West Cobar Metals unearths high-grade ilmenite potential at Salazar REE project

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By Imelda Cotton - 
West Cobar Metals ASX WC1 Salazar ilmenite Rare Earths

West Cobar Metals (ASX: WC1) has confirmed that preliminary test work at the Newmont deposit within the Salazar rare earth element (REE) project in Western Australia has shown the potential for high-grade ilmenite concentrate production.

The company has completed sighter-level works to characterise the titanium minerals present in samples collected from the area surrounding the deposit.

A series of five composite samples were collected from retained air core drill samples and processed through a standard de-slime, heavy liquid and magnetic separation flowsheet.

Test work showed that concentrate grades of up to 48.5% titanium oxide and low radioactivity magnetic concentrates can be produced using simple and well-proven techniques

It also suggested that titanium minerals can potentially be removed without affecting REE process feeds for a possible combined flowsheet including up to 74% titanium feed.

Managing director Matt Szwedzicki said the initial test work had delivered encouraging results.

“These excellent initial characterisation results provide confidence in the commercial potential of our titanium dioxide resource,” he said.

“We now know that ilmenite is the abundant mineral in the samples tested and there are substantial amounts of the higher-value altered ilmenite.”

“In combination with the REE and significant scandium content of the Newmont deposit, the next step will be to determine the optimal flowsheet.”

Large and advanced resource

The Newmont deposit contains a large and advanced indicated and inferred REE resource of 83 million tonnes at 1,117 parts per million total rare earth oxides.

It also hosts a titanium inferred resource of 29Mt at 5.0% titanium oxide and an alumina inferred resource of 4Mt at 29.6% alumina oxide.

The deposit partially overlies amphibolite mineralisation and has shown to contain relatively high-grade REE, titanium and alumina resources with a low radioactive content.

Recent heavy liquids separation and magnetic separation test work on composite drill samples was analysed to identify titanium minerals present in the various streams.

The work uncovered titanium-bearing minerals of ilmenite, altered ilmenite and titano magnetite and indicated that coarser minerals can be separated from the fine rare earth streams using existing equipment to enable independent processing of both streams.

Mr Szwedzicki said the company planned to extend testing across a larger area of the Newmont deposit and progress to a more detailed assessment of the potential for titanium minerals extraction.

Worldwide usage

Ilmenite is a titanium iron oxide mineral used worldwide in applications such as paints, plastics and printing inks.

The global titanium market was valued at US$29 billion in 2022 and is forecast to grow to US$52b by 2030 as a result of increased construction activity, as well as expansion in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

Indicative current ilmenite concentrate prices sit in the range of US$250to US$350 per tonne.

“Titanium products have a large and established market and we are pursuing next steps in the development pathway,” Mr Szwedzicki said.