These 10 stocks have a stake in the emerging rare earths province near Esperance
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Esperance has received significant attention in recent times following a spate of successful exploration in the region for Rare Earth Elements (REEs), which are some of the most in-demand commodities globally.
Neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr) in particular are becoming increasingly important in the global economy, with uses including advanced electronics, permanent magnets in electric motors and electricity generators and battery technologies.
To put this demand in perspective, Argus forecasts global EV sales will grow at a 20% CAGR to 2026 (approx. 20 million units per year) and each EV uses 2-5kg of rare earths magnets.
Then if you look at installed wind turbine generating capacity, that’s forecast to grow at a 25% CAGR to 2030, and each direct drive turbine uses around 650kg of rare earth magnets per megawatt of generation capacity.
And in an environment of high demand and limited producers, explorers are searching for the next REE region.
That’s where Esperance comes in.
Currently, clay REE deposits are primarily economically extracted in China, and compared to hard rock deposits, they are shallower which means they’re cheaper to mine.
Plus, the process flow sheet is more simplified, meaning clay deposits have a lower capital intensity and lower operating cost to produce a refined product.
Outside of China, companies such as Mount Ridley Mines (ASX:MRD), OD6 Metals (ASX:OD6), West Cobar Metals (ASX:WC1) and Heavy Rare Earths (ASX:HRE) have all reported very intriguing REE drill hits recently – and the latter two defining maiden resources – across some 20,000km2 of ground, turning Esperance into an emerging REE province.
Not to mention, the area has excellent infrastructure – including the Port of Esperance – with abundant renewable wind and solar energy available to explorers who manage to get a mine up and running.
The company has clay hosted rare earths at its Splinter Rock and Grass Patch Projects, in the Esperance-Goldfields region of Western Australia – about 30 to 150km northeast of the port.
Maiden aircore regional reconnaissance drilling during the March quarter at Grass Patch identified high-grade clay-hosted rare earths in multiple locations with grades up to 3,340 ppm Total Rare Earth Oxides (TREO), plus exceptionally high Magnet Rare Earth Oxides (MREO) were encountered up to 38.5% of TREO grade.
Second phase aircore drilling at Splinter Rock delivered grades averaging in excess of 1,000ppm TREO, and high value MREO represented an average of ~22% of TREO grade.
Metallurgical testing using hydrochloric acid to leach the rare earths have resulted in positive REE recoveries with optimisation ongoing.
The plan is to delineate and define economic resources and reserves of REE, in particular neodymium and praseodymium, which can be developed into a future revenue generating mine.
Last month the company flagged multiple, parallel, high-grade trends of clay-hosted REE mineralisation with grades >1000ppm TREO from drilling at its Mia Prospect at the Mount Ridley project.
Notably, Mia is just one of 11 prospects at the project which sits 50km from the port.
Drilling back in Feb uncovered high grade rare earths and magnet rare earths at the Jodi and Marvelous Marvin prospects.
“These results provide confidence regarding the continuity of mineralisation between drill sections for the Mia Prospect as we progress towards our maiden Mineral Resource Estimate,” chairman Peter Christie said in May.
The company has committed to more than 50,000m of drilling, intended to take the project towards a maiden REE resource this year.
Just last week the company reported “excellent” clay rare earth drill results from the 43.5Mt at 1192ppm Salazar project, around 120km from Esperance.
The Newmont and O’Connor prospects particularly show the potential for future major additions to REE resources, with a resource update expected this month.
Newmont is relatively high in high value, heavy magnet REE content, comprising 3% dysprosium and 0.5% terbium content, with praseodymium making up 4.2% and neodymium 16.8% of TREO.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has also begun a program of metallurgical testwork aimed at developing a viable flowsheet for the extraction of REE products from Salazar.
In May, EMU reported its Stage 2 Rock Chip Reconnaissance Survey had confirmed and extended the REE mineralisation footprint with highly anomalous REE values recorded from outcropping Booanya suite granites at its Condingup REE Project 60km from Esperance.
Assay results included 941ppm TREO, 1,089ppm TREO, 1,205ppm TREO and 1,242ppm TREO, with MREO representing an average of ~22% of TREO grade from 28 rock chip samples.
Chairman Peter Thomas said the results identify the project as being “a dead ringer to OD6’s Splinter Rocks project” which is 35km away.
The company is also looking to expand its footprint at the project, applying for an additional 765km2 of highly prospective Exploration Licence ground, taking the overall exploration package at the Condingup REE Project to 1,560km2.
EMU is currently planning a maiden aircore drilling program to ascertain mineralisation in target clay REE enriched horizons.
Although the original target commodities for the company’s Peak Charles project 88km from Esperance were Ni-Cu sulphide and gold, the project has now shown large scale potential for clay basin hosted Rare Earth mineralisation.
