Broken Hill Prospecting Ltd (ASX:BPL) aims to enhance the potential of its extensive heavy mineral sands (HMS) portfolio by extending the focus to in demand and valuable rare earth minerals.
The HMS portfolio across the world-class Murray Basin in NSW, Victoria and South Australia contains titanium and zirconium which are being increasingly sought in China and India.
As BPL takes steps to realise the HMS potential, the company is also now assessing the possibility of using new processing and leaching technologies to separate and extract rare earth elements from monazite.
Historically, HMS has been a valuable source of rare earth elements via the separation of monazite.
The recent release by the US Government of a strategy aimed at securing ongoing supply of rare earths and other critical minerals for reasons of national security and defence adds further credence to BPL’s intentions.
A reason for the US strategy and another catalyst for increased interest in rare earths is the ongoing trade war between China and the US.
Strong extraction characteristics
In a letter to shareholders, managing director Trangie Johnston said BPL’s previous metallurgical test work within the Murray Basin had demonstrated excellent extraction characteristics of monazite.
He said the rare earths potential had prompted BPL to assess opportunities to add further value to the HMS assets.
“This is causing us to assess the viability of extracting valuable rare earth minerals (monazite) that we know exist within the tenements.”
Johnston said Iluka Resources Limited (ASX:ILU) was also investigating the extraction of rare earths from its Wimmera mineral sands project in Victoria as part of a current pre-feasibility study.
Advanced due diligence of other projects
“We are also in advanced due diligence on a number of rare earth projects in other locations as we believe their strategic value, particularly to the USA, creates significant opportunities.”
BPL shares are up more than 13% to 2.5 cents.
The company’s MD also told shareholders that the buoyant prices for mineral sands meant that BPL was actively promoting and seeking partners to assist in development of its HMS portfolio.
In this regard BPL is in discussions with a number of international groups from China and India that are seeking to secure long-term supplies of HMS from safe jurisdictions, such as Australia.
“Shareholders may benefit by working with such partners who are undergoing expansion of processing facilities for the production of titanium and zirconium due to increasing demand,” Johnston said.
BPL’s HMS opportunities are supported by ownership of a unique, regional exploration database and a considerable amount of in-house professional expertise in the mineral sands industry.
The database comprises more than $100 million of historical exploration data.