Rooster Talk Episode 74 is with Matt Szwedzicki, Managing Director of West Cobar Metals Limited (ASX: WC1) discussing their latest metallurgical results for their Salazar Rare Earth project. It’s a significant event, and the released results are clearly positive.
Read the Announcement >> EXCELLENT RARE EARTH METALLURGICAL RECOVERIES ACHIEVED AT SALAZAR
The rare earth element (REE) story is now focused on the chemistry, and the understanding is progressing in real time. Industry players who are making progress in their projects understand that there are complexities that need to be tackled step by step.
The Salazar deposit is one of the few that make economic sense, with better than average grades and size. There’s a myth in the industry that certain types of clay deposits are better than others, but evidence and industry understanding now show that this is not consistent with current science.
Recap of the West Cobar REE Story
West Cobar is a minerals exploration and development company focused on rare earths and battery minerals within Australia and the US. Their projects include:
The Salazar Rare Earths Clay Project is located on non-agricultural undeveloped state land approximately 120km north-east of the township and deep-water port of Esperance in Western Australia. The Newmont deposit, located on the easternmost tenement at Salazar, contains an estimated JORC Inferred Mineral Resource of 43.5Mt at 1192ppm TREO + Y2O3 (500ppm cut-off). The O’Connor prospect to the west of Newmont has potential to host further significant high-grade rare earths mineralization.
Figure 1: Location of the Salazar Project. (Source West Cobar Metals Limited)
Recently, there have been discussions about the Rare Earth market being flat, while the equity market has taken a bearish tone. However, it’s important to remember that the global narrative is shifting towards increased mining. The transition to renewable and clean energy cannot be achieved with the current resources available. Moving towards the 2030 Evolution is not a secret and is gaining more attention.
Commodities like Lithium, REE, Copper, Nickel, and other base metals will play a significant role in the emerging electrical world. It’s worth noting that oil and gas will also continue to be relevant. These statements are based on factual observations, and no amount of resistance or disruption will change the demand for these commodities.
REE, in particular, has an air of mystique surrounding it. Some claim to have all the answers, but the geopolitical landscape will ultimately drive the REE industry. Once that aspect is considered, the rest falls into place. What we need to ask is what will it take to have an economical situation.
As we will all learn, the sole leachability factor is not what makes a REE project good or bad. As West Cobar is showing in this release and what Matt is sharing with us, the process, resource, grade, ability of the deposit for beneficiation, acid levels and acid consumption rates, are just some of the factors to be considered.
It’s becoming clear that having a unique selling point is crucial. Differentiating yourself through factors like resource size, grade, leachability, and LREE vs HREE content is essential. In the case of Salazar, the fact that it sits on an ultramafic base may give it an advantage, as it potentially holds more HREE value.
00:59 Matt discussing the Metallurgical Results.
02:26 How good is the MREO Recovery?
04:07 What acid type works?
05:29 A Discussion on the Acid Strength and Recoveries.
10:51 The value of Rare Earths – LREE vs. HREE.
11:47 Does the geology at Salazar enrich its REE components?
13:37 What is the Grade required to make a REE project work?
16:16 Is the beneficiating process the dark horse?
18:23 Acid is Not the Magic Pill.
19:51 Matt’s last thoughts on the release.
20:53 How should investors see West Cobar?
About Matt Szwedzicki
Matt Szwedzicki has over 20 years of corporate and commercial experience, having worked in senior leadership roles with a focus on M&A, corporate growth and investment strategy.
Matt co-founded and is the Managing Director of Spark New Energies, an energy company with its main assets in the UK. Prior to that Matt held various executive corporate and commercial roles in the energy and resources industries.
About West Cobar Metals Limited (ASX: WC1)
West Cobar Metals Limited (ASX:WC1) is a minerals exploration and development company focused on rare earths and battery minerals within Australia and the US.
