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Pulsar Helium project discussed with Babbitt council

Ely Echo - Staff Photo -
This slide in a presentation to the Babbitt city council shows the area that is believed to hold a high concentration of Helium east of Babbitt.

by Parker Loew

Phil Larson of Pulsar Helium talked to the Babbitt city council Tuesday about the project the company is working on up the Dunka River Road.

Larson explained how in 2011 when he was working with a copper-nickel exploration program doing test drills near Babbitt, they discovered a gas pocket.

“It was a lot of pressure and blew the core tube out of the drill stream,” said Larson. “The gas flowed for four or five days while we were carefully trying to figure out exactly what we were dealing with.”

Initially, there was concern the gas pouring out of the hole was explosive, but that didn’t turn out to be the case, and the team took samples before plugging the hole.

The gas was a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and methane and was made up of 10.5% helium.

“Only after the hole was sealed, we started reviewing the information and realized, “Oh, wow, that actually is, that’s pretty high. There potentially something there,” he said.

Larson explained how currently most helium is extracted as a by-product of gas production and usually accounts for less than 1% of the composition of these gas mixtures.

There are only a handful of helium explorers looking for primary helium sources, and there is a developing helium shortage in the US and globally which has led to massive price increases with no signs of stopping.

The shortage has gotten to a point where the federal government has sold off its strategic helium reserve.

A pocket of gas yielding 10.5% helium is historic, they now need to investigate if it is large enough to create a commercial processing plant.

Larson explained how to do this, they must re-drill the hole filled in in 2011 and do a proper reservoir test to see what the reservoir is and give them an idea of the size of the pocket.

“We won’t know until we drill the borehole,” he said.

Over the last year, Pulsar Helium has been preparing for the appraisal drill and has done construction on Dunka River Road to accommodate the drill rig they are bringing in.

The rig is “something probably unlike anything that’s ever been seen up here. This is not a little diamond rig that’s used for drilling a couple hundred feet of taconite,” Larson said.

The rig, which they are transporting from Wyoming, will sit atop their 1.1-acre drill pad.

“I think we ended up having to take down one tree for the whole pad,” he said. “The area had gotten logged sometime in the last 20 years and it looked like it hadn’t been re-seeded.”

Since the amount of land needed to do helium mining is very small and is non-invasive, this may be all the land they end up needing, even if they mine the gas.

“There wouldn’t be any waste rock piles or anything like that,” he said. “When the project is done, the casing is pulled, the hole is sealed, the pad is regraded, reseated, and that’s it.”

Larson explained how they have all the permitting required to go ahead with the appraisal borehole, but they will need to acquire a commercial use permit from Lake County if they find a large, rich source of helium in the pocket and want to mine it.

Larson wrapped up his presentation and asked the council if they had any questions.

Council member Jim Lassi asked Larson how long the project was to last if they were to discover a pocket large enough for mining to be economical.

“It’s unknowable at this point. I’m not even comfortable speculating,” Larson said. “We hope that it’s a long-life project.”


Here is a link to the presentation:

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