Cyclone Metals Ltd (ASX:CLE) is confident the timing is right for the development of new environmentally friendly processing technology at its copper-gold-cobalt assets in the Mount Isa region of northwest Queensland.
Along with the currently growing and forecast strong growth in copper demand and the growing prevalence of electric vehicles, there are increasing environmental issues with the use of acid as a lixiviant in traditional copper heap leaching has reached a point where approval to operate with this technology will no longer be a viable option in the future.
An opportunity exists for the company to utilise its Lady Ethleen project as a demonstration deposit for development of an environmentally-friendly alkaline leach processing solution.
Cyclone non-executive chairman Terry Donnelly said: ”The company has always valued this project and finally the technology may finally work to our shareholders’ advantage.”
Trial leach program
The company has ascertained a deposit at Lady Ethleen of sufficient size for trial mining and processing that otherwise may be too small to be commercially viable.
A leach trial will begin with lab test-work using samples taken from the deposit and separated into oxide, transitional and sulphide.
This will test amenability of mineralised material to the alkaline leach process in an agitated environment, a semi-static environment and a heap leach environment to allow a decision to be made on the most effective processing methodology.
Nontoxic GlyLeach process
The GlyLeach process used will involve glycine as a lixiviant under alkaline conditions and has several significant benefits over traditional acid leaching including:
- Its environmentally-friendly state is non-toxic to humans and wildlife;
- The ability to selectively leach valuable metals whilst leaving gangue minerals such as iron, manganese, silicates and carbonates in the leach residue;
- The ability to leach ores of different oxidation states (depending on process type, temperature, residence time, particle size, etc); and
- It is recyclable as the glycine is not chemically consumed in the overall process.
Wee MacGregor deposit
A key objective of the trial is to develop or acquire a modular processing unit that can be economically relocated to process material from stranded deposits which are numerous in the Mount Isa district.
This includes the Wee MacGregor project, which is adjacent to Lady Ethleen and in which Cyclone has a 20% interest in and a pre-emptive right over the remaining 80%.
In 2015, Cyclone farmed Wee MacGregor out to Argosy Minerals Limited (ASX:AGY) which subsequently announced an inferred resource and exploration target and later relinquished the project to focus on its Rincon Lithium Project in Argentina.
If the trial is successful and with the benefit of the proprietary knowledge this will create, together with the company’s relationships in the region, the company believes it will have a competitive advantage to exercise the pre-emptive right and exploit the Lady Ethleen and Wee MacGregor projects together.
Demand for copper is being driven, as is the case for battery metals and rare earth elements, by investment in renewable energy and electric vehicles.
The average electric vehicle is four times as copper intensive as the average vehicle powered by an internal combusting engine EV charging stations require about 10 kilograms of copper on average.
Copper demand is expected to exceed supply starting in 2021, which could lead to substantially higher prices if copper shortages abound.
Notably, the London Metal Exchange copper price closed at US$7,674 on Monday, up 10 per cent on its October levels - the first time in more than two years that copper prices have risen to above US$7,000 per tonne.