Toro Energy Limited (ASX: TOE) announced that completed modelling of a re-engineered processing plant to accommodate the processing of vanadium as a by-product at its 100% owned Wiluna Uranium Project has shown that it can be done with marginal effect on the overall processing cost and would be therefore economic even at the lower end of historical V2O5 prices.
The company said that the re-engineered processing plant produces 499t NH4VO3 as a by-product with 2.09m lbs of U3O8 per annum which equates to 0.41 lbs of V2O5 produced for every pound of U3O8 annually.
TOE reported that the operating cost of the modelled processing plant increases by only 1.8% from that of the scoping study completed previously without considering vanadium as a potential by-product, which equates to approximate increase in operating cost of processing plant of AU$0.51 (US$0.32) for every pound of V2O5 produced.
The company said that the capital cost of modelled processing plant increases by only 6.5% or AU$5.7m from the AU$87.9m in the scoping study completed previously without considering vanadium as a potential by-product.
Vanadium added to Wiluna Uranium project
The laboratory testing completed in 2019 at the Wiluna project had proved that the vanadium inherent in the uranium ore mineral (Carnotite – K2[UO2]2[VO4]2.3H2O) could be successfully leached and extracted along with uranium without any significant loss of uranium.
Toro had defined a significant maiden total Inferred JORC 2012 Resource of 68.3M Pounds of Vanadium Pentoxide (V2O5) at a 200ppm V2O5 cut-off inside the uranium resource envelopes for each deposit.
Toro had then moved forward with engineering studies to understand the costs of adding vanadium extraction to the capital and operating costs of the proposed processing plant.
The company’s engineering study modelled a processing plant using the specifications outlined and documented in the previously announced scoping study that focused on mining and processing ore from the Lake Maitland deposit only.
The processing plant was re-engineered to accommodate the leaching and extraction of vanadium along with uranium and the production of NH4VO3 as the vanadium by-product.
The modelling used the results of vanadium leaching and ion exchange test work completed in 2019 as well as the Inferred vanadium resource estimate of the Lake Maitland deposit completed in 2019.
Encouraging results from engineering modelling study
Toro Energy reported that engineering modelling study showed that Vanadium by-product can be produced with minimal additional cost.
1.8% increase in operating cost
TOE said that the study showed that the overall annual operating cost of the processing plant would increase by some AU$433,546 to produce 499t of NH4VO3 (855,266 lbs of V2O5) along with 2,091,038 lbs of U3O8. This represents an increase in operating cost for processing of only 1.8% from that of the proposed plant in the scoping study or some AU$0.51 for every lb of V2O5 produced. The study noted that majority of the increased operating cost is due to increased labour costs.
6.5% increase in capital expenditure
The study reported that a further AU$5.7m would need to be spent on top of the $87.9m estimated for the proposed processing plant in the scoping study to include vanadium extraction and NH4VO3 production. This is an increase of only 6.5% on the cost of building the proposed processing plant. The company said that majority of this cost is from additions to the ion exchange circuit.
Feasible from the economic point of view
The company announced that the modelling shows that the 499t of annual production of NH4VO3 can be produced at an increased operating cost of only AU$0.51 or US$0.39 per pound of V2O5 produced, only 4.8% of the current market price for V2O5.
The re-engineering and modelling showed that assuming that the uranium price is amenable to an economic project, the extraction and production of a vanadium by-product would be economic for the project proposed in the scoping study, even at the lower end of historical vanadium prices.
The current V2O5 product price is around US$6.20/lb or AU$8.13/lb based on the 4 February 2021 RBA exchange rate.
Toro announced that it is continuing its efforts to find value and opportunities in the Wiluna Uranium Project to maintain its status as an early mover for an improving uranium market and price where it has delineated JORC 2012 Resources of 62.7M pounds of U3O8.
* Image courtesy of Toro Energy Limited