José de Castro brought the only new lithium brine mine into production in the past 15 years
NRG Metals Inc. (TSX.V: NGZ) is a junior Canadian exploration company in search of brine based lithium targets in Argentina, Chile and Boliva. Over half of the earth’s identified resources of the mineral are found in this South American “lithium triangle.” For 10 or 12 years, Argentina was a do-not-invest zone. Fortunately, the tone of doing business has just swung 180 degrees with the new Mauricio Macri government that took over in December 2015.
In this interview with Hannah Bernard, NRG Metals Chief Operating Officer and Director, José de Castro, speaks about his experience in helping NRG thrive and develop its operations. He was born in Salta near the center of the lithium triangle and knows the landscape, as does his team, both technically and politically.
José discusses how Argentina had seen little lithium success in the past as most companies were only focused on resources, but no one treated lithium like a business, in terms of actually producing it. Lithium is different from other minerals because it’s based on chemical production — and that comes with different points of view. Normally, companies go into a project and define their resources, which is necessary, according to José, but these companies don’t have a strong business plan on production, which is where their shortcomings stem from. The specific lithium carbonate that is found in brine has many specifications which are complicated, so companies need to focus on the best form of chemical production.
NRG Metals has been successful with its lithium projects in Argentina, especially the Salar Escondido lithium project, because they have a strong management team in place that has immense knowledge of the chemical, geological, local, community and political matters in the area. The management team harbors strategic technical knowledge, as well as the commitment to ensure corporate social responsibility to ensure that they comply with the communities closest to their projects.
NRG Metals will be focusing their work in the Catamarca province, which contains roughly 29,000 hectares in future lithium discovery. The company’s second focus will be on identifying an area that is capable of producing lithium carbonate, and they may have found a good spot next to FMC operations, which ran for more than 20 years. With exciting projects coming down the pipeline, NRG Metals’ (TSXV: NGZ) future looks promising.