanews.com.au

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