Defense Metals (TSX-DEFN) continues to advance its Wicheeda rare earth deposit north of Prince George, on Thursday releasing the first assay results of a bulk sample program.
Taking a 30-tonne bulk sample from the property, located 80 kilometers northwest of Prince George, was the first step of a multi-step plan by Defense Metals to develop the advanced exploration project into a rare earth mine that can provide raw materials for civilian and military uses, in particular the market for permanent magnets requiring the rare earths neodymium and praseodymium, of which Wicheeda appears to have ample supply.
The goal of the sample program is to confirm previous bench-scale testing and metallurgical testwork of Wicheeda drill cores.
In 2010-11, testing company SGS Canada successfully developed a flotation flow sheet that recovered 83% of the rare earth oxide (REO) and produced a concentrate grading 42% REO. Subsequent hydrometallurgical testing in 2012 on a two-kilogram sample of the concentrate grading 39.7% total rare earth oxide (TREO), produced an upgraded and purified precipitate that contained 71% TREO through a process of pre-leaching and roasting.
For more read Ahead Of the Heard’s Defense Metals has sights set on rare earths, uranium
Enough historical drilling had been done to compile an inferred resource estimate of 11.2 million tonnes. The company has plans to produce a 43-101 compliant resource when they can revisit the property this spring.
According to Defense Metals’ news release, “Select head assay results for the 30 tonne bulk sample include 1.77% lanthanum-oxide, 2.34% cerium-oxide, 0.52% neodymium-oxide, and 0.18% praseodymium-oxide which the Company considers potentially economically significant, for a total of 4.81% LREO (light rare-earth oxide) (see Figure 1 below).”
Of significance is the finding of praseodymium, Wicheeda had, up to now, been viewed as a cerium-lanthanum-neodymium deposit, the addition of Pr not only adds another magnet metal but potentially adds to the economic potential of the project.
Also important to DEFN investors and potential investors is how the 30-tonne random sample was obtained from Wicheeda. First, the sample was not taken from a known area of mineralization; it was collected from a single blast trench located about 30 meters east of the 2008 drill pad.
Second, the sample was from an outcrop chosen for its proximity to a helicopter landing spot, making feasible the delivery of sampling equipment, and a suitable location from which to fly the 30 sample bags out.
The 30-tonne random sample was trucked to SGS’s testing facility in Lakefield, Ontario, crushed to a one-inch rock size and blended, before being further pulverized, and finally analyzed for rare earth percentages.
As the colored chart above shows, the assay results have determined that a 30-tonne random sample from Wicheeda blasted and trenched material reveals the presence of four rare earth elements that, if made into oxides (the finished product required by a rare earth consumer such as a battery company), would show up in the following percentages per tonne of total rare earth oxide: 2.34% cerium, 1.77% lanthanum, 0.52% neodymium and 0.18% praseodymium.
These results are impressive for two reasons. First, the presence of neodymium and praseodymium is critical, because these two REEs are used in the manufacture of permanent magnets that go into a number of high-tech applications including computer hard disk drives, wind turbine generators, MRI scanners and motors in hybrid and electric vehicles. More on that below.
Second, the results indicate a potential light rare earth deposit of significant value.
CAD$685 per tonne rock
We at Ahead of the Herd did some calculations to determine what the gross in-situ value (ie. before processing or other costs) of the metal in the ground at Wicheeda would be, extrapolated from the 30-tonne bulk sample.
From the table below, we see the current rare earth oxide prices. Neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr) are by far the highest, at a respective US$62.34 and $61.40 per kilogram, compared to lanthanum (La) and cerium (Ce) oxides, at $1.93 and $1.89/kg.
To get the gross in-situ metal values, we need to have all the numbers in kilograms. Start by multiplying 1,000 (the number of kilograms in a tonne) by the percentage of rare earths as a decimal (eg. 2.34% = .0234) to get the kilograms of rare earths per tonne. Then simply multiply that by the price per kilogram, to get the value of the particular rare earth element contained within a tonne of rock. Doing that gives us the following:
This Editorial was produced in collaboration with Richard (Rick) Mills & www.aheadoftheheard.com. Click here for the full article.
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