ABx uncovers more high-value Tasmania rare earth elements
ABx Group has unveiled a 10-metre-thick channel of high-grade rare earth elements in northern Tasmania with the first batch of assays confirming an abundance of the most valuable minerals and a tripling of the prospective area’s size.
Of 88 new holes drilled since mid-April at the company’s Deep Leads site, one hole returned 10 metres of rare earths mineralisation, averaging 863 parts per million total rare earth oxide, or “TREO”, including 6m averaging 1122ppm TREO from 5m.
ABx management says “excellent” extraction rates of contained rare earths between 48 and 71 per cent have been achieved under low-cost processing.
Six channels of mineralisation have been identified over considerable distance, it adds, including the most valuable minerals - sometimes called “super magnet” rare earths.
The Deep Leads deposit lies beneath a forest plantation. It is one of four tenements, covering 372 square kilometres in a 50km-plus corridor between Devonport and Launceston, where the company has discovered rare earths.
Portrush, Wind Break and Rubble Mound are the other three tenements.
ABx has focused its exploration at Deep Leads where there are another 25 holes to be drilled in its current campaign.
The company is keenly awaiting assays from 68 holes already drilled, including those into six other large channels on the flanks of Deep Leads.
The potential size of rare earths elements mineralisation at Deep Leads and the Rubble Mound REE discovery is becoming substantial. We are also pleased that our improved drilling technology can now penetrate the full thickness of many of our REE mineralisation zones for the first time.
Though it is still early days and the outstanding assay results will be keenly examined, Cooksey says at the current rate of progress ABx hopes to be able to make an initial resource estimate by the end of 2022.
The Deep Leads deposit appears to tick four important boxes as it includes the elements needed to create “super magnets”, it is in ionic clay that can be developed quickly and at low cost. Mineralisation is found at relatively shallow depths whilst the site contains no “nasties” such as radioactive thorium and uranium that can complicate processing.
Despite their name, rare earth elements are abundant though rarely found in concentrations needed for economic extractions.
It is generally accepted there are 17 rare earth elements, however four attract the most attention due to being vital for the manufacture of modern devices such as smart phones, electric vehicles and making high-strength permanent magnets or super magnets.
The fab four are praseodymium, neodymium, terbium and dysprosium. They are sometimes referred to as a “super magnet suite” and all are present at Deep Leads.
Despite already being expensive the price for the four elements are rising, partly due to strategic concerns with China controlling almost 90 per cent of supply. Terbium passed US$4 million per tonne earlier this year.
Of course, ABx didn’t start life exploring for rare earth elements.
Formerly called Australian Bauxite, the company holds bauxite tenements in Tasmania and is involved in high-value aluminium fluoride, necessary for the operation of aluminium smelters.
ABx suspected rare earths might be present in its bauxite deposits and that suspicion was proved correct early last year.
That prompted a doubling of the company’s rare earths exploration budget and a name change to ABx at the end of the year.
Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: email@example.com
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails