Sovereign Metals Limited (ASX: SVM) reported that the further analysis of the earlier announced rutile product from its Malawi project has shown a favourable and highly commercial rutile product particle size distribution.
The company reported that the QEMSCAN analysis has demonstrated that the outstanding 96.0% TiO2 rutile produced from Sovereign’s Malawi project has highly favourable grain size distribution with a d50 of 123μm. This is comparable to other leading natural rutile products in the market.
SVM said that the sizing results show that its product is likely to be suitable for all major natural rutile end-use markets, including the chloride pigment, titanium metal, and welding flux markets.
The company reported that the rutile concentrate was produced using conventional mineral sands processing methods and resulted in a recovered rutile grade of 1.16%.
The product exceeds typical market chemical specifications and has many parameters at best-in-class levels.
Sovereign announced that an accelerated exploration work program focussing on rutile is underway across its extensive land holdings in Malawi.
Metallurgical test-work program at Malwai
Sovereign had discovered large areas of the rutile mineralisation from re-assaying of historical auger drill holes in January 2019 in central Malawi in Africa.
Consequently, on 24 June 2019, a metallurgical test-work program was undertaken on a 180kg sample of saprolite-hosted rutile from an area representative of the style of mineralisation at the Wofiira rutile zone.
The test work demonstrated that a high-quality commercial rutile product can be produced using conventional mineral sands processing methods. The recovered rutile grade from in-situ was 1.16% in a +38μm to -250μm size fraction containing very high-quality 96.0% TiO2.
The results of further analysis of this rutile product have now been made available by Sovereign.
QEMSCANTM analysis reports excellent results
The company reported that it had performed QEMSCANanalysis on the very high-quality 96.0% TiO2 rutile product.
QEMSCAN is an abbreviation standing for Quantitative Evaluation of Minerals by SCANning electron microscopy, and is a standard analytical method for providing quantitative analysis of minerals.
Sovereign’s rutile product was analysed in Australia by leading independent laboratory services provider ALS Limited and by the CSIRO.
The company reported that the results from the QEMSCANanalysis have further demonstrated highly favourable particle size distribution of the rutile product with a d50 of 123μm.
The d50 is also known as the median diameter of the particle size distribution, i.e. it is the value of the particle diameter at 50% in the cumulative distribution by mass.
This is comparable to other leading natural rutile products in the market. RBM (Rio Tinto) as well as Namakwa Sands (Tronox) has a d50 of 124μm.
Highly commercial rutile product
The company reported that the favourable particle size distribution of rutile product from Sovereign’s Wofiira zone demonstrates the potential to produce commercial rutile specifications suitable for all three major rutile end-use markets; pigment, titanium metal, and welding flux.
The TiO2 pigment segment accounts for over 70% of all natural rutile demand, as natural rutile is the preferred feedstock for the chloride process compared to synthetic rutile or titanium slag.
Titanium metal is used in aviation in the form of aircraft engines and frames, military applications, and medical industry uses like hip joint production; while the welding market uses rutile in its raw form in the manufacture of welding flux cord wire.
Potential for a new rutile province
The company reported that the QEMSCAN analysis was previously conducted on a master composite sample of raw ore from across Sovereign’s Malingunde graphite deposit which is regionally proximate to the Wofiira rutile zone.
The analysis had demonstrated a d50 of 160μm for rutile in the raw ore with in-situ rutile grades of 1-2%.
Sovereign said that the new data from the latest QEMSCAN analysis provides the Company with confidence that within its >4,000km2 ground package, further zones of well liberated, high grade rutile mineralization in commercial size fractions will be identified through the ongoing exploration, mineralogical and metallurgical programs.
Updates and upcoming plans
The company said that the exciting results indicate that Sovereign’s >4,000km2 ground package has the potential to host a new rutile province capable of supplying commercial specification at a time of decreasing supply.
The Company said that it is, therefore, undertaking an accelerated work program over the coming months.
SVM said that the metallurgical work in progress at Australian laboratories includes analysis related to yields of rutile product and deportment i.e. grain size distribution and shape.
Major elements of the work program include hand auger drilling and resampling of historical holes to define discrete areas of mineralisation for future resource definition at the Wofiira and Dedza rutile prospects; extensive regional soil sampling and panning to identify potential new areas of rutile mineralization; and continued metallurgical test-work designed to optimise and validate the metallurgical flowsheet.
Sovereign’s Managing Director Julian Stephens said: “These initial QEMSCANTM results have confirmed the ability to produce a natural rutile product to commercial specifications in terms of both chemical composition and particle size distribution.
Sovereign’s rutile product compares favourably to other leading natural rutile products in the market and is likely to be suitable for all major end-user applications including chloride pigment, titanium metal and welding flux. This is a highly encouraging result and we look forward to continuing the accelerated exploration and metallurgical programs.”