Tasman Metals (CVE:TSM, FSE:T61, PINK:TASXF) is a Canadian explorer that is focused on developing the Norra Kärr Project in Sweden, which is one of the most significant Rare Earth Element resources in the world, and is the only NI 43-101 compliant REE resource in mainland Europe.
Norra Kärr currently hosts a NI 43-101 compliant Inferred Resource of 60.5 million tonnes grading 0.54% TREO, for a total of 326,700 tonnes of contained TREO. The resource is enriched in heavy Rare Earth Elements of dysprosium and yttrium constituting 4.8% and 35.1% respectively of the contained REE, as well as zirconium grades of 1.72%, and hafnium of 0.034%.
The Project shows geologic similarity to REE deposits at Strange Lake in Quebec, and Dubbo in Australia, and consists of a peralkaline nepheline syenite intrusion that covers an area of 350 metres by 1,100 metres.
The deposit is the fourth largest heavy REE resource in the world based on contained tonnes. It also has the highest percentage of heavy rare earth oxides to total rare earth oxides of all advanced projects at 53% as well as having the unique characteristic of background levels of uranium and thorium, and thus shall require no special permits for the handling of radioactive material.
Heavy Rare Earth Oxides are in strong demand from the technology sector and include the lighting and automotive sectors, with few potential resources outside of China available to satisfy that demand.
Scoping Studies envision an open pit operation extracting 4,000 tonnes per day of ore, for an annualized rate of 1.5 million tonnes for a mine life in excess of 25 years. The ore is delivered to crushing, grinding and magnetic separation circuits that remove barren tailings, the balance sent through a leach cycle that produces a pregnant leach solution for precipitation or solvent extraction of metals.
The conceptual plant configuration is expected to produce 6,000 tonnes per year of Rare Earth Oxides, and is projected to supply approximately 15% of the world’s yttrium and dysprosium needs in 2016.
Metallurgical tests confirm that 90% of the REE mineralization is hosted by zirconosilicates, with a sulphuric acid leach recovering 90% of the REE’s at room temperature. Ongoing studies are aimed at optimizing the processing route.
A phase three drilling program that entailed 23 new drill holes and extensions on 6 existing holes, for a total of 4,734 metres, was completed in mid year. This program was aimed at infilling, updating and defining a mineable open pit resource. The results from this program will be incorporated into an updated NI 43-101 estimate.
This program reported the thickest intervals of mineralization encountered at Norra Kärr, and included NKA 11038, which intersected 241.3 metres of 0.68% TREO from a depth of 55.3 metres, and NKA 11039 which intersected 264.4 metres of 0.55% TREO from a depth of 1.7 metres. NKA 11038 intersected a grade that is 26% higher than the base case grade in the current NI 43 101 estimate.
NKA 11040 was the deepest hole in the entire program and drill tested to a maximum down hole depth of 298.8 metres, and ended within the intrusion. Phase Three drilling has clearly extended the depth of the intrusion by approximately 100 metres below the lower limit of currently defined resources.
Pincock, Allen Holt is completing a Preliminary Economic Assessment which is due early next year, and will include an updated NI 43 101 resource calculation, and mineral processing data being generated by SGS Mineral Services. A positive outcome will lead into the launch of a Pre Feasibility Study in early 2012.
Tasman has also appointed a Project Development Manager who is now handling environmental and permitting applications for Norra Kärr. The property is located 300 kilometres southwest of Stockholm and lies amongst mixed farming and forestry land, and is well serviced by power, roads, water, and a local skilled community.
Norra Kärr has been declared a project of “National Interest” by the Swedish Government and that protects the Project from competing land use that may interfere with mining of the resource. REE’s are identified as critical metals and minerals that are required for European industry, and the declaration provides strong government support that will underpin the development of the resource.
Tasman also recently acquired a 100% interest in Olserum Project, which is a heavy REE resource that is only 100 kilometres from the Company’s flagship Norra Kärr Project. Olserum is approximately 10 kilometres from the Baltic Coast and 30 kilometres north of Västervik, and covers a 1,100 hectare exploration claim that is surrounded by an additional application that covers 7,800 hectares.
Earlier exploration identified enriched outcrops of yttrium associated with iron, with drilling outlining a 600 metre by 100 metre wide mineralized zone containing two sub parallel zones of REE mineralization that remains open at depth and along strike, and contains xenotime, apatite, monazite and minor allanite. The mineralization may represent heavy mineral sediments that have been subsequently metamorphosed and folded.
Rudimentary metallurgical testing completed by an earlier development effort indicated that a simple gravity and magnetic separation produced a concentrate containing 14% Rare Earth Oxides, and recovered 60% of the REE’s. Tasman Metals considers that this was a very promising result for a preliminary non optimized evaluation.
Tasman believes that an NI 43-101 compliant resource can be established for Olserum with only limited further drilling. This will add a new advanced heavy REE project to their portfolio that include projects at Särna, Korsnäs, Alnön, Otanmaki, Sokli, and Biggejav’ri which ring the Baltic Sea in a semi circle and are located within Sweden, Finland, and Norway.
China controls approximately 97% of the global Rare Earths industry, with other operations such as Silmet in Estonia playing a minor role. Silmet is a refiner that processes approximately 3,000 tonnes per year of REE’s that are drawn from Russia, constituting 2% of the global market, and is seeking to diversify supply sources of REE’s and grow its business.
Silmet was recently purchased by Molycorp (NYSE: MCP), and is located 600 kilometres from Norra Kärr, and may start to play a more significant role in breaking Chinese control of this strategic industry.
Other players in this space include Rhodia Rare Earths in France, who are currently purchasing raw material for processing from China and may be future partner for Tasman’s Scandinavian operations.
Tasman has developed a timeline for Norra Kärr that anticipates first production of REE’s in 2016, and is well placed to become a significant European competitor to dominant Chinese interests.