Mining Explorers 2011: Ucore Rare Metals Inc.
Last updated 11/6/2011 at Noon
President and CEO: James McKenzie
Vice President, Project Development: Harmen Keyser
Consulting Geologist: James Barker
With the winds of soaring rare earth element prices in its sails, Ucore Rare Metals Inc. is maneuvering its Bokan Mountain Project in Southeast Alaska toward becoming a domestic source of dysprosium, terbium and other heavy rare earth metals.
In March, Ucore reported the first NI 43-101-compliant resource estimate for the HREE-rich deposit situated at the southern end of Prince of Wales Island.
At a 0.5 percent total rare earth oxide cut-off, Bokan hosts an inferred mineral resource of 3.7 million metric tons grading 0.75 percent total rare earth oxides, with 39 percent of the TREO being the higher value heavy rare earth oxides.
This comes to about 10,584 metric tons heavy rare earth oxides within 27,420 metric tons of TREO. Ucore President and CEO Jim McKenzie Sept. 30 told an audience at the Alaska Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit held in Fairbanks that the in-situ value of the metals at Bokan at current REE prices exceed US$3,000 per metric ton, pushing the total value of the deposit above US$10 billion.
Though Bokan is a relatively early-stage exploration project, Ucore believes it can bring a REE mine into operation there by 2016.
The proposed mine has the advantage of being small in scale and has the support of both the Alaska Legislature and Congress With an initial resource in-hand, Ucore is targeting completion of a preliminary economic assessment by year's end for construction of a heavy rare earth metal mine and milling facility capable of processing between 500 and 1,000 metric tons of ore per day.
To meet this goal, the company budgeted US$8 million for the requisite drilling, environmental baseline studies, engineering and metallurgical work.
The some 15,000 meters of drilling carried out in 2011 aims to expand and upgrade the resource at the REE-enriched Dotson Zone.
Ucore also has commenced scoping work for a proposed subsurface adit to enhance the understanding of the deposit at depth.
The company is targeting underground development and bulk sampling in 2012.
"Our highest priority is on the advancement of a prospective mine as quickly as possible. This means targeting more than three times the amount of drilling that we've undertaken in prior years, more sub-surface work via a proposed adit, and the acceleration of metallurgical work to generate effective ore separation and processing regimes," Ucore President and CEO Jim McKenzie said in May. "Our overall objective is to take the project to bankable feasibility within 24 months; an aggressive but very achievable target, given Bokan's remarkable advantages of superior access, prior workings, and prior successful metallurgical findings already on hand."
While advancing Bokan to feasibility, Ucore is looking for other REE opportunities in Alaska.
In May, the company blanketed an 11,400-acre (4,614-hectare) area prospective for placer deposits of REEs, tin, tungsten and zirconium in the Ray Mountains of Interior Alaska with mining claims.
The company said assay results from initial geochemical analyses of field-concentrated heavy mineral samples collected from the region indicate mineral concentrates containing five percent to more than 30 percent combined valuable metals, with a total rare earth element content ranging from one percent to eight percent.
The samples additionally show heavy REE generally ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent of total REEs, including dysprosium, which ranges from 2 to 5 percent of the total REE content.
The company said most of the initial samples were collected directly from surface exposures, and the heavy mineral content can be expected to increase at greater depths within the alluvium.
The rare metal placers of the Ray Mountains contain REE as monazite and xenotime, tin as cassiterite, tungsten as wolframite, and zirconium as zircon.
Minor amounts of niobium and tantalum also have been identified.
Ucore notes that heavy mineral placers, unlike hardrock deposits, can be effectively concentrated via conventional gravity separation and processing methods using only water as the separation medium.
Additionally, the technology to process a monazite-xenotime placer concentrate for contained REEs has long been known elsewhere in the world and poses no new metallurgical challenges.
Ucore carried out an initial reconnaissance geological program at the Ray Mountains project in 2011.
Cash and short-term deposits: C$12.49 million (June 30, 2011)
Working capital: C$11.27 million (June 30, 2011)
Market capitalization: C$73.4 million (Oct. 3, 2011)
454 Voyageur Way
Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, Canada B4B 2A7
Ph: 902-482-5214 Fax: 902-492-0197