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Conico JV adds scandium into Mt Thirsty cup

Updated: Apr 17

Drilling at Conico Limited’s Mt Thirsty JV cobalt-nickel-manganese-scandium project near Norseman. Credit: File

Conico Limited has revealed more shallow, thick and high-grade nickel-cobalt-manganese-scandium results from the remaining five drill holes at its Mt Thirsty joint-venture (JV) project, 15km north-west of the Western Australian town of Norseman.

The company’s best new results include 48m at 0.08 per cent cobalt, 0.44 per cent nickel, 0.13 per cent manganese and 47.6 grams per tonne scandium from only 2m and 29m grading 0.09 per cent cobalt, 0.62 per cent nickel, 0.73 per cent manganese and 33.2g/t scandium from surface. Most of the results sit outside the project’s JORC resource, demonstrating the potential for resource growth even after announcing in April a 145 per cent resource increase to 66.2 million tonnes going 0.06 per cent cobalt, 0.43 per cent nickel and 0.45 per cent manganese.

Conico is assessing the potential adoption of high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) in its ore-processing flowchart, in addition to the production of higher-value precursor cathode active material (pCAM) to transform its project economics. The company says comparable HPAL projects typically receive cobalt and nickel recoveries of 90 and 92 per cent respectively, while pCAM usually gets a 50 per cent pricing premium over intermediatory products.

A scoping study for Mt Thirsty will incorporate results from the work when it is delivered in July.

Mt Thirsty is a 50-50 JV project between Conico and Greenstone Resources. Drill results from the past five reverse-circulation (RV) holes confirm the slew of high-grade results from the 6000m drilling program into the shallow oxide resource.

The longest intersection in the five holes was 70m grading 0.05 per cent cobalt, 0.45 per cent nickel, 0.47 per cent manganese and 36.3g/t scandium from 3m, housing a higher-grade intercept of 26m at 0.11 per cent cobalt, 0.59 per cent nickel, 1.06 per cent manganese and 28.2g/t scandium from 47m. The company says historical air-core (AC) drilling has left large areas untested beneath and adjacent to the existing resource and believes that provides potential for future resource additions.

The latest drilling results continue to highlight the potential of Mt Thirsty to provide a low-cost, ethical, and sustainable source of cobalt and nickel outside of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Russia. Significantly, the majority of these results remain outside of the recently published Mineral Resource. The Mt Thirsty project is uniquely positioned to potentially produce a high value pCAM product. We are entering into a transformational phase for the Mt Thirsty project with metallurgical studies progressing that will feed into a Scoping Study that is expected to be completed in July. Conico executive director Guy Le Page

Drill results during the campaign have identified significant scandium mineralisation, which had not previously been assessed. Conico reports that the scandium market is forecast to have an 8.7 per cent compound annual growth rate between 2022 and 2030. The current scandium oxide price is $1.38 million per tonne.

Rio Tinto produces scandium oxide in Canada and in a vote of confidence for the transition metal’s market, it recently bought the Platina project – a high-grade scandium resource near Condobolin in New South Wales. The project could produce up to 40 tonnes per annum of scandium oxide for at least 30 years.

The Platina deposit has a grade of 570 parts per million scandium, although it has a considerably lower nickel grade than Mt Thirsty. So it seems Conico may just have found a growing market to tap into with its impressive scandium credits.

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