WA1 Resources confirms high-grade niobium at Luni with further potential identified

Go to Colin Hay author's page
By Colin Hay - 
WA1 Resources ASX WA1 West Arunta Luni mining resources

WA1 Resources (ASX: WA1) has confirmed the continuity of a shallow high-grade blanket of valuable niobium mineralisation between the western and eastern zones in the Luni deposit at the 100%-owned West Arunta Project in Western Australia.

Assays have also highlighted the potential for a deeper high-grade zone in the southeast of the interpreted Luni carbonatite.

“These assay results close a substantial gap in the south-central zone of Luni. In addition, LURC23-174 is interpreted to be in the south-eastern fault offset zone and returned 12 metres at 3% niobium pentoxide from 127m,” managing director Paul Savich said.

“This hole provides further support for the potential occurrence of a deeper, high-grade zone of mineralisation in the southeast of Luni and represents an exciting new area requiring further exploration.”

“With 233 drill holes now completed and receipt of assays from over 100 holes, we are beginning to possess a volume of data which allows us to progress various workstreams, in particular detailed geological domaining.”

“Carbonatites are known for their multi-faceted geological and mineralogical zonation which is essential to understand for the project assessment activities,” Mr Savich added.

Activities now paused

“Site-based activities have now been paused with infrastructure and the diamond drill rig remaining in place for an efficient restart in 2024. Meanwhile, we anticipate a steady flow of assays to be received over the coming months and core samples from diamond drilling will become available for the commencement of process testwork early in the new year,” said Mr Savich.

The latest assay results are from 21 reverse circulation (RC) drill holes and one diamond drill (DD) hole completed at the Luni carbonatite.

A total of 203 RC drillholes, 30 DD holes and five diamond tails have now been completed at Luni with assay results from 102 drill holes subsequently reported.

The most significant new drill intersections come from broad 100m and 200m spaced step-out RC drill holes in the south and southwestern area of the Luni carbonatite complex, along with one DD hole.

Deeper potential confirmed

Notably, assays from two drill holes located on the south-eastern side of the central zone have supported previous observations of a potential deeper zone of high-grade mineralisation.

This deeper, down-faulted zone on the south-eastern side of Luni has been identified as a target zone for further exploration with follow-up DD activity recently completed in this area.

A further three holes located toward the northern boundary of the interpreted Luni carbonatite complex intersected lower-grade niobium mineralisation and are generally consistent with the results previously reported along the currently interpreted northern extent of the carbonatite complex.

First diamond drill hole a success

Assay results from the first DD hole at Luni have provided some interesting insights.

Located in the eastern zone and the key mineralised horizon, the hole returned 31.1 metres at 2.4% niobium pentoxide from 30.9m.

The DD hole was drilled for a number of purposes, including to assess short-range geological variability.

This DD hole also demonstrated the potential for mineralisation to exist beyond the depth of RC drill testing that has typically ended at approximately 120m.

During the 2023 drill program a total of eight DD holes were completed.

Preparing to resume in 2024

Depending on access and weather conditions, the company is looking to recommence drilling activities in calendar Q1-2024, with the diamond drill rig and infrastructure remaining on site at Luni.

In the meantime, the company is waiting on results from a significant backlog of samples from both RC and diamond drilling that are progressing through transportation from site to laboratory analysis, with over half of the holes completed this year yet to be reported.

WA1 is planning to release a maiden mineral resource estimate during calendar Q2-2024.

Niobium a critical metal

With its growing use as niobium pentoxide in lithium-ion battery technology, niobium is considered an increasingly important critical metal.

Niobium pentoxide can substantially reduce charge times down to six minutes while enhancing battery life by up to 20,000 cycles, an increase of up to 10 times that of existing technologies.

The primary niobium product is ferroniobium, which is mostly utilised as a micro-alloy in the steel industry to improve the mechanical properties of steel.

While global supply is concentrated in Brazil, which is responsible for 90% of global production, global demand for niobium products is widespread with many end users and a growing number of applications.