A mash up for the ages? Ark Mines gets Currumbin Minerals on the decks at Sandy Mitchell
Special Report: Ark Mines has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Currumbin Minerals to process rare earths and heavy mineral sands from its Sandy Mitchell project in North Queensland – a low capex and opex operation that could be in production within the next 18 months.
Ark Mines (ASX:AHK) acquired the 140km2 Sandy Mitchell advanced rare earths (REE) and heavy mineral sands (HMS) project in March last year for just $200,000, where exploration has since indicated shallow mineralisation can be mined easily and inexpensively within the next two years.
Initially combed for uranium in the 1980s, exploration at the landholding has since discovered Sandy Mitchell is host to one of the ASX’s only inland surface expressed sand placer deposits able to produce high-grade REE and HMS concentrate.
Placer deposits are attractive due to their shallow mineralisation, meaning that a resource can easily be defined using low-capex exploration methods such as aircore and auger drilling.
Mining can then be done inexpensively without the need for tailings dams or waste piles.
Phase 1 drilling saw 144 holes completed with assets returning an impressive 51.9% total rare earth oxides (TREO) containing mostly lanthanum, cerium and high-value neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), as well as the heavy rare earths of dysprosium and terbium.
While metallurgical test work showed that recoveries from gravity feed to concentrate could achieve 83.8%.
A Phase 2 program (2,426m) at an average drill depth of just 12.9m – demonstrating REE and HMS mineralisation in every hole – has just been completed and will undergo further test work to form the basis of a maiden resource estimate and underpin project development.
The framework of the MoU is for the supply and delivery of mineral sands containing REEs and HMS to Currumbin’s new state-of-the-art processing and treatment facility in southeast Queensland, whereby AHK will then sell concentrates at commercial market rates.
AHK will mine and haul HMS ore from Sandy Mitchell and negotiate treatment rates pertaining to transport costs, metallurgical recovery rates and plant suitability.
Currumbin’s plant is high tech and one of the only of its kind in Australia – upgraded to an operating capacity for HMS processing and mineral extraction rate of up to 100t of sand per hour.
AHK expects that the demand outlook and drilling results to date, together with the MoU, will be a catalyst for the company to move rapidly from exploration into development within 18 months.
AHK executive director Ben Emery says the MoU marks the next step in the commercialisation strategy for Sandy Mitchell, and reflects the high degree of interest the project has received from development partners and the Queensland mining industry more broadly.
“Currumbin Minerals are best-in-class for the processing and treatment of mineral sands, and the MOU framework has been established jointly with a high degree of cooperation in a way that leverages the respective strengths of both parties,” Emery says.
“In that context, Ark Mines is well-placed to benefit from Currumbin’s expertise in end-to-end logistics, including the transport of raw materials and the potential export and sale of HM and REE concentrate.
“Recent drill results reaffirmed the company’s view that Sandy Mitchell has the potential to develop into one of Australia’s premier REE projects, highlighted by strong mineralisation with simple extraction through beneficiation by gravity processing.
“The field team is now executing on its stated strategy to significantly expand exploration in 2024 and we look forward to providing more operational updates in the months ahead, along with our targeted strategy for optimised downstream processing with our commercial development partners.”
This article was developed in collaboration with Ark Mines, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.