According to the Government of Western Australia, China was the world’s largest producer of rare earths (71%), graphite (68%) and vanadium (54%) in 2018, and a major producer of all other battery minerals. Moreover, the global economic growth and increased intensity of use of vanadium in steel and emerging vanadium redox batteries (VRBs) is expected to drive near term growth in vanadium demand.
Western Australia, which accounts for the largest lithium production at the global level, also holds the 4th largest vanadium and manganese resources.
Surefire Resources NL (ASX: SRN) is a base metals focussed company that has ample exposure to this lucrative opportunity, owning exploration assets for vanadium in Western Australia. The company operates in the region seeking to target an extraordinary opportunity in base metal exploration while developing its projects.
SRN’s vanadium exploration projects include Unaly Hill and Victory Bore (E57/1068 and E57/1036) in Western Australia, with licence areas located roughly 500km north of Perth Sandstone in the East Murchison Mineral Field of Western Australia and forming a 25km long contiguous tenement holding along strike of the Youanmi Shear zone.
Geological Composition of the Projects
- The licence areas of the projects, E57/1068 and E57/1036, lie within the Atley Igneous Complex located approximately 48 km south of Sandstone in the East Murchison Mineral Field;
- The Atley Intrusion is a layered gabbroic body hosted within greenstones that lie within a major NNE trending shear zone that separates the Sandstone greenstone belt to the northeast and the Youanmi belt to the southwest;
- The Atley complex has a maximum thickness of 4.5km with exposures over a strike length of 17km and the iron-vanadium-titanium mineralisation is situated within cyclical cumulous layers within the intrusive complex and is generally weathered to a depth of 10-40m with fresh gabbro passing through 5m of saprorock.
Historical and Current Exploration Activities
SRN completed a drilling programme at the Unaly Hill project during the year ended 30 June 2019, intended to test additional magnetic anomalies identified along strike of the already established JORC Inferred resource of 86Mt @ 0.42% V2O5, with the below attributes:
- The drilling programme completed a total of 10 Reverse Circulation (RC) drill holes ranging in down-hole depth from 100m to 200m along six traverses for an aggregate of 1,258m, based on detailed 2D forward modelling of high-resolution airborne magnetic data carried out by Southern Geoscience Consultants Pty Ltd;
- The drilling programme also covered a further 4km of the magnetic anomaly delineating the vandiferous-magnetite mineralisation;
- The drill holes intersected several vanadiferous magnetite bands of varying down-hole width occurring as wide adjacent parallel bands, dipping steeply easterly on some sections with relatively shallow levels of weathered/oxidized cover;
Significant results from the drilling programme included:
- Individual composite intersections of grades up to 0.90% V2O5;
- 15 intersections greater than 0.50% V2O5 and wider than 4m;
- Significant intersection widths included:
- 40m @ 0.44% V2O5 from 82m in UHRC008, including 24m @ 0.51% V2O5;
- 34m @ 0.53% V2O5 from 79m in UHRC009, including 16m @ 0.69% V2O5;
- 36m @ 0.43% V2O5 from 64m in UHR007, including 14m @ 0.58% V2O5.
The drilling shows that, in accordance with the aeromagnetic data, the mineralisation at Unaly Hill remains open for a considerable distance along strike from the previous drilling.
Recently, SRN intersected several vanadium-bearing magnetite units with significant intercepts at its Victory Bore Project.
To learn more about the other developments in the process of RC drilling, READ: Surefire Victory Bore RC Drill Results Out.
In addition, SRN evaluated and budgeted an in-fill drilling programme designed to delineate a JORC Indicated Resource within the current inferred resource at Unaly, while the planning for the advancement of the project to a scoping study is under pipeline.
To read more on the Detailed view of Surefire’s activities for the quarter ended 30 September 2019 , READ: SRN Quarterly Results, Eyeing Exploration Prospects.
Metallurgical Test work
SRN also completed a comprehensive metallurgical test work programme (developed and supervised by METS Engineering Group based in Perth) on the Unaly vandiferous magnetite core obtained from diamond drill hole UHDM001.
The metallurgical test work was dedicated on the salt roasting process, which is a frequently used procedure for processing the vanadiferous titanomagnetites to recover vanadium from the ore.
The test work looked at the effects of grind size on mineral liberation and magnetic separation and addressed the parameters of comminution and physical characterisation, mineralogy, magnetic beneficiation and salt roasting.
The advanced test work programme successfully achieved a 192% to 367% vanadium upgrade with V2O5 concentrate grades up to 1.43%, showing consistent vanadium grades and recoveries across the three mineralised zones tested.
SRN Vanadium Resources
The acquisition of the Victory Bore vanadium project in April 2019 significantly increased Surefire’s vanadium resource base and exploration potential, making it one of the largest vanadium resource holders in Australia. The combined Inferred Mineral Resource for SRN including Unaly Hill vanadium project and Victory Bore Vanadium Project was estimated at 237 Mt grading ~0.42- 44% V2O5 with a contained V2O5 content of 102,900 tonnes.
The magnetic anomalies within both licence areas have the potential for not only an increased resource tonnage but for larger zones of higher-grade vanadium mineralisation as well.
SRN had previously established a significant JORC vanadium resource at Unaly Hill from drilling 3km of magnetic anomaly corresponding with the cumulous magnetite layers within the intrusive.
View at Vanadium’s Outlook
Rarely found metal, Vanadium has primary utility in the steel industry for metal alloys like high-speed tools, titanium alloys and aircraft. However, the rapidly developing energy storage (battery) sector has significant utility for vanadium with the expanding use and increasing penetration of the vanadium redox batteries (VRBs), which use the unique ability of vanadium to exist in solution in four different oxidation states to store energy.
The inclusion of Vanadium on the Australian Government’s list of critical minerals in Australia validates the growing strategic importance of Vanadium to the Australian economy.
A reduction in global feedstock capacity on the supply side and the declining global inventories along with several other international uncertainties have caused the global vanadium price to rise. Having such positive prospects, SRN can be a significant player in the vanadium market, globally.
SRN stock traded at a price of $0.002 on 29 November 2019 (1:50 PM AEST) with a market capitalisation of $1.26 million.
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