Sand play VRX Silica (ASX: VRX) is aiming to have its first overall West Australian mine site and plant model for the Arrowsmith North project completed by the end of this month.
The company, in its latest quarterly report, says that the next stage for its Arrowsmith North silica sand project will be to issue tender specifications for processing equipment so that those can be supplied as soon as possible after a decision to mine is made.
VRX has three projects in Western Australia, Arrowsmith North, Arrowsmith Central and Muchea, that have a confirmed mine life of 25 years — and the potential to be in production for around 100 years.
At present they have a combined 1.056 million tonnes of resource at grades of between 99.6% and 99.9% silicon dioxide (or silica), with low iron impurities.
All the projects are located between Geraldton and Perth.
Silica sand is a bulk commodity and one of the most mined commodities in the world.
Key cultural and emissions studies competed
Arrowsmith North during the recent quarter moved to the next stage of the environmental approval process with the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia.
It had already completed its cultural and heritage assessments as well as a greenhouse gas estimate.
In addition, a high-level air quality assessment study is in progress and these results will be lodged with the EPA.
Resource update and ongoing work
All assay results from the 130 holes drilled in the March quarter have now been received.
VRX said the results were in line with expectations and will allow it to update the mineral resource estimate in the area covered by the drilling, and that will be followed by a detailed review of production over the next six years.
ProjX has been commissioned to carry out a detailed engineering design for the Arrowsmith North processing plant.
VRX has also been in discussions with potential power suppliers and continued talks over access to Geraldton port.
Plans to replace controversial mining in Asia
In October 2017 the company, then called Ventnor Resources and having shed its copper project in Western Australia, announced the acquisition of Arrowsmith (Muchea was to follow in early 2018).
The company said it had identified the potential for significant silica sand sales in the Asia Pacific.
It added that supply deficits were due to Asian regional governments acknowledging sand as a strategic resource and putting pressure on illegal mining of that resource.
Earlier mining activities such as river dredging had caused environmental damage.
The company has noted that a big growth sector in Asia was energy-saving double glazing and for applications in the fast-expanding auto industries of China and India.