West Cobar Metals upgrades exploration targets for groundbreaking Salazar REE project
West Cobar Metals (ASX: WC1) has confirmed the size and high-grade quality of its 100%-owned Salazar clay rare earths elements (REE) project near Esperance in Western Australia’s south with the release of an updated exploration target.
Boosted by new exploration drill results and the potential identified within the newly-acquired tenements, the company has established an exploration target (inclusive of existing indicated and inferred mineral resources) of 800 to 1,250 million tonnes at 1,050 to 1,350 parts per million total rare earth oxides (TREO) and 101 to 154Mt at 4.6 to 5.4% titanium dioxide.
The Salazar project, which now includes seven exploration licences, covers a total area of 1,171 sq km.
West Cobar managing director Matt Szwedzicki said Salazar features some of the highest-grade saprolitic clay-hosted REE resources discovered in Australia.
“It is becoming apparent that the scale of the mineralisation within our tenure is world-class,” Mr Szwedzicki said.
“With current resources plus an exploration target totalling about a billion tonnes containing REE and over 100Mt containing titanium dioxide, we will be well-placed to work towards commercialisation of this unique project.”
West Cobar has updated the exploration targets based on extending the areas of previous mineral resource estimates and the acquisition of four additional exploration tenements adjacent to the Newmont deposit that contain reverse circulation (RC) drill intersections.
Newmont REEs Growing
The existing Newmont inferred and indicated mineral resources of 83Mt at 1,117ppm TREO now extend over a 5km strike with an average intersection thickness of 11m and average overburden depth of 10m.
The Newmont exploration target is based on an extension to the resource as demonstrated by four historic RC holes which intersected 5m of 961ppm TREO from 22m south-south-west of the Newmont deposit indicated and inferred resource area, together with aeromagnetics showing that the structure is likely to extend 13km to the SSW from the resource areas.
There is a further 37km strike of interpreted magnetic amphibolite that may contain similarly high titanium levels with the development of thick measurements taken from the Newmont deposit sample material.
The REE exploration target estimates are based on consideration of a 600ppm TREO down-hole intersection cut-off.
West Cobar believes sufficient test work has now been completed on the Newmont deposit sample material to indicate that REEs can be recovered at low leach temperatures and titanium dioxide by magnetic separation of ilmenite.
The Newmont deposit consists of REE titanium dioxide and alumina mineral resources, along with significant scandium and gallium values in the central and western sections.
Lanthanos exploration potential
Lying along the eastern extent of the Salazar project, the Lanthanos exploration licence covers a very large area and is considered to have major potential for REE mineralisation.
The tenement has sparse historical drilling which was not analysed for any of the REEs but has been assessed to have around 20m of transported sediment covering transported clayey lignite and prospective basement derived saprolite in the southern portion of the exploration licence.
Notably, West Cobar believes the area is amenable to cheap effective testing by air core drilling.
Upcoming drill program
West Cobar is planning to conduct a stage 2 air core drill program during Q2 2024 to test the extensions of the REE and titanium dioxide indicated and inferred resource areas at Newmont.
The company is also preparing to undertake in-fill drilling at O’Connor to establish additional REE inferred resources and to take exploration lines on the Lanthanos tenement for REEs.
Meanwhile, metallurgical test work and marketing studies are being carried out concurrently for both REEs and titanium dioxide with a view to establishing the optimum economic extraction flow-sheet.