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National Interest in Minerals and Rare Earth Elements Grows

NEW YORK, May 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) uses about 750,000 tons of minerals each year. In fact, minerals are among the most important components that make up various technologies, and according to data published by the National Mining Association, copper is the second most used mineral by the DoD. Copper can be found in naval vessels, Coast Guard ships and Air Force aircrafts. Meanwhile, silver can be found in the Army's Apache helicopters, and molybdenum is used in armor plating for vehicles, missiles and aircrafts. The mineral beryllium, the only material designated as both strategic and critical to the nation by the DoD, is used to reduce weight and improve guidance performance in fighter jets, surveillance satellites and NASA technologies such as the mirrors on the James Webb Space Telescope. Defense Metals Corp. (OTC: DFMTF) (TSX-V: DEFN), FLIR Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLIR), Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPR), General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD), Leidos Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: LDOS)

The DOD, in a post from November last year, announced contracts and agreements with several rare earth element producers which will strengthen the domestic rare earths supply chain. MP Materials, which owns the largest rare earth element mining operation outside of China, has been awarded a DPA Title III technology investment agreement to establish domestic processing capabilities for light rare earth elements (LREE). LREEs are critical to numerous defense and commercial applications, including petroleum refining, glass additives, and magnets used in electric vehicle drivetrain motors and precision-guided munitions. 

Defense Metals Corp. (OTCQB: DFMTF) (TSX-V: DEFN) reported earlier this week an update, "regarding its ongoing pre-pilot hydrometallurgical test work utilizing high-grade rare earth element (REE) mineral concentrate produced during the Company's highly successful 26-tonne flotation pilot-plant that yielded a mineral concentrate averaging 7.4% NdPr oxide (neodymium-praseodymium)1.

The road accessible Wicheeda REE Property is located close to infrastructure approximately 80 kilometres northeast of Prince George, British Columbia (BC). The Wicheeda project has indicated mineral resources of 4,890,000 tonnes averaging 3.02% LREO (Light Rare Earth Elements) and inferred mineral resources of 12,100,000 tonnes averaging 2.90% LREO2.

Highlights of ongoing infill hydrometallurgical test results, which centred around optimizing caustic crack-acid leach conditions, and leach liquor impurity removal conducted at SGS Canada Inc. ("SGS") Lakefield, Ontario Site are as follows:

  • High REE extraction, for base case bench and bulk (3 kg) caustic crack across the range of test conditions in comparison to initial 2019/2020 bench test work (see Defense Metals News Release dated February 16, 2021).
  • Comparable REE extraction via direct crack of mineral concentrate shows promise with calculated neodymium extraction within a 5% range of the base case.
  • The success of direct crack test results opens up the potential of future optimization work to reduce circuit complexity though potential elimination of gangue leaching and associated solid-liquid separation steps.
  • Primary impurity removal tests on leach liquor at terminal pH yield very efficient Th and Fe removal (>99% Th and >95% Fe) at negligible Nd losses.

Ongoing hydrometallurgical optimisation test work being conducted at SGS Lakefield is expected to be completed over the next 4-6 weeks resulting in finalization of a base-case flowsheet to inform operation of a future hydrometallurgical pilot plant. Final test work is expected to focus on secondary impurity removal and the production of a purified mixed REE precipitate and on the regeneration of hydrochloric acid.

1 See Defense Metals News Release dated September 23, 2020

2 Technical Report on the Wicheeda Property, British Columbia, effective June 27, 2020 and prepared by APEX Geoscience Ltd. (Steven J. Nicholls, B.A. Sc., MAIG and Kristopher J. Raffle, B.Sc., P.Geo.) is available under Defense Metals Corp.'s profile on SEDAR (www.sedar.com)

Craig Taylor, CEO of Defense Metals, stated: "Defense Metals continues to be extremely pleased with its ongoing pre-pilot hydrometallurgical test work campaign. These latest results establish that stable REE extractions are achievable across a range of test conditions bracketing our emerging base case flowsheet. Significantly, direct crack REE extractions were similarly high opening up the door for potential circuit complexity and future capital cost reductions. Primary impurity removal test show that at the bench scale we can produce a high quality REE leach liquor suitable for conversion to mixed REE oxide end product."

