Test work by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has validated and verified Stage 1 of the flow sheet that was developed as part of the 1990 pilot plant tests in Warren Spring, UK.
The outcome is confirmation of rare earths recoveries in the range of 70 to 80% when testing different operating conditions.
Steve Mackowski, technical director, commented on the positive results: "These results validate the advanced status for this project.
"All rare earths projects go through a very detailed program of experimental work to 'crack the chemistry'.
"The 1990 work at the Warren Spring pilot plant did just that. We have taken just six months to get to a stage of development that can take two to three years.
"Together with our JORC resource and advanced metallurgy, we are on track to be an early producer of dysprosium and yttrium to the world market."
The program involved a range of bench tests to investigate the extraction of rare earths and other valuable components by sulphation baking and water leaching a representative sample of ore.
The program is focused on the extraction of heavy rare earths, such as dysprosium and yttrium.
These positive recoveries mark the successful completion of the first stage of test work.
The results of the ANSTO work will now be fed into the Scoping Study work currently being undertaken by Jacobs Engineering and due for completion by the end of August 2012.
Hastings will also now undertake additional optimisation work on the sulphation process, conduct work on the extraction of niobium and zirconium, and then begin work on the separation stage (Stage 2).
Hastings project progress
Hastings is focused on expanding the resource at the Hastings project, which hosts a JORC Resource of 36.2 million tonnes at 0.21% total rare earth oxides, 0.35% niobium and 0.89% zanthium.
Importantly, there is high potential to do this with drilling and resource estimation having tested only 2.2 kilometres of the potential strike length of the main mineralised zone that exceeds 7 kilometres within Hastings' ground.
In addition, the company is looking to locate higher grade material and improve the stripping ratio at Hastings.
Mackowski previously told Proactive Investors that Hastings is considering further drilling to expand the Indicated Resources to the higher confidence Measured category as a requirement of a Bankable Feasibility Study.
Hastings project ranked highly in global terms
The Hastings Project in Western Australia is Australia's largest heavy rare earth project, and includes significant dysprosium and yttrium, with niobium and zirconium byproducts.
Mineralisation contains 85% heavy rare earth oxides (HREO) to total rare earth oxides, the highest percentage of all advanced exploration projects.
The project also has the highest in situ value per kilogram, around $225.65 per kilogram at the end of the March 2012 quarter, of rare earth oxides versus its HREO peers.
Further upside is it has the least exposure to any potential decline in light rare earth oxides prices.
Milestones and news flow
The path forward for Hastings will comprise a number of milestones:
- A Scoping Study to confirm economics;
- The definition of the southern extension opportunity;
- Optimisation of product suite (end of 2012);
- A Pre-Feasibility Study (early 2013);
- A pilot plant (early 2013); and
- A Bankable Feasibility Study (end of 2013).
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