The Salazar REE Project
The Salazar Project comprises granted tenements E63/1469 and E63/1496 located on non-agricultural undeveloped state land approximately 120km north-east of the township and deep water port of Esperance (Figure 1). In terms of geological setting, it is situated in the eastern part of the Proterozoic Albany-Fraser Orogen, east of the Biranup and Fraser Zones, straddling the Heywood-Newman Shear Zone and Nornalup Zone.
REE mineralisation at the Newmont deposit (E63/1496) is hosted by in-situ regolith over Proterozoic-aged basement rocks. A geological model has been proposed by Salazar Minerals whereby granites containing REE carbonates and other REE minerals are the source rocks for secondary REE mineralisation in the overlying saprolite profile. Mineralogical studies have indicated that the saprolite targets contain fine-grained secondary REE-bearing phosphates.
Newmont Mineral Resource
Salazar Minerals was one of the first companies to appreciate the potential for clay REE deposits in Australia. The tenements were first acquired in 2011 (granted in 2012) with the private company carrying out several aircore drilling programs to test for REE mineralisation. In total 165 aircore and RC holes for 6393m have been drilled within the tenements, leading to the discovery and delineation of the Newmont deposit.
CSA Global (“CSA”) was engaged by Salazar Minerals to estimate a Mineral Resource for the Newmont deposit in 2015. CSA estimated an Inferred Mineral Resource of 43.5Mt at 1192ppm TREO + Y2O3 (500ppm cut-off) in accordance with the JORC Code (2012).
Modelling of the Newmont REE Deposit by CSA Global
The Newmont deposit also hosts an Inferred Mineral Resource of 31.2% Al2O3 (15% Al cut-off) in accordance with the JORC Code 2012 (Table 2). The high-grade alumina within kaolin-rich zones has potential to be feedstock for production of high purity alumina.
Lab test work demonstrates that this material shows high leach extraction and high purification grades to produce 99.99% (4N) High Purity Alumina (HPA).
Newmont Deposit Inferred Alumina Mineral Resource estimated by CSA Global
The Salazar Project also includes the O’Connor prospect (E63/1469) which is located 10 kms to the south-east of the Newmont Deposit. The O’Connor Prospect has 32 vertical holes drilled for a total of 901 meters. Some of the drill intersections at O’Connor include:
SAC160, 19m @ 1939 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 8m
SAC161, 20m @ 2392 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 7m
SAC162, 19m @ 1350 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 17m
SAC179, 9m @ 3258 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 14m
SAC178, 10m @ 1586 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 10m
SAC188, 23m @ 1454 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 16m
SAC157, 17m @ 1186 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 15m
SAC159, 12m @ 1110 ppm TREO + Y2O3 from 8m
O’Connor Prospect air core drill hole collars (E63/1469)
O’Connor Prospect cross section (E63/1469)
Newmont Metallurgy & Studies
Technical work on the deposit has involved reputable institutions including the CSIRO, the University of Western Australia and the University of Newcastle and mineral processing firms Nagrom and Amdel.
Early metallurgical studies and characterisation testwork show the REE clays are amenable to acid leach processing
Magnet rare earths (MREO) – Neodymium, Praseodymium, Dysprosium and Terbium concentrations up to 25%
Heavy rare earth (HREO) concentrations up to 30%
Critical rare earth (CREO) concentrations up to 37%
Nevada Lithium Project
The Montezuma Well and Big Smoky Valley claims are considered prospective for large-scale sedimentary-hosted lithium claystone deposits.
The claims are located within the world class mining-friendly jurisdiction of the Nevada lithium district and host similar geology to known major lithium deposits in the region – including American Lithium (TLC deposit), American Battery Technology Company (Tonopah Flats deposit), Ioneer (Rhyolite Ridge deposit) and Century Lithium (Clayton Valley deposit).
Hermit Hill Lithium Project
The Hermit Hill project area is located in the Litchfield Province in the Northern Territory, roughly 100km south-southwest of Core Lithium’s Finniss Lithium Project and Lithium Plus Minerals’ Lei lithium prospect, and 30km west of Ragusa Minerals’ Tank Hill lithium discovery. The project is prospective for pegmatite-hosted lithium mineralisation.