ASX-listed heavy rare earth explorer and producer Northern Minerals has kicked off vital resource drilling at its advanced Browns Range project in WA’s north. The planned 12,000m of reverse circulation drilling is aimed at defining new resources and reserves ahead of next year’s project bankable feasibility study and final investment decision on a commercial-scale operation.
ASX-listed heavy rare earth explorer and producer Northern Minerals has kicked off vital resource drilling at its advanced Browns Range project in Western Australia’s north. The planned 12,000m of reverse circulation drilling is aimed at defining new resources and reserves ahead of next year’s project bankable feasibility study and final investment decision on a commercial-scale operation.
The new drilling campaign follows on from first-phase drilling at Browns range completed at the end of last year and is part of Northern Minerals’ budgeted $5 million of exploration this year.
Drilling will include a combination of follow-up holes at the Banshee West and Toad prospects; exploratory drilling in the vicinity of the Gambit, Gambit West and Rogue prospects; and drill testing at greenfield targets including the Ripcord, Pulse and Quicksilver prospects.
Previous drilling in 2020 returned intercepts such as 12m grading 0.43 per cent total rare earths oxide or “TREO” from 34m and 13m at 0.43 per cent TREO from 23m. Another drill hole at Banshee West returned 4m at 0.64 per cent TREO from 41m, with an encouraging 6m hit grading 0.78 per cent TREO from 49m at the Toad prospect. The company says it has effectively only scratched the surface of the vast Browns Range Dome straddling the WA-Northern Territory border and there are plenty of targets awaiting drilling.
Management says the company’s exploration success rate to date has been exceptional with seven out of the targets drilled so far producing mineral resources.
Located in the Tanami district 160km south-east of Halls Creek, the Browns Range project is the world’s first significant dysprosium producer outside of China. Northern Minerals’ tenure covers an area of about 2,750sq.km and is centred on the Browns Range Dome, a major geological uplift feature covering about 1,500sq.km.
The company says its massive landholding is highly prospective for heavy rare earth mineralisation. The main ore mineral is xenotime which contains 600–800ppm dysprosium – well above the average 20-40ppm dysprosium recovered at environmentally damaging in situ leach mines in southern China.
Northern Minerals has 100% ownership and marketing rights for all but three of the tenements covering the Browns Range Dome. The other three tenements are held by ASX gold major Northern Star Resources with Northern Minerals retaining full rare earth element rights on the ground.
The company recently approved a substantial budget of about $10 million for 2021-2022, reinforcing its long-term commitment to heavy rare earth exploration at Browns Range.
Northern Minerals CEO Mark Tory said: “We saw positive results following the first phase of RC drilling and will seek to convert a number of those targets to mineral resources from this second phase. The Browns Range Dome is an amazingly rich and heavily mineralised area which underpins Northern Minerals’ current and future growth.”
Intriguingly, heavy rare earth deposits are far less common than light rare earth deposits. Heavy rare earths are used in a range of applications in burgeoning markets from mobile phones and electric cars to medical equipment, permanent magnets and aircraft engines.
Northern Minerals boasts one of the most advanced heavy rare earth projects outside of China. With strengthening dysprosium, terbium and yttrium prices, the company’s investment timing for a large-scale, reliable producer of strategically important rare metals probably couldn’t be better.
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