West Cobar Metals sets stage for Salazar rare earths project milestones in 2024

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By Colin Hay - 
West Cobar Metals ASX WC1 Salazar Rare Earths mining resources

West Cobar Metals (ASX: WC1) has put everything in place to take its large Salazar rare earth element (REE) project in Western Australia to the next stage of commercialisation in 2024.

As 2023 winds down, the company has revealed a number of developments are underway at Salazar as West Cobar looks to take advantage of its significant rare earth and titanium potential.

With the recent expansion of the southern WA project through the addition of a number of tenements acquired from Dundas Minerals (ASX: DUN), West Cobar believes Salazar is now one of Australia’s leading clay-hosted rare earth element projects.

Contiguous to Salazar, the 451 square kilometre Dundas Minerals tenements increased the Salazar project landholding to a total of 1,171 sq km.

Newmont and O’Connor studies

While evaluation work is continuing in the Dundas tenements, West Cobar’s major focus heading into 2024 is on the Salazar project’s large Newmont and O’Connor deposits.

The Newmont deposit is currently estimated to contain inferred REE mineral resources of 83 million tonnes at 1117 parts per million total rare earth oxide (TREO), as well as a titanium dioxide inferred mineral resource of 29Mt at 5.0% and an alumina inferred mineral resource of 4Mt at 29.6% aluminium oxide.

Studies at Newmont have identified it is a unique deposit due to a number of factors, in particular the comparatively high grade nature of the REE titanium dioxide and aluminium oxide.

The deposit also provides strong commercial potential due to the shallow, thick saprolite (clay)-hosted mineralisation which makes it amenable to low cost mining.

While the O’Connor deposit has different geological characteristics to the Newmont deposit, it benefits from a large resource of 107Mt at 1216ppm TREO with substantial undrilled upside.

The nature of the O’Connor mineralisation has also shown it provides strong commercial benefits with recent magnetic separation and flotation trials very successful in providing a 34x upgrade to a 5.08% TREO concentrate with a very encouraging TREO yield.

Current development activities

West Cobar is looking to build on the initial success at both Newmont and O’Connor deposits with the significant mineralogical and metallurgical test work currently underway.

The company is expecting to receive results from Newmont characterisation testwork early in the new year that will allow it to better understand the mineralogy of the deposit’s high grade titanium concentrate.

Other studies of Newmont mineralisation include work on the characterisation of the non-magnetic REE stream and finalisation of leaching test work under various acid strengths and conditions.

At O’Connor, flotation samples are being examined under mineralogical characterisation studies.

The results from the various studies are expected to drive the development of the conceptional flowsheet in the first half of 2024 for the ultimate development of the Salazar project.

Exploration target update

West Cobar is also preparing to release an updated exploration target for REE including titanium dioxide based on results from the drill programs of 2022/23 and the acquisition of the Dundas tenements.

“The Salazar project is a unique proposition in a world firmly focused on the energy transition. Our high value basket of products includes REE titanium dioxide, alumina, scandium and gallium,” managing director Matt Szwedzicki said.

“The challenge we are eagerly pursuing is in identifying the optimal commercialisation pathway.”

“Significant test results are expected in January and we believe they will provide a pathway to development inclusive of a titanium co-product which may greatly enhance the project economics.”

“We look forward to an eventful and exciting 2024,” he added.