Pilot studies and lab test work results are boring to talk about, but they are critical to the success or failure of many speciality metals projects.

Companies that don’t run pilot plants first – smaller versions of the real thing – to see if everything will scale up smoothly, are taking a massive risk.

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Which is why advanced explorer Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) is taking a methodical approach to testing.

AVL wants  final operating costs at its namesake project to be well inside the lowest quartile of vanadium producers, it says.

The company says that ongoing pilot plant and lab-scale test work are already delivering small improvements in the lead up to the roast/leach pilot work, due to kick off in September at a US laboratory.

AVL just tested 6 tonnes of ore for crushing, milling and beneficiation (CMB) at a Perth lab and the results are good, with “higher than anticipated” vanadium grades and exceptionally low grades of silica and alumina in concentrate.

AVL’s Todd Richardson says silica is bad — it consumes soda ash in the roasting process, which also decreases vanadium recovery.

“The low silica content, at 1.37 per cent, combined with an improved V2O5 grade of 1.44 per cent is likely to reduce reagent usage and improve overall throughput in the refinery,” he says.

Two larger, 10 tonne CMB pilot runs in August will hopefully use learnings from this run to polish these results up even more.

And as it progresses the all-important definitive feasibility study (DFS), AVL is also looking to slash those ~$500m in capital costs, as well as investigate by-product sales and energy savings.

AVl managing director Vince Algar says test work, project environmental approval work, resource updates and economic mining studies are all “advancing steadily”.

“The company remains committed to reducing operating costs and improving vanadium recoveries by ensuring that the proposed flowsheet is robust and proven, which should enable success at scale,” he says.

“Test work will proceed as outlined, in conjunction with ongoing work to establish financing and offtake agreements.

“Progress is being made in both areas and will be reported to the market as appropriate.”


In other vanadium news today:

Drilling has kicked off to test a titanium-vanadium target at the Limestone Well project, which neighbours the colossal Barrambie deposit owned by battery metals play Neometals (ASX:NMT). JV partners Mithril Resources (ASX:MTH) and Auteco Minerals (ASX:AUT) are hoping a big soil anomaly is essentially a continuation of Barrambie, which hosts 280.1Mt at 9.18 per cent TiO₂ and 0.44 per cent V₂O₅. The drilling program is funded by Auteco, who can to earn up to an 80 per cent in Limestone Well by shelling out $2.5m on exploration over 5 years.

And ScandiVanadium (ASX:SVD) is finally drilling at the Skåne vanadium project in southern Sweden. Diamond holes of up to 125m deep will target a prospective vanadium bearing seam where it occurs near surface at the Hörby target, at the northern end of the project area. Drilling will take three weeks to complete.

Investors approved, sending the stock up 12 per cent in morning trade.