Emerging mineral sands producer Image Resources (ASX: IMA) has reported substantially higher feed grade than expected for March from its Boonanarring project in Western Australia.
Located 80 kilometres north of Perth, Image has revealed preliminary feed grade was about 19% heavy minerals compared to the expected 7.4% heavy minerals at the wholly-owned project.
As a result of the higher grade, enhanced operating availability and heavy mineral recoveries, Image produced about 23,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate for March, compared to the anticipated 20,000t.
“Operational results for March 2019 are clearly outstanding, given the enormous uplift in the average ore grade compared to the expected ore grade as modelled in the ore reserve,” Image managing director Patrick Mutz said.
According to Image, its ore reserve may have been underestimated due to wide drill spacing, which could have failed to adequately define the very high-grade core within Boonanarring’s eastern strand.
“Now that drilling has begun to delineate the high-grade core in the eastern ore strand, we eagerly look forward to understanding the significance of the ore grades in the core on the overall ore reserve,” Mr Mutz explained.
Drilling to upgrade the resource started this month and is expected to be completed by the end of the June quarter.
Heavy mineral concentrate production
For the entire March quarter, the average heavy mineral feed grade at Boonanarring was 1.77 times higher than the budgeted grade.
As a result, heavy mineral concentrate production for the period is effectively one month ahead of planned 2019 calendar year production, despite only three months of output.
However, Image cautioned the figures were preliminary and subject to adjustment.
“Heavy mineral concentrate production is substantially ahead of guidance thanks to higher ore grade, but also due to significantly higher operating availability and heavy mineral recovery,” Mr Mutz said.
He added this could lead to the company adjusting its production guidance in advance of the planned ore reserve update.
The advantage from higher heavy mineral concentrate production was Image completing its first shipment in January of 10,000t – generating the company’s first revenue.
A further 20,000t of heavy mineral concentrate was shipped in February, with a slightly lower 18,000t exported in in March due to loading restrictions.
By midday, shares in Image were up almost 12% to $0.19.