Element 25 accelerates Butcherbird expansion ahead of FID

Element 25 (ASX:E25) is accelerating activities for the planned expansion of its Butcherbird Manganese Project in Western Australia as the company looks toward a final investment decision. 

Key areas Element 25 will focus on include process optimisation work, front-end engineering and design (FEED) activities, project finance and permitting. 

Managing Director Justin Brown says progressing the stage two expansion project comes at a time when manganese ore prices are showing “strong gains”.

“The decline in prices came to a halt when the extent of the damage at South32 (ASX:S32) Groote Eylandt Manganese Mine became clear with S32 recently foreasting a disruption in production until 2025,” he says. 

“Prices in recent weeks have rebounded strongly with current pricing for 44% high-grade material quoted at US$6.93 per dry metric tonne unit cost, insurance, and freight (cif) Tianjin, approximately 60% higher than the quoted pricing in early April.”

A Feasibility Study published in January outlined the opportunity to expand production at the Butcherbird Mine to take advantage of the large resource base and increase commercial returns by boosting production to 1.1 million tonnes per year of manganese concentrate at lower costs. 

The company says the study estimated a modest capital cost of $49.8 million.

Element 25, which has a market capitalisation of $63 million, says it has optimised the plant’s delivery while minimising design cost, delivery risk, processing risks and improving energy efficiency and emission profiles. 

The company has engaged with local specialist engineering firm ProjX to manage the engineering design phase and serve as the owner’s engineer throughout project execution. ProjX will assist with engineering, procurement, and construction management activities, ensuring a streamlined implementation plan. 

Element 25 has also made strategic improvements to the initial plant design, enhancing operation efficiency and maximising productivity. 

The company says integrating a second-stage crushing system will process larger material directly into the primary circuit, while upsizing the feed bin and apron feeder will optimise truck cycling times and minimise feed disruptions. 

Through an extensive review, the company has also identified improvements to the crushing circuit at Butcherbird. The enhancements will streamline operations, reduce the frequency of plant stoppages, and optimise material handling efficiencies. 

Element 25 adds that a streamlined screening process has been implemented to remove materials smaller than 8mm from the system.

The company is also nearing the final design stages for a new dense media separation (DMS) circuit, which will use results from ongoing test work with typical feed material. 

The latest test work conducted involved recombined product and waste samples from the stage one pilot plant operations. The second phase, currently being completed, will provide essential data to guide the DMS plant design and operating parameters. 

Element 25 is awaiting analytical results and test work results, which the company says will play a crucial role in optimising the final design to the DMS circuit to enhance the efficiency and throughput of the processing operations. 

Once the results have been received, the company will refine the DMS circuit design to ensure maximum operational efficiency and material handling capacity. 

Element 25 aims to implement a system that meets and exceeds its operational requirements. 

As part of the company’s commitment to ongoing engagement with traditional owners, an indigenous engagement plan (EIP) is being developed to provide a strategy which will enhance indigenous groups’ participation, procurement, and employment in relation to the project. 

The EIP will include processes for engaging with local groups to assess their capabilities and capacity to participate and ensure there is an opportunity for them. 

Write to Aaliyah Rogan at Mining.com.au   

Images: ProjX
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Written By Aaliyah Rogan
Relocated from the East Coast in New Zealand to Queensland Australia, Aaliyah is a fervent journalist who has a passion for storytelling. When Aaliyah isn’t writing stories, she is either spending time with friends and family or down at the beach.