Ionic targets rare earths resource upgrade with Makuutu drilling
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Special Report: Ionic Rare Earths is spinning the drill bit again at its Makuutu rare earths project in Uganda with plans to accelerate the program.
The new 3,700m diamond core drilling program is the largest to be undertaken on the project to date and follows on the 240m of core drilling that upgraded resources by 53 per cent to 78.6 million tonnes grading 840 parts per million (ppm) total rare earth oxides (TREO).
It is aimed at realising the resource potential hosted at Ionic Rare Earths’ (ASX:IXR) unique ionic adsorption clay-hosted project, one of the few outside of China, which has an exploration target of 270Mt to 530Mt grading 0.04 per cent to 0.1 per cent TREO.
Infill drilling will be carried out to further upgrade existing inferred resources to the higher confidence indicated status, validating information on geology and grade continuity to support mine planning.
Drilling will be carried out to expand the current resource area further to the east and to test new targets on adjacent tenements, which spread across a 26 kilometre long mineralisation corridor containing ionic clay.
The company has also secured a second drill rig, which will mobilise to site next week to accelerate project evaluation.
Chief executive officer Tim Harrison says the success of project activities to date provided Ionic with the confidence to accelerate drilling and rapidly work towards defining the full potential of the Makuutu deposit.
“The near surface mineralisation, simple low capital intensity process flowsheet, elevated heavy and critical rare earth mixed product content, high payability and high margin product potential is making this project highly attractive for both investors and for diversified strategic supply,” Harrison explained.
“We intend to position ourselves to take full advantage of the favourable project attributes and rapid development timeline potential.”
Makuutu has the potential to be a globally significant producer of both heavy rare earths oxides (HREO) and critical rare earth oxides (CREO).
Indeed with the high proportions of 25 per cent HREO and 37 per cent CREO in the resource, Makuutu has the potential to offset diminishing Chinese reserves of the same material.
Its mineralisation offers several advantages over hard rock rare earth deposits, the chief being the ease of extracting the rare earth, higher payability products s and the large size of the deposit.
Metallurgical test work has already confirmed that rare earth recovery of up to 75 per cent TREE-Ce can be achieved using a relatively simple method while recent optimisation work has increased rare earths element recovery in some lower recovery areas from less than 10 per cent TREO-Ce by seven fold.
The project is also located close to well maintained and available local infrastructure, including cheap hydroelectric power.