Metallurgical testwork at iTech Minerals Caralue Bluff clay-hosted Rare Earth Elements (REE) prospect, part of its Eyre Peninsula kaolin project in South Australia, has flagged a reduction in feed volume that could substantially reduce OpEx and CapEx at the REE extraction stage.

The testwork showed that 74.5% of the total REEs and >75% of magnet REEs (neodymium and praseodymium) can be concentrated in the fine fraction, which makes up just over half (51%) of the sample volume.

And a reduction of nearly half of the feed volume of REE-bearing clay material would significantly lower acid consumption – leading directly to a reduction in both the OpEx and CapEx.

The company says that the concentration of REEs in half the volume of material can be achieved by simple screening and recovering the -20 μm fraction, which is also the fraction that contains the potentially valuable kaolin by-product.

“Metallurgical consultants, METS Engineering, continue to deliver breakthroughs on a path to delivering a cost-effective process for extracting REEs from the Caralue Bluff clay-hosted REE project,” iTech Minerals (ASX:ITM) MD Mike Schwarz said.

“Reducing the amount of material that needs to be processed by almost half means a substantial reduction in OpEx and CapEx costs for the project.”

Further testwork will explore cost reductions

Previously reported recoveries of up to 88% were achieved for the Magnet Rare Earth Oxides (MREOs) neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium, in leaching trials on 100% of the sample volume.

Further test work will involve the substitution of hydrochloric acid for common table salt (NaCl) to reduce acid costs and will also include the viability of ion exchange desorption using various ion exchange salts (which has the potential to lead to a much lower reagent cost if successful) all to be undertaken on the -20 μm fraction.

iTech will continue to undertake low level test work on the samples through metallurgical consultants, METS Engineering, with the aim of developing a cost-efficient extraction method over the coming three months.

“If this can be done successfully, we would need to test this method on a diverse set of samples from across Caralue Bluff, both geographically and within the regolith profile,” the company said.

“We have already collected these samples in our previous drilling program in 2022.

“If the new ‘potentially economic’ method is effective, only then would we recommence on-ground exploration.”

While this work is being undertaken, ITM will continue to focus on its graphite projects and drilling program at the Lacroma Graphite prospect.




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.