Junior explorer Golden Deeps (ASX: GED) has commenced a mining study on the historic Abenab vanadium resource in Namibia, previously known as the richest and largest deposit of vanadate ore in the world.
South Africa-based mining engineering group Bara Consulting has been engaged to conduct the study which will enable Golden Deeps to progress Abenab towards feasibility stage and production.
Bara’s scope of work comprises an evaluation of open pit and underground mining options and an estimation of costs, and will include a primary access trade-off study, cut-off grade estimation and geotechnical assessment.
Bara has previously conducted extensive metallurgical testwork on Abenab ore, reporting it to be “easy and cheap to process” using gravity separation techniques compared to ferrovanadium-type deposits which require more complex and expensive milling.
Golden Deeps said the mining study would assess the economic viability of exploiting the Abenab deposits based on current commodity prices, exchange rates and mining costs.
“With the growing need to combat climate change, governments around the world are planning to transition to zero emissions through electrification [and] this has resulted in recent increases in the price of so-called EV metals, including vanadium, which is used in vanadium flow batteries,” the company said.
The study will allow Golden Deeps to prioritise and schedule additional work aimed at further developing the project, including drilling to increase the existing resource adjacent to the open pit and at depth as well as refinement of the process flowsheet.
World’s richest deposits
The Abenab deposits were discovered in the early 20th century and mined up until 1958, at which time the Abenab and Abenab West mines were considered the world’s richest and largest known discoveries of vanadate ore, producing a substantial amount of high-grade concentrate.
The Abenab mine was a major open pit and underground vanadium and base metal operation in the highly-prospective and underexplored Otavi Mountain Land region in northern Namibia.
In its heyday, the mine reported production of approximately 1.8 million tonnes at 1.05% vanadium pentoxide for approximately 102,000t of concentrate grading 18% vanadium pentoxide, 13% zinc and 42% lead.
Historical exploration and more recent drilling has indicated potential for extensions of the mineralisation at depth and laterally, and highlighted the possibility of re-starting the operation using simple, low-cost processing methods.
In January 2019, following detailed geological reviews and the creation of a new geological model, Golden Deeps reported a JORC mineral resource at Abenab of 2.8Mt at 0.66% vanadium pentoxide, 2.35% lead and 0.94% zinc at a cut-off grade of 0.2% vanadium pentoxide.