WA1 Resources continues to hit high-value niobium in new results from its 2023 drilling program at the Luni discovery within its 100% owned West Arunta Project in the remote north-east region of Western Australia.
Managing director, Paul Savich, said the latest results have extended the known high-grade West Arunta niobium footprint.
“Today’s results are further wide spaced step-out drill holes which extend high-grade niobium mineralisation at Luni by a further 400 metres in multiple directions with new significant intersections,” he said.
“Along with the promising early-stage mineralogical assessment released previously, this drilling continues to establish the outstanding potential and global quality of this critical metal discovery.”
High-grade hits continue
Highlight hits in the latest results include 41m at 2.4% niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5), 18m at 2.2% Nb2O5, 13m at 1.4% Nb2O5; and 24m at 1.1% Nb2O5.
WA1 currently has two drill rigs continuing to test the extend of what it considers to be a globally significant discovery in the Luni carbonatite play at West Arunta.
“We have remained disciplined in achieving our corporate objective of crystallising our understanding of Luni to enable the commencement of development and baseline study activities that may assist in condensing the project development timeframe,” Mr Savich said.
“In parallel, we will complete initial step out drilling at the P2 carbonatite discovery, along with first pass reconnaissance drilling at a number of our regional targets in the second half of the year.”
Recent drilling has identified deeper high-grade mineralisation in two holes, drill holes LURC23-021 and LURC23-015.
Previously completed gravity and passive seismic surveys also highlighted possible east-west trending structures in this area, which may offer explanation for the slightly deeper mineralisation.
Upcoming drilling plans
WA1 continues to advance the Luni discovery with an RC and a diamond drill rig currently operating.
The company has planned 100m spaced infill drilling utilising the RC rig and is on target to complete a pre-defined 200m by 200m step-out grid.
The diamond rig is participating in the collection of data to support resource estimation and samples for the first phase of metallurgical test work.
Upcoming plans include shifting the diamond drill rig to test conceptual exploration targets at West Arunta.
WA1 is also undertaking further mineralogical studies as it seeks to develop an understanding of the mineralisation to assist with the finalisation of planning for upcoming early stage metallurgical test work.
Niobium as a critical metal
Niobium is considered a critical metal in many jurisdictions and is in high demand because of technological advances and the supply risk created by the fact that over 90% of its production is by a single country, Brazil.
According to Geoscience Australia, it is a ductile refractory metal that is highly resistant to heat and wear and corrosion.
Approximately 90% of niobium use currently comes from the steel industry, predominantly as a micro alloy with iron.
Niobium is also used in nickel and nickel-iron superalloys, particularly for applications requiring strength and heat resistance. Uses for such superalloys include turbine blades in jet engines within the aeronautic industry, and gas turbines in the energy industry.
Whilst global supply is concentrated in Brazil (90% of global production), global demand for niobium products is far less concentrated. There are many end users and a growing number of applications.
Demand and price on the rise
The global niobium market size is estimated to be worth approximately $224 million in 2022 and is forecast to a readjusted size of approximately $287.8 million by 2029 with a CAGR of 3.6% during the forecast period 2023-2029.
Further significant price growth can be linked to niobium’s potential use in batteries, where it can be utilised as the primary active material in the negative electrode of the batteries while also being used as an additive in the positive electrode.
Source: Small Caps