RareX’s bigger, better Cummins Range resource to fuel phosphate-REE strategy
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The Cummins Range rare earths and phosphate project in Western Australia is now Australia’s largest undeveloped REE deposit after RareX bulked up its resource by 31%.
Indicated and Inferred Resources at the project now stand at 519 million tonnes grading 0.32% total rare earth oxides (TREO) and 4.6% phosphate for contained resources of 1.6Mt TREO and 24Mt of phosphate.
This is thanks in no small part to the inclusion of the maiden Phos Dyke resource of 105Mt (including a higher confidence Indicated Resource of 21Mt at 8% phosphate and 0.36% TREO, which follows on the heels of the 500% increase in resources at Rare Dyke in March that reflected the new view of Cummins Range as a very large REE-rich phosphate system.
And while increasing the raw tonnage available to RareX (ASX:REE) is valuable indeed, that high-value magnet REEs neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) make up a significant 22% of the TREO content (25% at Phos Dyke) is just the sweet icing on top.
Cummins Range also has large tonnages of higher grade TREO of 52Mt at 1% TREO, which accounts for a third of the project’s total REE content.
This upgraded resource clearly underscores the company’s belief in the scale and significance of the project while highlighting the potential for a fast-tracked direct shipping ore (DSO) phosphate fertiliser stage to get the ball rolling – and revenues flowing – before work begins on beneficiating both the phosphate and rare earths.
“Our exploration efforts at Cummins Range have delivered us a terrific result, reflecting both a huge amount of work by Guy Moulang’s team and the vision of our chairman, Jeremy Robinson,” recently appointed chief executive officer James Durrant said.
“Cummins Range now stands out as a large and attractive source of both rare earths and phosphates, with the updated global Mineral Resource estimate providing an incredible foundation to move the Project firmly into the development chapter.
Durrant, who was appointed to prepare the company for its transition towards development and operations, added that the large Cummins Range resource provides the company exposure to the global mega-trends of decarbonisation and feeding a rapidly growing global population.
The Cummins Range project is an igneous carbonatite intrusive complex, visible from surface and located in a remote but accessible area of the Great Sandy Desert, 135km south-west of Halls Creek and 50km off the Tanami Road in WA’s Kimberley region.
The deposit is centred on the sub-parallel Rare Dyke and Phos Dyke carbonatite dykes
Access to the Project from Halls Creek is via the Great Northern Highway and then the Tanami Road, which will be completely sealed by the state government, to Ruby Plains station from which access to the project is along station tracks.
Halls Creek also has a sealed airstrip and connects to the ports of Wyndham, which is being upgraded, and Darwin via the Great Northern Highway. Additionally, the Ord River hydropower station has reserve capacity for energy supply.
Cummins Range was recently re-imagined as a very large REE-rich phosphate system, which along with recent metallurgical testwork led to the development of a new strategy for its development consisting of an initial fast-tracked DSO phosphate fertiliser phase (Stage 1), followed by phosphate beneficiation (Stage 2) and subsequently rare earth beneficiation and value chain development (Stage 3).
This is expected to lower the risk associated with building the full rare earth value chain outright at the beginning by delivering a simpler and lower-cost DSO phosphate operation using existing infrastructure, whilst maintaining development towards a large scale, strategic, rare earth and phosphate critical minerals project.
Stage 1 will see the proposed bulk mining of apatite mineral rock phosphate contained within the overburden, with trucking to Wyndham Port for transhipment to ocean going vessels.
Metallurgical testing of the likely DSO rock phosphate showed much higher bioavailability levels than the industry high-standard (9%) for use as direct application fertiliser.
A memorandum of understanding is already in place with OrdCo – the primary distributor of fertilisers in Kununurra, for the development of a product roadmap and an offtake and distribution agreement.
Stage 2 is the proposed installation of simple flotation beneficiation infrastructure in order to concentrate the lower grade phosphate minerals from the regolith materials in the deposit.
Metallurgical testwork has successfully upgraded circa 13% feed grade mineral phosphate to over 35% phosphate using typical flotation methods.
The upgraded phosphate material has shown good results on both bioavailability tests as well as lower deleterious element grades than industry standards for fertilisers.
Studies are currently underway for a 5Mtpa feed beneficiation plant with Primero while optimisation studies to determine the installation schedule are poised to begin shortly.
RareX believes that high phosphorous extraction can be achieved with minimal rare earths loss during the phosphoric acid production process.
The third stage will allow the company to make the transition into rare earths production by expanding the beneficiation plant in Stage 2 with the requisite capital upgrades to manage the high-grade rare-earth regolith and subsequently fresh rock material.
Early testwork has been very encouraging with positive results for both phosphate and REE concentration achieved.
The resulting rare earth and phosphate concentrate is anticipated to be well suited for the phosphoric acid producers from Stage 2 as well as deriving rare earth credits from the product mix.
RareX is currently revising the Scoping Study with a focus on the DSO opportunity for potential expedited project delivery while the longer-term project configuration is further designed, which is nearing completion.
Several Pre-Feasibility Study work streams are already underway for aspects of the project that are unlikely to be affected by the re-framing such as work on work on road and port design and on hydrogeological and geotechnical aspects, as well as the important baseline heritage and environmental surveys to support project approvals.
This article was developed in collaboration with RareX, 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.