Rare earths, lithium and niobium: CuFe finds bouquet of critical minerals at North Dam
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Rock chip sampling at CuFe’s North Dam project near Coolgardie has returned an entire suite of critical minerals including rare earths, niobium and lithium.
Sampling returned up to 43.93% niobium, 1,770 parts per million (ppm) total rare earth oxides (TREO), 3,206ppm Li2O and 14.53% tantalum.
Notably for CuFe (ASX:CUF), about 40% of the outcrops within the E15/1495 tenement have been tested by rock chip sampling and geological mapping, which have confirmed the presence of lithium-caesium-tantalum type, highly fractionated pegmatites.
Given the results received to date, this means that there is still room for more critical mineral discoveries to be made at the project.
“The results and speed at which our geology team have generated these results is very pleasing and while its early days, show the potential of this tenement to host deposits of a variety of future facing minerals,” executive director Mark Hancock said.
“There is a lot of outcrop to cover across this tenement and the team are busy on the ground gathering information to help zone in on the more prospective areas, with the aim of planning subsequent drill programs and further works.”
The North Dam project is 29km from Mineral Resources’ (ASX:MIN) Mt Marion lithium mine and 50km south-southeast of Coolgardie within the Southern Yilgarn lithium belt, which is well known for hosting significant spodumene deposits.
Besides Mt Marion, other significant deposits include the Bald Hill lithium-tantalum mine to the east-southeast and Pioneer Dome to the south.
North Dam hosts numerous pegmatites of varying thicknesses that typically outcrop as upright north, northwest trending bodies that are coincident with more regional trends, though cross cutting east-west structurally controlled bodies have also been identified.
CuFe’s broad rock chip sampling returned anomalous REEs in areas of heavily weathered pegmatites and saprolitic outcrops.
This included eight samples of greater than 500ppm TREO that were collected from outcrops situated along a series of north-northwest trending pegmatites.
While the weathered nature of the pegmatites prevents the widths from being determined, the mineralised corridor has been interpreted to have a strike of 1.3km.
This corridor also hosts elevated levels of magnet REEs neodymium and praseodymium, which make up to 37.8% of the TREO within sample S263.
Magnet REEs are used to make permanent magnets found in electric vehicle motors and wind turbines.
The company adds that high niobium/tantalum columbite and tantalite chips collected from a shallow stream is indicative of a nearby source location.
Niobium is found in superconducting magnets, rockets, turbines, and medical instruments. It is also emerging as a potential substitute for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries that can not only cut charging times but also fire risks.
Meanwhile, anomalous lithium results were returned from a complex pegmatite system in the south of the North Dam tenement.
Pegmatites in this area are coincident with historical auger soils program undertaken by Ramelius Resources (ASX:RMS) between 2005 and 2007.
Whilst this program was centred around gold exploration, it included analysis for lithium with the historical data returning up to 306ppm Li2O.
Along with its own rock chip sampling and pegmatite mapping, this has allowed CuFe to define a target zone for further work and potentially first pass drilling.
Given the project’s location within a known lithium belt, it is no surprise that CuFe is far from being the only company searching for critical minerals in a region that was previously dominated by gold explorers.
Marquee Resources’ (ASX:MQR) West Spargoville project is just a stone’s throw away whilst Belararox’s (ASX:BRX) rock chip sampling has identified encouraging LCT pegmatite potential at its Bullabulling just 50km west of Coolgardie.
Further to the south near Norseman, Liontown Resources’ (ASX:LTR) emerging Buldania project has similar geology to Mt Marion.
CuFe is continuing exploration across North Dam with the aim of covering all outcropping pegmatites.
This work will also seek to narrow in on target zones with the goal of defining drill targets for the next stage of exploration.
Depositions in this region are commonly depleted in lithium at surface, meaning drilling is generally required early in the exploration process.
Additionally, a pegmatite identified as a potential source of columbite and tantalite is being investigated and sampled as part of future exploration works.
This article was developed in collaboration with CuFe, 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.