Victory Metals proves it can recover the heavy rare earths that the US needs
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Victory Metals’ North Stanmore project is emerging as a potential strategic source of highly valuable rare earths after successfully producing a mixed rare earth carbonate (MREC) test product dominated by heavy rare earths.
North Stanmore is prized for its logistical advantages, high metallurgical recoveries, high ratios of heavy rare earth oxides (HREO), and location on Crown land in WA’s Cue region.
To top it off, the 250Mt resource grading 520 parts per million (ppm) total rare earth oxide (TREO) – with valuable HREOs making up 33% of that – allows Victory Metals (ASX:VTM) to claim the largest heavy rare earth enriched ionic-clay/regolith-hosted resource in Australia.
Critical minerals remain firmly in the global spotlight; just a few weeks ago, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited the White House to talk supply strategies with US President Joe Biden.
Shoring up reliable supply chains — which play an integral part in the green energy revolution — is paramount as superpowers like China usurp their dominance over these important commodities.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says China has the “technology and sustained investment” to corner the market, meaning countries like Australia and the US would need to work “a little harder and a little faster”.
As Albanese sees it, there’s opportunity in that challenge: “As we race towards a more stable supply chain, there’s a moment for us, US and Australia, to partner as it relates to critical minerals to our mutual benefit,” he explained.
About 54% of Victory’s North Stanmore resource is classified as ‘critical metals’ by the US Government, with valuable magnet rare earths dysprosium and terbium making up 3.6% of the total REE content.
Dysprosium and terbium are facing a predicted supply deficit of 70% by 2030, underscoring their inherent value as the world embraces net-zero technologies.
North Stanmore’s current resource covers just 18% of the drilled area with an exploration target of between 700Mt and 1,100Mt grading 300ppm to 500ppm TREO over the remaining area.
A +13,000m drill program is underway to upgrade the resource to the higher confidence indicated category, which will provide enough certainty for mine planning.
Results from this program will also contribute to a scoping study planned for early 2024.
VTM’s MREC product produced at laboratory scale from a 50kg sample taken from North Stanfmore has an outstanding HREO to TREO ratio of 96.4%.
Notably, this makes it the first Australian company to report assay results for REE and impurity levels for a MREC test product from an Australian ionic clay-regolith project.
The test product also has a very high TREO concentration of 12.46% weight (124,600ppm) with nickel, cobalt and copper recovered as by-products and is expected to draw an indicated price of $114/kg.
“I am incredibly proud to announce that our dedicated team has successfully produced a high value and high grade heavy rare earth enriched carbonate from 50kg of material from North Stanmore exploration drilling,” chief executive officer Brendan Clark said.
“Importantly, we have produced and shared the chemistry for a MREC test product from an Australian ionic clay REE deposit, which showcases Victory’s technological strengths and demonstrates the potential value in North Stanmore.
“Our assays have reported an impressive HREO to TREO ratio of 96.4%, comprising a high percentage of the highly sought-after REE dysprosium and terbium augmenting our potential premier position in the non-Chinese rare earth market with these two elements forecast to be in at a 70% deficit by 2030.
“We are also excited about the presence of key lithium-ion battery metals, nickel and cobalt in the liquor which provides further potential economic benefits in the production stage.
“The production of MREC test product with minimal ammonium sulphate leach times and acid usage supports our commitment to sustainable practices, and further substantiates North Stanmore’s position as a strategically valuable and important ionic clay hosted REE discovery.”
VTM is currently investigating processing options to generate copper, nickel and cobalt by-products within the flowsheet.
Copper was precipitated with the REE and reported to the MREC, which contained 2.2% copper, while most of the nickel and cobalt remained in the barren MREC liquor.
Test work to generate a mixed hydroxide precipitate containing nickel and cobalt – a nickel intermediate product used as a primary feedstock in the production of nickel sulphate that is crucial to the lithium-ion battery supply chain – from the barren liquor is underway.
A scoping study is also poised to start in early 2024.
This article was developed in collaboration with Victory Metals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.