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Northern Minerals gets claws deeper into Wolverine deposit

Updated: May 20

Northern Minerals has returned impressive results from extensional drilling at its Wolverine deposit in Western Australia’s Kimberley. Credit: File

Northern Minerals has extended the mineralisation of its flagship Wolverine deposit following solid assays from the company’s recent diamond drilling program at its Browns Range project in northern Western Australia.

Assay highlights show a 17.6m intercept at 1.96 per cent total rare earths oxide (TREO) from 589m, including a 9.94m hit going 3.27 per cent TREO from 589m. The company says its latest results increases the mineralisation of its key deposit a further 80m deep and 50m west of the current wireframe and remains open at depth.

Last October, Northern tabled a 47 per cent increase to its mineral resource estimate at Wolverine after an independent review by mining consultancy group CSA Global. The resource now stands at 6.44 million tonnes going 0.96 per cent TREO for 61,492 tonnes of contained TREO.

Management regards Wolverine as the jewel in the crown of its bigger Browns Range project in WA’s Kimberley region, given its high concentration of heavy rare earths such as dysprosium and terbium – both crucial ingredients in the production of electric vehicles and wind turbines.

Previous drilling at Wolverine returned a host of notable intercepts, including 28.6m at 4.06 per cent TREO from 480m. The deposit boasts an average dysprosium and terbium grade of 0.83 kilograms per tonne and 0.12kg/tonne respectively. Browns Range boasts an overall resource of 10.81 million tonnes at 0.76 per cent TREO for 81,450 tonnes of TREO.

The company says it is preparing to start mining at Wolverine with the aim of providing a reliable alternative source of dysprosium and terbium to production sourced from China.

Northern is currently working on a definitive feasibility study at Browns Range for the supply of 30,500 tonnes per annum of contained TREO in concentrate, in an initial eight-year mine life that will include 2800 tonnes of dysprosium and 420 tonnes of terbium.

At the end of last year, the company appointed GR Engineering Services and MACA Interquip to conduct early-phase engineering and design work for its proposed commercial-scale beneficiation plant at Browns Range. The contractors will perform all engineering and design activities required to enter into an executable lump sum engineering procurement and construction contract to deliver the beneficiation plant.

The early contractor involvement is expected to be completed in about a month and the company says its preferred contractor will be notified during this year’s September quarter.

In late 2018, Northern started producing heavy rare earths carbonate as part of a three-year pilot study to determine the economic and short-term viability of a larger-scale operation at Browns Range. The work follows a 2015 feasibility assessment that indicated at full capacity, the project could deliver exceptional free cash flows of $176 million per year for more than 11 years of the project’s initial operating life, at a cost of $329 million.

With the outcome of the upcoming definitive feasibility study expected before the end of the year, the market will be keen to see if Northern can continue to extend the mineralisation of its Wolverine deposit with additional deep drilling expected next quarter.

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