Analysis of the first batch of historical drill samples has confirmed that rare earths are present at the Ethiopia prospect within iTech’s Eyre Peninsula project.

Significant total rare earth oxides – with a top result of 2m grading 1,104 parts per million TREO – were noted in all 10 samples received to date with an average beneficiation to 180% in the clay fraction.

Importantly, valuable critical rare earths neodymium and praesidium, which are used in the production of permanent magnets for electric vehicles and renewable energy, makes up about 23% of the rare earths content.

The results are strong support for iTech Minerals’ (ASX:ITM) belief that its Eyre Peninsula project has the potential to produce both high purity kaolin and coincident ionic adsorption clay rare earths using a combined processing circuit at a comparatively low capital cost.

The company will also watch the next batch of results keenly as it is expected to include the best historical drill hole.

“The nature of high purity kaolin and REE mineralisation at Ethiopia opens the path for the potential of an extremely low-cost source of these two critical minerals,” managing director Mike Schwarz said.

“Processing of the high purity kaolin increases the REE grades and extracting the REEs makes a higher quality kaolin product, potentially leading to more financially robust project economics.”


High purity kaolin and REE potential

The sub-sampling of the initial 10 historical holes show thick intervals of high purity kaolin at or near surface with coincident TREOs, confirming the company’s view that the Ethiopia prospect has potential for a dual commodity stream.

Additionally, kaolin beneficiation process carried out on the samples has also concentrated the REE content by an average of 184%, confirming that the REEs are bound to the clay particles – a strong indicator that it is hosted in ion adsorption clays.

IAC deposits are commonly considered to be some of the cheapest and most readily accessible sources of heavy rare earths.

Further test work will be also carried out to test the expectation that the mildly acidic leaching required to extract the REE will also remove much of the iron content, which will significantly increase the ISO brightness value and purity of the kaolin.


Next steps

Re-sampling of a further 12 drill holes with cerium values above 100ppm for the full suite of REEs is currently underway.

This includes drill hole ETH-029 that intersected 33m at 356ppm cerium from surface, more than three times as much cerium as the best samples submitted to date.

Results from this round of testing will help focus the upcoming drill program on those areas with the best potential for coincident high purity kaolin and REE mineralisation.

Once drilling is completed, iTech will have enough samples to commence beneficiation test work to optimise REE extraction while upgrading the quality of high purity kaolin through removal of impurities such as iron.

This article was developed in collaboration with iTech Minerals, 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.