A recent airborne geophysical survey indentified a discrete radiometric anomaly within Moho’s Gimli clay-hosted REE prospect exploration area west of Salmon Gums.
“Moho is very excited by the possibilities that the Gimli prospect is beginning to reveal, with the radiometric anomaly potentially being indicative of a carbonatite intrusion,” MD Ralph Winter said.
“Carbonatites could host elevated REE levels which would open the door for both hard rock-hosted REE as well clay-hosted REE mineralisation at the Peak Charles project.”
The company has lodged an exploration licence application to expand the ground holding around the radiometric anomaly to the north and west and Programs of Works (POWs) have been submitted for 33-hole aircore reconnaissance drilling within road reserves at Gimli prospect.
Second phase reconnaissance aircore drilling of 47 holes is also planned to test the Rolland East prospect bordering known REE at OD6 Metals’ Grass Patch-Belgian Road prospect and the Top Block prospect.
Last month ZMI picked up the Cascade REE project 70km from Esperance, which is contiguous to licence blocks held by Meeka Metals and adjacent to OD6’s Splinter Rock REE project.
Historical shallow auger drilling at Cascade encountered mineralisation of over 1000ppm TREO at surface (0-3m maximum drill depth).
The historical AngloGold auger results on E74/691 show a large coherent 6km by 3km anomaly while E74/690 hosts similarly anomalous TREO enrichment along a 5km road traverse.
Both areas represent encouraging targets for the discovery of deeper mineralisation and will be subject to drill testing as soon as the company has confirmed access agreements.
Heavy Rare Earths is living up to its name, in May reporting high-grade assays up to 5192ppm TREO intersected in three new areas at the Cowalinya deposit in WA’s Norseman-Esperance region.
Plus, there’s potential for a 14km strike extension to the newly-discovered Western Zone of mineralisation.
Executive director Richard Brescianini said the assays added a “blue sky element” to the deposit.
“This is a very significant development for the project and builds on our success in demonstrating the widespread and coherent nature of rare earth mineralisation within our ground,” he said.
“Results reported by HRE since last October underline the potential for a material increase in resources at Cowalinya.”
A mineral resource update and estimated Exploration Target for the project is anticipated in Q3 2023.
The company has the Circle Valley gold and REE project, along with the Cascade REE project in the Esperance region.
Assays from mineral resource drilling at Circle Valley in May returned composite intersections including 12m at 4,276ppm TREO (28% NdPr) from 19m including 4m at 7,475ppm TREO.
Individual samples returned TREO grades up to 7,475ppm with consistently high NdPr to TREO ratios, up to 30%.
“We anticipate reporting the Circle Valley Mineral Resource in June 2023, which in conjunction with the ongoing metallurgical test work will support economic assessment,” MD Tim Davidson said.
The Cascade project is about 10x the size of Circle Valley, and has previously returned shallow high grade mineralisation up to 0.6% TREO.
Moho is planning aircore drilling towards at the project the end of the year/early next year.
Another company with a project adjoining OD6 and Meeka is Terrain Minerals with its Lort River project just 50km from Esperance.
Planning for proof-of-concept roadside air core drilling is underway and planned to take place in the second half 2023.
An 8,500m air core drilling program is scheduled from Q1 2024, with drilling to support the reporting of an exploration target scheduled for early Q3 2024.
Infill drilling and metallugical test work is also planned for Q3 2024 – with a maiden mineral resource estimate anticipated in Q4 2024.
Due an honourable mention is upcoming IPO Requisite Resources which has a 5,280km2 smack bang in the middle of the emerging Esperance clay-hosted REE province, and about 70km from the port.
The company is looking to raise $6m and list on the ASX in Q3 2023.
Notably, their Mount Ney project is sandwiched by OD6’s Split Rock project and Mount Ridley’s namesake project with the Mia deposit extending onto Requisite’s tenure.
And 18 of the company’s 384 air core drill hole program – which is already underway – will test the continuation of Mount Ridley’s Mia prospect.
“The OD6 discoveries to date, provide us with a lot of optimism for our drilling campaign, combined with Mount Ridley’s recent announcement of 30m at 6,000ppm TREO starting at 10m in their large Mia prospect and we are surrounded by high grade deposits,” CEO Richard Pang told Stockhead.
“We’re really excited about that because these things aren’t just isolated.
“Everyone in the region has identified quality prospects are now progressing to resource definition or resource upgrades in the case of HRE and WC1.
“The demand for REE is insatiable, it is not going to slow any time soon. Australia has an opportunity to become a significant player in the Rare Earths domain and we plan for Requisite to be part of the Australian Rare Earths growth story”.
At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While OD6 Metals, Mount Ridley Mines, Moho Resources, Heavy Rare Earths, Meeka Metals and Requisite Resources are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.