Ahead of the curves, Australian resource explorer, King River Resources Limited (ASX: KRR) appears to be taking long progressive strides regarding the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) developments in its Speewah Specialty Metals Project.
The Company steadfastly headed its PFS operations recently while observing the social distancing norm amidst the Covid-19 outbreak. The potential value of high-value commodities such as high purity alumina, vanadium pentoxide, titanium dioxide and iron oxide associated with the Speewah Project has been the driving factor to propel the PFS study.
KRR under its banner exhibits the following projects:
- Speewah Specialty Metals (SSM) Project
- Mt Remarkable Gold Project
- Treasure Creek Project
SSM Project, the flagship project of KRR, is situated in Western Australia’s East Kimberley Region. Conspicuously, the project is located approximately 110 kilometres of Kunnura’s Southwest, enjoying access to robust infrastructure in the form of Wyndham Port, Ord River Dam and hydroelectric project, sealed major highway and skilled workforce.
The Global Mineral Resource Estimate at Speewah Project - Total Resource of 4,712 million tonnes at 3.3% TiO2, 0.3% V2O5 and 14.7% Fe. Meanwhile, the central deposit reported 1,240 million tonnes of measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources at a 0.23% V2O5 cut-off grade, at 3.3% TiO2, 0.31 V2O5, 12.5% Al2O3, 14.6% Fe and 4.7% MgO.
High Purity Alumina as Pivotal Point of Success
High Purity Alumina (HPA) development process remains as one of the key focus points of the PFS study. Extraction of aluminium directly from the sulphuric acid leach solution rich in V, Fe, Ti and Mg has been a crucial step forward for KRR. Intermediate AI rich product undergoing purification process followed by calcination and washing has produced (3N8) HPA (99.8% Al203).
Under the HPA ambition of KRR, the process centred at designing a modest-sized project with attractive margins involves the magnetic separation of the mined materials into two products:
- A non-magnetic fraction- Containing most of the alumina and would be 70% of the volume.
- A magnetic fraction- Containing Vanadium, Iron and Titanium minerals. It would be 30% of the volume.
Moving alongside its objective to reduce cost, risk and complexity, KRR adopted the sulphuric acid leech work on the non-magnetic fraction to produce HPA. Leaching of whole rock magnetite gabbro, the AI grade in whole rock typically is 12.7% Al203 along with 3.6% TiO2, 21.3% Fe2O3 and 0.36-38% V205. Whole rock leaching in 20% H2SO4 and at 70°C was also carried out for 96 hours in the latest whole rock leech.
Market Study Revealing Escalating Demand
A highly respected global authority, CRU International being commissioned by KRR conducted a detailed market study. The examination of the price and demand highlighted that currently, over the counter transactions attract approximately US$24,000 per tonne price for 4N HPA (99.99% Al203).
Two important high technology markets that utilise alumina as a precursor material includes:
- LED lights, semiconductors and laser markets - HPA is the precursor material for manufacturing synthetic sapphire glass that is used as a substrate in these markets.
- Lithium Batteries- HPA coated separators are used.
Owing to increase in demand from the above two technology markets, the price and demand for 4N HPA are likely to escalate in the coming years. HPA’s unique chemical and physical properties make the commodity ideal for use in growing high technology industries.
Advancing on Critical PFS Activities
Despite the Covid-19 scenario, which has led to curtailing of face-to-face meetings and non-essential travels, remote work concerning the project is operational.
Currently, the Company is progressing well with the four crucial PFS areas:
Metallurgy and Process Flowsheet Development- At Nagrom in Perth, the beneficiation magnetic separation testwork along with sulphuric acid leaching tests are approaching completion.
The final parameters would be provided by the testwork for input into the PFS. Meanwhile, TSW Analytical through hydrometallurgical refining testwork is focussing on the production of >4N HPA product, thereby enhancing the efficiency of final purification. Presently new areas centred at reducing the consumption of reagent and improving efficiencies are being investigated.
Process Plant Design and Costings- Awaiting the final flowsheet parameters, Como Engineers are advancing work on the process plant and remains on track for delivery. The capital and operating cost estimates in PFS would be provided through the work.
Mining Study and Reserve Estimate – An ERM group company, CSA Global has completed pit designs as well as initial pit optimisation for the HPA scenario, with mining cost estimate and mining schedule to be undertaken next.
Environmental, Social and Permitting Study- For a smaller-scale HPA operation, Animal Plant Mineral (APM) would update environmental and social studies, including background studies for the project’s permitting requirements.
Following the PFS completion, King River Resources plans on evaluating market conditions before moving on towards a definitive feasibility study, involving larger scale pilot studies, flow sheet and technical optimisation and the investigation of many other commercial variables.
KRR has a market cap of $27.47 million and its stock last quoted at $0.022 on 2 April 2020.
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