Bonanza grade rare earths at Nechalacho
No need to concentrate ore mined from ultra-high-grade zone Metal Tech News - September 22, 2021
Last updated 10/5/2021 at 2:43pm
Crews at Vital Metals Ltd.'s Nechalacho rare earths project in Canada's Northwest Territories are mining zones of ore with such high grades that there is no need to upgrade it with the on-site ore sorter – just simply dig, crush, and bag for shipping to the company's processing facility in Saskatchewan.
Mining is currently being carried out at North T, a particularly high-grade deposit within Nechalacho Upper Zone, which hosts 94.7 million metric tons of Australian Joint Ore Reserves Committee-compliant resource averaging 1.46% total rare earth oxides.
The North T deposit itself hosts 105,000 metric tons of resources averaging 8.9% (9,345 metric tons) total rare earth oxides.
The rare earths in this deposit are found within a distinctive, red-colored carbonate mineral called bastnaesite.
An ore sorting machine that uses x-ray transmission (XRT) capable of separating the bastnaesite from non-REE bearing rocks is capable of upgrading this already extremely high-grade ore into a concentrate containing more than 35% rare earth oxides while retaining more than 70% of the rare earths.
A previously unrecognized zone at North T is already almost pure bastnaesite, eliminating the need for further concentrations. Though bonanza grade has not been established for rare earths, any ore that can be considered concentrates straight out of the ground would most likely qualify.
"As mentioned last month, mining at North T intersected high-grade REO (rare earth oxide) mineralization in the northern edge of the pit wall which was not part of our existing North T mineral resource," said Vital Metals Managing Director Geoff Atkins. "Mining in this area produced a high-grade ore that did not require processing through the ore sorter – we have simply crushed and bagged it, ready for transport to Saskatoon in coming weeks."
Construction of the Saskatoon processing plant is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and commissioning of the plant is slated for the first half of 2022.
Mixed rare earth carbonates produced in Saskatchewan will be shipped to Norway for the final separation into the individual rare earth oxides used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, computer hard drives, and a plethora of other high-tech devices.
REEtec, a Norway-based company that has developed an efficient and environmentally sound REE separation technology, has entered into a contract to produce 1,000 metric tons of separated rare earth oxides annually, not counting the cerium, over the first five years.
With plans in the works to grow the scale of its operations at Nechalacho, Vital's offtake and profit-sharing agreement with REEtec provides the companies with an option to increase this offtake volume up to 5,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides per year, minus the cerium.
The 2021 mining of high-grade rare earths ore at Nechalacho is expected to be completed by the end of September.