Element 25 Ltd (ASX:E25) made progress across multiple works streams during the March 2020 quarter, including the Butcherbird High-Purity Manganese pre-feasibility study (PFS) due for completion later this quarter.
The PFS is anticipated to provide a strong case for the commercialisation of its world-class manganese resource, which the company believes has the potential to underpin a long-life and low-cost high-purity manganese production hub near the Pilbara town of Newman in WA.
Recent test work at Butcherbird has demonstrated the potential to produce High Purity Manganese Sulphate Monohydrate (HPSM) for the lithium-ion batteries that will drive the electric vehicle transition as well as Electrolytic Manganese Metal (EMM) for the steel industry.
The program yielded a high purity EMM product grading 99.9% manganese, exceeding the required 99.7% purity required for commercial production.
Plans for a potential start of production at Butcherbird through a low capex manganese concentrate export operation are also continuing.
Potential start-up export operation
A key outcome achieved during the quarter includes the potential to beneficiate Butcherbird ore utilising a cost-effective flow sheet and the opportunity to implement a staged approach with a start-up manganese concentrate export operation.
This is envisaged as the first stage of ramp-up for the project and has the advantage of potentially providing early cashflow to strengthen the company’s balance sheet and assist in funding the larger high purity manganese production hub.
A separate PFS (CON) level study is underway to assess the potential returns that may be generated by an early stage ore export operation.
It is anticipated that the study will be completed and published ahead of the final investigation into the larger hydrometallurgical processing plant.
“Key player in manganese production”
Managing director Justin Brown said: “The fact that the project might now have a low capital start-up concentrate export stage to generate early cashflow could be a game-changer.
“With existing manganese mines in Australia past their peak and in decline, the Butcherbird Project has the potential to be a key player in Australian manganese production.
“This is a very exciting development.”
Bulk manganese ore post crushing.
On March 23, the company announced it had produced a commercial-grade lump product through simple beneficiation after undertaking a bulk sample test program in December 2019, where 40 tonnes of near-surface material was excavated from the site as feed for the upcoming pilot plant program to produce EMM.
The flowsheet upgraded the ore by simple crushing, wet scrubbing, screening and ore sorting to produce a high-grade concentrate.
Test work utilised two nominal 1-tonne samples A003 and B006 from pits BBS-A and BBS-B respectively.
The material is representative of the Yanneri Ridge measured resource with the concentrate product returning favourable levels of 33% manganese and excellent recoveries of over 80%.
At forefront of sustainability
Butcherbird straddles the Great Northern Highway and the Goldfields Gas Pipeline, providing turnkey logistics and energy solutions.
Element 25 is intending to integrate renewable energy into the power solution to minimise the carbon intensity of the project as well as reducing energy costs.
A cleaner, lower carbon flowsheet and high penetration renewable energy will place Butcherbird at the forefront of sustainable metal production.
A prospective groundwater supply area was identified to the south and east of the mining lease area and the first round of water exploration drilling has been completed on this target.
This includes the downstream extension of the Cenozoic basin and the associated superficial and palaeochannel aquifers.
The drill target selection was informed by these factors - proximity to the mining lease, regional geology, surface topography, pastoral tenure and native title claim boundaries -and a total of 10 holes were completed.
Two aquifers were identified during the program, a shallow aquifer within the near-surface calcretes and silcretes and deep aquifer (DA) comprising a palaeochannel sand.
It is believed that they will yield sufficient process water for the current development plans at the project and pump tests will be carried out to confirm the capacities of the aquifers.
A further five shallow (5-metre) holes were drilled on the Butcherbird mining lease and filled with coarse gravel, which will be used to test the permeability of the proposed tailings storage facility site.
Binding sale and purchase agreement
Element 25 entered into a binding sale and purchase agreement with SilverStream SEZC dba Vox Royalty during the March quarter to dispose of a portfolio of royalties relating to several project areas.
Consideration for the sale is $500,000 in SilverStream shares, which is subject to several conditions including the resolution of first rights of refusal held by third parties and the successful listing of SilverStream on the TSX no later than May 15.
Proceeds from the eventual sale of the Silverstream shares will be used to continue the development of the Butcherbird project.
Butcherbird has a manganese resource in excess of 263 million tonnes of ore and comprises seven resource areas, the largest of which is the Yanneri Ridge deposit where the planned start-up operation is deemed to take place.
Selected due to a higher grade and its location being near the Great Northern Highway and Goldfields Gas pipeline, its mineralisation also has minimal overburden – allowing simple and low-cost mining, requiring no drill and blast.