West Cobar Metals uncovers significant value add commodities at Salazar rare earths project
West Cobar Metals (ASX: WC1) has identified a significant value-add opportunity at its Salazar rare earth element (REE) project in Western Australia’s far south.
New studies have confirmed potentially commercial levels of valuable titanium dioxide and alumina at the Newmont deposit within the Salazar project area located 120km north-east of the port town of Esperance.
The company has now been able to report that Newmont contains an estimated inferred mineral resource of 29 million tonnes of 5.0% titanium dioxide (TiO2).
Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring oxide sourced from ilmenite, rutile and anatase, which has a wide range of applications.
The studies also produced an estimated alumina inferred mineral resource of 4 million tonnes at 29.6% of aluminium oxide (Al2O3) which is potentially suitable to be upgraded to a high-grade high purity alumina (HPA) feedstock – considered a critical mineral by the Australian government.
Rare earths value
Following the results of the company’s recent phase 1 AC drill program, AMC Consultants have also estimated a mineral resource of 83 million tonnes of 1,117 parts per million total rare earth oxides (TREO) (600 parts per million cut-off) at Newmont, including an indicated mineral resource of 39 million tonnes of 1,216 parts per million TREO.
Managing director, Matt Szwedzicki, said recent drilling, coupled with more than 10 years of exploration, metallurgical and technical studies, has identified Salazar as one of the most advanced clay-hosted rare earth projects in Australia, containing significant indicated and inferred mineral resources.
He said the addition of mineral resources for co-products titanium dioxide and alumina has the potential to improve the project’s economics.
Outstanding REE deposits
“The Salazar Project contains outstanding REE clay deposits at Newmont and O’Connor with a total Inferred and Indicated Mineral Resource to date of 190 million tonnes at 1172 parts per million TREO,” Mr Szwedzicki said.
“As we progress our technical studies, we are finding that the Newmont deposit is highly unique among clay hosted rare earth projects (and not just in its high grade REE nature). It is enriched with a number of additional high value minerals which have potential to enhance project economics.”
“We are now very pleased to report substantial Mineral Resources for titanium dioxide and alumina as additional products and co-products at Newmont. We are evaluating the extent of the co-product value proposition, and metallurgical and beneficiation testwork is moving ahead rapidly to develop viable production pathways.”
Metallurgical testwork proves positive
Recent metallurgical testwork for rare earth element extraction undertaken at ANSTO has confirmed that the Newmont rare earth elements are amenable to acid leach extraction.
It has also been noted that potentially economic concentrations of rare earth elements, supported by likely low mining cost and non-refractory extractability, occur in the overlying saprolitic clays. The near-surface REEs are concentrated in a zone around the interface between upper and lower saprolite.
The metallurgical testwork has also found that a concentrate of titanium mineral sand rare earth elements can be produced by magnetic concentration of fine material from within the titanium dioxide mineral resource.
At the same time, feedstock for HPA can be produced from kaolinitic material within the alumina mineral resource.
Ideal location in growing rare earths province
The Salazar project comprises seven granted tenements within the Esperance district totalling approximately 1,171 sq. km.
Ideally, the tenement holding is located on non-agricultural undeveloped state land, while the project also benefits from its proximity to essential infrastructure (including port, rail, and air services) in nearby Esperance.
The Esperance and nearby Albany area is gaining a growing reputation as a rare earth element “hot spot” in WA.