Not long after reporting a resource upgrade at its WA-based vanadium project, Technology Metals Australia (ASX: TMT) has delivered encouraging metallurgical testwork results.
The company hopes it can progress its sizeable vanadium endowment to producing ultra-high-grade vanadium capable of being used in vanadium redox batteries, a radical addition to the existing development path of energy storage solutions, currently dominated by lithium, cobalt and graphite.
Vanadium is traditionally used to temper and improve steelmaking, but recent research suggests high purity vanadium can improve battery capacity and longevity given its ability to be used in different oxidation states whilst storing energy.
Technology Metals says it is capable of producing a vanadium pentoxide product with a purity “in excess of 99%” from its Gabanintha vanadium project in Western Australia. Testwork on bulk samples still underway with a pre-feasibility study on track for delivery in June 2018, according to the resource junior.
In addition, Technology Metals said that ore at Gabanintha is amenable to conventional salt roast and water leach processing with very high recoveries of vanadium that require significantly less salt when compared to other conventional salt roast leach operations.
“This is a very exciting outcome for the company, confirming the extremely high quality of the Gabanintha vanadium deposit and the scope to deliver a premium product direct from the mine gate,” said Mr Ian Prentice, managing director of Technology Metals Australia.
As reported by Small Caps earlier this year, Gabanintha hosts a JORC-approved mineral resource of 119.9 million tonnes at 0.8% vanadium pentoxide and 9.7% titanium oxide.
From a commercial perspective, the explorer is particularly focused on so-called low hanging fruit within the resource – a high-grade component of 55 million tonnes at 1.1% vanadium pentoxide and 12.7% titanium oxide. The explorer reported an indicated mineral resource of 21.6 million tonnes at 0.9% vanadium pentoxide and 11.2% titanium oxide last year.
Following today’s results, Technology Metals said that ongoing testwork is being completed on larger composite samples with the aim of generating a final product that can be distributed to end-users. There is also some scope for obtaining even higher purity figures as processing is refined, streamlined and upscaled.
The company said that further testwork is currently being conducted to examine how the purity of the vanadium pentoxide can be further enhanced to produce a “niche ultra-high purity product specifically for the vanadium battery and aeronautical industries”, which may attract substantial premiums to the 98% vanadium pentoxide product pricing index.
Industry analysts estimate that vanadium supplies are currently undergoing a shortage with prices “appreciating dramatically” since mid-2017. Analyst reports indicate that vanadium pentoxide prices have rallied further in 2018 as high as US$14 per pound, from a low of less than US$4 per pound in early 2017.
As part of ongoing work at Gabanintha, Technology Metals is conducting a pre-feasibility study in collaboration with resource development consultant Wave International.
The consultancy is working to develop a processing flowsheet, complete basic plant engineering and site infrastructure assessments with a view of estimating likely capital expenditure requirements as part of a project financial model and an ultimate pre-feasibility study of the project.
Technology Metals has said that it thinks it can “materially increase the volume of its indicated resource with further drilling”, particularly on the southern tenement.
Results from this work are expected to be incorporated into a definitive feasibility study which the company expects to commence directly after delivery of the pre-feasibility study, currently scheduled for publication by the end of next month.