Gunson Resources (ASX: GUN) has received the key approval covering the first 5 years of operation at its Coburn Mineral Sands Project Mining Proposal from the Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum.
This is a major milestone as the company continues discussions with potential strategic partners for the "construction ready" project.
Its application covering environmental matters associated with the first 5 years of mining is in the final stage of processing by the WA Department of Environment Regulation.
This is the last approval required before mining operations can commence and a final decision is expected soon.
"We are very pleased to have passed this major milestone in the Project approval process, which commenced more than 10 years ago, and we look forward to clearing the final milestone with the DER very soon," managing director Bill Bloking.
"Completing the approval process will further de-risk the Project from the perspective of potential strategic partners and will make Coburn one of a very small number of mineral sands projects globally that are ready to proceed to construction and mining operations once financing is secured.
"We believe that this will be an important source of competitive advantage as the market for mineral sands products - particularly zircon - continues to improve."
Coburn Mineral Sands Project
The rapid recovery in the zircon market in 2014 has brought the Coburn Heavy Mineral Sands project into focus.
Previous work carried out by Gunson on the project, which has a Resource of 979 million tonnes and JORC Reserve of 308 million tonnes at a grade of 1.2% heavy minerals, means the project is construction ready.
The project area covers 1,200 square kilometres of fossil coastline, and is located in an area that is well served by the North West Coastal Highway 45 kilometres to the east and the Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline 120 kilometres east
Geraldton is 300 kilometres south by road along the North West Coastal Highway and is a major mineral sand port, where Iluka Resources (ASX: ILU) ships its zircon and titanium dioxide products to markets overseas
Coburn has a natural competitive advantage by hosting much higher levels of zircon (greater value) and a very low slime level of 2.7% compared with 12% at Iluka's project in the Eucla Basin.
Further value could come from the farm-in with Terrace Mining to study the feasibility of producing copper, silver, and cobalt metal from shallow deposits at Mount Gunson in South Australia.
The deal with Terrace Mining will see Terrace spend $2.5 million on a bankable feasibility study for mining of the shallow open pittable MG14 and Windabout deposits excised from the joint venture Gunson has with Noranda Pacific.
A proposed flow sheet is currently being tested by Terrace that utilises cyanide to leach copper and silver. Early tests show 90% copper recovery into solution.
Dissolution of the copper and silver is the first step to produce saleable metal or metal salts at the minesite. Indications are that this route will significantly improve the value of the Mount Gunson Project.
MG14 and Windabout contain identified JORC resources of 209,680 tonnes of copper with significant cobalt and silver credits. Conceptual potential exists for a Life of Mine of up to 17 years that outputs 9,000t of copper per year plus cobalt and silver credits.
With zircon - and other mineral sand - prices continuing to improve, the approval by the Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum for the first five years of mining at Gunson Resources' Coburn Mineral Sands Project is a major step forward.
Together this is a major boost for Gunson and effectively a competitive advantage as the market for mineral sands products turns upward.
The company is now waiting for environmental approval that would further de-risk the project for a prospective strategic funding partner and allow mining operations to commence.
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