Quest Rare Minerals, which was named Prospector of the Year in 2010 by the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association for the importance of the heavy rare earth element deposit discovered by the company at their Strange Lake property (some 133.4k acres), updated markets today regarding the pre-feasibility study being hammered out for the B-Zone deposit at Strange Lake, as well as other developmental progress associated with this exceptional mineralization.
Not only is this project an extremely large, highly-concentrated rare earth site, it has key by-products, like niobium and zirconium, in abundance as well. Overall site design projections call for an easily workable and conventional open pit operation (minimum 25-year) reinforced by the customary logistical accoutrements and mine infrastructure, from processing and maintenance to housing, including a port facility and 102.5-mile roadway.
The B-Zone itself has shown revised estimates (Oct 31, 2012) for economic cut-off grade of 0.50% TREO+Y (total rare earth oxides) or an indicated resource of 278.1 million tonnes grading 0.93% TREO+Y, with 1.92% zirconium oxide (ZrO2), 0.18% niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5), and 0.05% hafnium oxide (HfO2). With upwards of 0.93% grading for total rare earth oxides and roughly 38% of that extremely heavy rare earth oxide, no wonder QRM jumped to hire a metals marketing expert. The choice density is in a "Pegmatite Spine" with outcroppings also showing superb recovery economics. Total recovery calculations by Hazen Research in 2010 showed up to 93% recovery for all rare earths in the deposit.
With the vast majority of the engineering work required to execute the pre-feasibility study already completed via QRM's management team and the array of engineering firms they have pegged to assist in the task, the company is well-positioned to turn this exceptional deposit into a steady stream of saleable material. AECOM handled go-to work on the overall project balance alongside the QRM management team, as well as providing environmental base line data collection services and reference terms for the environmental impact assessment. Hatch Associates did the design for the solvent extraction circuit, Micon International with support from AMEC Earth & Environmental handled the mine plan, and Strategic Engineering & Science designed the tailings facility.
QRM is bucking hard for an earlier mine commissioning date than previously projected and has been examining efficiency upgrades for the current project configuration ahead of the pre-feasibility study, and subsequently will be able to deliver the study in about six months from now thanks to this rigorous effort. Everything already outlined from the mine plan to the road and port are up for potential refinement as the clock ticks down to launch. It is noteworthy that costs associated with the project will be up significantly due to the considerable increase in the overall size and scope of the resource over the projections originally outlined in the 2010 Preliminary Economic Assessment.
More minerals in the ground is one of the few really good reasons for upwardly revised capital/operating costs, and Quest is doubling-down on Strange Lake with an extensive metallurgical program to reinforce the tremendous amount of development work done in the last year or so. The metallurgical treatment route has been solidly established via bench-scale testing of all process components and the company even commissioned a mini pilot plant to prove continuous solvent extraction processing with an initial focus on the zirconium circuit.
Early results look great and roundly confirm the bench-scale work that was done. Plans are to mini-pilot the niobium and rare earth solvent extraction/precipitation circuits next, with metallurgical process stream data from this activity going into the workup of the final demo-scale pilot plant, slated to begin operating in Q2 of this calendar year.
For more information on Quest Rare Minerals, visit www.QuestRareMinerals.com
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