Northern Minerals is set to leap back into rare earth exploration at Browns Range in WA’s Kimberley region, tabling a plan to drill up to 10,000m. The upcoming reverse circulation drilling will follow up on the last field season that generated numerous stellar rare earth oxide hits including 12m going 0.43 per cent TREO from just 34m.
Greenfield targets are also set to be tested.
Northern Minerals started production of heavy rare earths at the project in 2018, kicking off a three-year pilot trial to gauge the economic and technical merits of a larger-scale development. It wants to turn Browns Range, 160km north-east of Halls Creek, into the first significant producer of dysprosium outside of China.
The company last year tabled a $5m budget for some 16,500m of drilling to be completed by the end of June this year. About half those metres were drilled in the first phase of drilling completed in 2020 with other significant intercepts reported by the company including 13m going 0.43 per cent TREO, or “total rare earth oxides” from 23m and 4m at 0.63 per cent TREO from 41m at the Banshee West prospect.
Access road and drill pad preparation has already commenced for the second phase of the campaign that is set to start in the first week of June.
Some 8,500-10,000m of reverse circulation drilling is planned over a six-week period.
Follow-up testing at Banshee West is on the agenda, with the rods also set to turn at the nearby, newly discovered Toad prospect where a 6m interval going 0.78 per cent TREO from 49m was previously returned.
Some 9km to the north in the vicinity of the Brown Range pilot plant, Northern Minerals also plans to drill test areas around the Gambit and Gambit West deposits where anomalous results from past drilling and surface geochemical programs were recorded.
Greenfield drilling of several untested prospects within the project tenure is also on the horizon to probe surface geochemical anomalies.
With the wet season in the Kimberley now passed, we have had a team on the ground remediating access roads and working on drill pads in advance of the second phase of drilling. The results from the first phase campaign in 2020 provided a greater level of confidence in our geological modelling, which informs this significant campaign due to start next month.
Along with Browns Range pilot plant testwork results in 2021, the exploration outcomes will feed into Northern Minerals’ current feasibility study on the development of a commercial scale beneficiation plant at the site.
The company is aiming to build resources to support at least a 20-year project life at Browns Range, which has current indicated and inferred resources totalling 9.24 million tonnes at 0.67 per cent TREO.
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