Dart Mining signs earn-in agreement with SQM over Dorchap lithium project

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By Imelda Cotton - 
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Chilean lithium miner Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile SA (SQM) has signed an agreement to earn into Dart Mining’s (ASX: DTM) Dorchap lithium project in Victoria.

Under the terms of the deal, SQM, via its wholly owned subsidiary SQM Australia Pty Ltd, will have the right to sole fund up to $12 million in exploration expenditure at Dorchap over the next six years.

The first earn-in period will see it gain an initial 30% interest in the project by sole funding $3 million over three years.

After this time, SQM may elect to enter into a joint venture agreement with Dart and thereby cease to earn any further interest.

If that occurs, each company will be liable to fund its own expenditure commitment in proportion to its percentage share of the project.

Should SQM decide against the joint venture arrangement, it will can spend another $9 million over a further three years for an additional 40% interest in Dorchap.

Dart will retain all rights to minerals within the tenements comprising the Dorchap project, except for lithium and related metals.

First lithium project

Dart chairman James Chirnside said the company was looking forward to working with SQM on the development of Victoria’s first lithium project.

“We have a clear pathway for project exploration through to the next stage,” he said.

“Our partnership with SQM will ensure that we are able to achieve ours objectives and enhance our knowledge and understanding of the project within an accelerated timeframe.”

Lithium prospectivity

Dart’s geologists first discovered the lithium prospectivity of pegmatite dykes in the Dorchap Range in 2016.

They were the first recorded pegmatites identified in Victoria and are believed to have been sourced from the nearby Mount Wills Granite.

The company has since has identified five types of lithium-bearing minerals at the project.

Spodumene, petalite and lepidolite are the main sources of hard-rock lithium ores, while cookeite is a secondary lithium-silicate component formed through the alteration of the other minerals.

Initial drilling in 2019 was followed by an airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging) program last year, which allowed for detailed mapping of pegmatite dykes which were previously overlooked in pockets of dense bush across the Dorchap Range.

Mr Chirnside said the company would accelerate exploration at Dorchap in the coming months, including chip sampling of outcrop and historic tin pegmatite workings and drilling of highly-prospective roadside pegmatite dykes.

Sampling will be focused within the identified lithium fractionation zone in the northern and eastern Dorchap Range.