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By Bryden Wright, P. Eng, President & Chief Operating Officer, ROK Resources Inc.

ROK Resources Inc., a small-cap exploration and production company with significant oil and gas assets in Saskatchewan and Alberta, is making strides in the exploration of a somewhat unconventional resource in Western Canada: lithium. With a global push towards decarbonization and the adoption of cleaner energy sources, ROK’s management identified an opportunity to leverage decades of oil and gas expertise to capture a large, sub-surface lithium resource in Southeast Saskatchewan. Through a strategic partnership with EMP Metals Corp., ROK secured rights to over 200,000 acres of sub-surface lithium deposits, and in a landmark achievement in 2023, drilled a well that yielded the highest lithium-brine concentration ever recorded in Canada, measuring 259 mg/l. At first glance, venturing into lithium exploration may seem unconventional for an oil and gas team. However, for the founders of ROK Resources, it presented an opportunity they simply couldn’t ignore.

ROK Resources was founded in 2018 by Bryden Wright, Cam Taylor and Jared Lukomski, partners in the oil and gas sector. In 2020, the team took ROK public (TSX- ROK.V), and by early 2022, had transformed into a company producing 3,000 Boepd across multiple fields in Western Canada. Fast-forward to today, when ROK reached record production of 4,650 Boepd (December 2023), a result of core area consolidation and rapid production growth in the Frobisher and Midale formations in Southeast Saskatchewan. ROK is, first and foremost, an oil and gas company, and marks the 5th E&P company that our founding members have built together. Through this collective experience, the company has amassed a vast operational, engineering, and geological knowledge base that directly applies to lithium-brine exploration and production.

When capital began flowing into the Saskatchewan lithium space in 2020-21, we made the strategic decision to leverage our expertise and form a partnership with EMP Metals. This led to the establishment of a joint venture called Hub City Lithium Corp, with ROK assuming the role of technical advisors through a management agreement with EMP. Since joining forces, we have achieved many milestones:

  • Secured >200,000 acres of subsurface lithium rights in Saskatchewan with core properties at Viewfield, Mansur and Tyvan
  • Tested two wells at Mansur in the Duperow formation, with lithium concentrations up to 148 mg/l 
  • Drilled and tested two wells at Viewfield in the Duperow formation, with lithium concentrations up to 259 mg/l (highest ever recorded in Canada)
  • Completed NI 43-101 Technical Report confirming inferred resource of 1.2 million tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE) 
  • Released Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) on Viewfield Asset, showing an BT IRR of 55%, NPV8% of US$1.5 Billion and OPEX of US$3,319/tonne
  • Completed an extended pilot test with EnergySource Minerals (ESM) ILiAD lithium extraction technology and successfully produced battery-grade LCE 
  • Initiated a field pilot project with Koch Technology Solutions (KTS) to test their Li-Pro™ lithium extraction technology on-site in Southeast Saskatchewan

The advancement of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology has revolutionized the extraction of lithium from brine, with companies like KTS and ESM at the forefront in North America. Standard Lithium, a publicly traded lithium company financed by Koch Investment Group in 2021, has been operating a commercially sized DLE demonstration plant in Arkansas since 2020. Last year, global oil giant ExxonMobil announced an investment in the Arkansas lithium space and a commitment to power 1 million electric vehicles by 2030. In Canada, notable companies like E3 Lithium and Arizona Lithium are making progress with their respective projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Despite commercial DLE plants being operational in China, there is currently a race in North America to construct and commission the first commercial DLE facility. 

At ROK, we’re excited about the future of Canadian energy and, more specifically, the diverse suite of assets we’ve amassed. Our management team remains firmly focused on value creation in our oil and gas business, while also providing strong support for the advancement of our lithium venture.

Originally published in IGNITE V8.