Just a month after listing on the ASX, battery and critical metals play iTech Minerals (ASX: ITM) has confirmed the presence of rare earth elements (REE) after re-analysis of historical drill core from its Ethiopia kaolin project on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.
The REE component is described by the company as “enriched in high value” permanent magnet metals neodymium and praseodymium.
These results have confirmed the company’s view of the dual potential for high purity kaolin and coincident io adsorption clay REE mineralisation, indicating dual kaolin and REE product streams to de-risk the project, iTech said in its ASX release.
It added that, while low grade in general, these type of REE deposits can be “highly profitable” due to the low cost of extraction.
iTech’s initial public offering included more than 21 projects in South Australia (and two in NSW) with an unusually broad range of critical minerals: halloysite, kaolin, graphite, copper, lead, zinc, silver, tin, tungsten, molybdenum and gold.
Opens path for ‘extremely’ low-cost production
iTech was formed to take over exploration projects from Adelaide-based Archer Materials (ASX: AXE), previously an explorer but now an advanced technology play.
The tenements now forming part of iTech cover about 6,000sq km of ground.
Managing director Mike Schwarz says the resampled results from Ethiopia open the path for an extremely low-cost sources of kaolin and REE.
“Processing of the high purity kaolin increases the REE grades and extracting the REE makes [for] a higher quality kaolin product, leading to more financially robust economics,” he added.
The company noted that clay beneficiation improves REE grades by about 184%.
Assays from what the company says was the best historic drill hole in a second batch of sampling — which intersected 33m of mineralisation — are still pending.
Easy and cheap separation possible
Of the 10 resampled holes, all returned REE, the highest grade being 6m at 896 parts per million total rare earth oxides, including 2m at 1,104ppm TREO.
iTech explains that the kaolin clay found at Ethiopia is a valuable component.
“Luckily with this style of mineralisation, the clays can easily and cheaply be separated (or beneficiated) by simply washing out the quartz grains with water and retaining the concentrated kaolin and REE in suspension,” says iTech.
The company has now resampled another 12 drill hole cores, with results expected within six weeks.
This test work will help the company focus on the best places to undertake its own drilling.