About the Wicheeda REE Property: The 1,708 hectare Wicheeda REE Property, located approximately 80 km northeast of the city of Prince George, British Columbia, is readily accessible by all-weather gravel roads and is nearby to infrastructure, including power transmission lines, the CN railway and major highways.

Geologically, the property is situated in the Foreland Belt and within the Rocky Mountain Trench, a major continental geologic feature. The Foreland Belt contains part of a large alkaline igneous province, stretching from the Canadian Cordillera to the southwestern United States, which includes several carbonatite and alkaline intrusive complexes hosting the Aley (niobium), Rock Canyon (REE), and Wicheeda (REE) deposits.

Qualified Person: The scientific and technical information contained in this news release as it relates to the Wicheeda REE Property has been reviewed and approved by Kristopher J. Raffle, P.Geo. (BC) Principal and Consultant of APEX Geoscience Ltd. of Edmonton, AB, a director of Defense Metals and a "Qualified Person" as defined in National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects. Mr. Raffle verified the data disclosed which includes a review of the analytical and test data underlying the information and opinions contained therein…"

FLIR Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLIR) announced this week that it has received more than USD 70 Million in new orders for its advanced ground robots from the U.S. Armed Services. The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps placed orders for nearly 600 FLIR Centaur® robots, including additional spares, antennas, and payload mounting kits. As a result, the U.S. Army awarded FLIR a USD 31.6 Million contract increase for its Man Transportable Robot System Increment II (MTRS Inc. II) program. The new award raises the ceiling value of the original MTRS Inc. II contract from roughly USD 158 Million to USD 190 Million. The FLIR Centaur® is a medium-sized ground robot that provides a standoff capability to detect, confirm, identify, and dispose of hazards.

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPR) announced last month it will lead Team MOSQUITO, comprising Spirit Belfast, Northrop Grumman and Intrepid Minds, on further development of the Royal Air Force's ("RAF") Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept to full demonstration capability. Initially supporting more than 100 STEM jobs at Spirit Belfast's facility, the project has the potential to sustain further expertise in the wider UK supply chain. "Spirit Belfast is delighted to lead the delivery of a national programme enabling the development of cutting-edge technologies while maintaining critical skills in the UK," said Scott McLarty, Senior Vice-President of Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus Programs. "Supporting the MOD's strategic objectives on pace, affordability and operational capacity, Team MOSQUITO will help drive collaborative innovation and competitive advantage. We are excited to develop this relationship with a view to contributing to a more sustainable industrial base for UK defence."

General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD) business unit - General Dynamics Land Systems, announced last year that it was awarded a USD 4.6 Billion fixed-price-incentive contract to produce M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams main battle tanks for the U.S. Army. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of June 17th, 2028. The first delivery order is valued at an estimated USD 406 Million. "We are pleased to continue our support to the Army on the modernization of the Abrams main battle tank," said Don Kotchman, Vice President and General Manager of General Dynamics Land Systems U.S.

Leidos Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: LDOS) provides services and solutions in the defense, intelligence, civil, and health markets in the United States and internationally. The Defense Solutions segment offers national security solutions and systems for air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. Last week the Company announced last week the completed acquisition of Gibbs & Cox, Inc. ("Gibbs & Cox") for approximately USD 380 Million in cash. The transaction was previously announced on Feb. 23rd, 2021. Gibbs & Cox will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary and will be combined with Leidos' maritime systems division. Gibbs & Cox is the largest independent ship design firm focused on naval architecture and marine engineering. The company's world class naval architects, designers, engineers and program managers develop innovative vessel designs and naval capabilities. The acquisition positions Leidos to provide a broad set of engineering solutions to the US Navy and to an expanding set of foreign Navies.

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