Arafura targets mine life increase at Nolans rare earths project
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Special Report: Arafura Resources will increase the initial life of its Nolans neodymium-praseodymium project beyond 23 years as global demand surges and supply tightens.
The growing demand for rare earth permanent magnets, particularly neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) magnets for use in electric cars and other high-tech devices, is putting the squeeze on current rare earths supply.
In September, Arafura Resources (ASX:ARU) signed its second memorandum of understanding to supply neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) oxide to leading Chinese magnet manufacturer Baotou Tianhe Magnetics Technology Co.
Arafura is keen to capitalise on growing demand and has kicked off drilling and metallurgical programs that are aimed squarely at taking its world-class Nolans NdPr project in the Northern Territory beyond its planned 23-year mine life.
Right now, the project boasts an economic ore reserve of 19.2 million tonnes at 3 per cent total rare earths. In-demand NdPr makes up a significant 26.4 per cent of the total rare earths content.
The company now plans to drill up to nine core holes at the Nolans Bore deposit, five of which will target shallow resources at the Southeast Zone where little or no drill core is currently available.
These holes are intended to confirm ore types, refine resource modelling, and better inform mine planning.
Core samples from five of these holes will also be used in a broader metallurgical program which, along with drilling, is due for completion this quarter.
The result will be an updated ore reserve estimate and corresponding mine life, Arafura says.
The remaining four holes will target deep extensions of NdPr-rich mineralisation 100-200m beneath the planned final pit after 23 years of mining.
In addition, the company is bringing forward from 2020 a small geotechnical drilling program aimed at confirming the suitability of rocks near the project for use as construction material.