Australian Bauxite appears to have added a second string to its bow with the company encountering intriguing levels of rare earth elements at its Tasmanian and Queensland bauxite projects that it describes as “potentially game changing”. Initial assay results from exploration work undertaken over the past 15 months returned very encouraging hits of rare earth elements at the Binjour bauxite deposit within Australian Bauxite’s Sunrise project 115 kilometres south-west of the Bundaberg port and at the DL130 bauxite prospect in north-east Tasmania.
The Sydney-based company says it has identified more than 4,500 metres of samples that warrant rare earth elements investigations.
(The company’s proprietary) exploration technology was reinvigorated in mid-2020 while pandemic regulations restricted our field work. Within a year, we found rare earth elements enrichment in a widespread rock unit at the DL130 project, and early test work indications are that the rare earth elements are easily leached and could be concentrated at low cost, with no deleterious elements. We have also adjusted the exploration technology to start exploring for zones with enriched scandium grades that may be important for some bauxite customers.
According to the company, the DL130 prospect unmasked rare earths with values averaging a grade six times higher than that of the rare earth elements occurring in the Binjour clays. Enriched zones at DL130 are four to 18 metres thick and extend with good continuity over distances exceeding one kilometre, it says.
The solubility and ease of concentration of Australian Bauxite’s rare earths mineralisation is being assessed at its bauxite research laboratory in Launceston. Concentrates will be tested at its 89 per cent-owned chemical refining subsidiary, Alcore’s research centre on the Central Coast in NSW using its fluorine technologies.
Previous test work on Binjour clays indicates this type of rare earth elements mineralisation leaches in weak mineral acids and grades can be upgraded by an impressive 172 per cent on average in a single pass, according to the company.
Followers of Australian Bauxite will be eagerly looking out for the follow-up rare earth elements data to come out of the Alcore test work on the DL130 samples, given the best one-third of them registered rare earth elements assays averaging 409 per cent.
Australian Bauxite has also been progressing its Sunrise “metallurgical-grade” bauxite project, from where it is hoping to produce approximately 500,000 tonnes per annum of gibbsite-rich trihydrate bauxite at an average grade of about 45 per cent aluminium oxide and 5 per cent silica for export and refining into alumina.
Sunrise, for which the company has made a mining lease application, has an initial projected mine life of 23 years and a gobsmackingly low pre-production CAPEX and working capital estimate of only $15 million.
With rare earth elements contained within Australian Bauxite’s bauxite horizon, the financial metrics ascribed to developing its Sunrise and DL130 bauxite assets may well be transformed.
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