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The rush for West Arunta riches

8 May 2024 13:27
ASX:RCR

West Arunta, a niobium-rare earth hotspot nestled in Western Australia, has captured the imaginations of eager explorers determined to emulate WA1 Resources‘ (ASX: WA1) remarkable discoveries of 2022.

The excitement began with WA1’s unexpected finds, including a notable intersection of 54 metres at 0.62% niobium, 0.18% rare earth, and 3.85% phosphorus from a depth of 162 metres. This discovery sent the company’s share price soaring on a steep upward trajectory.

Since then, WA1 has maintained its momentum, with its share price skyrocketing by a staggering 7,696% since its inception in 2021, propelling its market capitalisation to over $1 billion.

West Arunta has emerged as a crucial hub for critical minerals, consistently yielding high-grade intercepts. Prior to these breakthroughs, West Arunta remained largely unexplored, with skepticism surrounding its exploration potential.

However, WA1’s bold gamble has paid off handsomely.

Now, many explorers are anxiously eyeing West Arunta, fearing they may miss out on the region’s next significant discovery.

Rincon Resources

WA1 isn’t the sole contender drawing attention; numerous explorers with projects in West Arunta have witnessed a recent surge in their company’s standing.

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Table 1: Explores West Arunta projects’ status.

Among these explorers is Rincon Resources (ASX:RCR), whose share price experienced an incredible 143% growth over three months leading up to April 29, buoyed by a series of noteworthy announcements.

Rincon’s West Arunta Project, spanning 260km² and positioned just 100km from WA1’s significant discoveries, boasts a market capitalisation of $18.8 million.

This week, Rincon confirmed IOCG-style mineralisation at its Pokali Prospect, showcasing promising visual indications of copper sulphide, copper minerals, and traces of native gold.

This announcement came hot on the heels of Rincon’s resumption of its reverse circulation drilling campaign, which not only elicited a favourable market reaction but also propelled the company’s share price to reach a 52-week high of $0.16

This week, the explorer confirmed IOCG-style mineralisation at its Pokali Prospect, which showed promising visual observations of copper sulphide, copper minerals and specks of native gold.

While Rincon’s exploration efforts in West Arunta are still in nascent stages compared to WA1’s, the company appears to be laying the groundwork for something impressive.

RCR’s Australian Security Exchange-listed share price is currently trading at $0.080 (1:00 pm UTC+ 8 hours).

MTM Critical Metals

In December of last year, MTM Critical Metals (ASX: MTM) strategically acquired Flash Metals’ West Arunta REE-Niobium Project, securing three crucial exploration licenses.

Despite facing some regulatory hurdles from ASIC/ASX since its $7 million Placement in January, MTM has gleaned substantial logistical and technical advantages from its presence in the region.

MTM’s West Arunta Project holds strategic positioning, sitting within a mere 10-20km proximity to WA1’s significant Luni and P2 niobium discoveries, boasting a market capitalisation of $18.6 million.

However, unlike its counterparts, MTM is still awaiting access to West Arunta.

Nevertheless, the company’s recent acquisition of flash joule heating (FJH) technology bears significant implications for the potential success of exploration in the area.

MTM’s recent FJH tests have proven highly effective, demonstrating a sharp increase in REE recovery rates by over 50%, along with critical metal recovery ranging from 50% to 514%.

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Figure 1: Nabtrade, price performance 3 months to 29 April 2024.

MTM’s Australian Security Exchange-listed share price is currently trading at $0.056 (1:00 pm UTC+ 8 hours).

Encounter Resources

Another significant player worth noting is Encounter Resources (ASX: ENR). Their Aileron Project, spanning 1,765 km² and situated less than 2 kilometres away from WA1’s notable discoveries, currently holds a market capitalisation of $190 million.

When it comes to production, Encounter is not far behind WA1, being the only other explorer in the region actively involved in advanced exploration.

Throughout 2023, Encounter encountered numerous instances of high-grade niobium mineralisation across its Crean, Emily, and Hurley prospects, including an intersection of 12 metres at 2.3% Nb₂O₅ and 0.85% TREO from a depth of 54 metres.

In addition to these findings, Encounter identified untested carbonate targets adjacent to WA1’s substantial Luni discovery.

Encounter is poised to initiate exploration of its untested priority targets at Aileron this month, fuelled by the $10.5 million Placement secured at the beginning of April.

ENR’s Australian Security Exchange-listed share price is currently trading at $0.360 (1:00 pm UTC+ 8 hours).

CGN Resources

With a market capitalisation of $37 million, CGN Resources‘ (ASX: CGR) Webb Project, situated 40km away from WA1’s discoveries, has showcased its promising potential for iron oxide copper-gold (IOCG), nickel, and sulphide mineralisation.

Distinguishing itself from nearby projects, CGN’s 961km² West Arunta segment remains largely unexplored for copper and nickel.

In February, CGN began high-impact diamond and reverse circulation drilling at its Webb Project to emulate the achievements of neighbouring projects, with the completion of ground geophysics surveys in April augmenting the potential of all primary drill targets.

Despite being in the early stages of exploration, CGN’s Webb Project is emerging as one to watch in the region.

CGN’s Australian Security Exchange-listed share price is currently trading at $0.380 (1:00 pm UTC+ 8 hours).

Lycaon Resources

With a smaller market capitalisation of $14.3 million, Lycaon Resources‘ (ASX: LYN) emerges as the newest addition to the dynamic West Arunta region, having recently secured a $180,000 government co-funded drilling program for its Stansmore Project

Covering an extensive area of 173km², the Stansmore Project is strategically positioned approximately 90km north of WA1 Resources’ Luni and P2 discoveries.

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Figure 2: Stansmore REE Carbonatite – IOCG Project Location Map.

With plans underway to commence gravity and heritage surveys to facilitate the initiation of drilling operations, the company aims to further its understanding of the potential of its Stansmore Project.

The Project boasts two primary magnetic anomaly drill targets, Stansmore and Volt, along with three secondary targets, Edi, Earl, and Menlo.

Southern Geoscience Consultants have conducted thorough geophysical reviews and 3D inversions, which have delineated significant magnetic anomalies, providing valuable guidance for upcoming drilling activities.

However, navigating the process of acquiring land rights in the unique Aboriginal land reserve of West Arunta presents distinct challenges compared to other regions in Western Australia.

LYN’s Australian Security Exchange-listed share price is currently trading at $0.310 (1:15 pm UTC+ 8 hours).

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