Hastings Technology Metals – Make It a Double
Divining the tea leaves of Hastings Rare Metals (ASX: HAS) latest press release takes some doing. The moving parts are so many and so varied. The keys to understanding are:
– Focus on the main mineable area
– Ignore the partly-owned pieces of the puzzle (except Yangibana North)
– Ignore the smaller and peripheral deposits that go to make up the global resource
The reason for doing this is not only to minimize confusion with relation to the proliferation of different deposit names but because the mining studies have commenced with pit optimizations utilizing the indicated Resources at Bald Hill South, Fraser’s, Yangibana West and Yangibana North deposits. To wrack one’s brain with the parts of the deposit that won’t be in a pit design is to needlessly torture oneself.
An Important Aside
The Yangibana-REM Joint Venture is the owner of some of the concessions at Yangibana with Hastings holding 70% of the JV. Interestingly the “REM” in question is the AIM-listed Rare Earth Minerals PLC (LON: REM), which is the same entity which is the largest shareholder in Bacanora (TSX-V: BCN), which I wrote of recently in relation to its deal with Tesla on the Sonora Lithium deposit in Mexico. Its is also the partner in the Cinovec Tin-Lithium project in the Czech Republic that Lithium Australia (the former Cobre Montana) is involved in.
The map below shows the current state of the tenements.
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It is important to note that the main targets, Fraser’s, Bald Hill and Yangibana South are all on the 100% owned territory, while the large and interesting Yangibana North deposit (with a grade of 1.46% TREO) is in the JV territory. The smaller deposits are in the hatched blue mining lease area in the middle which is held by the JV.
The latest release is focused on the expanded resource. Hitherto the main indication of the potential at Yangibana had been as a result of drilling in 2014, which led to the definition of JORC resources totaling 6.79 million tonnes at 1.5% TREO including 0.35% Nd2O3.
However the latest resource has nearly doubled the tonnage, while the grade of TREO has dropped by around a third. Unfortunately the Neodymium grades were not stated in an apples-to-apples mode to make comparisons easier. They have used a Neodymium Oxide equivalent rather than breaking down the individual metals and used a precentage rather than the formerly used PPM measure.
Total project resources are now estimated to contain approximately:
– 33,900 tonnes of Nd2O3
– 8,950 tonnes of Pr2O3
– 590 tonnes of Dy2O3
– 920 tonnes of Eu2O3
Hastings tenements cover the bulk of the Gifford Creek Carbonatite Complex. The primary mineralisation targets within the Yangibana Project are narrow, discontinuously outcropping ironstone dykes related to this carbonatite complex. These ironstones are considered to be a younger phase which has cut across the carbonatite dykes, possibly leaching and upgrading Rare Earths (and base metals) from the older dykes.
The ironstone dykes have been shown to carry anomalous Rare Earths associated with monazite mineralisation. The carbonatite dykes themselves, along with the associated fenitic alteration, are considered to be sourced from an as yet undiscovered carbonatite intrusion which the company feels might have significant Rare Earth potential as well as possible base metal potential.
These ironstone lenses have been explored previously to a limited extent. Twelve targets for rare earths were tested with limited drilling in the 1980s. The map above shows the various deposits scattered around the carbonatite. The string of deposits numbered one to six are mainly the JV deposits, while the others are more dispersed and represent the 100% owned deposits.
The ironstones comprise variable contents of iron oxides and hydroxides, silicates and quartz. Near surface manganese oxides decrease with depth and are replaced by primary carbonate minerals. The rare earths content is largely hosted by monazite with lesser bastnasite and apatite.
The ironstone lenses pinch and swell along strike and with depth, generally ranging from one to eight metres in thickness. The ironstone lenses are often surrounded by fenitised host rocks. Barren quartz veins are also locally associated with the ironstones. Below can be seen the type of outcrop (here at Yangibana North) that makes the deposit so much easier to explore and eventually mine.
Ease of Access
The vast majority of the identified resource lies in the near surface oxidized zone. Below can be seen a cross-section of the Yangibana North part of the deposit with the Rare Earths being exceptionally near to the surface and indeed being in a relatively easily mineable band only ten metres in vertical thickness that outcrops at surface. This helps put Hastings in contention with some of the Xenotime deposits in Western Australia that are also at surface.
Beyond this proximity to the surface, the Rare Earths mineralisation contains unusually high neodymium values with its oxide, Nd2O3, averaging 4000ppm or 25% of TREO.
Being “Rare anything” in the mining space these days is like being a “dot.com” back in 2000-2001. So it’s not unsurprising that Hastings Rare Metals has joined the exodus with the announcement of a name change to Hastings Technology Metals. This move though does not disguise the fact that Hastings’ resource has made a quantum leap in its latest announcements, with some reduction in grade but a massive increase in size. Usually “size does not matter” to us but in this case with the deposit at Yangibana so close to surface it’s a case of the more the merrier. Large and accessible has to be better than Rare Earth deposits in the frozen north or even worse, in the frozen north AND under a lake. The words that come to mind when pondering these aberrations of the first flush of the Rare Earth boom were “what were they thinking?” The answer, alas, is that they were not thinking.
The next step looks to us to be the narrowing down of the targets by overlaying a concept of what some pit shells might look like and then focusing exploration efforts on upgrading those parts of the deposit to Measured status. The, as always, we repeat the Jack Lifton mantra that REE projects need to be right-sized.
The way things are going Hastings may very well overhaul some of the “household names” of the REE space in Australia and elbow itself to the front of the crowd.
Christopher Ecclestone is a Principal and mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company in London. Prior to founding Hallgarten & Company in New York in 2003 ... <Read more about Christopher Ecclestone>