Norwest’s hunt for rare earth elements at its Arunta West project is off to an impressive start with maiden drilling returning multiple, near-surface +1,000ppm TREO intercepts.

Significant REEs were intersected in shallow, flat lying clays – with tenor increasing towards the granite contact – within four reverse circulation holes drilled over a strike length of about 1,500m into the Bitter Springs sediments.

These include 15m grading 1,130 parts per million (ppm) total rare earth oxides (TREO) from a down-hole depth of 15m with the valuable magnet rare earths neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) making up 20% of the total rare earths content (AWRC07) and 12m at 1,100ppm TREO (25% NdPr) from 6m (AWRC17).

Notably for Norwest Minerals (ASX:NWM), this is in line with the results from historical regional exploration drilling by First Quantum in 2015 which also intersected strong REE mineralisation topping up at 13m at 1,430ppm TREO (19% NdPr) from 21m.

Clay-hosted REEs are potentially very significant for the company as they tend to be relatively simple and inexpensive to explore, mine and process with valuable magnet REEs making up significant portions of the total REE content, which more than offsets their lower grades compared to hard rock deposits.

Evidence for just how potentially lucrative it is comes from how China dominates global REE mining and processing by sourcing feedstock from ionic adsorption clay deposits in Southern China and neighbouring Myanmar.

“We are very excited about the future of our Arunta West Project following our recent RC drilling and acquisition of First Quantum’s 2015 drilling data set,” chief executive officer Charles Schaus said.

“The Bitter Springs Group sediments has the potential to host a very large REE project along the 90-kilometre granite-sediments contact held by Norwest.

“In the short term, Norwest will soon mobilise to site to continue drilling out the REE mineralisation encountered in the December program.”

Arunta West exploration

The maiden 20-hole drill program totalling 2,050m at the 840km2 Arunta West project was designed to test a high priority REE and copper-gold geochemical anomaly along a 3km contact between the Mount Webb Granite and Bitter Springs Group sediments.

While just four of the holes were drilled into Bitter Springs sediments, they all returned REE intersections with grades of more than 1,000ppm TREO, which also backs up results from First Quantum’s widespread drilling, which intersected REE mineralisation in Bitter Springs sediments along much of the 90km strike within the project.

A further hint of the project’s potential comes from the active exploration that Rio Tinto is understood to be carrying out on its project area, which surround much of Arunta West.

Given the strong results to date, it is unsurprising that Norwest will imminently carry out a follow-up RC drill program of 22 holes to target further shallow REE mineralisation in the Bitter Springs sediments while doubling the strike length tested during the maiden program.

As the icing on top, drilling costs at Arunta West are co-funded to the tune of $180,000 by the Western Australian Government’s Exploration Incentive Scheme.

The company has also applied for a 340km2 exploration licence which adjoins Arunta West and captures many of the First Quantum drill holes reporting REE enrichment.





This article was developed in collaboration with Norwest 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.