Aldoro Resources (ASX: ARN) has defined an initial exploration target for the industrial metal rubidium, a commodity that sells at more than US$1 million (A$1.4 million) per tonne.
The target is at its Niobe prospect, part of the company’s Windimurra project southeast of Mt Magnet in Western Australia.
Aldoro states that the target hold “world class potential”.
Rubidium is used in a range of industrial applications — specialty glasses in fibre optic cables, GPS systems and night vision gear — but has the potential to be applied in sodium-ion batteries.
Chinese battery giant CATL is at present working on sodium-ion battery technology, which is said to have lower energy density than a lithium-ion battery but is faster to charge and more resilient in cold temperatures.
Aldoro’s report is based on a re-evaluation of historical drilling in the mid-1980s by the former Pancontinental Mining.
Potential resource may equal world’s largest deposit
Samples back then showed lithium, rubidium, caesium, niobium, tantalum, tin, potassium and sodium were present.
Pegmatite 1 at Niobe contains rubidium oxide grades up to 1.09%.
However, the majority of this pegmatite remains untested for rubidium.
Aldoro chairman Joshua Letcher says the potential resources of Niobe may be in the same order as the Tiantongshan deposit in China, the world’s largest rubidium resource.
Tiantongshan, in Guangdong province, was discovered in 2019, with an announced resource of more than 100,000t at 1.109%.
The provincial government announced it would spend “multi-billion yuan” over the following five years to develop the deposit.
The defined section at Niobe has an estimated contained tonnage of rubidium between 330t and 1,500t.
Drilling at Niobe will begin in late September and will also target the lithium potential of the mapped pegmatites.
It is understood that Aldoro is working on getting to the mining stage within a year.
Rubidium typically found in pegmatites
Rubidium (symbol Rb and No 37 on the periodic table) is an alkali metal (as are lithium, sodium, potassium and caesium) and has a melting point of 39oC.
It is typically found in hard rock pegmatites, and the extraction process is similar to that of mining caesium.
Historically the largest producer country has been Canada (notably the Raleigh Lake mine in Ontario), although southern Africa is thought to contain substantial reserves.
Rubidium is also found in the US, Russia and Afghanistan.