The company is investigating a number of options including a strategic alliance, off-take agreements and joint venture proposals.
The Hastings deposit contains predominantly heavy rare earths (85%), such as dysprosium and yttrium, which are substantially more valuable than the more common light rare earths.
"We are particularly excited about the Hastings Project as we progressively achieve the milestones needed to get through feasibility," technical director Steve Mackowski said.
Work is in progress on further purification to get the individual products such as Niobium and Zirconium to saleable quality.
This will build on Hastings achieving in late 2012 separation between the rare metals, Niobium and Zirconium, the rare earths, and the waste materials in a modified solvent extraction circuit that delivered superior results to those obtained in 1990.
"The medium term market in 2016 and onwards is very positive for heavy rare earths. The supply side is constrained and the demand side is growing rapidly especially for the Hastings' heavy rare earth product suite," Mackowski added.
"There is an opportunity for end users to lock in their supply needs and guarantee their long term hi-tech futures. We look forward to helping these hi-tech end users build and maintain the supply chains that will be needed to ensure a better, greener, more energy efficient future.
"It was also pleasing to get recognition of the Project, as one of the four key rare earths projects in Australia, by one of the REO world's leading commentators, Jack Lifton. This is a reflection on the resource quality and the development team responsible for the project's progress."
With a Scoping Study delivering sound economics and a JORC compliant resource of 36.2 million tonnes at 0.21% TREO, including 0.18% HREO, plus 0.89% ZᵣO₂ and 0.35% Nb₂O₅ in the bad, the Hastings Project is fast tracking towards production subject to satisfactory funding.
Already considered the largest heavy rare earth project in Australia, two new target areas have being identified from radiometric data that offer potential to locate rare earths and rare metal mineralisation to complement current resources.
Products from Hastings will provide surety to the hi-tech magnets users reliant on such products for wind turbines and hybrid vehicles.
- Dysprosium: key metal for wind turbines and electric vehicles;
- Yttrium: key metal for monitors, iPad, iPhone, lasers;
- Niobium: key element for structural steel, auto industry and electronics; and
- Zirconium: key elements in nuclear reactors, space and aeronautical industries.
The Hastings Project is located close to existing infrastructure and is targeted to start production in 2016.
Production of 10,000 tonnes per annum will include 140tpa Dysprosium oxide; 830tpa Yttrium oxide; 590tpa Mixed rare earth oxide; 2,630tpa Niobium oxide and 6,170tpa Zirconium oxide.
It has a Net Present Value (pre-tax) of $1.9 billion, an Internal rate of return 26% and a Capital payback of 3.6 years.
Capital costs (excluding contingencies) are estimated about $720 million while annual revenues and earnings before interest and tax are $482 million and $223 million respectively. Operating costs are estimated at about $259 million.
The interest shown by parties in funding the Hastings Rare Earths Project highlights the value of the Niobium, Zirconium and other rare earths products that it hosts.
This is further reinforced by the fact that it is predominantly (85%) heavy rare earths such as dysprosium and yttrium, which are substantially more valuable than the more common light rare earths.
Hastings had about $3.7 million in cash at the end of December 2012. The company had received strong interest from Asian investors for its oversubscribed A$3 million placement that was completed in December.
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