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Terrain Minerals makes good on Esperance gallium mission

Updated: Apr 30

Terrain Minerals at work at Lort River. Credit: File

A raft of solid new gallium hits have backed up Terrain Minerals’ claims in August that it wanted to unearth the silvery-white metal to complement the clay-hosted rare earths at its Lort River project near Esperance in Western Australia.

The company says results from its recent air-core (AC) drilling program included near-surface intersections of 38m at 34.1 grams per tonne gallium oxide and 27m at 35.6g/t. The program featured a 100 per cent success rate for gallium mineralisation in 17 wide-spaced reconnaissance AC drillholes across three tenements covering 320 square kilometres in a 75km radius north-west from Esperance.

It comes hot on the heels of Terrain revealing last week that it believed it was on the verge of a significant rare earths breakthrough at Lort River after unveiling hits with high percentages of magnetic rare earth oxides (MREO) up to 43 per cent.

With a market capitalisation of $6.29 million and with 1.26 billion shares issued, the company is exploring for gallium and rare earths on Esperance ground where the majority of the tenure comprises freehold cropping and agricultural land.

The biggest of the company’s three tenements sits to the west and comprises Esperance sand-plains and colluvium, while the central tenement has weathered Precambrian granite and migmatite basement overlain by red soil. The smaller eastern tenement is exclusively Esperance sand-plain.

The biggest tenement delivered gallium-rich mineralisation through a 10km north-south strike length, with significant intercepts from surface of 38m at 34.1g/t gallium oxide and 32m at 36.8g/t. In the south, the gallium-rich clay-hosted mineralisation extended east-west in a 6km strike length, with a drill hit of 9m at 43.1g/t gallium oxidefrom 7m downhole.

Like other gallium results revealed by Terrain in August from its Smokebush project in WA’s Mid West region, the numbers again stack up against the grade in assays that saw North Sydney-based Gold 50’s stock jump 146 per cent earlier this year after that company found big chunks of the precious metal in Arizona. Gold 50 reported a whopping headline gallium hit of 109m going 40.5 grams per tonne from 129m.

Terrain’s back-of-the-envelope resource calculations are in the vicinity of 1 to 2 billion tonnes with a weighted average of 34.5g/t gallium oxide. It features significant and closely-associated rare earths and MREO, including neodymium and praeseodymium.

In the middle and smaller eastern tenements, similar clay-hosted gallium mineralisation was also intersected from surface to near-surface, but is slightly thinner and lower in grade.

The European Union considers gallium a critical mineral with an economic importance that trumps all other rare earths. But the investment community and markets clearly have not yet recognised its importance.

China currently produces more than 98 per cent of the global gallium supply and recently placed export bans on the metal. With the world breaking into two opposing geopolitical groupings, it is seen as vital for the West to develop a reliable supply chain for gallium production.

Gallium is a critical metal used in the defence industry and for computer chips, semi-conductors and in LED light production.

Terrain is part of the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia project that is part-funding study into WA rare earths, including metallurgical analysis.

By late next year, the company expects to define a JORC resource for its extensive near-surface clay-hosted gallium and rare earths – and it is building a strong case for its economic potential.

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