Vital Metals testwork demonstrates rare earth concentrate grades above 35% REO

by Leena Thomas
Image: Vital Metals Limited

Vital Metals Limited (ASX: VML) has announced a highly encouraging update on the beneficiation testwork completed on ore from the North T deposit at the Nechalacho Rare Earth project near Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

Vital reported that the testwork demonstrates ability to produce high-grade rare earth concentrate (>35% REO) from simple mechanical sorting and gravity concentration techniques

The company said that the ore Sorting via X-Ray Transmission (XRT) via single pass sorting showed that 36% REO concentrate could be produced from feed containing 10.5% REO with an REO recovery of 70% from coarse grade feed.

The company reported that the gravity concentration on fines also produced high grade concentrate.

VML said that the cracking and leaching test work on this high-grade rare earth concentrate is also underway with results due imminently.

Vital Metals reported that the JORC resource conversion is nearing completion with results expected prior to year-end.

Nechalacho project

The Thor Lake “Nechalacho” REO Project is a high grade, light rare earth (bastnaesite) project located at Nechalacho in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

The Nechalacho Rare Earth Project hosts within the Upper Zone, a NI 43-101 compliant Indicated Resource of 47.21Mt grading at 1.52% REO and Inferred Resource of 102Mt grading at 1.38% for a combined Mineral Resource estimate of 149.30Mt grading at 1.42% REO.

Beneficiation testwork completed

VML had recently completed a beneficiation testwork on ore from the North T deposit at the Nechalacho Rare Earth project.

The purpose of this testwork was to determine the amenability of this deposit to simple, mechanical concentration to enable near-term production.

Ore sorting

Ore sorting is the proposed technology to produce a bastnaesite concentrate from the North T ore body at the Nechalacho rare earth project.

Ore sorting involves the separation of the bastnaesite mineralisation from the quartz gangue using X-Ray Transmission (XRT) technology.

The company reported that this sensor was deemed suitable due to the significant differences in atomic density between bastnaesite and quartz.

It may be noted that the bastnaesite has a very high atomic density whilst the gangue, which is quartz, is very low atomic density.

Performance test on samples

Vital Metals reported that the TOMRA Sorting Mining (TOMRA) engineers conducted a Performance Test at Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) on three sets of samples to determine whether TOMRA products are capable of sorting bastnaesite from quartz.

The material was pre-screened into the size fractions: 8-20mm, 20-30mm and 30-60mm. Oversize was crushed further, while the undersized fraction was retained for gravity testwork.

Each size range was tested at three different settings of reject vs product.

High-grade concentrates produced

VML reported a highly encouraging results from the beneficiation testwork on ore at the Nechalacho Rare Earth project.

Sorting via X-Ray Transmission (XRT)

The company reported that the testwork showed that a 36% REO product could be produced from feed containing 10.5% REO at an REO recovery of 70%.

Products with REO up to 41% were produced along with REO recoveries up to 87% and upgrade factors up to 5. REO in the waste stream was reduced to 1.7% with corresponding REO loss down to 13%.

Gravity testwork on fines

VML said that the gravity concentration on fines also produced high grade concentrate.

The company reported that the shaking table testwork proved that an upgrade of over four times to 40% REO product at an REO recovery of 80% could be achieved, producing product and rejects.

Updates and next steps

The company reported that optimisation work is currently underway including incorporating multiple pass sorting (cleaning and scavenging) to further increase REO recovery and grade.

Vital Metals said that the successful testwork demonstrates that it is possible to produce a high grade REO product from ore from the North T Zone at Nechalacho. VML said that this is confirmation that the North T Zone is the ideal focus for the establishment of a near term operation.

The company said that in addition to this concentration work, leaching testwork has also been underway. The testwork aims to confirm that rare earths are able to be leached from a high-grade concentrate into a solution, from which a high purity mixed rare earth product will be produced.

VML said that an announcement on the results of this work will be made as they are available.

Management statements

Vital Metals Managing Director, Geoff Atkins said: “The results achieved confirm the potential for high grade (>35% REO) rare earth concentrate to be produced from the North T deposit at Nechalacho utilising low cost mechanical sorting.

We believe that this is the first time that a high grade rare earth concentrate can be produced by using only simple ore sorting technology. This capability is critical for the development of low cost rare earth projects and these results will enable Vital to push forward with plans to develop a near-term rare earth production facility.”