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Partners advance NWT REE mine plans

 

Last updated 10/31/2019 at 2:51pm

Avalon Advanced Materials Inc.

A winter photo of the exploration camp at Avalon Advanced Materials' Nechalacho rare earth elements project at Thor Lake, Northwest Territories.

Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. Oct. 30 announced that Australia-based Cheetah Resources Pty Ltd., a private company recently acquired by Vital Metals Ltd., has made the final cash payment to acquire the near-surface resources at the Nechalacho rare earth elements project at Thor Lake, roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

According to a resource calculated in 2012, the Upper zone at Nechalacho hosts 47.2 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 1.52 percent total rare earth oxides, 2.1 percent zirconium dioxide, 0.29 percent niobium oxide and 0.02 percent tantalum oxide; plus 102.1 metric tons of inferred resource averaging 1.38 percent total rare earth oxides, 2.4 percent zirconium dioxide, 0.33 percent niobium oxide and 0.02 percent tantalum oxide.

Under an agreement finalized in June, Cheetah acquired ownership of the near surface resources in the T-Zone and Tardiff Zones at Nechalacho for C$5 million.

Avalon retains ownership of the resources in the Basal zone, which was the subject of a 2013 feasibility study.

Basal hosts 61.9 million metric tons of measured and indicated resource averaging 1.64 percent total rare earth oxides, 3.1 percent zirconium dioxide, 0.41 percent niobium oxide and 0.04 percent tantalum oxide.

The 2013 feasibility study considered a mine that would produce 9,286 metric tons of rare earths, 19,763 metric tons of zirconium, 2,231 metric tons of niobium and 243 metric tons of tantalum per year.

Avalon and Vital are now working towards finalization of the terms of a co-ownership agreement that will allow the Australian company to move forward with development of the near-surface rare earth resources in the T-Zone deposit in collaboration with Avalon.

In 2018, Avalon initiated an investigation into utilizing ore-sorting technology to develop the T-Zone and Tardiff zones as a low cost, pilot-scale operation, a model that has the added benefit of having minimal environmental impacts.

Vital is continuing this plan for small-scale development of rare earth resources enriched in the neodymium and praseodymium, magnet rare earths that are in high demand for clean technology applications such as electric vehicles.

Avalon, which continues to manage the work programs at Nechalacho, carried out a C$900,000 summer work program on the North T deposit for Vital. This program included the re-logging and sampling of core previously drilled in the near-surface deposit, followed by an 800-meter, 19-hole diamond drill program completed in October.

The work program also included shipping 75 metric tons of stockpiled bulk sample material for testing to confirm the sensor-based ore-sorting process being developed for the coarse-grained rare earth mineralization present in the upper part of the T-Zone deposit. Results from the ore sorting tests are expected later this month.

Avalon said results from the drilling will allow preparation of a new resource estimate for the T-Zone. This new resource, combined with the results from the ore sorting tests and additional environmental assessment work, will define the model for proceeding with pilot scale development of the T-Zone rare earth resource in 2020.

"With all the recent concern in the United States about security of supply of rare earths and other critical minerals outside China, this program represents a very timely opportunity to initiate a new rare earths supply chain in North America," said Avalon Advanced Materials President and CEO Don Bubar.

Perth-based Vital Metals Ltd. completed its acquisition of Cheetah Resources on Oct. 22 and Cheetah Managing Director Geoff Atkins is now managing director of Vital Metals.

"We have hit the ground running following the completion of the Cheetah acquisition," said Atkins. "Over the past few months we have been very fortunate to have continued development of the Nechalacho REO (rare earth oxide) project whilst Vital undertook its regulatory approval process."

Once a mine is in operation at the easily accessible T-Zone, Vital and Avalon will have the opportunity to begin to evaluate growth potential from the other near surface zones at Nechalacho, such as the larger Tardiff zone.

An Australian Joint Ore Reserves Committee- (JORC) compliant resource being calculated for T-Zone and Tardiff is slated for completion in the coming weeks.

–SHANE LASLEY

 

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