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Plan Nord might offer additional potential. Stalled for nearly two years by Quebec’s former Parti Quebecois government, the northern infrastructure program formed an important part of the new Liberal government’s election platform.
Another possibility not considered in the PEA was a potential byproduct in fluorite, which “comprises the tailings of the final REE mineral concentrate and therefore follows the exact same flow sheet, requiring no additional processing to produce,” the Secutor study noted.
While the PEA considered an on-site hydrometallurgical plant, “a recently completed trade-off study indicated that a location off-site will be more economic due to better access to skilled personnel and consumables,” Papernick and Paoletti stated. Commerce’s pre-feas will consider a more convenient location along the St. Lawrence seaway, they added.
The pre-feas will also evaluate a lower-cost road-building plan. “The optimized route is easier to build, reducing construction costs, and requires shorter water crossings,” the analysts stated.
Additionally, Commerce states that infill drilling since 2012 shows potential for a lower strip ratio than considered by the PEA. Nearly 2,700 metres were sunk this year and last, finding impressive grades and widths almost at surface. Some of the best results from 2013 showed:
- 1.94% TREO over 144.57 metres, starting at 7.98 metres in downhole depth
- (including 2.15% over 61.4 metres)
- (and including 1.62% over 20.55 metres)
- 2.28% over 57.36 metres, starting at 4.39 metres
- 2.06% over 92.3 metres, starting at 5.18 metres
- 1.86% over 153.63 metres, starting at 7 metres
- (including 1.51% over 30.64 metres)
- 2% over 129.05 metres, starting at 4.15 metres
True widths weren’t provided. The results expanded the deposit to the northwest and showed surface mineralization within the pit, where waste rock had been modelled in the PEA, Commerce stated.
Assays are pending for the most recent program but the company said all nine holes found mineralization over their entire length, with each ending in mineralization below the base of the currently proposed pit. Initial interpretation of several holes strongly indicates they intersected the deposit’s MHREO (middle and heavy rare earth element oxide) zone over significant widths, Commerce added.
Although Ashram’s obviously the focal point of the company’s 19,006-hectare Eldor property, a boulder sampling program over the Miranna area last year found some of the world’s highest tantalum grades, Commerce reported. The assays surpassed those of mining operations where grades above 300 parts per million tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) are considered high. The samples also showed niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5) and phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5), as well as rare earths.
Starting at locations roughly 775 metres east of the Ashram pit, selected results showed:
- 1,220 ppm Ta2O5, 15,700 ppm Nb2O5, 10.6% P2O5 and 0.46% TREO
- 580 ppm Ta2O5, 6,160 ppm Nb2O5, 9.1% P2O5 and 0.4% TREO
- 790 ppm Ta2O5, 9,640 ppm Nb2O5, 9.9% P2O5 and 0.45% TREO
- 380 ppm Ta2O5, 19,390 ppm Nb2O5, 9.9% P2O5 and 0.4% TREO
But as Ashram progresses towards pre-feasibility, “its main focus will be to continue to advance the metallurgy and to secure a joint venture partner,” the Secutor analysts stated. “Commerce is almost at the stage where it can begin to focus on the hydrometallurgy and on the evaluation of end products.”
Commerce also holds the Blue River project in southeastern British Columbia. Its Upper Fir deposit reached PEA in 2011, which the company said made it “a potential large-scale, low-cost producer of conflict-free tantalum, as well as significant niobium.” A June 2013 resource update marked a 33% jump in the indicated and an 18% boost in the inferred categories. Metallurgical advances, meanwhile, continue the project’s progress.
Disclaimer: Commerce Resources Corp is a client of OnPage Media Corp, the publisher of ResourceClips.com. The principals of OnPage Media may hold shares in Commerce Resources.
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