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Giant King River vanadium project becomes mammoth

King River Copper is evaluating the possibility of almost doubling the size of its proposed Speewah vanadium-titanium project in the East Kimberley after receiving a swag of very encouraging results from an initial mining study.

In an update to the ASX this week, the company reported the best case to emerge from an initial mining study by CSA Global was a large pit measuring 4.2km by 1.2km with a depth of 90m.

According to the company, this could produce sufficient material for several decades of economic production at respectable grades.

The proposed pit would have a crazy low strip ratio of 0.4 to 1, taking full advantage of the shallow and flat-lying nature of the central vanadium deposit and its homogenous mineralisation.

Based on these results, King River said it was now contemplating an almost doubling of the operation proposed in the company’s 2012 scoping study.

The original study envisaged mining 6.3 million tonnes a year at a strip ratio of 0.5 to 1 to produce 75,000 tonnes of titanium dioxide, 12,400 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide and 410,000 tonnes of hematite.

CSA’s pit optimisation study was based only on measured and indicated resources, which, at 531 million tonnes is just a fraction of the inferred resource of more than 4,000 million tonnes.

The company also updated the market on extensive engineering studies on benefication and processing options for the giant, polymetallic deposit and management is working hard to take the operation as far as possible downstream to achieve the maximum value add from the project.

TSW Analytical are working on two process route options to produce high purity vanadium pentoxide, with a focus on a pathway that will allow the product to be used in new-generation vanadium redox batteries. Research is also under way to produce high purity titanium dioxide that can be converted into high-value titanium sponge.

Meanwhile Primero Group has delivered detailed processing flow sheets for each stage of the beneficiation plant and it is now working on operating and capital cost estimates.

The company said: “The nature of these different technical studies is complex and process optimisation does take time. Through this comprehensive scoping process, KRC aims to present our shareholders with the most prudent commercial strategy to advance towards the production of high purity vanadium, titanium and iron products at the lowest unit cost.”

King River has also begun a study into energy sources for the project, which is more than 100km south of Kununurra. Options being considered include solar and tidal energy.

Falling renewable energy costs are opening up new sources of power generation for an increasing number of resource projects in WA and could provide a boost to Speewah’s environmental credentials.

King River Copper is thinking about a serious upsizing of its proposed mine at Speewah after an initial pit study found a monster-sized pit could be the best approach to mining the giant vanadium-titanium-iron deposit. The latest study has lowered the strip ratio to just 0.4 to 1, taking full advantage of the large, flat-lying and evenly-distributed mineralisation.

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