Sovereign Metals has outlined encouraging preliminary metallurgical test work results for its Wofiira rutile prospect in Malawi, East Africa, generating a potentially premium high-quality product, with low impurities, from conventional mineral sands processing. The concentrated ore product contained 96% titanium dioxide at a recovered grade of 1.1% rutile and is on par with many of the world’s leading rutile producers.
Multi-commodity developer Sovereign Metals can’t believe its luck at the moment, with recent metallurgical test work on titanium oxide “rutile” mineralisation from the Wofiira prospect in Malawi, demonstrating the high-quality nature of the recovered concentrate product.
The company discovered large areas of the rutile mineralisation from re-assaying of historical auger drill holes at the Wofiira rutile zone in January and this week’s test results show the material is potentially a premium, high-value product, with low levels of penalty elements.
A rutile product containing 96% titanium dioxide was produced using conventional mineral sands processing methods at a recovered rutile grade of 1.16%.
For comparison, Iluka Resources controls the world’s largest and currently highest-grade primary rutile mine in Sierra Leone - in West Africa – that contains 714 million tonnes grading 1.1% rutile.
The preliminary results from Wofiira potentially show that a very high-quality rutile product, meeting or exceeding typical market specifications can be processed from Sovereign’s Malawi ores.
Management stated that initial indications are that the company’s current 4,200 square kilometre plus tenement holdings in Malawi, may contain a significant rutile province.
Natural rutile is a highly sought after, high-grade titanium feed source, which currently sells for about USD$1,000 per tonne, with longer-term pricing likely to be higher and closer to USD$1,250 per tonne.
The major uses for rutile are in the manufacture of refractory ceramics, as a pigment and for the production of titanium metal.
Finely powdered rutile is a brilliant white pigment and utilised in paints, plastics, paper, foods and other applications that call for a bright white colour.
Sovereign has identified extensive rutile mineralisation straight from the surface at Wofiira, which is contained in a soft, free-digging, saprolite material formed from the complete weathering of the underlying rocks.
Managing Director Dr Julian Stephens said: “The ability to produce a natural rutile product to commercial specifications comparable to leading market products from our saprolite-hosted prospects in Malawi is a significant milestone.”
“These initial metallurgical results are an important step in validating the commercial importance of the rutile mineralisation we have discovered and given us the confidence to move forward with expanded exploration and metallurgical test-work programs.”
“The natural rutile market has highly favourable fundamentals with the commodity known to be in structural deficit.”
Upcoming work programs include additional auger drilling works to define discrete areas of rutile mineralisation ahead of a future mineral resource estimation.
The company will also complete regional reconnaissance and soil sampling and pan concentrating programs to delineate new locations of rutile mineralisation across its vast ground position in Malawi.
Sovereign will continue metallurgical testing of the ores to optimise and validate the processing flowsheet for the rutile materials at a larger scale and hence, produce enough ore concentrate for initial market specification and likely off-take discussions down the track.
The company’s Malawi project holdings also contain the high-grade Malingunde saprolite-hosted, graphite deposit, for which Sovereign is completing a definitive feasibility study after last November’s pre-feasibility study delivered a robust, low-cost, high margin, coarse graphite flake project.
That deposit contains a defined ore reserve of 9.5 million tonnes grading 9.5% total graphitic carbon.
With two high sought-after mineral commodities within the confines of its extensive tenement package in Malawi, Sovereign certainly has its hands full at the moment and will be strongly encouraged by the initial met work of the Wofiira rutile zone.
Watch this space.