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Ardea confirms high-grade WA battery metal hits

Ardea Resources has confirmed some solid nickel-cobalt intercepts with bonus previously undocumented scandium and rare earths after re-testing historic drill pulps at its Kalpini Nickel project in WA. Noteworthy assay results included a 12 metre section grading 1.7 per cent nickel, 0.151 per cent cobalt and 28 grams per tonne scandium with 0.244 per cent total rare earth oxides and 1.32 per cent total rare metal oxides.

Other significant intercepts from the program include a 4m hit going 1.66 per cent nickel, 0.102 per cent cobalt and 40 g/t scandium from 29m downhole with 0.1297 per cent total rare earths and 0.7193 per cent total rare metal oxides.

Elements included in the calculation of total rare earths included neodymium, praseodymium, lanthanum and cerium with total rare metals composed of titanium, yttrium, zircon, niobium, hafnium, tantalum and tungsten.

Ardea hopes the rare earths and rare metals mineralisation will provide potential by-product credits in addition to the cobalt and scandium mineralisation whilst processing its nickel deposits. Bench-scale metallurgical test work is currently being conducted to test the viability of the scheme.

Although the rare earths mineralisation encountered to date is about a tenth of the grade required to run a standalone rare earths operation it is still a valuable discovery as its essentially a necessary by-product of the exisiting nickel refinement process.

During pre-feasibility study works in 2018 on the Goongarrie project, Ardea demonstrated that cobalt could go into solution with the nickel target with aggressive autoclave hydrometallurgical metal dissolution. Preliminary work has shown associated rare earths and rare metals can also be expected to go into solution with the nickel target.

Quantifying the marginal cost of recovering the rare earths and rare metals is a key focus area for the current Ardea and ALS collaboration through its ongoing metallurgical research and development work.

To put the significance of the by-product credits into context, during the 2018 pre-feasibility study at the Kalgoorlie Nickel project the cobalt revenue credit was calculated to reduce the then estimated operating cost from US$5.59 per pound down to a significantly lower US$0.42 per pound.

If Ardea can manage to use the scandium, rare earths and rare metals to contribute to the revenue further it could be seeing a cash positive operating cost environment, thereby significantly improving the financial metrics.

Re-assaying of drill pulps was undertaken as part of an evaluation of the Kalgoorlie Nickel project and the associated mineral resource estimate. In total 4,476 archived drill pulps from drilling undertaken from 1998 to present by multiple companies were submitted for a standard 64 element metallurgical assay suite for use in an ongoing definitive feasibility study.

Nickel prices have seen unprecedented growth in recent weeks doubling from US$24,000 per tonne on 28 February to $48,000 per tonne on 7 March, 2022.

The massive growth in nickel demand comes at an opportune time for Ardea as its feasibility study rolls on with its goal of becoming a significant nickel and cobalt player. The latest development of rare earths and rare metals adds the possibility of additional revenue streams boosting the arsenal of the WA based nickel explorer.

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@wanews.com.au

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