Mount Ridley hunts rare earths resource after monster hits

Mount Ridley hunts rare earths resource after monster hits

Mount Ridley Mines is officially mining a first resource at its namesake rare earth project in Western Australia’s scenic Esperance region.

The company began resource drilling after revealing more sample results, including 1m at 28,831 parts per million total rare earth oxide (TREO) in fresh rock.

The explorer now aims to declare its first mineral resource later this year, having already uncovered 11 targets for further exploration across its Mia and Marvin prospects. Its resource drilling will concentrate on an area 30 km long and 4 km wide.

Key results from the latest tests the company received from its Mia Prospect include 6m at 6648ppm TREO from 57m, which contained the eye beater meter at 28,831ppm TREO from fresh rock at the bottom of the hole. This has led the company to consider whether it has tapped into the hard rock source for the clay-based rare earths across its Marvin and Mia prospects.

Other results that made the leaderboard were 29m rating 1748ppm TREO from 30m and 8m at 3272ppm TREO, containing 1m at 9329ppm from 12m.

The Mount Ridley rare earth project covers a massive 3400 square kilometers and air core drilling across the region has been limited to existing tracks, with boreholes spaced approximately 400m apart. Management says test results from 87 boreholes have shown that 62 of them hold significant TREO – significantly above a benchmark of 500 ppm TREO. Each hole also has a healthy dose of magnetic rare earths.

After seeing an almost endless supply of head-turning hits over a year of drilling, Mount Ridley decided to flip the switch this year and focus on building a mineral resource around the Mia and Marvin prospects to taking the project to the next level.

Peter Christie, chairman of Mount Ridley Mines, said: “These prospects were selected as our priority using a number of criteria, including the potential for refinement, clay type, TREO grade, depth of cover and ratio of high value magnet rare earth.”

A first mineral resource at the end of the year may be music to the ears of those worried about China’s vicious grip on supply, with that country owning 80 percent of the world’s rare earth production and processing.

Such is the concern outside of China over the supply of rare earths, a global partnership was formed last October in an attempt to smooth out future bumps in the road through the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP).

The purpose of the MSP is to ensure that critical minerals, which include rare earths, are “produced, processed and recovered in a manner that supports the ability of countries to realize the full economic development benefit of their geological endowments”. The agreement focuses specifically on the inputs for electric vehicles and advanced batteries.

With Australia a key signatory, the MSP will offer producers a direct route into markets such as Germany, Japan, Korea and, most notably, the United States.

Presenting the U.S. supply potential outside of China could be a relief to the Biden administration and its Inflation Reduction Act, as the legislation allows input from “free trade agreement countries” to count toward many of the tax credits offered.

Although it is still early days, the scale of the projects in the Esperance region could turn whispers of a world-leading project into roars if resource drilling delivers the potential for Mount Ridley mines.

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