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GWR, Dynamic Metals call in experts to test Tassie magnesite

The GWR Group-Dynamic Metals JV hopes university testing of its Tasmanian magnesite brings it closer to an economic product. Credit: File

The University of Tasmania is testing a 69.9km composite magnesite sample from GWR Group (ASX: GWR) and Dynamic Metals’ (ASX: DYM) joint venture (JV) project in the Apple Isle in a bid to reduce contaminants such as silica.

The sample, part of a bigger 143kg master package prepared in Perth by metallurgical laboratory Nagrom, is being assessed by the university’s Centre for Ore Deposit and Earth Sciences (CODES), with a view to isolating potential end-use magnesium sectors for the JV to target. The JV has also confirmed that one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of refractories has been sent a separate sample on request to test for offtake suitability.

The university work on the sample from the JV’s Prospect Ridge magnesite play is part of the Federal Government-funded Regional Research Collaboration Grant (RRC) and has a PhD student working full-time on the project. It is also focusing on optimising a process flowsheet.

GWR owns 70 per cent of Prospect Ridge, which sits 40km south-west of Burnie in north-west Tasmania, with Dynamic holding the remaining 30 per cent. The project sits on a granted exploration licence that is 11km long and 51 square kilometres in area, with two magnesite deposits - at Arthur River and Lyons River.

It is said to contain Australia’s third-biggest magnesite inventory.

Magnesite is used to produce magnesium oxide, which serves as a refractory material for the steel industry and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Magnesium metal is listed as a critical metal by Geoscience Australia.

Australia has high resource potential for magnesium source minerals, primarily magnesite. An Australian magnesite resource of 284 million tonnes and annual production of 500,000 tonnes was estimated in 2022.

The 2022 global resource was estimated as 68 billion tonnes, while global production is thought to total 25 million tonnes.

The Arthur River operation is a large, high-grade magnesium deposit where previous exploration identified an inferred mineral resource estimate of 25.1 million tonnes at a grade of 42.4 per cent magnesium oxide, 4.8 per cent silica, 1.4 per cent iron oxide and 2.6 per cent calcium oxide. The resource was based on diamond drilling through a strike distance of about 800m, where 44 holes were put in for 6939m on lines ranging between 150m and 50m apart.

The JV is now seeking new approvals from Mineral Resources Tasmania to drill 27 holes for 4050m, including a provision for six priority holes for 450m in the Arthur River deposit. It is also investigating the iron oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) potential of the project to follow up indications of sulphides and copper from previous explorers in the region.

Interestingly, Porsche-backed HIF Global has lodged plans with Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority to build Australia’s first commercial-scale e-fuel facility in the same area. Porsche recently unveiled plans for 80 per cent of its cars to be electric by the end of the decade, but is working with industrial manufacturing company Siemens to make a synthetic fuel to power vehicles that will still run on liquid fuels.

There are a few different types of renewable liquid fuel. They include hydrogen, which Porsche says will not deliver a lightweight, powerful car and e-fuels. The “e” represents the renewable electricity that is used to create the fuel.

But it will be just as interesting to see if the GWR-Dynamic partnership can emerge from the university testing to move closer to supplying a low-carbon, low-waste, potentially “green magnesium” product to the sizeable aerospace, military, automotive and transportation sectors.

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