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Vital to rethink Nechalacho mine plan

Ore sorter outperforms, resulting in more REES from North T Metal Tech News - February 2, 2022

The ore sorter at Vital Metals Ltd.'s Nechalacho rare earths project in Canada's Northwest Territories is able to upgrade lower-grade ore into concentrates viable for shipping to the company's soon-to-be-completed processing facility in Saskatchewan for further upgrading to a mixed rare earths carbonate ready to be separated into the individual rare earths used in a broad range of high-tech and industrial applications.

This means Vital will be able to produce more rare earths from material mined from the North T pit at Nechalacho, which has prompted the Australia-based miner to rethink plans for mining this first high-grade rare earths deposit at Nechalacho.

Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction, the local and First Nations company contracted to do the mining at Nechalacho, extracted 408,000 metric tons of material from the North T pit last summer, only about 68% of the 599,000 scheduled to be mined during the five-month campaign.

While the overall mining volumes were lower than originally planned, Vital's ore sorter at Nechalacho exceeded expectations, enabling the company to successfully sort lower-grade material previously below the resource cut-off not included in the mine plan.

As a result, a large portion of the mined material previously classified as waste was upgraded to ore. The 2021 mining campaign also encountered a high-grade zone known as the "Dragon's Tail," some of which was high enough grade that it did not need sorting before being bagged for transport to the Saskatchewan facility.

"The 58,000 tonnes (metric tons) of ore mined contains approximately 11,500 tonnes of ore previously identified within our pit design with the remaining 47,500 tonnes previously classified as waste," said Vital Metals Managing Director Geoff Atkins. "This includes ore which was in the top five meters from surface and hence excluded from the original resource and hence mine inventory, the high-grade zone in the 'Dragon's Tail,' and material which was below the resource cut-off which, during commissioning of the ore sorter, we found could be successfully sorted and is now regarded as ore which is suitable for processing."

With this discovery of additional ore at North T, Vital has decided to redesign the pit to maximize the quantities of rare earths mined at North T in the future.

Last summer, the ore sorter produced more than 1,000 bags of beneficiated product at site, with each bag weighing in at 1,000 kilograms.

The first of these bags have arrived in Saskatoon to be processed at Vital's rare earths extraction plant, which is under construction.

Another 11,000 cubic meters of material remains stockpiled for future processing at Nechalacho, including 1,630 cubic meters of high-grade, 4,240 cubic meters of low-grade, and 4,770 cubic meters of crushed material and fines.

This provides plenty of ore for the company's 2022 ore sorting, shipping, and processing plans.

"We are very pleased to report that the 2021 mining campaign was successfully completed with over two years production worth of ore mined whilst incurring no lost time nor environmental incidents," said Atkins. "To achieve this during the middle of a pandemic with its associated restrictions on travel and other operational matters is a testament to the entire Vital team and one which everyone should be extremely proud of."

The redesign of the North T pit will be completed this coming summer with follow-up mining of this high-grade rare earths deposit to be completed during the summer of 2023 or 2024.

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Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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