High-grade rare earths drilled at IXR’s Makuutu project

Ionic Rare Earths Limited (ASX: IXR) has announced highly encouraging results from 11 DD holes completed at the Makuutu Rare Earths Project in Uganda.

The company reported successful resource extension and infill drilling in Makuutu.

IXR announced high grade intersections near surface and over significant widths from resource extension drilling, including 3.7 metres @ 1,477 ppm TREO from 6.8 metres; and 8.0 metres @ 1,077 ppm TREO from 4.5 metres.

IconicRE also reported high-grade infill intersections over significant widths including 7.4 metres @ 886 ppm TREO from 6.30 metres; 6.8 metres @ 1,081 ppm TREO from 9.7 metres; 8.5 metres @ 909 ppm TREO from 6.90 metres; 10.8 metres @ 1,533 ppm TREO from 3.6 metres; and 4.9 metres @ 1,226 ppm TREO from 9.1 metres.

The company said that the positive results from in-fill and extensional drilling further demonstrates the continuity of rare earth mineralisation, confirming previously reported high Total Rare Earth Oxides (TREO) grades with wide intercepts.

IXR said that the new drilling data would be incorporated into a JORC Resource Upgrade which is currently underway. The company said that the metallurgical optimisation program continues to progress and the liaison with potential project development partners continues.

Makuutu project

The Makuutu project comprises three licences covering approximately 132 km2 located some 40 km east of the regional centre of Jinja and 120 km east of the capital city of Kampala in eastern Uganda.

An Exploration Target of 270 – 530 million tonnes grading 0.04 – 0.1 % TREO has been defined at the Makuutu Rare Earths project. IXR had also announced a Maiden Inferred Mineral Resource of 47.3 Mt @ 910 ppm Total Rare Earths Oxide (TREO), at a cut-off grade of 500 ppm TREO-Ce2O3.

IconicRE is developing the Makuutu project to be a globally significant producer of both Heavy Rare Earths Oxides (HREO) and Critical Rare Earth Oxides (CREO), providing a viable large scale, low cost alternative Rare Earth Oxide (REO) supply chain outside of China.

IonicRE presently holds 31% ownership of the Makuutu Rare Earths Project and is both advancing project activities and working towards increasing its ownership interest up to 60%.

Drilling at Makuutu

The company had recently commenced the 2020 drilling program designed to provide infill data for geological and metallurgical confidence on the current resource, and to evaluate proximal resource extensions and regional exploration targets.

IconicRE said that the 4000-metre program was suspended after the completion of 11 holes (240 metres) due to implemented restrictions owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. The truncated drilling program had completed eight infill holes and three resource extension holes in the Makuutu Central Zone.

The Company said that it has transported the samples from the completed drilling from the project site to Perth, Australia for analytical and metallurgical testwork.

High-grade results from resource extension drilling

IXR said that three resource extension holes, RRMDD055, RRMDD056, and RRMDD057 were completed in the Makuutu Central Zone. Holes RRMDD055 and RRMDD056 were drilled several hundred metres to the north of the area defined by the current mineral resource estimate.

High-grade intersections reported

The company announced high-grade intersections near surface and over significant widths from the three hole resource extension drilling.

Highlights include RRMDD055: 3.7 metres @ 1,477 ppm TREO from 6.8 metres; RRMDD056: 9.3 metres @ 753 ppm TREO from 2.6 metres; and RRMDD057: 8.0 metres @ 1,077 ppm TREO from 4.5 metres.

Potential for resource expansion

The company said that the holes RRMDD055 and RRMDD056 were successful and intercepted good thicknesses of high grade REE mineralised clays which will support resource extension and highlight potential for further resource growth.

IconicRE said that the drill hole RRMDD057 was particularly encouraging by providing a significant clay intercept in an area approximately one kilometre east of the current resource limit. The company noted that the RRMDD057 intercept is significant in grade and thickness providing great encouragement on potential resource expansion in that area.

Significant intersections from infill drilling

IconicRE reported that infill drilling was conducted on the central portion of the current resource with the aim of providing data on a closer spacing than the existing 400 metre grid.

The eight drill holes, RRMDD047, RRMDD048, RRMDD049, RRMDD050, RRMDD051, RRMDD052, RRMDD053, and RRMDD054 were centred around, and spaced 200 metres from, holes drilled in 2019.

High-grade results

The company announced that all the eight holes intercepted clay hosted REE mineralisation consistent with expectation.

The clay intersections above 500ppm TREO include RRMDD047: 7.4 metres @ 886 ppm TREO from 6.30 metres; RRMDD048: 6.8 metres @ 1,081 ppm TREO from 9.7 metres; RRMDD049: 2.3 metres @ 783 ppm TREO from 4.60 metres and 8.5 metres @ 909 ppm TREO from 6.90 metres; RRMDD050: 7.7 metres @ 739 ppm TREO from 3.8 metres; RRMDD051: 1.5 metres @ 686 ppm TREO from 7.7 metres and 7.6 metres @ 567 ppm TREO from 12.0 metres; RRMDD052: 10.8 metres @ 1,533 ppm TREO from 3.6 metres; RRMDD053: 1.1 metres @ 628 ppm TREO from 4.6 metres and 4.1 metres @ 545 ppm TREO from 7.2 metres; and RRMDD054: 2.2 metres @ 513 ppm TREO from 2.4 metres and 4.9 metres @ 1,226 ppm TREO from 9.1 metres.

Data to be used to update resource model

The geological and analytical data from these holes will be used to update the current resource model, including assisting in evaluating the geological and geostatistical confidence and classification of the resource estimation. The holes have also provided core for metallurgical optimisation testwork.

What’s next?

IconicRe said that it continues to closely monitor the Covid-19 situation within Uganda and the anticipated easing of Covid-19 control restrictions by Ugandan authorities.

The company said that restrictions are expected to ease in early June 2020, which is expected to allow drilling and other field activities to recommence promptly.

IonicRE said that it will continue to observe the situation within Uganda and plans to recommence the drill program once the imposed restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so within the Makuutu community.

IXR said that future work programs are intended to evaluate the economic opportunity of the project including extraction recovery maximisation, resource definition and estimation on the known areas of mineralisation, regional exploration on adjoining licences and compilation of a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA).

Management comments

IonicRE’s Technical Director Dr Marc Steffens said: “These results continue to demonstrate that we have a large, high-grade continuous resource. The results from the three (3) holes drilled outside of the current resource area highlight further the potential for additional drilling to significantly expand the current resource, which will be followed up once the drilling program resumes.

More substantively, these results continue to demonstrate the consistent and widespread nature of the Rare Earth mineralisation at Makuutu. These are fundamental requirements for a Rare Earth project with substantive scale and production capacity.

In addition to this drilling, the Company has redoubled its efforts into developing the metallurgy and processing aspects of the project and exploring strategic partnerships with several groups. We continue to make progress and will provide updates to the market on these initiatives in due course”.

Written By Jonathan Norris
Jonathan is a founder of Mining.com.au and has been covering the resources industry since 2018. With over 17 years experience in print, broadcast and online media, Jonathan has seen first hand the transformative effect of online niche media.