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Technology Metals closing in on vanadium mine

Amidst a tight global market Technology Metals has produced high vanadium recoveries up to 95 per cent in test work as it plans to merge its two deposits and deliver the world’s next large scale primary vanadium mine.

The company is aiming to become a key supplier of the metal as global economies transition to a low carbon future.

Technology Metals holds the Murchison Technology Metals Project, or “MTMP” 40km south of Meekatharra in Western Australia. The project contains the Gabanintha and Yarrabubba deposits that combine to form a mammoth resource of 146.2 million tonnes grading 0.8 per cent vanadium pentoxide, including a high-grade component of 79.8Mt running 1.1 per cent vanadium pentoxide.

The company is currently progressing an integration study of the two deposits and is on track for its delivery in mid-2022. The findings are expected to significantly turbocharge the economics of the MTMP and extend the mine life beyond 25 years.

Technology Metals has recently completed an array of technical work in support of its study. The technical tests include recovery analysis, mine scheduling, diamond drilling and an ore reserve estimate.

Specifically, roast-leach test work has returned high vanadium recoveries up to 95 per cent from Yarrabubba. The company notes the results are consistent with the 2019 Gabanintha definitive feasibility study, or “DFS”.

The company also highlights the confirmation of optimal grind size of 150 microns for Yarrabubba ore to maximise both vanadium and titanium recoveries.

Technology Metals says initial open pit mine scheduling across Gabanintha and Yarrabubba is complete, providing clear guidance for the integration study.

Diamond drilling has also been completed at Yarrabubba to collect a representative bulk sample and geotechnical data.

In addition, an integrated MTMP ore reserve estimate is being prepared based on the company’s global measured and indicated mineral resource estimate of 50.2 million tonnes grading 0.9 per cent vanadium pentoxide.

The WA-based vanadium developer says it’s progressing a range of workstreams in support of its strategy of vertical integration into the battery industry.

In January this year, the company expanded its Memorandum of Understanding with Japan’s LE System to launch a feasibility study into the development of Australia’s first fully integrated vanadium electrolyte plant.

The company’s intent to produce vanadium electrolyte, a key component of vanadium redox flow batteries, or “VRFBs”, reflects its strategic plan to produce metals that reduce emissions and produce emissions-free power.

In addition to VRFBs, vanadium is used to produce high-strength low-alloy “HSLA” steels. The innovation has gained significant traction in recent years due to its ability to reduce the quantity of building materials required to achieve structurally supportive designs.

This reduction in overall steel required has been quantified to materially reduce carbon emissions and save costs.

Globally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated an already tight vanadium market, pushing prices for vanadium pentoxide in Europe over US$12 per pound – with sanctions likely to put a further squeeze on supply.

In 2021, Russia supplied about eight per cent of the global share, behind China’s 62 per cent. A figure that currently only serves to underline the geopolitical risk to OECD nations.

Remarkably, the 2019 DFS observed a solid pre-tax net present value of $1,320 million, an internal rate of return of 34 per cent and an EBITDA of over $4 billion over a mine life of 16 years all figures that should have seen solid improvement given the market’s recent movements.

Importantly, however, the DFS only considered the ore from the company’s northern tenements and excluded the south-eastern Yarrabubba deposit.

Vanadium and its modern applications appear to be playing a growing role in the global quest for net zero. If the integration study reflects an appealing economic picture for Technology Metals the company could find itself in an enviable position as the global economy begins to transition and seeks alternative markets for vanadium at the same time.

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

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