Niobium and rare earths are high value commodities, giving Encounter good reason to be pleased that they have been intersected in high-grades from the first holes at its Aileron project in WA’s West Arunta region.

The first two holes at the Crean target, which were drilled 1.5km apart on the Elephant Island Fault, intersected carbonatites and had their reverse circulation pre-collars finish in high-grade niobium and REE mineralisation.

Hole EAL008 intersected 94.7m of carbonatite from 55m and returned a 34m intersection grading 1% niobium pentoxide and 0.6% total rare earth oxides (TREO) from a down-hole depth of 56m to the end of the RC pre-collar including 4m at 3.8% niobium and 1.9% TREO from 56m.

Meanwhile hole EAL007 intersected 282m of carbonatite from 64m to the end of hole with assaying of the RC pre-collar returning a 2m intercept at 1.2% niobium and 0.6% TREO from 67m to the end of the pre-collar.

Fantastic results no doubt, but there’s likely to be plenty more coming for Encounter Resources (ASX:ENR) given that both holes ended in high-grade mineralisation and assays are still pending for the diamond tails – from 69m at EAL007 and 90m at EAL008.

Potential for more

And while the discovery is hugely positive for the company, it is only the beginning given that the mineralised carbonatite remains open to the east and west and is increasing in width to the east where it is open in all directions. Showing its confidence, Encounter has committed to up to 100 RC drill holes in a major drill program starting next month.

“The intersection of high-grade niobium and rare earths at Crean in the first two holes drilled 1.5km apart is an incredible start and demonstrates the critical minerals potential that is emerging in the West Arunta,” managing director Will Robinson said.

“An 8,000-10,000m RC drill program is scheduled to commence in August to extend the niobium-REE mineralisation at Crean as well as drill testing a suite of new, high-quality targets.

“It’s still very early days but the success rate from the small number of holes drilled in the West Arunta is quite extraordinary and bodes well for future drill programs at Aileron.”

Aileron project

Aileron covers 1,765km2 and is located about 600km west of Alice Springs.

Large gravity, magnetic and radiometric surveys carried out by the company led to the definition of the Caird, Crean and Hoschke drill targets, which were tested by a diamond drill program (with RC pre-collars) in May-June 2023.

In parallel, a large Falcon airborne gravity survey defined a suite of additional large scale targets at the project.

Structural measurements from diamond core in EAL001, which was drilled at Hoschke, indicated that the carbonatite dyke is steeply dipping and strikes parallel to the interpreted major east-west Elephant Island Fault.

Along with zones of REE anomalism notable in pXRF data in EAL005, this provided the company with an important vector to target additional mineralisation along the Elephant Island Fault.

Meanwhile, EAL007 and EAL008 both intersected thick zones of oxidised and primary carbonatite starting from near surface.

Further drilling to come

Encounter is currently carrying out a heritage survey to support its planned RC drilling program of up to 10,000m.

This program of 80 – 100 holes, which is expected to begin in August, will systematically test targets along the Elephant Island Fault corridor for shallow, oxidised and enriched niobium-REE mineralisation.

Drilling will extend the shallow, high-grade niobium-REE mineralisation at Crean, test the Hurley and Wild targets located east of Crean, and test the Green target north of WA1 Resources’ Luni niobium-REE discovery.




This article was developed in collaboration with Encounter Resources, 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.