Pan Asia Metals begins drilling in Thailand as focus grows on tungsten — ‘world’s most critical metal’

South East Asia focused Pan Asia Metals (ASX: PAM) has completed three diamond holes at its Khao Soon tungsten project in southern Thailand with another now in progress.

The company describes tungsten as the “world’s most critical metal”.

China controls most of global production of the metal vital to high-strength steel to make machine tools and military equipment, including ammunition.

In its 2020 update on tungsten, the US Geological Survey (USGS) noted that “world tungsten supply was dominated by production in China and exports from China”.

At Khao Soon, meanwhile, XRF analysis has so far returned average values of 0.2% to 0.3% wolfram oxide (or tungsten) and current interpretation suggests the mineralised system is about 25m thick.

Within that, there is an interpreted 4m-thick higher-grade zone of 0.5% to 0.6% tungsten.

Grades so far are workable

Managing director Paul Lock said in an interview with Small Caps that a 0.2% grade is “workable”, but the company is aiming for grades between 0.3% to 0.4%.

The project is of special interest given the growing focus on the strategic situation of the world’s hardest and most durable metal (it is a key element of ammunition for that reason).

As with the critical rare earths situation, China produces about 80% (of the 85,000 tonnes) of tungsten produced globally each year.

The USGS has grouped tungsten with rare earths, cobalt, graphite and platinum groups metals as the “most at risk” to disruption in terms of the US being able to obtain reliable supplies.

Mr Lock, in Pan Asia’s latest ASX release out today, describes Khao Soon as “a potentially world-class project and one of the few in the global peer group which has the geography, scale and grade potential required to be developed at low cost”.

World’s most critical metal

Pan Asia already has a very large drill-supported exploration target of 15-29Mt at 0.2-0.4% tungsten, placing the company “in a peer group-leading position in the world’s most critical metal”, Mr Lock added.

The tungsten deposit was discovered in 1970 but before the company involved back then could obtain a mining concession from the Thai Government, the ground was invaded by about 30,000 artisanal miners who worked there until the early 1980s.

Pan Asia said throughout the mine area there are extensive old workings, including at least 200 shafts, many greater than 30m deep as well as at least 30 adits.

“Many of the adits appear to be in good condition. Some open/collapsed stopes are also visible.”

“By modelling the topography, old shafts and adits, it is estimated that previous mining extended to a maximum depth of 100m below surface,” Pan Asia says.

A USGS geologist who visited Khao Soon in 1974 reported that only the high-grade ore was mined.

Pan Asia’s plan is to expand the four previously tested prospects there, as well as explore six other six in order to define a mineral resource as soon as possible.

Pan Asia listed on the ASX on 8 October after a successful initial public offering.

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