iTech Minerals is about to join the growing ranks of explorers building Australia’s battery and critical minerals story.
Via its initial public offering, iTech brings to market more than 21 projects across South Australia prospective for a wide range of minerals.
The company’s immediate focus is on quickly developing its halloysite, kaolin and graphite projects on the Eyre Peninsula and in the Nackara Arc.
iTech is no starting-from-scratch operation: the company has been formed to take over exploration projects from Adelaide-based Archer Materials (ASX: AXE), formerly an explorer but now an advanced technology player.
The tenements will soon form part of iTech and cover about 6,000sq km of ground.
“The deal we have done with Archer Materials is not just about gaining some really high-quality ground, we are also getting over 10 years’ worth of exploration material,” iTech managing director Mike Schwarz told Small Caps.
“That represents millions of dollars of investment and gives us a huge advantage when it comes to rapidly progressing these projects.”
iTech is seeking between $5 million and $7 million through its IPO at $0.20 per share, with an estimated market cap at listing between $17.2 million and $19.2 million.
It will trade under the ASX ticker ‘ITM’.
Kaolin-battery metals company
Archer shareholders meet on 30 August to vote on the proposed transfer of the exploration assets to iTech. In return for the assets, Archer will receive 50 million iTech shares.
iTech non-executive chairman Glenn Davis said his board is confident the company will become valuable in the kaolin and battery minerals spaces.
“The demand for these materials has been growing strongly due to the electrification of transport,” he stated in the prospectus.
“The company’s projects are close to infrastructure such as ports, roads and electrical grids, which offers opportunities to make our products more competitive through lower costs.”
Multiple applications for kaolin and halloysite
iTech’s portfolio contains eight halloysite-kaolinite prospects, most of them on the Eyre Peninsula and six within the famed Gawler Craton of South Australia.
As the prospectus explains, kaolin and halloysite have recently emerged as a potential feedstock in processing high-value and hard-to-substitute high-purity alumina that is used in technological applications such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lithium-ion batteries.
Halloysite’s nano tubal structures offer additional biomedical and industrial uses over and above its traditional use as an additive to kaolinite in ceramics manufacturing.
A market exists for halloysite nanotubes as efficient catalysts in the petrochemicals industry, too.
“The growing market for halloysite offers significant commercial development potential upon a successful discovery for the company’s halloysite-kaolin exploration programs.” iTech says.
These prospects are all located within 70km of key infrastructure.
The Franklin project, located on the Nackara Arc, has a historical exploration target of halloysite-kaolinite containing between 30% and 36% aluminium oxide.
iTech is working with CSIRO and European industrial and battery materials specialist, the German-based Dorfner Anazplan on this technology initiative.
“iTech is investing in these new technologies because they will give us a number of cost and time efficiencies in the field and more environmentally friendly ways of processing materials. These factors are particularly important when developing resources for the quickly evolving clean energy and technology markets,” Mr Schwarz explained.
South Australian graphite back in the mix
At the beginning of the graphite boom, Eyre Peninsula was talked about as potentially “the Pilbara of graphite”.
In fact, Archer Minerals — as it then was — was one of the early pioneers of the South Australian graphite move.
iTech is taking over the Campoona graphite project there, where there is a historical resource of over 8 million tonnes at 9% total graphitic carbon. The project also comes with a mining lease, which allows extraction and processing of the graphite.
Battery grade spherical graphite and the new high technology product graphene have been produced by Archer in successful trials on Campoona graphite.
iTech’s prospectus says a potential application of the Eyre Peninsula graphite is the manufacture of spherical graphite.
“Spherical graphite has high value applications in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries and demands a price premium of US$3,400 to US$4,400 per tonne,” the company states.
The 2019 trials by Archer produced spherical graphite from both its 95% and 99%-plus purity products.
Copper, gold and other metals on the list
Three potential gold-bearing projects are included in the new company’s portfolio.
The Nackara Arc gold project contains “numerous” historical gold workings.
Drilling at the Hennings prospect intersected 1m at 1.95 grams per tonne gold at 7m down hole, and a separate 2m at 1.8g/t.
The company’s Billa Kalina iron-oxide copper-gold project lies adjacent to the Prominent Hill mine owned by OZ Minerals (ASX: OZL).
The iTech IPO opens on 1 September and is due to close on 8 October.