MinRex Resources looks like it’s onto a potential standalone scandium deposit at a NSW project it’s in the process of acquiring.

MinRex has discovered legacy metallurgical results from about 20 years ago that show former owner Jervois Mining (ASX:JRV) achieved a 70 per cent scandium recovery rate from high-grade samples taken from a prospect known as Houston Mitchell, within the Pacific Express project.

It’s a great find for MinRex (ASX:MRR) given the extremely under-supplied and growing scandium market.

Just 15 tonnes of scandium is produced each year.

The need for stronger, lighter weight aircraft and vehicles makes scandium a highly sought-after substance.

Scandium is added to aluminium products to make them stronger, more corrosion-resistant and heat-tolerant.

It is also used in solid oxide fuel cells – a clean, low-pollution technology that can generate electricity at high efficiencies.

“Clearly, the due diligence team have uncovered a prospective game-changer for the Pacific Express project, with legacy metallurgical test-work verifying the potential to develop a standalone scandium deposit,” executive director Simon Durack said.

“Moreover, it is pleasing to note Boeing’s early interest in scandium alloys, as the future take-up rate from the aviation industry is set to grow materially over the next two decades.”

A 2002 report undertaken by Jervois and Australian government-backed research agency CSIRO highlighted significant early interest by the global aviation giant in the ability of scandium alloys to mitigate against corrosion for a new aircraft design.

Some 16 years on, demand for scandium is set to grow significantly moving forward. Boeing and Airbus will potentially need 150 tonnes a year to make aluminium-scandium alloys to build up to 38,000 new aircraft over the next two decades.

Houston Mitchell and Hurll's Hill prospects. Pic: MinRex
Houston Mitchell and Hurll’s Hill prospects. Pic: MinRex

Near-surface scandium

MinRex’s geology team is now evaluating occurrences of scandium-rich material.

This could result in scandium-rich resources being defined separately to the nickel and cobalt occurrences that dominate throughout the tenure.

The geology team have also noticed the scandium is enriched nearer to surface, while the cobalt and nickel mineralisation is deeper within the laterite.

High exploration upside

Other test-work on bulk samples from Hurll’s Hill returned recovery rates of up to 96 per cent cobalt and 94 per cent nickel, clearly highlighting the exploration upside.

Hurll’s Hill lies just outside the project boundary but has similar geology sequences to prospective areas within Pacific Express.

The belief is that Hurll’s Hill has significant potential to be developed into a major scandium, cobalt and nickel laterite project.

“While the board looks forward to receiving the geology team’s final report and recommendation, the legacy metallurgical evidence clearly confirms there is material exploration upside for the Pacific Express project,” Mr Durack said.

Moving forward

For the Houston Mitchell prospect, external consultants will thoroughly review all legacy metallurgical data and test-work then summarise key findings.

MinRex says this project knowledge can materially aid fast-tracking future mining studies.

The company is also starting work on modelling legacy data to determine if a resource can be estimated for scandium, cobalt and nickel and reported to the JORC (2012) code.

JORC refers to the mining industry’s official code for reporting exploration results, mineral resources and ore reserves, managed by the Australasian Joint Ore Reserves Committee.

MinRex will then put together preliminary drilling campaigns for the most prospective scandium, cobalt and nickel targets within the Pacific Express project.


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