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Octava takes aim at rare earths and lithium in Gascoyne

Updated: Apr 19

Drill cuttings from black shale at Octava Minerals’ Byro project. Credit: File

Octava Minerals will pick up the Byro rare earths and lithium project in WA’s Gascoyne after agreeing to purchase 100 per cent of the shares in private company Byro Mining.


The conditional agreement will see Octava undertake due diligence on two exploration licenses at the project which has some tantalising historic exploration hits from drill cuttings peaking at 388 parts per million (ppm) lithium oxide and 501ppm total rare earth oxides (TREO).

In addition to the drill hits, the Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) completed soil sampling at Byro and uncovered large anomalous halos grading up to 540ppm TREO and 180ppm lithium oxide over a massive 40kms in strike length by 20kms in width.


There are also five historic reverse-circulation (RC) exploration drill holes within the project area.  Notably, all holes boast lithium oxide assays greater than 200ppm with the peak intercepts going 51m at 323ppm from surface, including 18m at 388ppm from 21m and a 36m hit at 307ppm from surface which contained 6m at 383ppm from 9m.


Other notable historic RC hits that require follow up at the project are 33m at 227ppm lithium oxide from surface, 27m at 265ppm from 3m, 30m at 230ppm from 21m and 24m at 280ppm from 69m.


Byro also boasts four historic petroleum exploration wells from which drill cuttings have been conveniently stored at the GSWA library in Perth. Octava says those cuttings have assayed at similar lithium grades to the RC samples and show anomalous rare earths hits as well.


Three of the four wells returned assays at over 250ppm TREO with the peak intercept going 13.7m at 419ppm TREO from 10.7m, including 4.6m grading 501ppm TREO from 10.7m. Other notable TREO intercepts from the wells are 15.2m at 361ppm from surface, 18.3m at 324ppm from 65.5m, 9.1m at 303ppm from 61m and a 4.6m intersection grading 393ppm from 93m.  


Octava says assays from the wells also returned some vanadium pentoxide grading more than 600ppm, adding some additional flavour to the geochemical mix.

Previous work has identified the Permian black shales of the Byro sub basin to be metalliferous, with anomalous REE & lithium that is laterally extensive and over large thicknesses in historic drilling. With a low-cost entry point into this highly prospective project, Octava will investigate the potential for Australia’s first, large scale sedimentary deposit of REE & lithium. Metal extraction from black shales is a proven, low-cost technology and we will immediately get to work on material characterisation and initial mineral extraction testwork and further drilling. Octava Minerals managing director Bevan Wakelam


Octava now has 2 years to complete its own due diligence investigations at Byro which is says will kick-off with a study aimed at characterising the mineralised material, examining its geochemical make-up and exploring beneficiation and extraction options.  

The host rocks at Byro are Permian aged black shales which are known for their potential to host enriched polymetallic deposits, evidenced by similar type deposits in Europe. Mineralisation in these types of deposits is hosted within packages of sediment and account for about a quarter of the world’s copper production and reserves.


One known pathway for recovering metals from black shale is through the use of biologically assisted leaching – known as biomining or bioleaching ‑ which is practiced in a number of countries including at the Talvivaara mine in Finland where recoveries of up to 98 per cent have been recorded using that method.


The Bioleaching process results in saleable metals being separated from the ore as a result of bacterial action. In nature, bioleaching is triggered spontaneously by micro-organisms in the presence of air and water, however commercial applications accelerate the natural process.  Octava says the practice represents a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to conventional extraction methods.


Management says it has engaged with consultants from leading institutions in Australia and Europe to conduct its due diligence and plans to take full advantage of research and development tax incentives and grants to support the work.

The Byro Project is located on the Byro Plains of the Gascoyne Region in WA, about 220km south-east of Carnarvon and 650kms north of Perth. It consists of two granted adjacent exploration licences totalling a project area of about 798 square kilometres.


Nearby infrastructure includes accessibility to a commercial port at Geraldton and power from the north-west gas pipeline in addition to future potential access to Western Australian government proposed green energy sites across the region.

The Geological Survey of Western Australia work that resulted in a massive rare earths and lithium anomaly can not be ignored and represents a serious target for Octava that looks like it is begging to see a drill bit.

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