Quarterly Exploration Wrap: An emerging rare earths producer and a couple of monster resource updates
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It’s a wrap for the September quarter. Here are some of the latest highlights from a few ASX small and midcaps on their activities for the three months to the end of September.
During the quarter, early works were completed at the Nolans rare earths project in the Northern Territory, paving the way for the company to move into full construction in March next year.
Key early works included the main site access road, the Amadeus gas pipeline road crossing, stages one and two of the construction camp and commissioning of the 25km arterial water pipeline and associated dam infrastructure.
ARU also progressed several critical engineering work streams, including detailed design for the hydrometallurgical plant, while beneficiation plant design optimisations were completed by MACA Interquip as part of early contractor involvement.
Based on this progress, the company is now forecasting capex of $1.68 billion to advance Nolans to first production, up 5.7% on what was estimated in the November 2022 project update.
ARU is looking to finalise up to $US775 million of senior debt by early next year to ensure a robust funding solution for Nolan. This will be supported by offtake agreements which were also progressed during the quarter.
Assays from recent drilling at Mt Alexander confirmed the presence of high-grade lithium over a broad area with a fresh round of field work now under way to test new target areas and provide further information on the zonation, thickness and distribution of pegmatites along the plus-16km stretch of the regional LCT corridor.
SGQ also reported pegmatite thickness of up to 121m, indicating potential for large lithium-bearing pegmatite mineral system in Western Australia’s emerging Mt Ida lithium province which has attracted major investments from the likes of Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) and Hancock Prospecting in recent times.
As part of its strategy to build a large portfolio of high-quality lithium assets, the company has added a further seven projects via its subsidiary Lithium Star. Five of these are located in the southern portion of the Yilgarn Craton which has recently been described as a “super province” because it already hosts three spodumene-producing mines and another five are under development.
Post quarter end, SGQ welcomed leading lithium-ion battery producer Amperex Technology as a joint venture partner via a $3 million investment in Lithium Star.
A maiden JORC-compliant resource of 3.12Moz gold and 21.98Moz silver for the Dynasty project in southern Ecuador headlined a pivotal quarter for the company.
Titan said this resource was the culmination of a “significant amount of work” to verify and validate historical drilling and generate a robust 3D geological model. Growth potential remains with scoping study workstreams to dominate the company’s focus over the next 6-9 months.
Mapping and surface geochemistry programs have confirmed a much larger footprint at Dynasty with mineralisation still open along the entire 9km vein system.
Titan recently kicked off a 5,000m diamond drilling program targeting extensions to the existing high-grade resources at Dynasty. This campaign is funded from a $5 million placement completed during the quarter to existing shareholders, director and institutional investors.
An update to the maiden Dynasty project resource is on the cards for Q1 2024.
According to new managing director and chief executive Cris Moreno, the VUL team “worked tirelessly on all fronts” during the quarter to progress the company’s Zero Carbon Lithium project in Germany towards execution.
“This has included advancements on land acquisition and permitting, as well as substantial progress on commissioning Europe’s first lithium extraction optimisation plant, which will produce the first tonnes of carbon-neutral lithium,” Moreno said.
Brine is set to be introduced to the plant during the December quarter, allowing the lithium extraction process to begin. Construction of the central lithium electrolysis optimisation plant for imminent lithium hydroxide production is also set to be completed during the current period.
VUL also expects to finalise its bridging phase study and progress key EPC and EPCM contract negotiations in the coming weeks as it seeks to start project-level financing for the proposed phase one operations.
During the quarter, the company also announced an updated resource of 27.7Mt of contained lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), reaffirming the project’s standing as the largest lithium resource in Europe.
The past quarter saw GSM complete its drilling programs in the Pilbara’s Mallina Basin where the company is located among a bevy of established gold and lithium peers.
Stumps was called on RC drilling over the Nomad lithium-gold and Balla Yule nickel-cobalt-lithium prospects after a total advance of 2,059m from 11 holes.
High-resolution drone magnetics and a detailed ground gravity survey was also completed to highlight priority pegmatite prospects at Nomad.
Aircore drilling has since continued at both prospects as well as Yule East and Quarry Well, while follow-up soil sampling expanded an anomalous gold zone at the Southern Cross East project elsewhere in WA.
“The technical team continue to deliver active exploration programs on time and on budget,” GSM managing director Mike Moore said.
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